By nature, I don't consider myself a risk-taker, but last October I jumped off a figurative cliff and pulled my husband Rod over the edge with me. It all started when I stopped by the Wilkins Building to see my friend Myrna. As we chatted, I asked her about the building she has worked in for over 40 years. As it turned out, she had a deck of keys that could unlock every one of the 14 or so doors.
As we walked around the 4,500 square foot building, the wheels started to turn. I went home and told Rod he needed to come and walk through the building with me. His reply? "Why would I want to do that?" MY cringe-worthy reply? "Because I have an idea!"
Rod agreed the building was in great shape, and we decided right then to make an offer. A meager offer that could be supported by the sale of a small rental we owned. Three hours later I walked out to the driveway where Rod was sprawled under my car, and reported, "We're under contract." Our reactions to this development were a bit different.
By the end of December, the rental was sold, the Wilkins Building was ours, and my scribbled drawing on a legal pad had transitioned into a legitimate business plan. And I began to learn.... a lot. My background? A BS in Agriculture. A Master's in Education. Thirty years a teacher. Bookkeeping...marketing...management....running a business? Zero. There were days I felt like I had made a huge mistake, and I was in freefall. There are days I still feel like that. Businesses renting spaces moved in, and then out. There were, and still are, days when we only have a customer or two. Not a week goes by when someone from Cut Bank is shocked to learn that we're in business. Right in plain sight. Bright blue front. Large commercial signage. On Main Street.
But here's the reason I sat down to write this in the first place, to reflect on the wins. We have an adorable, fully stocked, 100% True Montana store (The Market), and Jacey Hannon my "Can do!" assistant manager is a true gift. I have the best, and most patient co-owner/fixer-upper I could ask for in my husband Rod. Barbara Gerard-Mitchell and Betty Rudisill have kept The Gallery looking sharp since it opened in April and have been a knowledgable resource for visitors. We joke that we bought Myrna Alme with the building, and her humor and presence light up the place. Jessica Seifert (The Nail and Needle, Grown at 48, Cut Bank Local Fare, Cut Bank First Friday) has provided a wealth of ideas and inspiration. Bryan Simons (Curiously Artistic) has been a helpful small business advisor. We have relationships with our statewide vendors and truly value our local talent. We try to bring folks together every other month with a special event and we're proud to host Cut Bank First Friday art classes and the monthly Local Fare. We've provided a space for photography sessions, baby showers, and meetings. None of this would have happened without the support of the local community. We jumped off a cliff, but all of this support has promised a softer landing.
There is more to come. Next week Anne Severn is moving into the building with a Filipino-themed store selling shelf-stable food items. She will also be running our new helium balloon business which will open in time for Valentine's Day orders. Wayne Dusterhoff will be opening an art program and art supply retail space. We're very excited for both.
I'm big into mission statements. I need them to keep ideas and plans grounded. Here is ours:
Create an attractive downtown community retail and multi-use space. Support local makers, producers, and artists, as well as statewide talent while showcasing "True Montana".
That is our biggest win.
Proud co-owner and manager of Marketplace on Main, Cut Bank Montana