Life can be too serious. My mother-in-law lived through two German occupations and the loss of two children and then her husband (when Jos was only two weeks old). From Jos I learned to put things into perspective and to appreciate what we have rather than to think about what we lack. This attitude fits in well with life in Crested Butte. Here we have rugged weather and a fickle economy. Jos helped me see the gorgeous sunrises, sunsets, and the beauty constantly surrounding us. With beauty feeding our souls we are able to meet the challenges of each day.
Back in 1985 when our daughter Annie was 2 3/4 years old, she came down with a rare children’s disease. Ten days at home despite constant attention from our pediatrician (who made house calls) the disease left her anorexic, lethargic, and very weak. Another week in the Children’s Hospital in Hoechst brought tests and eliminations. It isn’t polio. Not meningitis. What is it? At last the doctor informed us she had Kawasaki Syndrome with neurological side affects. The first such case they’d seen. Every intern and resident doctor came by to see this unusual case. At that time there was no treatment. Annie had to stay in the hospital until the disease subsided. They wanted her close by in case she had a collapse of the cardiovascular system.
My German vocabulary increased - Krankenschwester, Krankenversicherung, Kontrastmittel… Annie had not yet learned German. She soon learned to tell the nurse at naptime - Ich bin nicht mude = I’m not tired.
Life’s challenges have taught me to embrace today for I cannot foretell what tomorrow will bring. Today Annie is a comedian in Chicago. She does not remember her illness, her inability to walk, her pain. Yet she embraces life. Subconsciously, she knows that life is to be embraced.
Today I told Diana to make the homepage fun while she works on our website. This is a family business. Peter developed our first website. Now it’s Diana’s turn. The website is to show you who we are. For a long time, despite my desire to be light-hearted, I worried about the website. Will it stand out? Will it impress people? Will it get people to shop from us?
After much thought I realized that I want a website so our customers can find us and can find a means of contacting us when they are not in town. The purpose of the website is not to sell our products. We want personal contact with people. If you want to buy from us, we want to help you find that perfect piece of art or the picture frame you need. So I hope you enjoy Diana’s light-heartedness as she struggles to complete this project. Our children have whacky senses of humor - enjoy the unicorns. Thanks for the smile, Diana.
Just as dining out prepared me to wait tables, being a tourist prepared Jos and me to own a gallery. Or at least our years visiting Crested Butte as well as other destinations gave us an idea how we wanted to treat our customers. We wanted people to feel welcome when they entered the gallery. We wanted them to feel comfortable browsing and asking quesitions. We wanted families with children to be at ease.
Knowledge of the artwork might have been a plus as well as knowledge of picture framing. We had to learn. Jos had his carpentry skills and his expertise in some European art, especially paintings on porcelain from the 19th century. Me - well I had my bookkeeping skills and my nurturing skills. A large part of running a gallery is nurturing. Artists need encouragement. Our patrons also need direction. So I have learned to transfer my nurturing skills from my children to our artists and our patrons.
In the early days, however, I did not have much knowledge to share. Jos and I attended workshops and learned from Cindy (our employee who had learned from Susan Anderton). We read and we learned by trial and error. At the same time I was busy helping our four children adapt to life in the United States, preparing them for learning in English at school, and keeping track of them over the long summer months.
Cooking is not one of the skills I am noted for. When the fourth of July arrived and we hosted a barbecue, I had to let Jos go home and use his cooking skills to prepare a meal for our family and relatives. This left me in the gallery with my sisters and sister-in-law, enjoying one another’s company and hoping we could handle a customer. It was my first time in the gallery without Jos or Cindy to guide me.
When customers entered, I hid. My sisters and I got the giggles as we feared answering questions. We survived. Eventually, I learned to greet customers instead of hiding from them. I learned the difference between etchings, silkscreens, limited edition prints, watercolors, oils, acrylics, and the like. Whenever customers ask questions, I am happy to share the knowledge I have gained over the past years.
Jos has learned the history of the area and loves sharing his knowledge with our visitors. An art gallery is definitely easier than a restaurant. So glad we’ve had this opportunity to live and work in Crested Butte.
Growing up, I enjoyed time at our family’s cabin in Cuchara. The town center had the General Store and the Chuck Wagon restaurant. My parents became friends of the couple that owned the two establishments.
When I was a teenager, my siblings and I would sleep later than our parents. One morning Dad came back from breakfast at the Chuck Wagon and urged us to get up and dressed. The owners needed help. Suddenly, I was waiting tables in the diner, my sister Donna had the dining room where a private luncheon was being held. My brother Bob and sister Laura took over dishwashing while the owner cooked with my sister Linda’s assistance.
To make matters more challenging the ice machine was broken and we had to make runs to the general store for ice as needed. We had all eaten out regularly so we knew how to take an order and how to set and clear a table.
It was a busy morning and got busier as the private party showed up for the dining room. A bit harrassed Donna asked one woman if it was okay if she had iced tea without the ice.
The owner was also the local coroner. As fate would have it, someone in the community had a heart attack and died. The coroner was called out leaving me and my siblings in charge of the busy restaurant.
Since the Chuck Wagon was the only restaurant in the community, our pitching in not only helped the owner but allowed visitors to have a place to eat on that chaotic day.
Maybe my father’s belief in our abilities to help at the restaurant gave me courage to buy an art gallery with my husband and believe we could succeed.
Back in 1974/75 when I worked for my grandfather, I learned to use an adding machine. I got to be fairly rapid entering a number then pulling down the handle. Chic-a-chic-a-chic click. By spring we had an amazing addition to the work place - electronic calculators. What fun! I could add numbers even more quickly. So quickly that my grandfather reprimanded me. I had to slow down so the calculator could keep up with me.
In those days we had ledger sheets. At the end of each month I had to add up each column and then double check that the bottom row balanced. Then I had to type up a profit and loss statement and a balance sheet for each customer. This was back in the day of the typewriter. I was not allowed to use whiteout. I had to type the items perfectly. Some days I would end up in tears as I got to the last row and made a mistake meaning I had to retype the page for the umpteenth time. Necessarily, I learned to type without mistakes.
I also learned how bookkeeping worked which gave me an advantage when we took over the gallery. I started our business using ledger sheets but soon moved to keep our books with Quicken. Our accountant was impressed that I figured out how to control Quicken. The program had the tendency to make things balance so the user might not catch a mistake. It simply put excesses into the profit/loss account. I set up separate accounts to show gains or losses. Thus the auto profit/loss account showed me when I had an error. Needless to say Quicken was not the ideal program for business accounting but it was free with our computer so I used it for a number of years.
Later we purchased MYOB. Living in Crested Butte has the disadvantage of being far from any computer classes especially specialized classes for MYOB on a mac. By this time our son was in graduate school in computer science and engineering. You might think that he taught me how to use the program. What he taught me over the years was to teach myself how to use computer applications. The new program provides me with wonderful reports for our artists, the bank, our accountant…
Thank you, Grandpa, for teaching me to work accurately and honestly. Your lessons have served me well. And thank you, Peter, for teaching me to teach myself how to use the computer.
Thanks to Diana, our new blog is active. I don’t believe you can see it yet from the pull down menu on our website but there is a link at the bottom of the home page. Before I know it, Diana will have the pull down menu working, too.
Now that I have a fresh start at blogging, I have been thinking about what to write about. Since this is a business website, I decided our business might be the best topic. When I lose someone important to me like my father, I spend a lot of time thinking. One item of interest to me is our business. We came to Crested Butte in 1993 and purchased Anderton Gallery on June1st of that year. Jos had an uncle who lived next door to him in Belgium when he was growing up. The uncle was a carpenter so Jos learned carpentry skills from him. I worked for my grandfather for a year in 1974/75 as a bookkeeper in his accounting firm. With those skills to our names we took over the gallery and frame shop and started our new lifestyle. Jos had been in banking and international finance for nearly 30 years and I had been a stay at home mother for 15 years. What were we thinking?
The gallery had living space upstairs. We were thinking we had a perfect setup for making a living in Crested Butte. Boy did we have a lot to learn. The good news is that we are still here. It’s been a wonderful life - we enjoy our business and our town. However, we have learned and grown a lot through our failures, our artists, our customers, our friends and our children. Thank you everyone for guiding us along the way.
Life changes constantly. So do computers, servers, etc. Our blog has been eliminated twice now, I think, from our providers changing or eliminating their services. Life changed, too. My father passed away on Valentine’s Day. He led an amazing life. I am grateful to be his daughter. I still have a large part of him with me in that my mother still lives at the nursing home in Gunnison. When I see her, it’s like being with both of my parents. So I treasure the times whether it’s a good day or a bad day.
With all these changes I need to learn how to operate the new blog. Hope I can make it interesting for you. For now I am going to post this entry and see if it works. If it does, I’ll try to write more often.