After four months of renovations, the Ute Mountain Indian Trading Company and Gallery is opening its doors to the public for the first time on Saturday, May 2.
The space – prime U.S. 160 frontage just a few miles from the Mesa Verde National Park entrance – will put the Ute Mountain Ute tribe’s pottery studio and cultural-arts store in a highly visible location to capture tourist traffic. The Ute Mountain pottery studio and retail store has historically been located on U.S. 160 just north of the tribe’s casino.
The tribe purchased the 15,000-square-foot building for $825,000 from brothers and longtime owners Scott and Jay Tipton in November. For 35 years, the popular format of Mesa Verde Pottery centered on Native American potters creating their artwork in a studio that could be viewed by visitors through a glass wall. That in-house production will continue under the tribe’s ownership, said Tawnie Knight, economic development specialist.
“We’re excited because they haven’t had production, I believe, in four years,” said Knight. “We heard that the building was for sale, and kind of teased Jay (Tipton) and said, ‘Hey what if we buy the building?’ and he said we could make it work. There was actually someone else that wanted to buy it. They still really wanted a pottery business here, and we were a good fit.”
In addition to the live pottery molding, painting and glazing, the new space will feature jewelry and other merchandise from Ute, Najavo, Zuni, and Hopi tribes.
“We have some really beautiful native jewelry – a lot of them do silverwork. We were going for pieces a little more contemporary than some of the traditional stuff you typically see,” Knight said.
The building also will house a museum to showcase historic pieces from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Historic Preservation Office.
“In the surrounding areas, we don’t see much about the Ute history, so since it’s a Ute Mountain Indian Trading Post, we though we’d have some history in there too,” said Knight.
As tourism season inches closer and closer, Knight hopes the shop will continue to serve as an economic boon to Cortez and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.
“For Cortez, I know it’s a big part; for the tourists, we can help them coming from Mesa Verde ... to Cortez to eat in restaurants or stay at hotels,” said Knight. “For the tribe, it’s really huge. We were always trying to attract tourists at the Ute Mountain Pottery but this location is going to be a hit.”
The Ute Mountain Indian Trading Company and Gallery is at 27601 East U.S. Highway 160. The grand opening celebration starts with a ribbon cutting at 10 a.m. Saturday, and events will include bear dance demonstrations, a frybread contest, music and food.