When Carolyn McKeating tells the story behind the Wexford Dry Goods store, it is a tale of incredible grief and healing.
"This store is because of Dan's death," she said, referring to her 13-year-old son, who died in 2006 in a lawn tractor accident at their Pine Township home.
To McKeating, the store is about the healing that comes with making things.
After Dan died, she picked up her knitting needles that had been idle for 25 years. And that is when her seven grieving children started talking, she said.
"Whenever I got out the knitting, it facilitated the conversation," she said.
"It was such a sad time, so packed with emotion. Somehow it made it easier to talk. It helped them to be able to talk about how they were feeling a little more easily."
Her children were between the ages of 7 and 20 at the time of Dan's death and at "every developmental stage you can imagine."
The grieving was all-encompassing, and each person went through it differently, she said.
Knitting comforted McKeating and gave the kids joy, she said.
"If I gave them a scarf I had made, it was like getting a hug from me," McKeating explained. "They liked that they were carrying around a piece of me."
The Store and More
At first glance, Wexford Dry Goods is simply a store in the Village at Pine—plain and simple. It sells yarn, fabric and unique gifts.
To McKeating, it is a school, a meeting place and therapy, all rolled into one.
She opened the store Oct. 13, her first experience as a retailer.
"I'm easing into this myself. I never had a retail store before. It's developing organically."
Opening the store reminds her of the time when she and her husband, Dr. John McKeating, helped found Aquinas Academy in 1996, she said.
"The school aspect is really, really important."
In the back of the store is a rustic table around which McKeating holds classes to teach people of all ages how to knit, crochet and quilt.
It helps women to reconnect with themselves through their creativity, she said.
"There's such a need for this," McKeating said.
She said she taught 15 women to knit last month, even though two-thirds of the women did not believe they could knit.
"It's a place where people can develop their skills," she said. "My role is editing and curating materials."
No matter what the end product is, it will be beautiful because the materials are so pretty, McKeating said.
Because of the grieving McKeating experienced, she seems to be particularly adroit at recognizing grief in others and reaching out to them.
One woman who came into the store told McKeating about a loved one with a brain tumor. The woman felt helpless to do anything until McKeating gave her private knitting lessons for free and helped her make a gift for that sick loved one.
Now the woman continues knitting presents.
"It's something she can do," said McKeating, who also spoke of having those who are grieving meet once a month at the store to knit together and talk.
For those who take classes, the lessons don't end at the end of the designated time.
"You can come in at any time," she said. "One girl came in every day after taking a class (with questions about what she was making). I love that!"
Wexford Dry Goods is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday through Saturday. It opens at noon on Tuesdays and closes at 8 p.m.