October 20, 2017


We are beginning our 36th year in the pottery business and our 12th year with the 
Coffee Pot Bakery Cafe. We purchased the log building to open a retail outlet for our Mountain Arts Pottery so that we wouldn’t have to travel as much selling our pottery. I wanted to serve coffee to our customers and to build a warm and friendly atmosphere in our shop, but Jennie felt we should open a little coffee shop so that we could sell the coffee and help pay the store’s expenses. Thus we became a retail pottery store with a small coffee shop.

Back in the dark ages, I received my business degree from Montana State College (now Montana State University.) One of the first things one learns is the importance of a business plan. Unfortunately, that didn’t sink in, and when we made the move to our store on Gallatin Road, our business plan was very simple: build some display racks, put the pottery out, put up some highway signs and start selling. Year two: move the studio from our back yard out to the property and continue to produce the pottery needed to fill our retail and wholesale orders. It was all pretty simple and followed along with what we had been doing for the last 23 years. What weren’t prepared was what was about to happen to our business.

Growth was very slow for the first few years, and then it really took off. We made the decision to cease doing wholesale and focus on retail pottery sales at our store, and our mall Kiosk during Christmas season, as well as our web sales. The coffee business went from coffee to rolls and coffee. Then, after much discussion and with trepidation, we added soup and bread, followed by full a breakfast and lunch menu. Due to limited space and seating, we added frozen take-out and pick-up heat and serve food items. It seems that we have never plateaued, especially at the Coffee Pot. Over the years have just tried to keep up.

As people continued to comment on the growth of our business, I tried to explain the expansions and increases to them, while trying to understand them myself. We honestly didn't even know how to start to write a business plan. It finally hit me. While we truly didn’t have much of a plan, our Senior partner did. He has led us each day and has shown us how to continue. He has placed people in our path who have possessed the exact skills and expertise that we have needed, just when we’ve needed them.

The Business College at MSC (now MSU) had it right. Putting a plan in place is a great idea. The best idea, however, is a Partner who knows the Plan.

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