Taking a chance on yarn and coffee | Women in Business profile

by Toby Cooper

Special to the Sounder

Katie Gaible gazed out the window of her yarn shop immersed in doubt, uncertainty, fear and stress. Okay, sure, such misgivings are to be expected when one is making a life-changing decision. But the requisite moment of decision was looming. Procrastination was no longer an option.

Outside the window, in her field of view was her sign — a chain-suspended shingle announcing to the world that just inside was Gaible’s universe. It was her familiar, tangible, touchable, embraceable world of color and texture that was, at that moment, the sole source of support for the Orcas lifestyle of herself, her husband David and their growing family.

“At that moment, one of the chain links let go and the sign swung against the window with a bang,” says Katie, recounting a chapter of her life that could have come straight from a Dickens novel. “And, POW, the doubts melted away and I was left with this marvelous, you know … clarity!”

Clarity fostered commitment, commitment morphed into action, and Katie and David launched a 12-month campaign to buy 365 North Beach Road in the heart of Eastsound — formerly the home of Enzo’s — and bring Tide Pool Coffeehouse to a grateful community of coffee lovers.

And by the way, ever-resourceful Katie decided Eastsound was just the place for a split-screen retail offering, knitting together (pun intended) a coffeeshop with a companion yarn store just steps away.

How genius is that! If customers have two reasons to come in one door, you just might double your customers. A couple comes in — one goes to yarn, the other sits with coffee – both are happy. Tide Pool became a winner, quashing all the doubters.

Doubters there were, according to Katie. Bankers were tough. They seemed incapable of seeing beyond their spreadsheets.

“We finally got our SBA loan after six heart-wrenching rejections,” says Katie, enjoying every minute of another busy afternoon at Tide Pool. “After a while, you’re in ‘do-or-die’ mode and you kind of say, ‘if it’s die, we die.’ And we relaxed, dispelled the tensions we were feeling and won loan-app number seven.”

Both Katie and David are trained software engineers. They met while working in Houston, earning predictable W2 income with robust 401(k) plans and benefits. By 2009, software had taken them to Seattle. They relished in success — two merger-and-acquisition transactions for one company in 18 months — which gave them financial freedom.

But one day, Katie said, “I can do this. I am good at it. and I can have fun with it. But I’m not interested in it.”

She left tech and took another “fun” job decorating cakes at a bakery for $8 an hour. Fun, yes, but not sustainable for long.

Katie discovered yarn, which had never been part of her early family life, while pregnant. She describes becoming absorbed with the process of knitting and the lore around yarn. Knitting, she says, is executed by your hands, but originates from within.

“If you are tense, or sad, or stressed, your stitches will show it,” she said, explaining that knitting cleanses your stress because stress is incompatible with knitting.

Perhaps the Yelp reviews of Tide Pool Coffeehouse say it best. “Breakfast tacos and superior coffee.” “Their coffee is far superior to Starbucks.” “House-made pastries, croissant sandwiches, vegan soups, and … yarn!”

Eastsound will never be quite the same.