I’m Deb Griffey of Alpaca Time, a small business that has built a reputation since 2005, of manufacturing premium alpaca products from Canadian alpaca fibre.
The business was started after I retired from dairy farming. My sister bought an alpaca after meeting one at The Royal Winter Fair. She coerced me into letting her move into the basement apartment of the farmhouse and pitch a tent – a small coverall building. She said she’d buy 2 more alpacas and poof, she’d be a farmer. I had to let her know that being a farmer was more complicated than that, after all she couldn’t even walk right in rubber boots.
Alpacas are shorn for their soft, warm fibre once a year. After my sister had her alpacas shorn she called the only fibre mill in Ontario that processed alpaca fibre and found that it would be at least 8 months before they could turn her raw fibre into yarn. When the shock wore off, she decided we should start a fibre mill. I said “give me 15 minutes with a calculator and I’ll show you there’s no money in this”. A week later I was still playing with the calculator saying “This could work”.
After a year of research I built a building on the farm for the mill, we purchased the machinery and in 2005 Shears to You was born. Textek- the business we bought the machinery from- gave us 3 days training on the machines and said “you’re on your own and something will break before I get to the road”. I waited until the next morning. After 3 phone calls I had the spinner running again. Keith’s comment was that it went way better than usual. Most people who get into alpaca processing are touchy, feely, creative fibre types who know nothing about machinery. We were pretty sure that my farming and machinery background were going to come in handy.
We did custom processing for alpaca producers. It became apparent early on that we would need an end product of our own to wholesale and retail to make this work. Our cousin Tom worked in a hosiery plant and I had wanted to see if socks would work. We made batches of yarn for Tom to test. After 8 months we had the right weight and blend of yarn. The plan was to get the company Tom worked for to make the socks, with Tom overseeing the process. In the meantime the company lost its 2 biggest contracts and was closing, so in 2006 we bought 7 machines and the best part is we also got the mechanic.
With Tom’s help we had 2 styles of socks developed in about 15 minutes and Star Trekkers – our version of a hiking sock and Pro’s Choice golf socks went into production.
In 2008 my sister left the partnership. I changed the business to a sole proprietorship; the name to Shears to You Fibre Pro’s and carried on.
My daughter Tara came on board in 2012.
In 2014 we talked about adding a retail store to the business, but the location on the farm didn’t make sense. We started to do a few shows instead. In 2016 a property on highway 9 - that all the traffic going to the lake goes by - with a larger shop, a nice house and a great location for a retail store came up for sale. I sold the farm and bought the property. Shears to You Fibre Pro’s didn’t seem like a good name for a retail business, so we changed the name to Alpaca Time, “because any time is alpaca time”.
Our store is open, so come and visit us, see us at shows, or get to know us through our website.