BILLINGS — For dozens of Montana small businesses, the future remains uncertain due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, a Missoula-based Montana apparel shop is determined to help others in the fight.
Hometana, a t-shirt and apparel business started by Shirstie Gaylord back in 2017, is a 'wearable' way for Montanans to show-off their Montana pride. Gaylord is a former employee of KTVQ.
“The whole reason Hometana works as a business is because Montanans are very proud folk,” she said.
Montanans have for some time been attracted to bragging about their home state, through crafty sayings written on colorful T-shirts, hats, hashtags or bumper stickers.
And Hometana is one of a handful of Montana-branded apparel shops that provides that service in the state.
Still, Gaylord has seemed to figure out a way to place her business apart with a clever yet simple play on words: "Home-tana."
Something else that sets her business apart is the "Montana Strong" fundraising campaign.
“Charity is a huge part of our business,” said Gaylord. “In 2017, we launched a strong campaign during the wildfires and it was a huge success.”
The "Strong" t-shirts emerged as a way to unify the state in 2017 as dozens of Montanans lost their homes to devastating wildfires that burned hundreds of thousands of acres of Montana land.
Back then, 100 percent of proceeds from the sales of the shirts helped those impacted by the fires.
Gaylord says because of the impact coronavirus has on Montanans she says, more "Strong" t-shirts are being made with the same charity in mind.
“The Strong campaign just fits right into that. Montana is strong. They've always prided themselves on being strong,” she said.
Gaylord says the t-shirts are selling fast online. Keeping up with demand to ship them out is what keeps her busy while her store front is closed.
“The 'Montana Strong' shirts take on a life of their own. People love that people will do anything to get their hands on them. And I love the fact that we only print 'Montana Strong' shirts when we're doing a fundraiser,” she said.
The shirts are printed locally, helping out another local business. At the end of the fund-raising campaign, she’ll write a check to a Montana charitable organization that’s helped those who’ve struggled to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Gaylord admits this isn’t exactly how she planned out the first several months building up her brick-and-mortar storefront, she also knows being Montana strong means helping others stay strong too.
“We’re scared to death of the unknown. We want answers like everybody else. But at the end of the day, people's health and safety, take precedent more than anything,” she said. “I feel a huge responsibility to keep everybody else safe. “