Andrew’s love of lady names leads to lifetime love affair with Joann
Welcome to the third edition of Brand Crush. Where the staff, clients and friends of Frank Collective talk about their favorite brands and why. This time we get crafty and talk about Andrew’s crush–and how it helped him find his side hustle.
Jiffy: So we are here to talk about your brand crush, which I already know about. So I’m excited to talk to you about it. First, please tell us your name and your position.
Andrew: My name is Andrew Almeter and my position is Executive Creative Director at Frank Collective.
Jiffy: And who are we talking about today?
Andrew: I’m going to talk about Joann. Joann Stores, formally Joann Fabric.
Jiffy: Oh, they changed it?
Andrew: Yes! First of all, do you know where the name Joann came from? (I did my research.) So they started in the 1940s in Ohio by three different families who were German immigrants. They were something else at first, I forget what they were called. They were just called “The Fabric Shop” in Cleveland. Then, it’s like 20 years later in the 1960s, when they changed their name to Joann Fabrics. They took the first names of their two daughters from different families, Joan and Jacqueline Ann, combined them and–Joann Fabrics.
Jiffy: How very Dunkin of them.
Andrew: Exactly. Yeah.
Jiffy: It’s an interesting trend. When was the first time you discovered Joann?
Andrew: Five-ish? I was definitely a child. I would be forced to go along with my mom when she was picking out fabrics. I remember specifically, like half out of boredom and half gleefully just skipping around the store, touching all the fabrics, spinning around those circular displays with all the fabrics and just like running my hand through them.
I also loved the the patterns. Digging into those pattern bins and being like, oh, my God, like a sweater vest and pants?! I mean, this was the 80s. So it was some really fun stuff. It always felt like we were there for hours, but I was a kid, so we were probably only there for, like, 20 minutes.
Andrew: It was definitely the mindset of we go into the store, we can find things and we can make something new out of these things, which was super cool. It’s the same thing I get with hardware stores. All this stuff exists to make something else or inspire you to make something.
Jiffy: Did you fall away from Joann before you found it again?
Andrew: I did. I became a self-conscious New Yorker. And I’m like, oh, that’s not cool.
Andrew: There also just weren’t any there. I would go to the mom-and-pop shops or small businesses, which was obviously cool. And I support that. I love that. But yeah, I also just wasn’t really getting into crafting for a long time. And then Covid, obviously, reminded me of the fact that we have a Joann’s like literally three blocks away and they didn’t close. That was also a big thing–they stayed open during lockdown.
Jiffy: Oh wow.
Jiffy: Was that part of the reason why it became your go-to brand?
Andrew: No, because Hobby Lobby is evil.
Jiffy: Agreed for obvious reasons.
Andrew: I don’t know if I should say this in the interview, but I’m going to say Hobby Lobby is evil. I can’t shop there. And I do not like the Michael’s experience at all. I find the store to be messy and I don’t find the quality of stuff to be as good as Joann. There’s a new Michael’s opening not far from us. Basically, I’m going to be equidistant between a Michael’s and a Joann. My choice is very clear, though. I’m a Joann guy.
Jiffy: What is it about Joann specifically, aside from the memories that you have, that made you a devotee of Joann?
Andrew: I think it’s that in comparison to other big stores, it still feels clean and intimate. Also, the amount of selection.
You’re like, OK, I know I’m going to find it here and it’s going to be available. And so I think, looking back on it–and I was thinking a lot about getting into this chat with you and also you brought it up right at the top–is that I do think the majority of it is legacy. I went with my mom and there’s a connection. And whether I realize that consciously or not, I’m certain that there’s little strings of childhood and memories that get strong every time I walk in there. So I think that’s probably a bigger part of it. But comparatively, I do think it’s a better experience than other big craft stores.
Jiffy: I would agree. I actually prefer Joann. For all the reasons you said. I think it’s really well organized.
Andrew: I think they have real quality supplies–noticeably. And I also think that their customer service is really good there. I was just there on Sunday, gearing up for this chat with you, I was like, okay, let me be super aware of my experience here.
The people are amazing and are so pleasant and so helpful and and also just like their name tags say, hey, “I’m Joann” and “I am an artist “or “I’m a painter” or “I’m a knitter”. I think that’s really cool. And even though they’re a big store, I feel as though I have the same sort of intimate, chatty, friendly conversations with people who work there and people who shop there, as I do when I go to little specialty craft stores or the knitting store or yarn shops. It feels still very casual and intimate, like a small business. I like that.
Jiffy: When you think about Joann and being a fan of Joann–there’s two different ways you can think about it. You can think of it from the perspective of they’re brilliant, they can do no wrong, I love them so much. I want everybody else to love them. OR–I wish they would do X, Y and Z to be better. Do you feel that Joannes could do more with their brand or do you think they’re spot on?
Andrew: Well, actually, it’s funny because we were talking about this earlier. I think they could do what Target’s doing and having like–say you created a whole family of sub-brands. And say one is, I don’t know, Joann’s sister, Esmeralda. And Esmeralda’s brand would be a specialty, like, knitting. I also think that Joann could have some more higher-end things. I would love to see nicer yarns. Like an upscale or a luxury brand within Joann.
Jiffy: That’s a great idea.
Andrew: I think the other thing I would like to see happen is to have the physical store experience speak more to all the stuff I was talking about in terms of like the intimacy and the creativity that you feel going in there.
I don’t like that things are high up on shelves, a big box sort of vibe, like concrete floors, exposed rafters, big industrial lights. Everything is very bright and fluorescent. And then that green color that just sort of like permeates everything. It’s not very attractive. Nothing feels warm or like what I think crafting and experience feel like, which is much more humanistic. So physical store appearance doesn’t quite match up for me. I would also broaden the appeal beyond the typical stereotype of the female character who is middle America. When I go to the one here in L.A., I see quite a range of people and I see a lot of people who look like me, but I don’t think that we’re the typical customers.
Jiffy: So go more to the current crafter.
Jiffy: Which is totally a mix of demographics.
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, I’m just thinking of when you go on Etsy and that’s a reflection of a really diverse group of people who are crafting and makers. And again, maybe this is also lodged in my memory because of my childhood, but I do think that Joann is still speaking to a more like middle America middle-aged female crafter, and I think that could be broadened in terms of who could be attracted to the brand.
Jiffy: Do you ever shop or browse the website or in-store experience?
Andrew: I just made my first online purchase on Tuesday because they were out of what I needed in the store and I had to buy it online. But that was a very specific experience where I knew the item number, I just went to the search field, I did it and and I was done. But, no, I’m not a big online user of them. I think it’s numerous reasons. One, I like to touch things and I like to see it in person. But also because I’m close to the store and it’s convenient, it’s easy. It’s like when I run out of these pens or I run out of this material. I could just run over there and get it. And I don’t have to wait three days. So, yeah, it’s convenient to go in-store more so than ordering online.
Jiffy: Do you think the name still “Joann” still works? I’ve always thought the name felt a little fuddy duddy. Like all the craft stores have kind of fuddy duddy names.
Andrew: I love. I love. I love a mid 20th century female name. Even art stores, I remember in college, Arlene’s was the art shop in in Albany. And I loved going to Arlene’s. And I think that I’m just a sucker for, like, lady names. I love a lady. I love a lady name on a shop. An Arlene, Peg, Deb–dead.
Growing up, my sister would shop at Deb and I loved Deb stores. Remember the purple carpeting? Oh, my God, I love I talk like a dad now.
Jiffy: I don’t think dads talk about Deb’s. Let’s stick with Joann.
Andrew: I’ll save that for part two.
Jiffy: What was the last thing you bought at Joann?
Andrew: Oh, it was an invisible zipper for one of my pillows.
Jiffy: So you have your pillows that you’re making and selling now.
Which has expanded and now you do pet portraits on the pillows. Oh, and I saw the lipstick one. That was super cool. What does the future hold in crafting for Andrew Almeter?
Andrew: I have my eye on a big purchase. It’s basically a rug gun. It’s automatic and it does all of the punching in of the yarn. Right now I do it all by hand. So it takes eight to ten hours per pillow. So this automatic thing would be kind of amazing. I would also be working on a much bigger scale. The lipstick pillow was for Scott’s mom. She and I have an ongoing joke that we just send each other an emoji of a lipstick because it’s like, are you having that kind of day? You need a lipstick. And so now she has one on her pillow.
Jiffy: I used to work at a travel agency with all women and I was the receptionist. And because it was all women, any time you’re having a bad day, they’re like, “just put on some lipstick”.
Andrew: And it’s literally it’s so true. I’ll be like, how are you doing, Nancy? And she’ll be like, you need some lipstick. And I would just send her the emoji. So I guess I’m the mid 20th century woman.
Jiffy: I love you for that.
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