Say 'I love you' with an Alpaca bear

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Valentine's Day reminds us to take a few moments out of our busy lives to reflect and remember someone special. Along with a card and some heartfelt words, we often will bestow a gift to show our love and appreciation.

When I look back on the gifts that have meant the most over the years, they were often unique, handmade, "from the heart" gifts or gifts that showed a deep understanding of the recipient. A few years ago, my husband bought me a Stihl BR420 backpack leaf blower for Valentine's Day, and I was thrilled! With seven acres and 50 animals to care for, that blower saved me hundreds of hours and allowed me more time with my family, our horses, and our alpacas.

This year I'm making my husband a special hat from our warm and soft Alpaca yarn. I'm sure he will love wearing it on our evening walks down to Hayden Lake. Are you looking for something unique for your special person? Many of our local customers know us for our huge selection of luxury yarns and super warm alpaca socks, however we also have wonderful Alpaca fur gifts we hope you will come by and see.

For the man in your life, we have super warm Alpaca socks that will keep his feet toasty warm while hunting or camping. Somehow the truckers running the Northern route up Highway 95 discovered us and are now pulling into our little store with their big rigs to stock up on socks before heading into Canada.

Our stuffed toy Alpaca bears and stuffed Alpacas are also a Valentine's favorite. They are of course made with super soft Alpaca fur and are very cuddly and available in a variety of sizes. As with many of our products there is a story to share with you about these stuffed toys. Each one is unique and handmade for us by a family in Southern Peru. We first met this family a few years ago during a trade conference in Lima, Peru. Each year the Peruvian government holds a lottery and a few artisans are allowed to travel to Lima and show their products at the international trade show. At the show we met Marco and his wife and were very impressed with their handmade Alpaca products. Through a translator we were able to establish a relationship and now are the primary source of income for them and their growing micro-business in Alpaca fur products. The beauty of this is that the money goes directly to Marco and his family instead of going through several layers of distributors, wholesalers, etc.

Two years ago we were back in Lima Peru at the trade fair and this time we brought our daughter, Lauren. She was thrilled to be sitting up front during the high-fashion runway shows hosted by Vogue, seeing and meeting all our commercial suppliers.

But the true life lesson was still ahead. After a long week at the show I had an email from Marco requesting to meet us on a Sunday morning before we departed from Peru. He didn't, of course, win the lottery that year so was not able to be at the trade show. We were tired and ready to go home, but I knew how hard Marco had worked for us and told him we would be happy to meet him at our hotel in Lima. Upon arrival the hotel staff would not let he and his wife into the hotel as they were considered poor workers from the countryside.

My husband and I objected to the hotel management and they were then allowed to enter and to meet with us as friends and business partners. The hotel staff was truly bewildered. Why would we meet with these people? Marco looked very tired as he mentioned that he and his wife had traveled 15 hours by bus to meet with us that morning. At that moment, we experienced the importance our business relationship and the commitment they had to work with us to create quality products.

In reflecting back on this experience, it was great that our daughter Lauren was there to experience first hand how true commitment and partnership in business translated into the products we sell in our store and on our website.

If you come visit our store and hold one of our stuffed toy alpacas or slip into our handmade alpaca slippers, you can rest assured that your purchase will help support a wonderful family in Southern Peru.

In case you have not heard about us, Alpaca Direct is a direct merchant of high-quality yarn, apparel, gifts, and socks. We stock a full line of fiber art accessories, including needles and thousands of yarns. Our unique selection of products also includes Peruvian alpaca sweaters, hand-loomed lace scarves, performance alpaca socks, cuddly alpaca teddy bears and unique international jewelry.

Our building is handicap accessible, with ample parking and is easy to find. We are located on Hayden Avenue, just two blocks west of Highway 95 at 1016 W Hayden Ave. in Hayden.

Our Alpaca fiber experts are on call 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Saturday. Visit us at 1016 W. Hayden Ave. or online at www.AlpacaDirect.com - your local destination for luxury yarn, apparel & gifts. "Like" us on Facebook and "Yelp" for exclusive coupons, product spotlights and news!

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