By: Laura Keil
Henry Unger is wondering what to do with all his carving tools. He sits in his office at the Trading Post surrounded by sculpted wood panels, meant as insets for doors. He’s carved them by hand, and few will pay him what they’re worth, he says. Many of his carvings can be seen around town – at the Valemount Hotel, the Swiss Bakery, gracing windows and doors and corners.
At his feet is a container full of metal carving tools. Around him are stacks of papers. He goes through the papers, one by one, staring intently at each sheet before slowly adding it to the garbage. There won’t be room for all this at home. At home he just carves at his kitchen table.
“This was really ideal,” he says, looking around the bright, sunlit room.
When Unger hands over the keys this month to the new owner of the building, his tenant the Crafters Guild will be looking for a new space for minimal to no rent.
The building has been home to the Crafter’s Guild (a local artisans co-op), a hardware store, a carving shop and a yoga studio.
In the adjoining room, the walls are emptying as crafters take their items home.
In the meantime, Guild members are trading off helping Unger liquidate his remaining hardware stock. Still there are shelves and shelves of paint, screws, cleaners, lightbulbs and keys.
Guild member Pat Bennett has been working the phones, trying to find buyers for all this stuff. Much of it is marked down 30%, some 40% and 50%.
For Bennett, helping Unger with the move is showing their appreciation for all he’s done for them.
“We’re really proud of Henry for what he’s done for us,” she says. “We wish him the best and hope things work out.”
Bennett, who’s known Unger for close to 18 years, says “He’s the type of guy who’d give you the shirt off his back.”
In many ways, he has. Unger says he’s “not mad at anybody” but having to sell the building he built was not ideal.
He says the economy and other challenges of running a business caused him to lose money and go into debt. He had long worked in roofing and says he opened the Trading Post and hardware store in order to gain access to roofing supplies after he was cut off for being “too small.” Once he became part of the Irly’s franchise, Unger says he was able to get roofing supplies once again.
It also allowed the Crafter’s Guild a big space with hardly any expenses, as Unger absorbed most of the costs for the Guild.
“He’s a sweetheart and he’s been devoted to the crafters guild since it was in the other mall,” Bennett says.
Unfortunately the building’s costs weren’t being recovered by sales. On Sept. 16th the building will turn over to the new owner – Valemount Car Wash and Mini Storage owner Rob Van Haaften – who plans to reinvent the building. He plans to expand his storage business to offer RV and boat storage, as well as smaller storage units. He plans to renovate the upstairs into an apartment and offer business rental space downstairs.
Bennett says most of the hardware stock will be to be gone by Friday. They will be open this weekend and are looking for people to come with trucks early next week to move the rest out.
Whenever Henry’s maroon truck is parked outside the Trading Post, his many friends and supporters wander in to chat.
While Unger says he’s getting old and is clearly stressed by the move, when reminded of all his friends, he smiles and his eyes brighten.
“That’s true,” he says. He does have many friends.