Hayden artists set up shop

Cooperative to bring variety of crafts under one roof

— A group of local artists and craftspeople looking for a place to call home are forming a new cooperative in downtown Hayden.

The cooperative is designed as a showcase for local handcrafted goods, including from fine art, leatherwork, furniture and homemade butter from farm-raised calves. It will also provide sales opportunities for many part-time artisans and craftspeople who cannot sustain their own storefront.

The idea began with craft fair plans that "spread like wildfire," said Donna Hellyer, a local resident on the cooperative's organizing committee and a board member for the Hayden Chamber of Commerce.

The key to making the cooperative work is allowing people to work full-time and still participate, said Nancy Kramer, project coordinator for the Northwest Colorado Products Program in Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties. The program, an arm of the Community Agricultural Alliance, aims to connect producers of local goods with retailers.

The planning committee hopes to have the cooperative up and running in time for the holiday season, and already has found more than 20 locals interested in membership.

"I think Hayden really needs something like this," said Judy Zehner, a former local business owner. Zehner owned a quilting shop in Hayden in the 1980s and ran it a bit like a cooperative, selling other people's products along with her own and keeping track of the separate earnings.

New and old

While some of the interested parties have been established on the local arts and crafts scene for decades, others are just getting started.

Sue Fulton started making jewelry in her spare time about a year ago. But after a successful summer at the seasonal Farmers Market in downtown Steamboat Springs, she's excited for the new exposure the cooperative would provide, she said.

The cooperative is seeking to lease a historic building on Walnut Street, which Hellyer described as full of "funky wood floors and lots of history."

The property has previously served as a pool hall, a church and a gas company. The original foundation dates to a mission built in the 1880s, she said.

The planners also have discussed including workspace for local artisans in the storefront as part of their effort to draw "cultural tourists" to Hayden.

"I think having a craftsperson working on their craft would be a huge draw," Hellyer said.

While membership agreements for cooperative members are still being ironed out, the cooperative has gained the support of local organizations.

The Hayden Economic Development Council is assisting the cooperative with its first three months of rent and advertising costs. Also, the Aging Well program is in talks with the cooperative to have local senior citizens help staff the business.

"There's a strong local team to help get the journey started and see this to fruition," Kramer said.

- To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203

or e-mail mdudley@steamboatpilot.com

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