December 1, 2011
The family that owns the famed Van Briggle Pottery, one of the oldest businesses in the Colorado Springs area, has put the company up for sale, Van Briggle’s president said Thursday.
Craig Stevenson, who along with brother Jeffrey Stevenson and sister Kendra Stevenson Rodriguez inherited Van Briggle after their mother’s death last year, said they expect to sell the business over the next two or three months. Its retail location likely will close at year’s end when the lease on 1024 S. Tejon St., south of downtown, expires.
Stevenson declined to say what prompted the three siblings to put Van Briggle on the market, but added that two potential buyers have expressed an interest. No timetable for completing the sale has been set.
“In some ways this will be the end of era because our family has owned the business for 40 years. I look at it as a time of transition,” Stevenson said. “We are looking for an owner who appreciates the history and legacy of Van Briggle and wants to maintain the quality of our products. I believe that the business will survive in some form. A high priority for us is that whoever takes over is committed to continuing the business. It is our hope that the buyer will keep the business in Colorado Springs. It only makes sense to do that because of the history of the business.”
Van Briggle employs six people, down from between 16 and 18 before it moved in 2009 from its location for 50 years in the historic Midland Roundhouse at the corner of U.S. 24 and 21st Street. Stevenson said at the time that the smaller space on Tejon would be a better fit for the collector and online markets that are the company’s focus.
“The reduction in our workforce has been a function of the economy. It has been really rough, especially for the kinds of products we made,” Stevenson said Thursday “Although our prices start at $25, the typical buyer of our products tends to be in the above-average income range.”
Stevenson said the company is continuing to take orders for merchandise that can be completed by the end of the month. Van Briggle’s capacity to produce its famous art nouveau pottery after then could be in doubt, he said, if the business has to move.
Once the business is sold, the new owners could choose to keep the company at its current location and sign a new lease, Stevenson said. Production facilities, including kilns and other equipment, are at the same location as the company’s showroom.
Artus Van Briggle started the company in 1899, but died five years later. Over the next half-century, the business survived several owners, bankruptcy, war-imposed closure, fire and flood. By the 1950s, Van Briggle had evolved into a prosperous tourist stop owned by J.H. Lewis, selling glossy ashtrays and other trinkets. Kenneth Stevenson, who started as a bookkeeper, rose to manager and bought the company in 1969, running the company until his death in 1990. His widow, Bertha Stevenson, took over with Craig Stevenson, and returned the company’s products to its original style. Bertha Stevenson died in September of last year.
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