By Marguerite Knowlton and Hannah Torres
Katie Parkes is as recognizable to the locals in Seal Beach as the pier.
Every day at 10:30 a.m., Parkes, 35, lays out a vast array of crochet wares, a bench in front of a local diner known as The Hangout on the corner of Main Street. For up to five hours, she claims this prime boardwalk real estate to sell her handmade goods. While unconventional, the sight of Parkes perched on a bench amid inventory has become a Seal Beach staple. Frequently, she even has a crochet hook in hand, working on the following product.
Olivia Pancia, a hostess of 10 years at The Hangout in Seal Beach, says that she represents the community, one that cares. “I think she represents… a community and [the way] everyone knows who she is … it means a lot.”
It is not uncommon to spot local musicians along Seal Beach’s Main Street and pier, but Parkes has the only craft booth in this area. She does not pay rent for her make-shift retail space. Parkes is so recognizable that one local officer reportedly replaced her bicycle when hers was stolen in 2014.
Parkes is part of the scenery of Seal Beach, the heartbeat of the sleepy beach town made up of primarily senior residents who have adopted her. “Regulars always buy her hot chocolate when she comes in,” said Chloe Reyno, a barista at Bogart’s coffee shop, which sits two doors down from Parkes’ craft booth.
Parkes moved from Fresno, Calif., to Seal Beach with her mother in 2014 to be closer to her two brothers. Self-taught, Parkes has been crocheting since 2011, citing Pinterest as her source of inspiration. She was born with Cerebral Palsy and Scoliosis, which, while impacting her mobility, has not stopped her from creating her colorful pieces. “Right now, frisbees are my favorite to make,” Parked said with a shy smile.
Parkes decided to start selling her creations immediately after learning how to crochet. She has never been part of any other line of work and relies on her Seal Beach pop-up as her sole source of income. “[Crocheting] is the only thing I can make money off of,” Parkes said.
While Parkes asserts that the COVID-19 pandemic has not affected her business, some locals have said that Parkes’ hours have been less consistent. Furthermore, Parkes admits that her small business is not necessarily profitable at the moment, but she is currently hopeful that her Etsy shop will take off soon. So far this year, she’s had a total of two Etsy sales.
When asked if she planned to grow her business one day, Parkes said, “I’m happy with the way things are.”