|On the Road:
Atelier for Yarn
San Francisco, CA
Review date: March 22, 2001
Atelier has slightly more square footage than Greenwich Yarn, and it always feels crammed full of yarn and people. This visit was no exception.
While three enthusiastic young women staffed the shop for owner Grace Cooper, I kept bumping into fellow shoppers and having to excuse myself.
Contrary to Greenwich Yarn's ample table space, Atelier has none. It is so packed with yarns, pattern books, and accessories that there's pretty much nowhere to sit, peruse patterns, and quietly plan a project.
Several times I've left Atelier with purchases I later regretted. I often wonder how much of that is due to the shop's lack of sitting space, which forces you to make weighty decisions on your feet.
True to form, this time I left with nine skeins of a luscious white, furry alpaca blend that may never see the light of day.
Atelier displays yarns in floor-to-ceiling bins organized by brand and yarn name. This gives the walls larger blocks of uniform shape and color, a perfect backdrop for finished garments that are draped from every possible surface.
You'll find Colinette, K1C2, GGH, Tahki, and Karabella yarns here, as well as a good variety of more mainstream yarns such as Brown Sheep and Regia.
Be prepared to pay full price -- and often more, in some cases. There are no sale baskets to cushion the blow.
Atelier is located on busy Divisadero Street, one of the main north-south thoroughfares through San Francisco. Parking is moderately tight, with metered street spots or unmetered spaces with a two-hour limit unless you have a neighborhood permit.
Exploring the Neighborhood
This area borders on the hip Upper Fillmore district. To the east you have Fillmore Street, with upscale shops and cafes, Browser Books, the Clay Theater, and Fillamento, an extraordinary houseware boutique.
To the west you have Sacramento Street, with many of the finest (and most expensive) antique shops in San Francisco. If you need a caffeine break, fear not: Starbucks is only a block or so away.
1945 Divisadero Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
Greenwich Yarn and Stitchworks
Know the shop? Talk about this shop in our forums!
"I went to Greenwich yarns and was treated so poorly! The people in there cared more about where their dog was then whether or not I needed help. While there I handed my almost 3 year old son one of those cheap tape measures from a basket on the table and one of the employees rushed over and took it away from him saying that it might break! We are talking about a $2.00 tape measure that would've kept his hands off the $20. yarn. No one smiled at him and each time I walked up to an employee and smiled to start ask for help they just looked away.
I shop regularly at Atelier and most of the time the staff is very friendly and helpful. All the employees say hello and somehow it doesn't feel annoying in the very tight space. My son likes to play with the buttons and the only comment I've gotten from the staff about that is that he not pull the bins out all the way so they don't spill. The staff is always very gracious to my son and me.
A new store opened recently on Fell street between Octavia and Gough called "Urban Knitting Studio" and their store is sooo lovely. Spacious and well though out with alot of room for customers to stay and knit. No one balked while my son played with the yarn winder and all the women in the store smiled and chatted with him. No one complained while he played with the needles (which I always put back on the racks when we leave)." user23, 5/22/2003
"I wanted to send my comments about Atelier yarn shop. I have been going to Atelier for the last seven years. I have always been helped cheerfully by all of the staff including Grace. I can say honestly tht my worst experiences in the store have more to do with other customers attitudes. There has been more than one occassion that I have later called Grace's attention to the fact that her staff did the right thing with a difficult customer. I did this because I had in the past also worked retil and had customers like these to contend with. I did not want her staff to be repremanded in any way for a complaint that was not justified. Space in the shop is definately tight but so is most retail space in San Franciso. Retail space is very expensive in this city and this also explains paying full price for yarn. I find inspiring yarns that I have never seen in other shops and this keeps me knitting.
My last comment is to do with your listings on-line. I find, at least in this case, that your postings are mostly biased to the negative, maybe because that is how your review was biased as well. It would benefit everyone more if you tried to have a more balanced web-site." anonymous, 3/3/2003
"No one is indifferent to Atelier - people either love it or hate it. The people who hate the store seem to get a little odd on the subject though, like the poster below who lived a few blocks away and NEVER went there.
It's a small business run by someone with fixed ideas about how things should be done. Grace has her eccentricities. As one of the "girls" (we're all over 25!) who has helped her out in the past, I can tell you that looking up every single price, all day long, in that #$#$! Rolodex is significantly more irritating that waiting for someone else to do it. But since her eccentricities do not affect the success of her business, why should she change? Grace Cooper is not running a public service. She likes how she does things, and she only needs to please herself.
As for people calling her rude, walk a mile in her moccasins, if you're brave enough. Most Atelier customers are civil, polite, decent people, but anybody who shops there knows that there is a lunatic fringe that wears the salespeople's nerves to tatters. On top of the certifiables that seem to be peculiar to that store, there is probably a need to put up a sign, "You are, in fact, not the first person to drop half a grand on yarn today, and neither will you be the last."
It's a luxury yarn store, and that means that the average customer is spending a lot of money. This means that purchases in the hundreds don't buy you special treatment - and I think there's something seriously wrong with the idea that they should. Good manners means having the same manners for everybody, remember, and somebody coming in to buy one pair of Brittany needles gets the same treatment as someone buying an afghan's worth of Lorna's Laces - they're going to have stand there among the tempting yarn for god knows how long before they can get Grace's attention." Karen, 10/29/2001
"Unlike some of the other commenters, I had a fabulous experience at Atelier. I haven't been knitting long, but I was in the store browsing. One of the girls was very busy but helped me by answering a few questions. When I asked about felting, she pointed me in Grace's direction. After that, Grace walked around the store with me talking about their different kinds of yarn, showing me patterns, and helping me pick out some new needles. She was very friendly and extremely helpful... She introduced herself to me and asked my name. I felt very welcome and liked the atmosphere of the store. The only drawback was a lack of place to sit down and knit a gauge swatch or two to see what size needles I was really going to need." devbear, 6/17/2001
"I live right near Atelier and try never to go there. I do not want to give business to a person who is regularly rude and who is so blatant about just wanting to make the sale. Not only has Grace been rude and unpleasant to me, but she's been really mean to friends of mine who have spent small fortunes in that shop. The girls that work for Grace are so much better to deal with than her but even they don't make it worth the trip. For me, it's Greenwich where at least you're treated nicely and any question is answered or online ordering." knittr, 6/5/2001
"On my frequent trips to San Francisco in the 90s I would go to Atelier because I go to yarn shops when I visit other cities. It was not an especially welcoming shop, but I hoped I would find some special yarn, which I don't recall doing." LBumbalo, 3/24/01
"I visit San Francisco regularly, and I have stopped going to Atelier for 2 reasons. There are no prices listed anywhere, so I had to hunt down the salesperson and wait for her to finish with another customer every time I wanted to know a price. When you're feeding a parking meter or on a schedule this can be a pain. Also, when I went in to get some basics, like Brown Sheep, I was always pushed towards a more expensive yarn as a substitute. When I go in I feel like I'm in an expensive boutique, where 'if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it.'" Sarah, 3/22/01
"I don't know when this person has been to Atelier and gotten good and cheerful service from the staff. But everytime I've been there, I have found that there is no personal service. I have also called in advance to find specific colors of yarns (including color number), been told that yes, indeed they did have those yarns. Only to find that there were colors that the owner felt were close to the original colors I requested. It wasn't a matter of the colors having been discontinued because they were still current, but that the owner wanted to make a sale at my expense." anonymous, 3/22/01
"I love Atelier, I am always able to find what I need and the staff are always helpfull without being ovewhelming. I never feel rushed and have never regreted my decisions. It is very accessable by bus which in San Francisco is the best way to go because parking is terrible any where...
...You also forgot to tell everyone about The Yarn Garden at 545 Sutter Street at Powell Street. A large shop, Lots of room to move, tables to sit on and the yarn has prices on them so you don't have to ask how much anything is. Matthew is a gem, great to talk to and always helpful...
...Then there is Artfibers Gallery 124 Sutter Street at Kearney Street. The work from the students at the Academy of Art College is on display. She has yarn that you wouldn't find anywhere else. Also accessable by bus. Lets you sit down and do a swatch to see if you really want to buy the yarn. And face it, good quality yarns are expensive, one just needs to figure out if it is worth it or not." time4moretea, 3/22/01
Thanks for mentioning those other two shops! I wasn't able to hit them during this visit. But I definitely will, and give them due credit in Knitter's Review, soon. - Clara