Changing leaves aren’t the only reason Middle Path looks more colorful than normal. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays during the spring and fall when the weather is warm, Mount Vernon resident Charlie Staats can be found seated behind a table overflowing with knitwear and crocheted goods whose colors range from cheery pastels to autumnal hues.
“I’m so passionate about making these things because they’re made with love, with all my heart, and a piece of me goes with each one,” Staats said. On Middle Path, Staats sells classic knit goods such as scarves, hats and slippers, but also offers handmade silks, afghans, potholders and shawls. In addition, Staats sells jewelry she makes herself. She divides her time between her Middle Path stall and working as an office manager at Paul’s Flowers in Mount Vernon.
While she has made all the products currently on display during the past three winters, Staats said she has been knitting since she was nine years old. Her grandmother taught her and her four sisters the craft. “It was the greatest gift my grandmother has ever given me because I can pass it on,” Staats said. “I get goosebumps when I talk about it.”
Staats frequently crochets or knits while tending her Middle Path stand. In fact, she is often making something wherever she goes. “I can’t sit without keeping my hands busy,” she said. “I don’t go anywhere without a hook in my hand and a ball of yarn.”
Staats has been coming to campus on and off since 2007, but first fell in love with Gambier and Kenyon students while working as a waitress at the Pirate’s Cove, now the Gambier Grill. Staats, who grew up in Knox County and has lived here for the majority of her adult life, said she enjoys the mixture of students who attend Kenyon. “It’s like two cultures blending,” she said. “It’s really cool. It’s like a big pot of stew. You throw it all in there, and it mixes up and ends up perfect.”
Staats said Kenyon students are the reason she keeps coming back. She loves knowing she can help them in some way. Every year, she said, there are a handful of students with whom she connects; oftentimes, she believes, she reminds them of their mothers.
“I know that you young people are here without your folks,” said Staats, a mother of two grown sons and a grandmother of four. “And it makes me feel like maybe I’m a mom out there making sure they’ve got their hats and scarves on and they’re warm.”