In 2008, Alicia Chivers wanted to get back to the basics, so she started her own 3-acre alpaca ranch in Largo.
As the herd of alpacas — which resemble small llamas — grew, Chivers, a former telecommunications chief financial officer, realized the need for a store to market alpaca products and a weaving studio to explore the fiber arts.
The Criativity store and studio opened in September. The name is not a typo of the English word creativity. "Cria" is a baby alpaca, and "tivity" is a play on nativity, which has to do with birthing, Chivers said.
The front of the red building facing Clearwater-Largo Road features alpaca merchandise from Largo and around the world. Largo alpaca fleece is dyed and sent to Texas, where a mill weaves and returns the finished throw rugs, Chivers said.
Alpaca fiber is warmer than wool and its naturally hypo allergenic, since it does not contain lanolin, Chivers said.
A store wall offers cubbies filled with yarn. Racks offer garments made from alpaca fiber. Shelves offer Peruvian hats and American alpaca socks. A basket of monkeys is made from socks and bird's nests are made of felt. The beautiful handcrafted items are too numerous to mention.
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Not all merchandise is made from alpaca fiber. There are items made by people from around the country, like glass Christmas ornaments created by a firefighter in Pennsylvania. The "man-cans" are candles made by a teen in Ohio with scents for men like "grass" and "grandpa's pipe."
The back of the store has a studio. In April, Chivers shears her alpacas before it gets too hot and then washes the fleece. She cards the fiber in the studio, which gets the fibers going in the same direction. The carding process allows her to make the fiber into different gauges or thicknesses to make a variety of items from rugs to hats.
Starting in January, the studio will offer knitting, crocheting and felting classes. Plus, weavers and other fiber artists will be able to continue to meet in the studio space.
If you go:
- Address: 720 9th Ave. SW, Largo
- Phone: 727-584-4191
- Winter Hours: Monday through Friday 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The store may open on Sundays in December.