- Associated Press - Monday, March 27, 2017

SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) - It has been located in four buildings in Spearfish over its more than 40 years in operation, and the Knothole continues to draw customers from around the area seeking its inventory of more than 30,000 products dedicated to various arts and crafts.

“My grandkids have grown up in here,” owner Lana Wenzel said, describing the business’s four decades of operation.

Wenzel explained that she participated in 4-H and enjoyed arts and crafts and was often ordering supplies for these pursuits, and ironically, shortly before her husband, Terry, began to look for a building to locate his business, T and W Electronics (now T and W Appliances), he told her not to order any more arts and crafts supplies until she had used up what she already had. However, soon after, he took her to look at a possible business to buy that would keep her regularly ordering such supplies.

The Black Hills Pioneer (https://bit.ly/2nNAgvk ) reports that the arts and crafts store first opened in 1976 on the south side of West Hudson Street in downtown Spearfish. It was started by Bert Anderson, and when the Wenzels leased the building that October, Anderson sold them the store. The Knothole remained at that location for about seven years before the Wenzels bought a building across the street, 126 W. Hudson St., where the Bay Leaf Café currently resides. After some years, the Wenzels then bought the building at 714 N. Main St., where the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store is now located, and the Knothole remained at that location for about 15 years.

“We’ve been in this building now 10 years this fall. It’s hard to believe,” Wenzel said of the current location at 947 E. Colorado Blvd. She said that her three children told her during each of the moves that it was the last time they would help move all of the inventory, and the final move took 15 people seven days to completely empty the Main Street building, since it required moving all of the merchandise, as well as all of the shelving and storage in the basement.

Wenzel, who was born and raised in Nebraska, went to business school to become an executive secretary and then took a job with Boeing. She said she “moved with the missiles” in this capacity, working out of Cheyenne, Wyoming, which is near the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base; Ellsworth Air Force Base; and Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. She met her husband in Sturgis, and after they got married, they worked in Sturgis for a time before starting their own businesses.

“We’ve been self-employed ever since,” Wenzel said.

She described that when she first started in the business, macramé, the art of knotting cord or string in patterns to make decorative articles, was the big thing, and she still sells items for the craft. Wenzel also remembers being able to walk around the store at its first location and be able to know, just by looking, what was missing and needed to be ordered. Back then, she wrote down all of the numbers for the items and called in her orders. But as the business grew, she would spend hours on the telephone calling in the order.

“And that’s why I have a computer system,” she said of the current location, which has an inventory of more than 30,000 items. The system allows her to do all of the ordering online.

Her husband, sister, children, and grandchildren are familiar with helping in the store, and about a year and a half ago, her oldest son - whom Wenzel remembers working in the store when he was 6 years old - came onboard to learn the business, with the intent to keep it going “another 40 years,” Wenzel said.

Just as generations of the family have grown up in the business, generations of customers continue to frequent the Knothole, and Wenzel said that the store’s variety, as well as friendly, helpful customer service, keeps people coming back.

“Because we know how to do a lot of things, we can help them if they have problems,” she said, describing that she crochets, quilts, and scrapbooks; her sister knits; they both know how to sew; and they have experience with the merchandise, allowing them to provide answers to questions customers bring in as they work on projects.

“Between us, we figure out everything else,” Wenzel added.

In more than 40 years in the business, Wenzel couldn’t come up with just one favorite part of it. She enjoys keeping up with all of the new crafts, getting to travel to arts and crafts conventions around the country to see the newest items on the market and the current trends, and she and her son are headed to Las Vegas this week for such a convention.

The most popular items she sells these days include those for quilting, beading, and scrapbooking, and Wenzel creates the scrapbooking items showcasing local places, events, and more available in the Knothole.

In her free time, Wenzel enjoys crocheting and quilting.

“I’ve done pretty much any kind of craft,” she said, adding that since she is generally in the store seven days a week, she doesn’t have much free time.

Her hope for the Knothole is to keep it running.

“I think it’s (an arts and crafts store is) needed around here,” she said, describing that she often hears from customers that they’ve searched for items in Rapid City but can’t find what they’re looking for. “They know I have it here. . As you see, we have a lot of (merchandise).”


Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, https://www.bhpioneer.com

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