Soon-to-close Ceramic Shoppe in Algoma needs to sell 30,000 molds, 10,000 ceramic pieces
ALGOMA – What would you do with more than 30,000 ceramic casting molds?
That's the question Virginia Haske hopes someone is willing to answer, soon.
Haske and her husband, John, are retiring and closing The Ceramic Shoppe, their wholesale ceramic art store on Sunset Avenue, after 43 years in business.
The good news is that the Haskes reached an agreement to sell the business's two buildings, a store/workshop/storage area and warehouse.
The bad news is that the buyer isn't in the wholesale ceramics business, so the Haskes have to liquidate their inventory, which includes:
- More than 30,000 molds used to make ceramic art pieces;
- The equipment needed to make them;
- At least 10,000 unpainted clay figures, vases and other art;
- And thousands of jars of paint for the ceramics and the brushes, thinners and such to use them.
They also made their own clay mix to pour into the molds and sold the clay to other artists, but they sold that part of the operation, one of only two in Wisconsin, in November, Haske said.
There are a number of other wholesalers around the Midwest, Haske said, but none keep ceramic molds to make their own pieces to the extent that The Ceramic Shoppe does. She said the bigger ones still around might have 500 to 1,000 molds on hand, and some of the larger wholesalers have closed as well in recent years.
So, unless there's a wholesale ceramics business looking to expand or someone looking to get into the business in a big way, Haske acknowledged it'll be tough to find a buyer for everything in one deal. But she added that the inventory is there for a ceramics business that's ready to go
"If you're a hobbyist or working out of your home, you're probably not looking to buy 30,000 molds or thousands of jars of paint," Haske said.
The Haskes are also facing deadlines. The warehouse needs to be empty by July 15, which prompted Virginia Haske in the past week to just give away approximately 10,000 molds stored there of the 42,000 the business accumulated over the years, some of which the Haskes bought for $100 or more.
That leaves the other 30,000 molds, the already-cast pieces and paints and supplies housed in the store. The buyer of the property is giving the Haskes three months to liquidate, so everything needs to be sold and/or gone by Oct. 15. She said the value of all the inventory is more than $100,000, although most or all will be sold at a discount.
The shop does some retail and walk-in business but otherwise is almost entirely wholesale. Haske said her customers range from nonprofit organizations to art schools, artists who sell at craft shows and smaller ceramic shops, mostly in Wisconsin and Michigan. They'll want a certain number of a particular piece of ceramic art for a promotional giveaway or a class (for students to paint or decorate the work), along with the painting supplies, and that's what the business provides.
To make the art pieces, John Haske pours a blend of clay and water — called clay slip, it's about the consistency of a milkshake — into plaster molds. When the clay hardens, John breaks open the mold and the piece is kiln-fired.
"If you had a shop where you were doing classes, you could say, 'OK, give me 12 of this (ceramic piece), 12 of that,'" Haske said.
Buying ceramic art in bulk is how Virginia Haske got into the wholesale end of the business in the first place.
She was working on ceramics and stained glass as a hobby when she opened the store in 1978. Haske, who was working as a CPA at the same time, and her mother ran it as a retail store, and Haske was buying a lot of ceramic pieces to stock her shelves. Her main supplier of ceramic art was the now-closed Rolene Ceramic Studio in Green Bay, until one of the staffers there gave her some advice that led to the wholesale business.
"I ordered six of something, and the guy said, 'Why would you order six? Why not buy a mold and you can pour it whenever you want?'" Haske said.
She said she's leaving the business because she's "way into retirement — I've been drawing Social Security for years." As for John, Virginia said he loves pouring the clay but also has an open tracheostomy behind his full beard, so particles in the air during the process are a concern.
What happens if a buyer isn't found for the inventory? It's not getting thrown away, for sure. Haske said she was told the cost to haul 30,000-plus molds to the landfill and deposit them there would be a minimum of $20,000, perhaps $30,000 or more.
"What's going to happen is, a good chunk of this is going to end up at home," Haske said. "It'll go into storage if it's not sold."
The Ceramic Shoppe is at 1129 Sunset Ave., Algoma. For more information, call Virginia Haske at 920-487-5983 or email [email protected].
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].
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This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Soon-to-close Ceramic Shoppe in Algoma needs to sell 30,000 molds, 10,000 ceramic pieces