The end of the rainbow

He offered local artists the best commissions in town. But Dick Clements still couldn’t get enough locally crafted works to sustain his…

He offered local artists the best commissions in town.

But Dick Clements still couldn’t get enough locally crafted works to sustain his business.

And now, after 23 years, he is closing Pot O’Gold for good.

When Clements first started out, he dealt solely in homemade gold nugget jewelry and local crafts.

“But I found I couldn’t get enough crafts to warrant just keeping it local,” he said.

“I needed a selection of crafts and I had to have a commitment from people.”

But the crafts were supplied sporadically, or not at all, he said.

“And I was losing sales.”

A stable supply of local pottery was particularly hard to come by, he added.

“I just couldn’t get enough local stuff.”

So, Clements began to order crafts from outside the territory.

“It was actually better when we brought stuff in, because we were making more money,” he said.

Clements only charged local artists a 25 per cent commission on their wares.

“And at 25 per cent, I’m not making money,” said Clements.

“You have to display the wares, clean them, dust them and we paid on the consignments every month.

“But when you bring in $1,000 worth of wares from Outside, you make more than $250 on them, and sometimes you don’t have to pay for 90 days.”

While other stores in Whitehorse have raised commissions on artists’ work over the years, Clements held his at 25 per cent.

But only two local craft suppliers, Claudia MacPhee and Basil Charman, have been with Clements since the get-go.

“Originally he told me he only wanted 20 per cent commission,” said MacPhee from Tagish.

“But I told him, ‘No way, that’s too low.’”

MacPhee sells her pit-fire pots, fishing flies and her dog-fur work at Pot O’Gold.

“When they first opened, it was the place to sell your stuff,” she said.

“Other places, like Murdoch’s (Gem Shop), had all Outside stuff.”

MacPhee, who caters to the cruise ship crowd in Skagway all summer, also found Pot O’Gold was a really good spot to test-market her wares.

Other stores in town have asked to market MacPhee’s crafts, but she has remained faithful to the Clements.

For the last 40 years, MacPhee has made a living selling her wares, and she’s dealt with some “really wishy-washy dips.”

“But I had a long-standing relationship with Pot O’Gold — and those people were really into doing business,” said MacPhee.

“Besides being friends, this is why I stuck with them.”

“I can’t even remember how long ago I started selling my stained glass at Pot’O Gold,” said Charman.

“It’s been a long time.”

Charman was looking for a retirement hobby, and picked up a stained glass kit.

“I got interested in it and just kept going,” he said.

And selling his works at Pot O’Gold has paid for his materials.

“I wouldn’t have made a living at it — but it kept me in beer money,” he joked.

Now that Pot O’Gold is closing, Charman is looking around town for other possible vendors, but has found that no one offers the same bargain commission Clements does.

His commissions were very fair, said Charman.

“Anywhere else in town you’d be paying 35 to 40 per cent commission.”

“So I’m rather disappointed that I have to find somewhere else as an outlet.”

Charman currently has a few of his wares on display at Arts Underground, where he is charged a 30 per cent commission.

Yukon Gardens also wanted some of Charman’s stained glass, but on a 50/50 basis, he said.

“I don’t have much money now — I wouldn’t have any at that rate.”

Clements hadn’t planned to shut the shop this year.

But during Pot O’Gold’s February sale, some of his clients sparked the idea.

“Several of my customers asked me if it was a closing-out sale,” he said.

“Until then, I hadn’t even considered it.

“But the more people said it, the better it sounded.”

So, Clements did the math and decided to take his customers’ unwitting suggestions to heart.

“It’s kind of sad,” he said. “My wife and I have been working at (the store) for years — it’s a big part of our lives.”

For the last few years, Clements tried running Pot O’Gold part-time.

But it wasn’t successful. It was too expensive.

“If I started working 12-hour days again we’d be successful, but we need more time to ourselves,” said Clements.

“I have a two-year-old granddaughter in Langley (BC) who I’ve only seen three times.”

Besides visiting family, Clements plans to spend his free time fishing.

Pot O’Gold will be open Saturday and all of next week. Its final day is March 31st.

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