SOUTH PORTLAND — Lisa Plourd, who is opening a new knitting shop and cafe called the Knitting Nook at the corner of Sawyer and High Streets in Ferry Village, said the path that set her to pursuing the business was unexpected and life altering.
In February 2017, Plourd and her dog, Lily, were taking their usual walk at Shaw Park in Gorham. During the stroll, Lily went out on the ice of the Presumpscot River, where she fell through and was unable to get back over the lip of the ice.
In distress, Lily began to whine in a way Plourd had not heard before.
In reaction, Plourd got on her stomach and attempted to slide her way to Lily, to pull her over the ice. “That’s when I heard a crack, and I went in,” she said, recounting the day she nearly died.
“I didn’t panic, and somebody was really looking out for me,” she said of the ordeal.
Plourd, who can’t swim, said she heard a friend’s voice in her head instructing her how to float. She said her jacket ballooned as she lifted her head back, and she began to mimic Lily, doing the dog paddle until she was able to grasp the ice edge.
The arms of her jacket froze on the ice while she supported herself with her forearms, essentially rooting her to the spot.
Her calls for help were heard by another woman walking a dog.
The day was bitterly cold, 18 degrees, and she estimated she was in the water for 45 minutes before rescue crews pulled her to safety. Lily had safely reached a sand bar.
Plourd doesn’t remember the ambulance ride, and said she only recalls waking in the emergency room, surrounded by a medical team and her husband holding her hand.
Plourd’s background is in education. She earned a degree in elementary education, but her work has been centered on adults, teaching adult education math classes, as well as general education degree courses at the Cumberland County Jail.
Most recently, she worked in the insurance industry, but after her near-death experience, was compelled to do something else.
After spending the night in the hospital, she said she realized life is too short, and began to think about the things that make her truly happy – aside from her husband and dog, she noted.
“Eating, drinking and knitting,” she said, ticking off what led her to developing a business plan that incorporates all three.
Plourd said she hopes the Knitting Nook will be a space for fiber artists to buy supplies, take classes and socialize. And have a coffee or a beer.
She wants it to grow with people as they learn, and attract younger customers to introduce them to the craft.
Plourd’s introduction to knitting came 40 years ago, at age 14, from her grandmother, Christine, now 102 and living in Florida. Plourd said her grandmother came to knitting by necessity, making items for her family.
“She was born in 1916, it was not a fad,” Plourd said, adding her grandmother taught her how to simplify patterns so she felt capable of tackling more daunting designs.
Plourd is leasing the space at 124 Sawyer St., and said when she went to look at places to house the business, she had a physical reaction to seeing the space in Ferry Village. The building had recently been purchased, and the inside was full of storage items. She said she started sweating and had an overwhelming feeling it was the right place.
She had a vision, and despite its in-transition appearance, the building fit with her plans.
“It was exactly what I was looking for,” she said.
Plourd and her friend and assistant in the shop, Marianne Robinson, will be teaching classes together. “I pulled Marianne out of retirement,” Plourd said. “We decided we didn’t want to really work anymore, so it had to be fun.”
The knitting and retail space will open July 25, and the cafe is scheduled to open Aug. 21.
Assistant Marianne Robinson, left, and Knitting Nook owner Lisa Plourd, at the new business on Sawyer Street in South Portland’s Ferry Village.