Montana has no shortage of remarkable artists and craftsmen, but sometimes locating where to find their work is challenging. This isn’t an issue in Kalispell, where the words “Think Local – Exclusively Montana Made” jumps out in giant letters on a storefront along Kalispell’s Main Street.
What started off as a seasonal gift shop for just ten days prior to Christmas for Montana native Cathi Spence and her fellow artisans to sell their goods, has turned into a permanent haven for Montanans to display and sell their craft. As Cathi will say, “I asked Santa for a store five years ago and voilá – he came through!”
When you first step into the store, you’re met with a collection of bird cages, glass bowls, wire baskets and old teapots filled with potted plants. Etched stemware, pottery, jewelry, knitted hats, felt purses, photography, greeting cards, Hurrah lip gloss (very unique flavors – my favorite being Earl Grey Tea), adorable leather shoes for babies and toddlers, Indian bead work, and cowboy bath salts are just some of the items under this roof. In the back of the store is a cozy coffee bar that Cathi hopes to turn into a sandwich shop sometime in the future.
Located in a repurposed building, the store is popular with both the locals browsing for gifts and visitors looking for those special mementos of their Montana visit to take home.
Around 60 artisans have their work on display, all arranged into unique collections throughout this historic building. About a third of the artists have been with Cathi since the store opened. A handful of these artists take turns minding the store in exchange for the space they are given. What makes Think Local so attractive is the way in which the goods are displayed. Each artist has their own cluster of work brilliantly displayed in and around antique furniture, trunks, hanging from branches, or tacked up on the brick walls of this historic building.
If a new artisan approaches Cathi about displaying their craft, she will first make sure what they have to offer doesn’t overlap with what already exists in the store. “Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish what really says ‘Montana’ and is likely to sell versus what is just unique handiwork,” says Cathi.
As I’m browsing, Dixie Wajdic, one of the artists, comes in with a box of wooden lamps. Dixie’s deal is repurposing old fence posts into lovely wood lamps. There is an easy rapport between Dixie and Cathi. “I can make the lamps, but selling them is the hard part. That’s where Cathi helps me so much” Dixie remarks, as she unwraps her work.
One of the unique items are the creations from Badass Babes, whose tagline is “I take brass and make it kick ass!” She makes jewelry out of spent shell casings. If that doesn’t scream Montana, I don’t know what does. I don’t know Jenn Mayrand, the creator behind Badass Babes, but I already know I want to be her friend.
Cathi’s artistic talents can be seen in her jewelry, knits goods, and paintings, all on display. There is no doubt this storefront is her passion. She will say she loves going to work. As she walks through the front door of Think Local, she tells me with a big smile that she always greets her shop with “good morning store”.
Think Local – Exclusively Montana Made
140 S Main Street
Kalispell, Montana 59901