Pottery’s resilience goes national
By JEREMY JONES
When the COVID-19 pandemic was at its worst this past year, The Clay Coyote and Pottery of Hutchinson did what it does best — it got creative.
“I was sitting by myself on a Zoom call for hours, talking to customers who would call in and ask how to use pottery,” said owner Morgan Baum.
Once a week, with employees sent home and the storefront closed, she would go in and send out all pots that were ordered.
“That got us through the first shut down,” she said. “The second shut down we were really fortunate retail wasn’t closed.”
But with customers still nervous about visiting brick and mortar shops, the business, like many in Hutchinson and around the country, took a fresh approach.
“They had gotten accustomed to being able to order online, do curbside pickup. We started doing free local delivery where I was just dropping off pots at people’s houses,” Baum said.
While Clay Coyote’s story is a local one, it didn’t stay that way. Along with nine other businesses from across the U.S., it was highlighted nationally as part of the Small Business Administration’s National Small Business Week Virtual Summit. The Sept. 13-15 event focused on the resilience of America’s entrepreneurs and the small business economy as it has built back up amidst a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
According to the SBA, more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, making the tribulations of the pandemic local and widespread. When The Clay Coyote had to send home its eight employees, it was a hardship shared by many.
“In the last 18 months, there were a lot of moments I thought we weren’t going to make it in all honesty,” Baum said. “I don’t know any small business, unless you were a front line, that didn’t feel that way. When we found out we were being closed down in March (2020) and we were sending everyone home, all of a sudden we weren’t making anything. And the way we stay in business is we make things.”
She said it was right to send employees home, but it didn’t feel morally right to leave them without an income. That’s where federal CARES Act funds, support from the SBA and local partners came in.
“The funds were accessible if you knew where to look and who to ask for help,” Baum said. “I was really fortunate with Citizens Bank and Trust here in Hutchinson. They’re our community lender. They made it easy to apply for PPP loans and we were able to get two.”
The Southwest Initiative Foundation, Clay Coyote’s SBA partner, provided resources and daily emails to keep the business informed about every available option.
“And our local Chamber of Commerce sent us resources for other funds through the Minnesota (Department of Employment and Economic Development) program, and the city and county CARES Act funds,” Baum said. “It was kind of a patchwork quilt of funding, but without all the resources, I can tell you, honestly, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Thanks to those funding opportunities, Clay Coyote was able to stay in business and pay its employees even when they couldn’t go to work. It also took the opportunity to try new things, and prepare itself in case the pandemic should bring about restrictions again.
“The second time, when we were getting really nervous about it, we helped outfit our potters so they could do work from home studios,” Baum said.
Those preparations included the purchase of a kiln that could be used remotely with a cell phone, a work-from-home plan, and tools to let potters produce in their garages.
One of the longtime requests of Clay Coyote’s customers has been a product with which to bake pizza. During the quiet moments of the pandemic, a design was mulled over.
“We thought, ‘Lets try it.’ The pandemic allowed us the space to do that. And it went bonkers,” Baum said.
The Clay Coyote Pizza Stone was used live on WCCO and sold out from October through Christmas.
Since being selected for the SBA National Business Week Virtual Summit, Clay Coyote has found itself with a bigger spotlight. It was live with KSTP in the gallery Tuesday morning, and has been contacted by state and national outlets highlighting Small Business Week.
“We’re thrilled,” Baum said of being among the 10 businesses highlighted. “We couldn’t believe it when they called us and told us. It kind of came out of the blue.”
She’s excited to tell Clay Coyote’s story, and to represent Hutchinson and the Midwest. The pride of her employees has been a highlight as well. But she’s also excited to learn about the other nine businesses.
“I can’t wait to find out who they are and what their success stories are,” Baum said. “I’m sure there are amazing examples of people being creative and resilient across the country.”
The city of Hutchinson is looking at possible changes to its sanitary sewer and water rates in an effort to make them more equitable and to meet Department of Natural Resources requirements.
Along with other possible changes is another: users will pay for how much they used from the past month instead of paying an average of their usage from January and February throughout the year.
Proposed for sanitary sewer rates is a change from the flat base monthly rate of $6.41 for all meter sizes to a monthly rate based on size.
"At your home today, you pay the same base charge as 3M pays on a meter," said City Engineer Kent Exner.
On the low end is the average 3/4-inch residential meter, which will have a base rate of $10. A one-inch meter will have a base rate of $25.
“Your larger industrial/commercial type users, if they have a 4-inch meter ... they will be charged $250 a month.” Exner said. “That’s truly accounting for the capacity that’s available to those users. It might drive specific users, commercial/industrial, to downsize their readers. We understand that. But this is the fairest way to go about this, where your lower-end users are paying their share, yes, at $10. But on the other end your higher-end users with a 4-inch, 6-inch meter, that have the ability to take on that much water … they should be paying their fair share on the top end."
Multi-family units will pay $6.50 per unit.
All users will continue to pay $6.42 per 1,000 gallons, but with an addendum. If, for instance, a user has 6,000 gallons metered, they would pay roughly $38. But if 3,000 of that is irrigated, and an irrigation meter is installed to show that, 3,000 gallons would be cut off the charge with a credit.
"So instead of paying roughly $38, you'll be paying $10 (for a 3/4-inch meter) plus $19, and that will get reduced off your waste water bill," Exner said.
"The real benefit comes for people who water their yard quite a bit," City Administrator Matt Jaunich said.
As for water rates, the blanket $7.35 base rate for all meters will be based on meter size as well, with a 3/4-inch residential meter at $9, on up to $450 for a 6-inch meter. Multi-family units will pay $5.85 per unit. Commodity rates will be split into three blocks:
Non-residential users will pay $3 per 1,000 gallons, a change from a range of $2.36 to $4.34 per 1,000 gallons.
"This is really what the DNR and state is requiring of municipalities," Exner said. "Really what they want to do is crack down on residential users to encourage conservation measures. Primarily that's irrigation related, but they also realize if you have a tiered structure that should incline people to take measures ... to decrease water use."
Exner said he expects the changes would mean low-end users would pay about the same or less than before overall, while multi-unit properties would see the worst from the changes.
Water for irrigation will be charged $4.69 per 1,000 gallons. An irrigation meter will prevent the water from being counted and charged toward the sewer charge as well.
City Council has allowed city staff to begin working on the changes and reaching out to residents and businesses. City staff are able to help explain the changes for individual cases. The changes will be reviewed for approval for 2022 later this year.
The motto #muchinhutch is truer now than ever. If you're looking for a reason to visit Hutchinson this weekend, here are five:
Last year was going to be a different year for the Arts & Crafts Festival due to the Main Street/State Highway 15 construction project. Plans called for moving the popular September event to the McLeod County Fairgrounds. That, of course, didn't happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic that shut everything down.
With Main Street open for business, the Arts & Crafts Festival is returning to its traditional home in Library Square. Parking and admission are free. This year more than 100 vendors will fill the park.
Mary Hodson, president of the Hutchinson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, said COVID-19 has had a mixed effect on the festival.
In the past, crafters came from as far afield as Arizona, Montana, Tennessee, Florida and New York. People are not traveling this far now. Some have turned to the online site Etsy to sell their work rather than doing in-person shows. A number of vendors who have shown in Hutchinson for more than 20 years have retired or gotten regular jobs. Others are not attending due to significant health issues.
That said, these changes create opportunities, too.
"We have 33 new vendors," Hodson said. "COVID has given them an opportunity to follow a dream or passion and take a hobby in a new direction. There will be a lot of new products. Innovation is a keyword."
Added into this year's festival mix is the return of the featured artist.
"We felt that with not having the event last year, we're trying to infuse new things into arts and crafts," Hodson said. "It's something fun. We picked Kess and Kira Fennell because they're from Hutchinson. They create unique art. We want to highlight their artistry and connection to Hutchinson."
The twins graduated from Hutchinson High School in 2017 and the Minneapolis of Art and Design in 2021. Kess is older by one hour and 13 minutes. She was a drawing and painting major at MCAD. Her favorite medium is watercolor and her inspiration comes greatly from nature and spirit animal imagery. She aspires to be a tattoo artist and has done several commissioned works for tattoo designs.
"It means a lot to me," Kess said. "Both of us have received so much support from the Hutchinson community growing up. We feel honored to have a booth amongst the other artists of Hutchinson!"
In case the name Kira Fennell sounds familiar, the Leader recently reported on her short TikTok video that went viral with millions of views. It was about a truly American topic — competing in the Federal Duck Stamp Content. The annual art contest, which determines the design on the federal duck stamp, has been a low-key affair since it started in 1949. Kira, who has been entering for several years, wanted to get the word out. She did.
New this year is an open market on Hassan Street for those who want to sell but do not fit the handmade definition. It was going to be added last year and those who were accepted have been grandfathered in, so look for 15-20 vendors in this area.
And for those who love the Minnesota Garlic Festival's New Ulm Narren, these human puppets will grace Library Square 12:30-2:30 p.m. Saturday. Look for a special program at 12:45 p.m. in the bandstand. The Narren, which translates from "fools" in German, have been entertaining people since 1989. They are distinctive because they wear hand-carved wooden masks and colorful costumes. They are mischievous and love to tease the crowd.
Also enhancing this year's festival are artist demonstrations at 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Flags will alert visitors to which artists will be showcasing their skills.
"People can see the work and effort that goes into it," Hodson said.
The Hutchinson High School Theatre group will also be there, so if you're interested stop by their booth and watch the students perform and learn about the fall musical "Anastasia."
TASTE OF HUTCHINSON
The Hutchinson Ambassadors' outdoor food court returns along First Avenue between Main and Hassan streets, with a big helping of live music. This year's music schedule features:
Find a spot on one of the many picnic tables and enjoy a bite or two. This year's food offerings range from turkey croissants and taco pies to pulled pork, sweet and savory waffles, rolled ice cream and bubble tea. Favorites such as cheese curds, mini doughnuts and roasted nuts will also be available.
SO MANY BOOKS
The Friends of the Library are hosting their annual Outdoor Used Book Sale concurrent with the hours of the Arts & Crafts Festival along the sidewalk at the library's entrance on Hassan Street.
New this year? Show your library card at checkout and you can earn a free book. Patrons can only use their cards once and the promotion only applies to the books featured at the outdoor sale.
Don't have a library card? September is Library Card Sign-up Month. Stop in to ask about getting a card.
So is it worth collecting and selling used books? You bet. According to Mary Henke, treasurer of the Friends of the Library, in 2019, the last year of the outdoor sale, the group raised $1,814. The Friends also operate the sales table inside the library. In 2019, they earned almost $580 a month for a annual total of about $6,953.
What do they do with the money? They fund things for the library such as the annual One Book, One Community read, author visits and equipment.
The Hutchinson Farmers Market is hosting the Peak of the Harvest Market with extended hours 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, at Depot Marketplace, 25 Adams St. S.E.
"This is that sweet time in the season when summer favorites like tomatoes and a few straggling melons mingle with the comforts of fall," said Aimee Haag, vice president of the Hutchinson Farmers Market board of directors, "Apples, pumpkins, fall decor, storage crops, canning tomatoes, honey and baked goods will be in total abundance. Many vendors showcase their creative strengths with new flavors, specialty canned goods, or favorite produce varieties, while others bring as much as their trucks, vans and trailers can carry."
If you're in the market for home furnishings, look no further than Crow River Habitat for Humanity's Barn Sale. The event is at 310 State Highway 7 E., Hutchinson. It's the white barn about a quarter mile east of the Bluff Street and Highway 7 intersection
"We will have lots of great items for sale," said Lori Mittelsteadt, executive director of Crow River Habitat for Humanity.
The first sale was in 2018, and it has become a well-attended event during Arts and Crafts weekend.
"This has been a great fundraiser for us," she said.
Items for sale range from a full dining room set, two executive desks and antiques to patio furniture, home decor, a sleeper sofa and a boat lift. As of press time, Mittelsteadt was still accepting donations.
So where does the money go? The veteran build in Glencoe.
"We also have a great opportunity through MidCountry Bank for matching dollars," Mittelsteadt said. "So for every dollar we raise at the barn sale, MidCountry will match."