Van Briggle planning to move
Pottery business has been in roundhouse for more than 40 years
Van Briggle Pottery is “highly likely” to relocate its business from the historic Midland Railway roundhouse where it has operated for more than 40 years, according to
Vice President Craig Stevenson.
He said the location at the southwest corner of Highway 24 and 21st Street - once ideal for tourism - has become increasingly less viable over the years; nor does he expect matters to improve with the city's plans to put a median on 21st Street (blocking left turns) or the state's long-range proposals to widen the highway with an interchange.
On the positive side, Stevenson said the move is part of a new business plan that will facilitate Van Briggle's growing emphasis on art tiles. “We will continue to make art pottery,” he said. “But we are also coming out with a line of high-end decorative tiles that can be used in kitchens or bathrooms. There is some history of that with Van Briggle going back to the 19-teens. This will probably be a big growth area for us.”
Van Briggle is not planning to sell the roundhouse. Stevenson said the business plan calls for it to continue being used, largely for storage, after the business moves to a new main location.
For the purpose of making and selling pottery, the roundhouse's 38,000 square feet on two floors “is not the highest and best use,” he said. Even now, the business only uses 22,000 square feet on the main floor. Owners are looking for about 10,000 square feet in the new location. This will reflect a reduced emphasis on tourism and a higher emphasis on quality, Stevenson said.
He had no estimate how soon the move might occur. “Finding the right place is kind of like looking for a needle in a haystack,” he said.
He added that Van Briggle's goal is to remain on the Westside.
The company has 18 to 20 employees - several of them summer-only. They have been told about the new business plan and that it might mean some layoffs, Stevenson said.
The company specializes in pottery designs by namesake, Artus Van Briggle, who made pottery in Colorado Springs and was acclaimed worldwide before his death in 1904.
The roundhouse, built in the late 1880s, was used to repair Midland Railway locomotives until train operations ended in 1949. In 1955, according to the Van Briggle website, the abandoned roundhouse was purchased by the Pottery. Then an auxiliary to the main plant near Colorado College, the site became the sole facility in 1968.
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