I’m Deb Griffey of Alpaca Time, a small business that has built a reputation of manufacturing premium alpaca products since 2005.
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 two 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 eight 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 three 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 three phone calls I had the spinner running again. Keith’s comment was that it went 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 eight 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 two biggest contracts and was closing, so in 2006 we bought seven machines. The best part is we also got the mechanic.
With Tom’s help we had two 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 came up for sale – where all the traffic going to the lake passes by – with a larger shop, a nice house and a great location for a retail store. 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.
My present to myself on my 68th birthday was a beautiful black and white/gray reversible shawl poncho. I wear it every chance I get. Alpaca wool/yarn and Merino-based yarns are the only ones that I can wear comfortably as I react to the lanolin in most wools.
Barbara Hendren, Stouffville