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‘Think Local’ Sets up Shop
Locals organize temporary store in downtown Kalispell
Kalispell artist Cathi Spence, left, talks with former Books West owner Jo Ann Jensen at the Think Local temporary gift shop in the Books West space downtown Kalispell. - Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon
For people looking for last-second gifts, think local.

Janelle Buchanan, Darlene Cecil and Cathi Spence hope you do. It’s their Christmas motto and they’re shouting it from the rooftops, or at least from the corner of Main and First streets in downtown Kalispell.

On the heels of a successful “Think Local” arts and crafts show in late August, Buchanan and Spence, boosted by the marketing prowess of Cecil, have orchestrated a temporary gift shop in the old Books West location on Main. Featuring only local artists and artisans, similar to the summer event, the store is open through Christmas Eve.

And don’t feel sheepish buying presents on the final day before Christmas – the three organizers can relate to last-second impulses. They came up with the idea for the store on Dec. 8, made phone calls the following day and then had the shop up and running Dec. 12.

Spence said the building’s owner was gracious in offering her space, but most likely was a little skeptical that the idea would come to fruition.

“She probably thought, ‘You’re crazy, you can’t get a store up in a day and a half,’” Spence said.

The organizers’ efficiency, along with the swift cooperation of the featured artists, is in many ways a demonstration of what makes the “Think Local” concept work. It’s a matter of a community coming together to make things happen. The hope is that fellow community members will join the effort, come to the store and reap the benefits.

The benefits of this particular undertaking are the arts and crafts of 13 locals who have pitched in to pay the two-week lease in return for space to show their work at the shop. Among the artists are fine art photographer John Ashley and Mike and Janelle Buchanan. The artists also pitched in for advertising fees.

“Most of the people that are here, this is their day job,” Spence said. “This is how they make their living.”

Spence believes some consumers, in light of the economy, are less willing to drop money on a bunch of different products this year, instead opting for a couple of nice gifts, such as a locally made craft.

“I think people are just holding onto their money until the last minute,” Spence said. “But they’re still going to buy Christmas presents. Why not something unique? People are appreciating something with better quality.”

Not only is the gift shop an outgrowth of the summer Think Local occasion, held on Aug. 28-30 on the Kalispell courthouse lawn, but it also has roots in an event Spence holds at her home. For the past 13 years, Spence has organized an arts and crafts showcase at her house featuring local artists. The bigger, leased-out space on Main Street has opened up new possibilities.

The shop’s offerings are diverse. Handmade purses, vests and stuffed animals line the walls. Trinkets, candles and homemade pillows are available, as are professional photographs, locally produced jam, jewelry and handcrafted chairs from Old Style Log Works.

The summer event on the Kalispell courthouse lawn was the first of what is expected to be a “Think Local” series, including the temporary Christmas shop. In August, there were more than 40 booths and live music. Next summer, Spence said there will be a similar event in the beginning of summer and then one at the end in August again.

“A community feel is what we’re going for,” Spence said. “It’s that concept of shopping locally and supporting each other locally.”
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