Before we opened our store, Jennie and I would haul our pottery from state to state, going to fairs and festivals. Pottery was the only thing that we sold at that time. When we opened Mountain Arts Pottery outside of Bozeman in 2003, we discussed having other items available in the store for our customers. My theory was that we could make our own pottery for the best price because we were making it ourselves and didn’t have to pay someone else. For several years, until we opened the Coffee Pot Bakery Cafe under the same roof, all we sold for gift items was pottery. As we began to become more popular and could afford to buy some add on items, we cautiously began to look for gift items to add to our customer’s shopping experience. The first thing we bought was local hand made greeting cards. Our idea was that if people needed a gift, they needed a card as well.
We were still selling wholesale pottery, and had sold to a gift store in Colorado Springs. There was a time when Colorado Springs experienced a spate of disasters. They had floods and then wildfires. Our pottery customer called and told us that he was unable to pay for the pottery he had purchased. Being an honorable man, he offered to send us the equivalent of our pottery costs in handmade crosses that he created and sold in his store. Jennie was a little reluctant to give up the space it would require for his crosses, but we decided that he was trying to make it right and agreed to take his crosses to display in our store. It turned out that they were beautiful and sold so well that we sold out within two months! We have since placed dozens of orders with him and are still delighting our customers with his inlaid turquoise, one of a kind crosses.
Jennie loves scarves because she’s always chilly, so she found a supplier of beautiful scarves and we also added those to the store. A local soap maker supplies soaps and lotions. We now carry wooden hand carved spoons, Montana made jewelry, felted wall hangings, ceramic crosses and towels and scrubby sets. At Christmas time we bring in beautiful hand made mittens.
We've come a long way in the gift items available at the Mountain Arts store since we began fourteen years ago. Of course, pottery is still our customer’s favorite go-to item, but we strive to find new items for people to purchase for gifts and for their own homes as well. Jennie and our daughter Becky will be going to the Billings Market this week to see if there are new things to bring into the store, so keep tuned in to see what we might have coming in the spring!
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