Jesse Chisholm was a trailblazer – literally. Born in the early 1800’s, his father was a Scottish immigrant and his mother was a Cherokee Indian living in Tennessee.

In the late 1820’s, Jesse moved to the Cherokee Nation settling in Oklahoma. As a teenager, Jesse worked as a trader, hunter, guide and scout. He was fluent in 14 Indian dialects and was highly successful as an interpreter and in trading goods with many tribes. In 1836 he married and established his first trading post in Hughes County, Oklahoma. By 1858, he was operating multiple trading posts in Oklahoma and Kansas. He made his living by hauling goods via wagon to Indian villages and US Army posts.

While not Jesse's original intent, the trails built for lumbering heavy freight wagons between his trading posts established a path for Texas cattlemen to drive their cattle north to Kansas. In 1867, with the establishment of a cattle depot in Abilene, Kansas, along with the Union Pacific Railway cattlemen were enticed to drive and market their herds northward. The cattlemen simply followed the Chisholm Trail. During the next 5 years, more than a million livestock traveled up the road, trampling down a path that was sometimes 200-400 yards wide.

150 Year Celebration
In 2017, the Chisholm Trail celebrates 150 years. Many events, stretching from Fort Worth, Texas to Abilene, Kansas, are planned through next year. As you travel the historic trail visiting museums and specialty shops, look for Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs and coasters in retail locations. We’ve worked with the Chisholm Trail Celebration committee to become an approved vendor. You will find Chisholm Trail branded mugs in retail outlets like The Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, Chisholm Trail Museum and more.

          Chisholm Trail celebrates 150 years with Sunset Hill Stoneware

The Chisholm Trail brand tells a story. Our Signature Stoneware™ conveys that message for years to come. Enjoy adding to your collection.

Keeping watch. Pat

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The first Thanksgiving wasn’t a holiday; it was simply a three-day gathering of Plymouth colonists and Native Americans celebrating the harvest of 1621. The harvest was bountiful in crop – and in kindness.  The natives are credited with sharing their learnings with the Pilgrims while helping the immigrants survive their first year in America. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving Day as an official holiday.

Come fast forward to 2016. Like Native Americans hundreds of years ago, the hope is that we bestow the same compassion and kindness once given to our ancestors. Thanksgiving Day is simply a good time to pause, be grateful and kind to family, friends and acquaintances.

Businesses have always been driven by data, metrics and profit. While every company needs to be profitable – as people, we want to reflect on purpose, along with interacting ethically and with thoughtfulness.

Below is a top ten list of what we are continually grateful for this holiday. We encourage you to read and reflect on what is important to you and your business this holiday season. 

SHS Top Ten List of Thankfulness

  1. Thankful for Customers
    We are forever grateful to our extended family of SHS champions who use our product in their daily lives. Whether retailing, gifting, fundraising or simply drinking your morning coffee – we appreciate your passion for our American craftsmanship.
    Thanksgiving gratefulness for Sunset Hill Stoneware Customers  Thanksgiving gratefulness for Sunset Hill Stoneware Customers  Thanksgiving gratefulness for Sunset Hill Stoneware Customers
  2. Thankful for Signature Stoneware™
    Every piece of our stoneware is hand thrown by artisan potters. We hand press custom artwork into permanent 3-dimensional clay medallions, hand apply it to pottery and then high-fire it to last a lifetime. The end result is attractive, functional and uniquely yours. It’s artsy, functional and safe. And made in America.
                  Thanksgiving gratefulness for Signature Stoneware
  3. Thankful for Employees
    Talented. Artistic. Dedicated. We employ local artisans who design, throw, create, apply, dip, package and ship, along with office staff who enjoy the gift of gab and work to meet your high standards. SHS employees are passionate – and priceless.
                  Thanksgiving gratefulness for Sunset Hill Stoneware employees
     
  4. Thankful for Coffee and Beer
    Let’s face it – coffee by day, beer by night keep us satisfied in more ways than one.
     
  5. Thankful for Entrepreneurship
    Passion, ingenuity and endless energy are Dunsirn family traits. Tom and Duane maintain a relentless drive to reach perfection and gallantly invest into facilities, systems, safety and processes that’s second to none. They know American retailers need high quality and quick turnaround on USA-made products for their store shelves.
                  Thanksgiving gratefulness for Sunset Hill Stoneware ownership
     
  6. Thankful for Technology
    Computer engagement helps us do more with less. Our technology and systems talk to us, so we can talk to you. Who would have thought that that Signature Stoneware™ could be smart and savvy?
                  Thanksgiving gratefulness for Sunset Hill Stoneware technology
     
  7. Thankful for America’s Cleanest Greenest Pottery
    Tom and Duane have redefined the pottery industry by placing worker safety and environmental responsibility at the forefront of our daily operations. Our business depends on the earth’s natural resources of clay, water and heat, so it’s natural that we would be protective of our environmental footprint — and our employees' long-term health.
                                 Thanksgiving gratefulness for Sunset Hill Stoneware America's Greenest Cleanest Pottery shop
     
  8. Thankful for Brand Recognition
    Smart marketers know that brand awareness plays a pivotal role in purchasing decisions. Connecting your brand with an American-made, handcrafted product speaks volumes to others about your company’s integrity and values. The more aware consumers are of your product and your brand, the more likely they are to buy from you.
                                Thanksgiving gratefulness for Signature Stoneware and placing brands in stone(ware)
     
  9. Thankful for Emotional Attachment
    Like a pair of your favorite jeans, customers become passionate about collecting and using SHS stoneware. Why not? It’s safe, easy to use and impressive to look at. It’s easy to develop a lasting loving relationship with SHS products. We require no prenuptial agreement and our divorce rate is extremely low.
                   Thanksgiving gratefulness for Sunset Hill Stoneware emotional attachment
     
  10. Thankful for America
    We are grateful to be living in the U.S.A. and working with organizations that reflect the American spirit. While our holiday may be full of parades, football, deer hunting and roasted turkey – we are thankful for the friends and business relationships that have supported SHS through the years.

                       Happy Thanksgiving from our SHS family
Keeping watch. Pat

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Entrepreneurship isn’t always the easiest option, but for some, it’s the only choice. Tom Dunsirn officially started his pottery business in 1998. While he was working on the concept, his parents stood on sidelines and questioned each other how they could change their son’s mind. Who could make a living throwing pottery? As you know, Tom’s story ends well. He persevered, chased his dream and 18 years later the business is thriving. 

             Entrepreneurship is part of the Sunset Hill Stoneware story.  Entrepreneurship is part of the Sunset Hill Stoneware story.  Entrepreneurship is part of the Sunset Hill Stoneware story.

There’s no short cut to success – and once you figure things out, something else pops up. Ask any entrepreneur and I’m sure they have a story about the level of angst and sleepless nights that keep them awake. 

ELEMENTS TO SUCCESS

1. Love what you do
Passion is vital for success. Whatever roadblock is thrown in front of you, keep going. Find another way. 

2. Take baby steps
Start simple; stay focused. Discover what you’re good at – and get better.

3. Learn from others
Find a mentor to help you. Soak up their knowledge and improve upon your business model. 

4. Self-promote 
Marketing starts with confidence from the founder of the business. Create a good elevator speech and your pitch becomes your story – and your success.

5. Never settle
Entrepreneurs are movers and shakers. Trust your instincts. Adjust and keep going. 

    Entrepreneurship is part of the Sunset Hill Stoneware story.  Entrepreneurship is part of the Sunset Hill Stoneware story.  Entrepreneurship is part of the Sunset Hill Stoneware story.

Enthusiasm for what you do is contagious. At Sunset Hill Stoneware, we never know where we’ll find Tom, but we know he’s got our back.

Keeping watch. Pat

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We’ve been named as a preferred vendor for Ducks Unlimited. It’s an ideal relationship. Ducks Unlimited is the world's leader in wetlands and waterfowl conservation; Sunset Hill Stoneware is America’s Greenest Cleanest Pottery.

2017 Ducks Unlimited Preferred Vendor Program2017 Ducks Unlimited Preferred Vendor Program2017 Ducks Unlimited Preferred Vendor Program

Ducks Unlimited got its start in 1937 during the dust bowl. It was initiated by a small group of sportsmen. Their collective goal was to protect the drought-plagued waterfowl populations that had plunged to unprecedented lows during that time period. The mission of Ducks Unlimited remains the same as its forefathers: habitat conservation.

Focused primarily on North America, waterfowl and wetlands are the primary focus of the organization’s habitat work. Duck Unlimited members are conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts who live primarily throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. And the driving grassroots force of the organization is its volunteers; people who are your neighbors and co-workers.

In 2015, Ducks Unlimited volunteers hosted more than 3,900 fundraising events. Their collective event efforts – banquets, tournaments and outings – represent some of the organizations most important stream of revenue.

2016 Ducks Unlimited Preferred Vendor Program2016 Ducks Unlimited Preferred Vendor Program2016 Ducks Unlimited Preferred Vendor Program

For the past 4 years, Sunset Hill Stoneware has been recognized as a Ducks Unlimited Preferred Vendor. Many times, you’ll find our product at your local banquets if the regional manager has brought the product in for their event. Or purchase directly online for yourself and/or gift to your favorite conservationist. In 2017, Ducks Unlimited will be celebrating 80 years – our 2017 portfolio offering reflects that milestone.

       2017 Ducks Unlimited Preferred Vendor Program      2017 Ducks Unlimited Preferred Vendor Program    2017 Ducks Unlimited Preferred Vendor Program

Ducks Unlimited is the largest and most effective private, nonprofit, waterfowl and wetlands conservation organization in the world. That’s a pretty good statistic for an organization started by a few good men almost 80 years ago.

Keeping watch. Pat

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They say that good things are worth waiting for in life. That’s how we feel about our new orange glaze. It’s taken us a while, but it’s been well worth the wait. And we don’t have one new orange glaze – we have five! You see? It’s true! Good things are worth waiting for! View our current Glaze Color Chart.

A few weeks ago, we introduced 12 new glazes – today we are adding 5 more to our lineup. All the colors we are launching today are in a variety of orange shades – perfect for a Halloween launch!

                        Sunset Hill Introduces 5 new Orange glaze colors on Halloween!

                      Sunset Hill Introduces 5 new Orange glaze colors on Halloween!

Customers love our glaze colors – very contemporary, they tell us. Our mug styles and colors sell well in retail stores as they connect with consumers, their homes and lifestyles. Every once in a while, a customer will request us to match their logo PMS color – that’s where colors become a challenge. We’re simply not a paint company that can mix pigments together and come up with a new color. Jason, our production manager will tell you, there’s much more chemistry and science involved.

First Sunset Hill Stoneware Catalog

When Tom started the business in 1998, he offered 12 glaze colors. While some of the twelve remain a part of our offering like our Sunfire Red and Natural Clear, many of the original dozen no longer exist. Simply because the minerals used back then are not the same as today.

Launching New Glaze Colors
As we look to introduce new glaze colors, we start by looking at trends. In 2015, Marsala was introduced as the Pantone color of the year – very similar to our current Mulberry Blush. We also listen to customer requests and their wish list. If we get enough customers asking for the same color (like orange!) we work hard to fit their needs. So that’s our starting point from the sales and marketing side.

The next step is working with Jason and his production team to understand the characteristics of what we’re looking for. He typically asks two questions:

  1. Do we want a glossy glaze? Matte? Satin-Matte? Transparent?
  2. What color family? When we say ‘orange’, do we want primary orange? Blaze orange? Tangerine? Apricot?

‚ÄčOur guidance gives Jason a starting point on the glaze base he needs to use. Certain components don’t work well with specific bases and others need a ‘host’ or ‘partner’ for the ingredients to interact with each other in the way desired.

                            Jason testing for new Sunset Hill Stoneware glaze color

With the requirements for color established, production begins making additions to the base centered on scientific formulas and guidelines. The process becomes a fundamental trial and error experience by creating the base formula, documenting the process and firing it for results. Typically the desired result doesn’t transpire in the first trial run – or the second trial or the third or fourth for that matter.

Creating a new glaze is all about chemistry. Making sure all of the components fit, melt and interact together as one. One of our proprietary glaze recipes could look completely different depending on the conditions. A chemical reaction can be caused by the clay body, the technique applying the glaze, the firing program, the kiln atmosphere – even the water used can play a part in the glaze being successful or not. It simply is a test, adjust; test, adjust; test and adjust the process.

One day all the chemistry connects and ‘presto’ we have the beautiful color we were trying to attain. After admiration, the challenge faced is to duplicate the mugs beauty. It starts with another attempt to replicate and repeat success. It can take as long as the 1st step. And sometimes it’s a bit more frustrating as you know it can be done as you’ve done it before – just how did we make it work?

                            Jason testing for new Sunset Hill Stoneware glaze color

Once we are confident on the color and know we can imitate the recipe for years to come, we send the glaze out to be independently tested for leaching levels and long-term safety. It is also during this process we gain confirmation that the glaze is FDA compliant.

                         Sunset Hill Stoneware glaze team

Glaze Challenges
We work hard to make sure new glaze colors will perform up to our standards for many years to come. We consider many factors: the beverages put into a glazed mug, the behavior of microwaves and the detergent used in dishwashers etc. These dynamics have influence and can create havoc with the final outcome if not considered.

Gaining consistency of color is important also. When a customer orders 15,000 mugs, they want every hand thrown mug to be similar in color and functionality. While customers appreciate the individual artsy part where every mug is hand thrown and unique, it is their name is being placed in stone(ware). Our artisan-thrown, glazed mugs are meant to reflect an organization’s corporate values and standards. Uniformity is important to the process.

                           Sunset Hill Stoneware glaze team

As a mug progresses from a freshly thrown piece on a pottery wheel, it travels into a bisque state. During this first firing, the 1800° kiln is burning off carbon and organic materials while releasing sulfur within the clay mug. The clay structure changes as the temperature increases. At the same time, the kiln is also removing water from the clay mug as it fires and dries the ware.

                           

Repeat orders can also be a challenge. Customers will question why when they ordered the same style and glaze color three months ago, the mugs look different this time around. It’s hard to give a definitive answer to that. The difference in color could go back to a number of things starting with the glaze minerals where they are mined. Nature has control of that. The clay base, chemical composition, purity of materials, firing times, temperatures, placement in the kiln, techniques applied, time of the dip, consistency of glaze etc. It’s a science – and an appreciation for hand thrown stoneware.

Orange You Happy
We’re thrilled to add 5 more new 100% lead-free glaze colors to our line up – and hope you enjoy for years to come.

New Creamsicle glaze color from Sunset Hill StonewareNew Orange Sherbet glaze color from Sunset Hill StonewareNew Tigers Eye glaze color from Sunset Hill Stoneware
                       New Blaze Orange glaze color from Sunset Hill StonewareNew Candy Corn glaze color from Sunset Hill Stoneware

Keeping watch. Pat

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Every once in a while a brand crosses our Sunset Hill Stoneware production line that makes our team step back and reflect on how far we have come. We never thought a reality show would make us pause, but that’s what happened.

        CM-6 Potbelly mug from Sunset Hill Stoneware   CM-6 Potbelly mug from Sunset Hill Stoneware

A few years back, my husband and I took a road trip to Iowa. We went to see the Field of Dreams and take in a few Quad Cities River Bandits games in LeClaire, Iowa. At the time the River Bandits were a minor league baseball team affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals. We enjoy watching up-and-coming players to see who makes it to the big league.

While in town, we stopped at Antique Archaeology. The business is housed in a former fabrication shop and acts as the home base for the American Pickers show on History Channel. The show was relatively new at the time, premiering in 2010. At the time of our visit, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, the show’s pickers were on the road picking on the East Coast.

        CM-6 Potbelly mug from Sunset Hill Stoneware with Antique Archaeology brand   CM-6 Potbelly mug from Sunset Hill Stoneware with Antique Archaeology brand

As we walked through the front door and turned around, right above ours heads was an original rectangular sign advertising Bowser Service Station. I instantly knew we had to have that sign. The gal managing the shop told it us it was not for sale. Many people had wanted it and Mike simply was not selling it. We browsed the gift store finding standard t-shirts and novelties from overseas. We left without the sign. In Mike’s eyes, it was priceless.

Bowser Service Station sign at Antique Archaeology

Since our visit, we continue to watch American Pickers. In their 6th season, we’ve seen Mike and Frank expand into Nashville while traveling America. They meet all kinds of characters along the way who have collected and held on to America’s treasures. ‘Picking’ is something Mike and Frank did together as kids; they’ve taken their love for picking and turned it into a growing business. Mike and Frank educate viewers while breathing life back into historical pieces whether it an ol’ leather coat, motorcycle or rusty oil can. The show’s popularity falls in align well with current re-purposing ideas and upcycling inspirations that are favored today.

In 2015, Antique Archaeology introduced a new brand called Two Lanes. The brand highlights stories of the backroads they travel, along with American-made home décor and more. The blog tells the story of a way of life inspired by the spirit of America’s small towns, the people that live in them, and the two lane roads that wind between them. It reminds me a bit of a song by Alan Jackson, called ‘The Little Man’ about a simpler time in life. If you haven’t taken the time to join Picker Nation, join now.

In early 2016, the National Trust for Historic Preservation association created a national campaign called ‘This Place Matters’ that encouraged people to recognize places that mattered to them and their communities. They partnered with Mike. It was a perfect match as Mike was known for bringing visibility to America’s smallest treasures. Now he was able to share and tell the stories of places that are significant to America. Via an Instagram contest, The Variety Theater in Cleveland, Ohio was announced in September as a winner of the competition. I’m sure we will hear more about the restoration of this 1927 movie theatre in a future show.

Mike is driven by his love for America. He calls himself a finder and rescuer of objects – but his passion for preservation runs deeper than what you see on the surface. He simply wants to save America – one piece at a time.

CM-6 Potbelly mug from Sunset Hill Stoneware with Antique Archaeology brand  CM-6 Potbelly mug from Sunset Hill Stoneware with Antique Archaeology brand

In the meantime, I wonder if he's ready to give me a price on that ol’ Bowser Service Station sign. It has my name on it.

Keeping watch. Pat

Posted in America, Marketing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

We wouldn’t have a story without our customers. In fact, their brand image tells our story. Our Signature Stoneware™ mugs stand out for our ability to take a custom logo, press its intricate details into clay and high fire the pieces for long-lasting durability. A little bit like playdoh with more functionality, design and durability.

Our hand thrown stoneware has traveled to many parts of the world – France, United Kingdom, Vietnam, but mostly we like to keep our American-made products right here at home in the U.S.A. Many times our mugs travel to places we’ve only dreamed of going to or seen in photos. That’s when we appreciate hearing back of their travels.

Oh, if only a mug could talk, right?

While our Signature Stoneware™ product can’t tell us about its flight over the mountains, how gently the UPS man carried the box of mugs or how many his mug friends are arranged on the same shelf; our customers do tell us where they bought our mug and how much it has become a part of their life. It’s those stories that we treasure.

Terlato Kitchen
Located in the heart of the Midwest, the Terlato family name is known for its high standards and quality. Terlato Kitchen is offers a line of luxury wines and traditional Italian food specialties. Their artisanal tomato sauce spooned over a comforting bowl of pasta sounds delicious. The Kitchen’s online store offers sauces, preserves, honey, vinegars – even a bloody Mike mix named after Mike Ditka. Also nestled in their gift packages you’ll find a quality-made, artisan-thrown mug. Their American-made story individually packaged for the holidays.

               Terlato Kitchen story

Consolidated Construction
Starting as a family-owned business in the 1950’s, this full-service construction contractor has evolved from their roots in North Dakota to three locations. Now employee-owned and headquartered in Wisconsin, their portfolio includes project experience in 16 states throughout the Upper Midwest. They serve many markets including assisted living, heathcare, hospitality, religious and more. Earth-saving sustainability and safety ranks high in their objectives. This American-made company connects their brand story with America’s Cleanest Greenest Pottery at their job sites to recognize client excellence.

               Consolidated Construction story

Friends of Friday Memorial Library
Public libraries across the country are the cornerstone of healthy communities. These gathering establishments allow community members to find jobs, explore medical research and simply get lost in wonderful novels. The Friday Memorial Library is located in New Richmond, Wisconsin. This past year, volunteers of The Friends of Friday Memorial Library created a Friday Library Fund to support and build on their library’s future. To show their passion and as part of their fundraising, they sold supporters treasured Signature Stoneware™ mugs to fulfill their mission.

               Friends of Friday Memorial Library story

Flight 93 National Memorial
This past summer, my stepbrother John and his wife Barb, traveled to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, a small town with a population of 237 according to 2010 census. Why would anyone travel here, you ask? Well, Shanksville is where 40 passengers and crew members tragically lost their lives on September 11, 2001. From this tiny town, Shanksville’s volunteer firefighters, along with police and emergency personnel from surrounding communities rushed to help.

Today at this solemn place in America we can visit the Flight 93 National Memorial crash site and remember those who gave their lives to shield others. It is here, we remember. It is also here where you can purchase their heart retching story memorialized in a Signature Stoneware™ memory mug. We are grateful for the opportunity, yet wish there would have been no need for anyone to be part of this American story.

                Flight 93 National Memorial story

Gift boxes, client gifts, fundraising, reselling. Your brand tells a story. Our Signature Stoneware™ conveys that message for years to come.

Keeping watch. Pat

Posted in America, Marketing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Customer service is the heartbeat of any business. No matter how great your product or service, responding to your customer in a timely, professional manner beats everything.

                          Sandra, Shari, Shelly at Sunset Hill Stoneware

Good service was important in the early 1800’s where pioneers traveled by horse and wagon to the general store. They relied on the storekeeper to carry food like dried beans, cornmeal and coffee, along with necessities like medicines, cloth, pistols and rope. While the store shelves were crammed with boxes, crates and tables, they depended on the merchant’s knowledge for product information, to have what they needed in stock – and for gossip on the locals. Very similar to what you can see at Oleson’s Mercantile on Little House on the Prairie reruns; Nels worked hard to keep his shelves stocked and customers happy.

Everything changed in the late 1800’s when the telephone was invented. If you had enough financial status, you could now call your order into the general store so your goods were ready for pick upon your arrival.

By the 1960’s, call centers emerged and by the ‘90’s, emailing, shopping the Internet and chatting live online became more prevalent. Early in the 2000’s self-checkout lanes opened in grocery stores – and now social media and apps have changed everything.

Today consumers value information that they can obtain readily on their own – and if they can’t find what they need, they want immediate help. They don’t want to enter into the customer service underworld where their phone call is loped through an automated system – you know, ‘press 1 for English’ and ‘listen carefully as our list of options may be have changed.’ For companies that don’t respond quickly, I expect they suffer sales fallout.            

                 Outstanding Sunset Hill Stoneware Customer Service

1. Accessibility
Customers should be able to get a hold of you, or someone in the company, easily if they have a question or need support. Having multiple outlets (phone, email, and web) for communication is essential.

2. Timely Response
Responding to an inquiry within 24 hours is standard. If a question is coming in over the weekend or a holiday, most customers understand and will wait for a reply on the next business day.

3. Treat People with Respect
There's an old saying ‘you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’. This simply translates to ‘be nice’. Everyone has ‘off’ days, so accept that, listen and solve the issue so it benefits both parties.

4. Honesty Counts
Don’t promise something that can’t be done. If you can’t deliver what is needed or within the timeline required, be honest and prepared to walk away from the opportunity. Or if something got messed up in the process – we’re all human, we all make mistakes; just remedy the situation the best you can and move on.

5. Do What You Say
This one’s easy. Simply fulfill what you said you were going to do. Building trust and reliability is the first step in developing a long-lasting relationship. Many times you have to depend on others to fulfill what you promised. If it ends up that you can’t do what you thought could be done, then review #4.

At Sunset Hill Stoneware, we like to think that we do these five steps and more. In my opinion, our account specialist team is second to none.

Meet our Account Specialist ‘S’ Team

Shelly at Sunset Hill StonewareShari at Sunset Hill StonewareSandra at Sunset Hill Stoneware
Shelly, Shari and Sandra are only a snapshot of our account specialist team. You’ll have the same great experience when working with Jeff, Tom, Teri, Anne and Brandi too. They are all experts in helping customers build brand equity by setting their logo in stone(ware).

                      Sunset Hill Stoneware Account Specialist Team

The essential principles of customer service are timeless and unchanging. Much like stoneware that is attractive, functional and uniquely yours.

Our team is ready to support you.

Keeping watch. Pat

Posted in Marketing, Wisconsin | Tagged | 3 Comments

You’ve heard the old saying ‘you are what you eat’. More Americans are realizing that their mood, energy levels, food cravings and general health have a lot to do with what they are eating. I remember my Grandma saying, ‘when you have your health, you have everything.’ Of course, I was ten years old at the time and didn’t know what she was talking about, but somehow it stuck with me through the years. I think we all know what Grandma meant today.

Harvesting your own garden and shopping at farm markets has grown to be popular. It’s standard now to find an aisle or two of organic offerings within your local grocery store. In fact our local grocery chain did an extensive remodel this past summer; it now has a ‘greener’ healthier look throughout the store with employees dressed in fresh lime-colored shirts. They even added a green leaf to their logo. It all builds a bit of trust with the consumer that their products are healthy and safe.

The demand for organically produced goods continues to show double-digit growth, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. We can find organic products in almost 20,000 natural food stores across America and in nearly 3 out of 4 conventional grocery stores. Consumers are showing a willingness to pay the price for organically-produced foods that keep their health, the environment and animal welfare in mind.

                                   Double Digit Growth for Organic Industry

RWE Healthy Living recently moved to their new store in Plainwell, Michigan that promotes wellness for the long run. Casie Dussia, proprietor, has made her life-long dream a reality when she opened her new location this past year. Now this small community of residents uses the store as a gathering place to meet friends and neighbors, while they make healthy food choices and gain advice on nutrition and fitness.

Casie Dussia, proprietor of RWE Healthy Living RWE Healthy Living and Sunset Hill Stoneware

This isn’t Casie’s first venture. In 2010, she founded and continues to operate Run With Endurance (RWE) with one purpose in mind: to educate and motivate women to live their lives with purpose through God’s word and physical fitness. Casie is a personal trainer and nutrition consultant so it made sense for her to open R.W.Eats in downtown Otsego in 2014. Her goal was to give residents healthy food and nutritional options without having to travel to the ‘big’ city. Together with her husband John and son Jase, they looked to inspire and educate communities in southwest Michigan to make healthier choices. With recently relocating to a larger storefront in Plainwell, their better-living mission continues. Their complete health food store offers a wellness bar with fresh foods made daily for breakfast or lunch, along with consulting and massage services.

                           Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs at RWE Healthy Living

America was built on entrepreneurs like Casie. Sunset Hill Stoneware is proud to be a part of her offering – and it’s good to know that the American Dream that built this nation stands strong. 

Keeping watch. Pat

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I’m not a coffee drinker, but 54% of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee every day. As Americans, we’re drinking a lot of it – approx. 27 ounces/day and that’s great news if you own a coffee house. According to National Coffee Drinking Trends from the National Coffee Association in 2010, we spend an average of $1.38 for a brewed cup of coffee, while $2.45 is the going price for an expresso-based drink.

                Statista stats on USA coffee houses

Statista confirms that in 2002 there were 37,000 coffee and snack shops in USA; today there are more than 55,000.  The love-for-coffee trend started in the 1960’s when Peet’s Coffee opened in San Francisco. 

                                     Peet's Coffee stoneware mug

Since then, there’s been a slow and steady rise in artisan brews fueled by Starbucks, PJ’s of New Orleans and many more.  It’s common to find specialty coffee shops within blocks of each other. While a quality cup of coffee is an essential ingredient, customer service is what brings the consumer back. People want an inviting, clean environment, a quality product, to be recognized and treated well.

     PJ's Coffee of New Orleans artisan stoneware mug in red       PJ's Coffee of New Orleans artisan stoneware mug in moonberry glaze

We work with amazing coffee shops across America; some of those right here in Wisconsin. Here’s are four stoneware favorites

Founded in 1993, Door County Coffee & Tea is a family-owned business roasting coffee the old-fashioned way – in small batches to exacting specifications. Their mission is to produce the best-tasting, highest quality coffee and deliver it to our customers with an unsurpassed level of customer service. To accomplish that, they use only Specialty Class 1 Arabica coffee beans, which are the top 2% of what is grown in the world! They are located in beautiful Door County in the small town of Carlsville.

                   Door County Coffee & Tea stoneware mug

The heart of Eagle River Roasters reflects the fruit of God’s Earth and the work of human hands. The company was founded on a passionate appreciation for coffee and camellia sinensis used to produce tea. Their artisan coffees and teas are selected and hand blended to offer customers an extraordinary flavor. They are located in the northwoods of Wisconsin, a popular destination for vacation and retirement.

                                      Eagle River Roasters Specialty Coffee & Tea

The village of Stockbridge is known as the ‘Sturgeon Center of the World’ and for Mud Creek Coffee Café.  The inspiration of Julie Parsons, she created the business in 2006 with the desire to create a daytime place to gather in their small community. Today, her daughter Taylor manages the business. Stop for a quick lunch, to chat with the locals, enjoy a special dinner and shop their retail area for coffee, mugs, natural soaps, unique card, etc. Together the mother and daughter business make ‘hip rural’ cool.

                              Mud Creek Coffee in artisan-thrown stoneware mug

‘May the hand of a friend always be near you,’ is the Irish blessing that welcomes you to McCaffrey’s Coffee. Owners Tim and Connie opened the coffee shop after traveling to Ireland in 2010. In honor of Tim’s heritage, the shop reflects a very eclectic Irish theme.  Located alongside the Mississippi River, La Crosse is home to three local colleges – so many students and faculty members, along with neighboring residents account for many of the coffee shop’s customers. They take pride in knowing their customers by name – and beverage.

                     McCaffrey's Coffee in Sunset Hill Stoneware mugs

You’ll find our hand thrown artisan coffee mugs in many more coffee shops across Wisconsin and the USA. Enjoy the hunt.

Keeping watch.  Pat

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