Fancy Tiger Crafts was supposed to be a South Broadway coffeehouse.
Jaime Jennings was searching for a lease with then-partner Matthew Brown, planning for aromatic pour-overs in the emerging Baker neighborhood. But Jennings had a side-room project in mind: an alcove of colorful yarn fibers and a potential for production. Jennings was a knitter herself, and the classes and supplies she would offer piqued her interest more than any latte could.
Fate intervened—Jennings and Brown failed to quickly secure a lease and effectively changed their concept to a retail store where Brown would sell clothing and Jennings would focus on craft supplies. The resulting shop, Fancy Tiger, opened its doors in 2006 on the corner of West Ellsworth Avenue and Broadway.
“It was a weird concept as a store in the first place, so the name matched,” Jennings says. “We also wanted a name that didn’t pigeonhole the business, so we could be anything and grow into the name.”
On Saturday, June 18, the business celebrates 10 successful years, although the company today is much different than when they first opened their doors. As Fancy Tiger continued to grow, so did the Broadway shopping district. After almost two years in business, the store outgrew its brick-and-mortar home, so the partners nimbly shifted, separating into two storefronts: Fancy Tiger Crafts and Fancy Tiger Clothing. Brown’s fashion endeavor moved across the street, but both maintained the Fancy Tiger name.
Shortly thereafter, Fancy Tiger Crafts’ current co-owner, Amber Corcoran, entered the mix, and the pair went to work, building a local brand that reflected the do-it-yourself spirit of the modern crafter and the textile industry itself.
“Amber wanted to move to Colorado and open her own yarn shop on the Western Slope. It seemed daunting to run the store on my own, and we were already friends,” says Jennings. “It seemed like the natural route to ask her to come on board.”
Fancy Tiger Crafts offers local and U.S.-sourced brands like Alabama Chanin and Pendleton Woolen Mills. Come June 18, they’ll also sell an original, Colorado-made line of yarn, created during their year-plus endeavor, “Junegrass: A Colorado Yarn Project.” Junegrass, the exclusive heather grey yarn, will be a mix of long, luxurious Wensleydale sheep locks from Wellington, Colo., and soft white wool from the 2B Ewe farm in Moffat, Colo. The yarn is milled in Craig, Colo., with product labels handcrafted by Boulder-based Sweet Letterpress. The Fancy Tiger brand also extends beyond its Denver roots. Jennings and Corcoran recently launched an online storefront to further sales and promote their own line of sewing patterns.
“There’s a lot of interest in bringing back the textile industry in the U.S. and utilizing smaller scale production,” says Corcoran. “It’s interesting to see what will happen in the fabric industry.”
Fancy Tiger Crafts’ industrious intent made its way through the usual small-business growing pains, steadily gaining momentum despite national setbacks like the Great Recession of 2008 to 2009. In fact, Jennings and Corcoran rang in 2012 with a bigger, better location one block away, just before Denver’s population and rent prices boomed.
“This building was empty for about five years before we got it,” says Jennings. “We teamed up with Fancy Tiger Clothing and Buffalo Exchange, renovated the building, moved in [to the building’s three individual units] all at once, and Amber and I finally got to build out the classroom spaces we’d always had in mind.”
While Denver’s rapid growth changed the neighborhood, gems from what Jennings calls ‘old Denver’ are still going strong, keeping the area’s authentic flavor on the tips of visitors’ tongues. And that cohort includes Fancy Tiger Crafts.
“We’ve built a community—from the people who come to craft night to other business owners around the country to farmers we’ve worked with. We’ve gotten to know all these different people,” says Jennings. “That’s been the constant reward.”
Celebrate: Fancy Tiger’s 10-year anniversary event takes place Saturday, June 18, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Find limited edition products, gift bags, free pins with purchase, and more.