Thanks for this post!
I live in New York City, and have found a number of the boutique yarn places very expensive. Okay, so they have to pay New York City rents . . . but so do I! And I would rather stretch my yarn $$!
That being said, there are too many yarn brands and types out there that I am unfamiliar with, so I DO need to see and feel them in person.
With that in mind, I searched this thread, and visited two: School Products, and Seaport Yarns. Here is my experience:
School products was a neatly organized store. I went on a Saturday, when their hours were limited, and indeed, I was the only customer there for the duration of my visit. They had a number of cone yarns, and both these and the skein yarns were in a large part European, particularly Italian, in origin. It was quite a sensory experience, getting to feel all the different blends and exotic fibres. They did carry Lamb's Pride Nature Spun (worsted and bulky) in a fair amount of the colors available. I bought two of the three colors I needed for a scarf at $7.99/skein. I AM a bargain hunter, and knew this was a little high, but the savings in shipping more than evened things out. The gentlemen behind the desk was not the friendliest, and wasn't "chat-uppable" at all, though he didn't appear very busy with any other business. I barely got a goodbye out of him when I left (remember, I was the only one in the store).
My next visit was to Seaport Yarns. This place has to be SEEN to be believed. As another poster to this thread had mentioned, it resides in an office space, complete with receptionist area, conference room, and 6 or so private offices. But instead of a receptionist, one is greeted with stacks of boxes and skeins everywhere! I have never seen so many yarns -- with some loosely orgainzed system of different types of yarns grouped together in the different offices. The owner, Andrea, was extremely helpful. She took me on a tour, discussing the different yarns and yarn companies, her life as a yarn business owner, and offered advice as to what yarns were interchangeable and of better quality or a better bargain than what I was asking about. She had several colors of the Brown Sheep nature spun I hadn't seen in the other store, and I was able to purchase the third color I needed for my project. The cost was $7.50 ($0.49 cheaper than School Products). She had a huge shipment of Arucania yarns in, which she was discounting 15% to get people to try it, 'cause she likes it a lot. She had many, many of the brands I had heretofore only heard about. When she heard I was an actor and working parttime, she even offered me a job as a "survey taker" with her marketing research company! On the down side, the office space hallways (which were also full of yarn) were difficult to see in the buzzing fluorescent light -- I told her I would come back (note to myself: earlier in the day, when the space would have more light!).
I would recommend ANY yarn person coming to NYC should stop by this place. I'm afraid she might not be around much longer, and, as I said earlier, this place needs to be seen to be believed!