Rick Steber had a vision.
"If I was fabulously rich, I always wanted to have these cabins scattered down along the creek and allow people to come in — maybe they're writing a book, maybe they're trying to learn a new technique in sculpture or photography, or whatever it happened to be — allow them a place to live for like three months or six months," he says.
There would be a central lodge, and each evening, the creative people would share a meal and talk about their work.
"Well, at some point, I realized that was never going to happen," the local Western author chuckles.
But, in a way, his newest venture, Rick Steber & Company — Makers, will offer the same type of opportunity.
As a "maker" himself, he wanted to create a space for other creative people to not only make their artwork but also show and sell it.
Rick Steber & Company — Makers opens Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. as a collaborative community that includes his literary headquarters as well as the Makers, a group of regional artists and craft workers.
Steber's books and works of art produced by the Makers are on display in a renovated showroom described as "industrial-cowboy-chic," located on Northeast Fifth Street in Prineville.
The retail showroom will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. They're planning a Friday, July 12 grand opening celebration.
The 6,000-square-foot building is nestled along Ochoco Creek, surrounded by NAPA Auto Parts, Dillon's Grill and the fire station.
In the early days, the property was Frank Hughes' blacksmith shop, and remnants of the distant past adorn the walls in the Makers showroom. Ranchers' brands are burned into the dark boards, and branding irons and rusty horseshoes crisscross the freshly painted walls.
According to Gordon Shortreed, who sold the property to Steber in March, the current building was built in 1952.
Over the years, it was Barney Machine Works, a Pontiac and Aero Willys dealership, and Central Auto Diesel Electric. Mercury outboards and snowmobiles were even featured on the showroom floor at one time.
Shortreed, of Powell Butte, took over the building in 1970 and ran his auto body shop there with his wife, MaryLou, until 2006. After retiring, they rented it out to another auto body man, but when their renters moved out a couple years ago, they decided it was time to sell the property.
"The poor building was starting to show its age," Shortreed chuckled, figuring he'd sell it as a fixer-upper. "I thought, I'm going to find somebody that doesn't want to make a mechanic shop or a body shop out of it. I thought about plumbers, electricians, all types of businesses — never thought anything about somebody like Rick in the publishing business!"
But, Shortreed knew it was a good location along the creek and had lots of potential.
"Rick come along and said he had these grandiose ideas of what he was going to do, and I thought that's great. More power to him," Shortreed said.
Since April, Steber and his crew of makers have completely remodeled the front showroom.
"We've basically peeled away 70 years to have a showroom like it was in 1952," Steber said.
First, they jackhammered up the old concrete floor, hauled it away and poured a new floor. They tore out some walls, added wood features, replaced windows, hung a new Longmire door, and painted.
"Now, we have a showroom that is way better than the one from 1952," Steber said.
When selecting regional artisans to join his group, Steber wanted those who use native resources to create one-of-a-kind art, including rawhide, silver, beadwork, printmaking and all mediums of fine art.
Three local makers have taken up residence in the back of the building, where they create their items for the showroom.
Doug Riemann Wood Art (formerly Box & Crates, etc.) has been with Steber since the get-go and has helped with the renovation. Riemann builds small furnishings and custom wooden pieces.
"It's always been a dream to do exactly what's going on here — getting lots of people that are artistic together," Riemann said. "I could see what it could bring not just to us but to all of the town."
Kathleen Colwell of WBF Printing Services specializes in signs, artwork, stickers and large format advertising. Colwell has worked with Riemann on several projects, and they had talked about forming a cooperative.
"Doug and I had a talent set that balanced really well with Rick, and we've made a good team," Colwell said, adding that it'll be more convenient for their customers, too.
"Prineville is ready for something like this, with the way the economy is around here and the new blood that's coming into town," Colwell said.
Mike Domeyer of Shasta LeatherWorks has also set up shop there, where he creates leathercraft items.
Jenny Agee, of The Naked Forge, has used the spray booth at Rick Steber & Company — Makers to complete her colorful cutouts on the showroom focal point, the "Wall of Stampeding Horses."
Steber has room for a couple more makers to set up shop, but in the meantime, he has partnered with several other makers, who will sell their products in the showroom.
Jay and Verna Marks, of Prineville, have joined the team. Verna is a wood-burning artist, and Jay is a wood turner, re-purposing old fence posts and rails into decorative vases.
The Country Craftsman owners Joel Abbott and Nate Harryman, of Prineville, will display their wood art — epoxy river furniture and wood sculptures — in the retail showroom.
Christian Heeb will sell his international photographs and cards. Bend artist Mary Marquiss, painter Ken Burus, painter Steve Post, and Rita Brown, who does custom bead and leatherwork, will join Makers. Janelle Moore's blue pine etchings and paintings will also be sold in the showroom.
Steber said the Makers showroom will change and evolve over time with new merchandise and makers coming in. They all agree that the new business will be good for Prineville's economy.
"People say we're going to be a destination, and that's where we want to be," Riemann said. "We want to be a destination."
Rick Steber & Company —Makers
Address: 131 NE Fifth St., Prineville
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday
Grand Opening: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday, July 12
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