Deb Nickell and Emily Wexler of Cozy

Cozy is nestled comfortably on the corner of Ninth and Markham in what was once a gas station and then a disreputable pool hall. Lise Ebel, Cozy employee and clothing manager, is responsible for its first major renovation into a retail space. Lise’s store (which she opened with Ann Alexander) was called FiberSpace, Durham’s first yarn and bead shop. In September of 2001, after FiberSpace closed, Deb Nickell created Cozy. Her longtime friend, Emily Wexler, became the store manager and then, in 2012, an official co-owner.

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Though the geography of Cozy has changed over the years, the focus has stayed primarily on women’s clothing, shoes (oh, the shoes!), jewelry, and accessories with a niche market in high-quality, specialty yarns. This is essentially a neighborhood department store stocked with creative, inspired, and well-made goods produced by local makers and reputable national brands (Dansko, Hobo Bags, and Carol Turner Collection, to name a few).

And yet, if you spend any time shopping at Cozy, you’ll find that it’s also a community gathering space.  On the March 8th A Day Without a Woman, Emily and Deb did open the shop. But it wasn’t business as usual. They offered baked goods, a comfortable space for women to come in and chat, and even hosted a representative from Planned Parenthood; a portion of the proceeds from that day went to Planned Parenthood and North Carolina Central University. They’ve also raised funds for Pennies for Change, Dress for Success, and Crayons2Calculators. Local residents also gather at Cozy to learn – they offer knit and crochet classes for experience levels ranging from “I’ve never touched yarn!” to “I’m making my first sweater.” Past classes have taught participants to make fingerless mitts, ear warmers, and Flax pattern sweaters.

The all-women crew at Cozy has been together for many years, and they charmingly call themselves the Cozettes. At heart, the Cozettes are artists, and this artistry shines through every aspect of the shop. Knitting creations and the artistic work of local makers line the walls. One of those items on display is a scrumble shawl by yarn manager Lisa Doherty, whose patterns have been published in national knitting magazines. And on the first Tuesday and first Thursday of each month, Cozy hosts an open knitting circle (dubbed “Knit Night”) where locals share their work and learn from others.

Though Deb and Emily are business partners, their partnership extends well beyond the walls of Cozy. They have a lot in common, including their love of shoes and their dislike of having their photos taken. Here are a few other favorites they share:  

Favorite Books: Emily and Deb each have a favorite classic they love to reread every year. Emily’s is Little Women – the copy she got at a Scholastic Book Fair in the fourth grade. Deb’s is an autographed first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Favorite Music: Female singer songwriters like Eve Cassidy and Bonnie Raitt (with some crooners like Lyle Lovett and Frank Sinatra in the mix).

Three Things They Can’t Work Without: Music, good light, and mechanical pencils for the handwritten tickets they still create for every purchase (like we said, these folks are artists!).