Why Magpie?

Posted by Tara Stoneking on

Retail is In My Bones…

I have been in retail for 22 years. Which is hard to believe, considering I am 31. I was raised in my mom’s women’s clothing store, right here on Gillette Avenue. In the same building my business, Magpie Designs, is currently in. I grew up around retail. Watching my mom work with customers, build a business, and make a difference in her community. I did not know it then, but it is what I wanted to do when I grew up.

I went to college at Montana State University and initially started out as an elementary education major. Within the first semester I had changed to business, it was the better fit. After college I found a job in insurance and did not feel at peace sitting behind a desk. I was toying with the idea of starting a master’s program and my dad suggested perhaps I should do that back in Gillette. I took him up on the offer to move back home with the understanding that I would be there for just two years. Enough time to finish up my master’s and go find a job in a larger city. That was eight years ago.

Magpie was started the summer of 2014 when our streets on main street were under construction. My mom and I were revamping her store, Country Elegance. We were repainting when we heard of this brand of paint called Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® that would help us paint the wood trim without having to sand off the previous finish. At that point our nearest Annie Sloan Stockist was over 100 miles away. We thought to ourselves, this paint line would do very well in Gillette. After calling the company’s distributor we found that in order to become Annie Sloan Stockist we needed to be half home décor, and we were 100% women’s clothing and accessories. I told mom about this store concept I had thought of many years ago, Magpie Mercantile, and how it is a collection of all these wonderful little things. That turned into Magpie Designs and we opened three months later, October 2014.

Over the past 5.5 years of being in business, Magpie has seen the closure of Country Elegance, two presidential elections, tragic layoffs from our surrounding coal mines, and now a virus that is taking the world by storm. When I think about the uncertainty that retail is, I wonder why I do this. Why don’t I have a 9-5 job somewhere that has a little more stability? One with a reliable paycheck? Well, retail is in my blood, my bones. I love connecting with the community. I love watching your family grow and change. I have been with customers during the loss of their loved ones, as they went through cancer, as they were trying to get pregnant. I have listened to the advice of the moms who have gone before me and I have passed along their wisdom. I get the opportunity to champion women makers and entrepreneurs as they set out to build their own dream business. There is no other job on earth that would allow me the opportunity to be my own boss, raise my babies at my side, and connect with the community on the level that I do. That’s what Magpie is to me, it is so much more than a place to buy paint or a new shirt, it is my community. It is my home.  


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3 comments

  • I am glad to see you carry on the tradition of family owned businesses on Gillette Ave. After spending 20 years down the street, I know how difficult it can be. Stay strong, I will keep an eye on the place on my night patrols!

    Forrest Rothleutner on
  • I’m so proud of what you’ve built!! Keep at it!

    Vanessa on
  • And you have super cute kiddos there! I love the photo of you and your mom in the early days of Country Elegance. Did you know I worked for your mom when she first opened? I always loved that store- your mom did such a fantastic job at market with quality clothing lines. It’s so very special that you learned from her and have spread your wings to fly on your own venture- carrying on with what in your blood. Family roots and traditions are fundamental building blocks into our heritage. I love stopping into Magpie when I am in town and time allows! Such a fun store with unique items and great atmosphere! Thanks for sharing your story!

    Krista Merryman Barker on

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