Alpacas are generally cold-weather animals, but they have now made their way to the beach.
TaCaCo Alpacas of Delaware has opened a new clothing store on Wilmington Avenue in Rehoboth Beach featuring items made using alpaca fur: socks, hats, sweaters and yarns, among other alpaca-related items. TaCaCo Alpacas of Delaware has its main farm and gift store in Laurel, but co-owner Kelley Boyce said many customers come from eastern Sussex County, leading her and co-owner Karla Mears to open a store at 33 Wilmington Ave. in Rehoboth Dec. 2.
Boyce said she got into alpaca farming as a retirement venture after visiting an alpaca farm in Pennsylvania. “They’re really neat animals,” Boyce said.
The appeal of alpaca wool, she said, is its softness, and that it is hypoallergenic, so people with allergies to sheep’s wool can wear it. Boyce said alpaca wool is also flame-resistant and water-resistant.
“It’s soft like cashmere and it’s lighter than sheep’s wool, and it’s really warm,” Boyce said of alpaca wool.
She said alpacas are shorn once a year, typically in mid-May before the weather turns warm. Alpacas originated in the Andes Mountains of Peru and prefer colder temperatures.
“They do not like the heat. We also in the summer keep the fans on them and my husband sprays them down with a hose because when you have that thick fiber, they get hot,” Boyce said.
Alpacas are related to camels and llamas, and while they can sometimes be a bit skittish, alpacas are friendly and harmless to people, she said. They can live to be around 20 to 25 years old and are herd animals that like to move in groups, Boyce said. TaCaCo Alpacas of Delaware has over 20 alpacas on the farm in Laurel.
When shorn, Boyce said, each alpaca produces an average of eight pounds of fiber, although exactly how much depends on the size of the animal. The fiber is sent to a fiber mill in Tennessee, which sends it back as yarn, she said. The clothing made from their yarns is made in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, mainly, Boyce said.
The new store is located in the newly expanded Avenue Inn on Wilmington Avenue. Boyce said the location was appealing because of the growing number of businesses on the street. The original plan was to open in January, but Boyce said she did not want to miss out on the Christmas season.
TaCaCo Alpacas of Delaware is open Friday through Monday in the off-season but will be open seven days a week in the summer. For more information, call 236-7950 or go to www.tacacoalpacasofdelaware.com.