Crafting chaos

Paula Yost, right works to stock ornaments with Karen Tackett, a Hobby Lobby assistant store manager from a store near Orange County who came up to help with the opening of the Morgan Hill location.

The grand opening of Hobby Lobby Friday was a family outing and a gathering of friends as much as it was a shopping excursion for the hundreds of the new store’s first customers who drove from all over the South Bay just to check out the new hobby supplies superstore.

Kaila Spencer, 27 of Morgan Hill, a self-proclaimed “major crafter,” said she “almost cried” in reaction to the wide variety of hobby and art supplies she saw when she walked into the store Friday to enjoy a morning of “crafting chaos.”

“It’s more than just a craft store,” Spencer said. The cosmetologist, who used to work at Morgan Hill’s Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts store, predicts she will shop at Hobby Lobby at least once a week, as she is constantly looking for supplies to “bedazzle, glamorize and decorate,” as well as hair and jewelry accessories.

“We’re pretty excited,” added her friend Cassie Sagan, 27, a stay-at-home mom on the hunt for home decorations.

The two hobbyists joined their friends and Spencer’s mother for the grand opening.

Seasonal items such as Christmas tree ornaments, holiday lights, and Thanksgiving table adornments were among the popular items Friday as well.

The 77,000-square-foot retail paradise for crafters, artists, scrapbookers, decorators and photographers opened Friday, and held a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Chamber of Commerce and city officials Monday morning. The store located at 990 Cochrane Plaza, the former site of Mervyn’s, employs about 80 people.

Hobby Lobby spokesman Vince Parker said earlier this summer that the company offers benefits to its employs, and pays about $13 an hour for full-time employees, and about $9 for part-time employees.

Manager Steve Canet, a resident of Gilroy, said the store easily surpassed 500 customers throughout the opening weekend, but he couldn’t calculate an official tally as of Monday morning.

Even on Monday morning people continued to flock to Hobby Lobby. Snacks and coffee were offered during the ribbon-cutting ceremony, and the KBAY radio station covered the celebration.

Canet expected bigger crowds in the late afternoon and evening.

“After everybody gets off work, it will really go crazy,” Canet said.

The local business community also expects the new store to be a shot in the arm for economic development.

“Hobby Lobby will be the anchor for the (Cochrane Plaza) shopping center, and hopefully it will become more vibrant,” said Chamber board of directors chair Lorraine Welk. “We’re thrilled to welcome them to Morgan Hill, and excited about the sales tax dollars” the new store will bring to town.

The closing of Mervyn’s in 2008 left a gaping hole in the shopping center until Friday, when Hobby Lobby moved in.

City Hall has said they don’t expect a substantial windfall of new sales tax revenues from the store, but they welcome any amount of public revenue.

Lois Long, 65 of Gilroy, attended the grand soft opening out of “curiosity more than anything,” and to see what kinds of supplies the store has for the flower arrangements she creates.

“They’re supposed to have just about everything you can think of,” said Long, who visited the store Friday with her 7-year-old grandson, Antonio Ponce.

The chain is headquartered in Oklahoma City, where Hobby Lobby also staffs its own manufacturing facilities that produce the custom picture frames sold in the stores. The store offers home decorations, knitting and crochet supplies, fabric, models, art supplies for a variety of mediums, Christmas, Halloween and seasonal decor, and everything in between.

The new store is one of about 500 Hobby Lobby stores nationwide.

Linda Leimas, 65 of Morgan Hill, said she “went crazy” when she heard the store was coming to town a few months ago. She has shopped at the next-closest Hobby Lobby, in Modesto, so she knew what she was walking into.

Leimas, who sells real estate, was looking for decorations to stage homes for sale with her daughter, Shelley Darman.

Jessica M., 24 of Morgan Hill, said she enjoys “all kinds” of arts and crafts, and the opening of Hobby Lobby instantly improved the local supply-shopping options, she said. Jessica, who declined to provide her full last name, is an avid scrapbooker, knitter, crocheter, and home and floral designer – and is excited about being able to acquire all her supplies in one stop.

Hobby Lobby even has supplies for the “manly man” of hobbyists, according to Ed Keller, 71 of Morgan Hill.

“I’m into buying, selling and repairing vintage toys,” Keller said. His hobby has turned into an “addiction,” and he has even made some cash selling some of his items on eBay. Wares like model paint and brass tubing in the aisles of Hobby Lobby are exactly what he needs to repair and improve toys from the 1930s and 1940s that he finds on the Internet, yard sales and other places.

On Friday he found some brass tubing in the model supplies section that he can use to fix up a “1930s wind-up German machine gun guy” that he has been working on, Keller said.

Keller attended the store’s opening with his wife, who is a photographer and decorator. The couple also have grandchildren – another reason to return to the store for gift shopping.

“It’s nice they picked this community to come to, and that there’s such a variety and accessibility,” Keller said.

Sandy Alderette, 32, came to Hobby Lobby’s opening from Castroville with her family. Her mother-in-law Virgie Diaz and Sandy’s 9-month-old twins were looking for holiday home decorations.

Some of Friday’s Hobby Lobby shoppers were lucky enough to attend the grand opening for work-related tasks.

Eleanor Escamilla, a support professional for Social Vocational Services in Hollister, was at the grand opening with five of her clients, pricing supplies for the organization’s various activities and programs.

SVS provides support services for developmentally disabled residents, including placing clients in jobs and helping them improve their “life skills,” Escamilla said. And that includes leisure activities, arts and crafts.

“These guys all like art, painting and gluing things together,” Escamilla said.

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