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.