~ by Rick Langenberg ~
If you can’t find an item to purchase at the local Painted Bear, then play a game of checkers, buy a quick snack before heading onto the trails, or say hello to Bobby, the canine ambassador.
Or just dazzle your eyes with the wealth of crafts and amazing carvings and nature paintings.
The newest gift shop to grace Green Mountain Falls offers a virtual treasure of goods, hiking treats, abstract and visual art, souvenirs, specially-crafted wood carvings, striking mountain landscape paintings, various knickknacks, kid gimmicks, an antique pre-1950s phone and much more.
The Painted Bear, which abounds with more than 2,000 items, has become the talk of the town since opening their doors on May 1. It represents a re-incarnation of a long-time liquor store outlet for decades, located in the center of town, adjacent to the post office.
“This is a long-time dream,” said Margaret Frey, the business owner, who operates the gift shop, with her husband Mike and occasionally her son Hunter. “It just really came together well.”
The Freys, who hail from Parker, have owned property in Green Mountain Falls for nearly 20 years. They always loved the community, the trails and toyed with the idea of eventually owning a local business. At one point, they toyed with the idea of once doing a store in another part of the town near the lake.
However, Margaret Frey said she always joked with previous building owner Kim Wart, who operated the Midland Rails Liquor store. “I used to just kid around about turning this into a gift shop with Kim. Finally, it actually happened. Everything just fell into place.”
And talk about a lifestyle change.
Frey boasted a career as a show horse performer, traveling in competitions across the country for years. Photos at the shop display her antics in doing some incredible jumps that leave some gasping for breath. But as her career winded down, she considered operating a small gift shop, and rekindling her strong interest in art.
Besides her equestrian skills, she always had an intense love for the arts. “This really ignites the artist in me,” said Frey “I always appreciated the arts and love sacred art. I love beauty.”
She often headed up arts and craft displays during horse competitions. And many items on sale at the Painted Bear, are ones she painted herself.
“We have something for everyone,” said Mike Frey, who estimates the shop features at least 2,000 various items that cover all realms of the imagination. In fact, the prices range from as low to $5 to $500 for some of the higher-priced art and carving masterpieces. The shop, though, offers great deals on art and tries to showcase Colorado-based master pieces.
“I love nature,” admitted Margaret Frey. Their family are hard- core outdoor buffs. Their son Hunter climbed all of Colorado’s nearly14er (mountains that exceed 14,000 feet) peaks by the time he graduated from high school, a feat that found himself showcased in a well-known newspaper. “We have done all local trails,” said Margaret Frey.
That is a good selling point, as the Painted Bear, besides offering a smorgasbord of gifts, offers necessities for hikers and visitors. It is furnished with trail maps, snacks and souvenirs for the outdoor crowd.
The Painted Bear name stems from a sculpture Hunter did when he was in fifth grade. And in trying to mimic the town’s colorful atmosphere, they wanted to have an animal theme.
A Great Early Following
Despite the coronavirus threat, the gift shop has gained quite a following in their early infancy.
“There are so many people that have come by and are just curious what is here. We just tell them to come on in,” quipped Margaret.
Whether you buy an item or not, the Painted Bear is a great place to tour and partake in a little art and crafts sampling. You won’t find yourself bored with the variety of crafts on display. The store operators encourage people to just check out what they have.
They also offer a family-friendly atmosphere, with a checker board in the front, a miniature pony ride for kids, and Bobby their canine ambassador, ready to greet you.
And the shop proprietor is also planning on offering art classes for kids and adults. The Freys plan to upgrade an area in the back of the shop for these classes.
Margaret Frey plans to run these classes. She also wants to have guest speakers and presenters from leading artists around the state, whose work is displayed in the store ‘
The Painted Bear operators also plan to do their part in helping to promote Green Mountain Falls, and playing a role in the various events.
The Painted Bear is currently open from Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The shop is located at 10550 Ute Pass Avenue. For more information, call 719-684-7864.