In North Hampton, New Hampshire
by Rita Vainius
When Diane Pittman went to her bank in 1982 to obtain a loan
for the business she hoped to start, a cross stitch shop, the
male banker she encountered had not a clue as to what she was
talking about. Diane offered to bring some product to their next
meeting. Showing up with shopping bags bulging with models, Diane
proceeded to enlighten him. She explained cross stitch techniques,
materials used and what could be done with finished projects.
Then the banker queried Diane about her long-range plans and
how she intended to promote the business. She elaborates, "I
talked his ear off for an hour and a half and he loaned me ten
thousand dollars." Diane was intent in making her vision
a reality. That reality is Yankee Cross Stitch.
Diane grew up in Baltimore, MD. She graduated from Towson
State University, MD and taught elementary school before becoming
full time mom. Her husband George worked as Site Manager for
Raytheon on major construction projects. When their daughters,
Susan and Beth, were in 6th and 4th grade respectively, George
was transferred to New Hampshire. As their daughters had adjusted
to their new home and were doing well, George encouraged Diane
to start a business of her own. He had valuable expertise to
contribute since he and a partner owned The Eastern Surfer in
Ocean City, MD and Rehobath Beach, DE in the 60's. The business
was quite successful and they subsequently sold it to pursue
Once Diane started to consider the idea seriously, she had
one overriding question - what kind of store would it be? She
states, "I must admit that cross stitch did not immediately
come to my mind. I made a mental list of all the things I thought
our new location needed in the way of retail business. My friend
Kathy Distefano also moved to the area and suggested we open
a cross stitch shop!" Kathy was an expert stitcher but Diane
was a neophyte who had only stitched a few projects. Diane continues,
"Well bottom line is this - Kathy and I planned to open
the business together but on a deep soul search with Kathy she
came to the decision that the timing wasn't right for her. So
there I was - scared to death, with my husband encouraging me
to go for it solo" At the time, three other needlework shops
in the vicinity were closing. Did that mean it was a good time
to open one or a bad omen? When Diane discussed her plans with
them, their reaction was unanimous, "They were very negative
and thought I was crazy since they were shutting their doors.
But I noticed that they were not very good at promoting the industry.
They didn't have lots of models on display and I don't think
they got out in the community to talk it up or give free demonstrations
or show the ways you could use cross stitch." Once Diane
opened the shop, if she didn't have models of her own to display,
she would ask friends and customers to loan theirs. She adds,
"One thing that was obvious from day one is that models
sell your products and a model budget was crucialI strongly believe
that to this day. For years we had a "Stitcher of the Month"
display and gave them a Gift Certificate to the shop." Yankee
Cross Stitch now displays close to a thousand models. October
was model sale month, with over 100 for sale. And how the prophesies
of those previous shop owners' turned out to be wrong! Within
the first 2 years, Yankee Cross Stitch expanded 3 times. In 1984
Diane purchased a business condo in the Seacoast Village Shopping
Center where the shop is now located. It occupies 2300 square
feet just jam- packed with all the latest merchandise.
Another anecdote about Diane defying the odds is that, in
3rd grade, her Mother's friend, Miss Hilda, ran an embroidery
school. Diane recounts her experience, "Oh how I hated it!
NO more laying about watching cartoons. The first project was
how to hem a linen handkerchief and embroider our initial. Well
mine looked like a rag when it was finished... next was a tea
towel and the final project for the year was a lovely lavender
organdy apron for Mother's DayI was the worst stitcher in the
group - all I did was rip, rip, rip! So I was also the slowest
to ever finish anything. Miss Hilda must be laughing her head
off that her worst ever pupil has a needlework shop."
Yankee Cross Stitch stocks Carolyn Hook's charts for crewel,
as well as many others. There are always hundreds of fabrics
to choose from and threads galore. The shop carries the complete
line of Vera Bradley kits. Yankee Cross Stitch also publishes
a newsletter which will be available on their new website, due
to be up and running in the near future. Classes are held regularly
and currently feature Hardanger, Samplers with Specialty Stitches,
Twisted Cords, Project Finishing Techniques and a Framing Workshop
The biggest sale of the year is the Super Bowl Sale, when
everything in the store is discounted 15%. As NH is tax-free,
this represents an even greater savings for folks coming in from
out-of-state. The shop gives away about 60 door prizes hourly,
topped off with 3 really great prizes at the end of the day.
The back room is specially decorated and guests are treated to
cider, donut holes, coffee, and veggie trays. The entire staff
attends along with extra help enlisted just for the occasion.
This is truly one of the highlights of the year and the excitement
it generates is electrifying! Other special events include a
Christmas in July Sale, a Spooktacular Halloween Sale in August
and a Sudbury House Sale in September. The shop's Anniversary
Sale takes place around Columbus Day. This year's event was accompanied
by 17 door prizes and if you made a purchase during the sale
period you received a birthday coupon for 15% off, which could
be redeemed during your birthday month.
Diane is adamant about what she loves most about the business
- waiting on the customers. She is equally vociferous about the
things she likes least - paper work like ordering merchandise,
checking it in, following up on damaged merchandise or incorrect
orders and all the government stuff. She explains, "I find
that all the paper work keeps me from stitching in the evening,
so I really only get to stitch when I am on vacation." Nevertheless,
Diane still gets thrilled when new items arrive and, like stitchers
everywhere, she has her own big stash of "barely started"
projects, "some day" projects and "just have to
have" charts, specialty fibers, luscious fabrics and every
notion on the market. She adds, "My newest obsession is
scissors and scissor's fobs. I just love them and needle rolls
and stitchers baskets too".
Betsy Miskavage has been a shop manager since 1985. Patti
Ray is the newest manager and covers on Betsy's days off. Other
terrific and longstanding staffers are Doreen Roderick, Erika
Mantz and Linda Erwin. Newcomers include Linda Levinus, Susan
Aker, Cheryl Kabut and Millie Richard. Toni Hardy and Lynn Mansmann
are retired from the shop but still lend a hand for special projects.
Toni is also responsible for the newsletter and Diane relies
on her heavily for editing.
Diane participates annually in two regional events: Celebration
of Needlework (May, 2001 in Nashua, NH) and a series of Needlework
Seminars. Diane elaborates, "Celebration was formed with
10 shop owners in the Northeast to bring national teachers to
NH for a fun-filled, educational 3 day stitchers' weekend. Wehave
a 24 hour stitcher's lounge, lectures, in-depth technique classes,
round robins for the gals to get a mini experience with most
of the teachers and a charity event for breast cancer."
To be re-instituted after a hiatus at Celebration is the Yankee
swap. Each participant draws a number matching a particular gift
that they can either keep or swap. Diane clarifies, "Things
can get really heated with the stuff flying around the roomafter
the last personthe cycle reverts back for the first person to
have the option to take any gift she wants from any one in the
room. Confused? Well you have to be there!"
Oh, and about that banker that Diane had to convince that
securing a loan for her shop was a good idea - after Yankee Cross
Stitch was established, the banker was the one to approach Diane.
He inquired whether she would be willing to be featured, along
with her business, in a month long advertising campaign marketing
loans specifically targeted toward other small businesses!
Yankee Cross Stitch
29 Lafayette Road Route #1
North Hampton, NH 03862.
Fax : 603- 964-9433
Store hours: Mondays thru Saturdays 10 am to 5 pm
Sundays 1 pm to 5 pm