Since May 1999, the Bloomington community has come to view the art studio as an outlet where people feel happy doing things that are personal, creative and rewarding, owner Bill Benedict said.
After more than 13 years, Benedict’s family will close the shop’s doors for the last time. They will vacate the building by Oct. 1.
“I think we were a great outlet for people, and we accomplished that every year we were in business,” Benedict said. “I will miss the people that have come in, and I will miss that. That is the hardest part.”
The Latest Glaze was a paint-your-own pottery studio. Customers painted unglazed ceramic pieces, and store employees fired the pieces in the kiln.
While the economy has affected business, Benedict said, the store is closing for personal reasons, too.
“We’ve done it for so long, and things have changed,” he said. “We have two granddaughters now, which we didn’t have when we started the business. We have seen families and kids grow up and go away.”
Benedict’s wife, Mary Jo, has recently retired after 37 years with the Monroe County Community School Corporation.
The family tried to sell the business, but none of the buyers worked out, Benedict said.
“Banks aren’t loaning money, and it is hard to take a risk not knowing exactly what you are going to get,” he said. “Thirteen-and-a-half years ago, we decided it was OK to take that leap, and I am really glad we did. We had some great times with the Bloomington and IU community.”
The Latest Glaze has brought people together, Benedict said.
“It has provided that creative touch for people and has brought people together that are looking for an outlet, and we’ve done work for people who lived in dorms and sororities that just loved doing things with family and friends,” he said. “If you mentioned our name, the people who knew us would say, ‘Oh, I loved that place.’ That is kind of that setting we provided for the people who came and enjoyed this place.”
Benedict said he has created friendships with his customers during the years.
“I see people all over town when I go to the grocery store and see kids and families and professors,” he said. “I have lived in Bloomington for 38 years,and I think that is part of it, too.”
The studio was the only one of its kind in Bloomington.
“We were one of a kind,” Benedict said. “We were there for people looking for a leisure-time activity. I think the money for those type of activities may be a little tighter, and that may be what we saw, too.”
Because it was a family business, that mentality translated into positive relationships with employees and customers, Benedict said.
“I think in any business, if you present the right setting and you give good customer service, I think that is a big part of it,” he said. “We’ve had many college students that worked for us over the years, and it was a nice family business. Both of our kids were in high school when we started, and they helped us. It was a nice little business to have, especially for our family.”
Benedict doesn’t have any other business venture plans as of now. He drives a special needs school bus for MCCSC, something he started to do after his wife retired from the school system.
“It continues what I was doing at the Latest Glaze,” Benedict said. “I liked
working with families. For 25 years, I worked with children and adults with developmental disabilities. I like people-oriented businesses since I am helping people in the studio and driving a school bus, which I enjoy, too.”
Benedict originally got the idea to open a pottery studio in Bloomington from a good friend who lived in Bloomington for years before moving to Boulder, Colo.
“We met up for vacation in 1998 and talked about business that would be fun to open,” he said. “Since she knew Bloomington well, she figured it would be a perfect match for the community and IU. We talked around and talked to studio owners in other states.
After we first opened, there was a woman in town who came and said she wanted to open. We came in before she was able to start.”
Benedict has sold the unpainted pieces and one kiln to a studio in Noblesville, Ind., called Kiln Creations. The rest of the furniture, including shelves, tables and light fixtures, will be sold from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Benedict said his family will keep pottery in their lives.
“My wife has access to a small kiln and will be making wind chimes and things like that,” he said. “We will definitely have something going on of that nature. I would love to do work for the schools, but that is still up in the air. We are just trying to get everything closed up and have people get their paintings. That is the priority.”
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