The Saratoga Sun -

20 years of fashion, fur, fine art and fun

 

Mike Armstrong

The various rooms at the Laura M Gallery were full of well-wishers for the stores' 20 year anniversary.

"Fashion, fur, fine art," said Laura Morrow when asked to describe her store Laura M Gallery on 102 West Bridge Avenue. The business celebrated 20 years of being open although the location has changed several times in Saratoga.

Born in Crawford, Nebraska, she was raised mostly in Cheyenne, although she did spend two years of elementary school in Medicine Bow. Later, she would return there to do a fashion show in the 1980s at the Virginian. That show helped launch her design career.

Morrow has been working with clothes for 47 years. It was not her first career choice. When she got out of school she decided she wanted to join the Peace Corps. She bought a one way ticket to Hawaii only to discover she needed a college degree which she didn't have. She was living on Maui and realized her family being so far away made her uncomfortable. Morrow decided to move back to Chadron, Nebraska, to try and get a designing career going, but found after four months, it was not happening. Morrow moved to Cheyenne, purchased a box of lace for $100, created some custom clothes and made a profit on the box. Her career as a designer was born.

Around 1980 Morrow did her first fashion show in Medicine Bow at the Virginian Hotel when it was owned for a brief time by Mark Cronburg. There, she was introduced to the owners of Holly's out of Fort Collins.

"Connie Kennedy and Janice Lind (the owners of Holly's) bought everything I had when they came to the show. They were one of my bread and butter accounts for years." said Morrow. "They always bought my line until they closed ten years later and are some of my best friends."

Morrow says it took another five years to get her own store in Cheyenne with the help of a Small Business Association (SBA) loan of $10,000. She had a retail outlet upstairs and kept all her sewing machines and bolts of cloth in the basement.

"Then on August first, the flood came." said Morrow. "It was a 100-year storm to come in, the sewers clogged up and my basement had 18 inches of water."

All her newly purchased material and patterns were lost. The sewing machines were saved, but because she did not have flood insurance, she lost almost everything.

"I went from a $1,000 debt to a $19,000 debt in two months." said Morrow. She took out another $8,500 SBA loan that she thought long and hard about.

"I am very glad I did now that my career is where it is at, but at the time it was very frustrating," she said.

Morrow got her business back up in a week.

She eventually left Cheyenne, even though she was selling to a 100 stores in 25 states and employing six sales reps, because she was getting too big too fast. Rather than put herself in more debt, she decided to get out of her business–which had now been incorporated–pay off her obligations and start over.

Morrow moved to Oregon and ran a retail store called Maurice's for four years. She moved back to Wyoming due her father's health and because Della Vivian, who was the owner of the Cedar Chest in Saratoga, had Morrow feature her work at Vivian's summer tent show in August of 1996.

Her Saratoga startup, named Laura M Gallery, started in the north side of the Blackhawk Gallery 20 years ago before moving to 114 Bridge street for 11 years. Morrow then closed down for about four years to design clothes and then restarted the business at 102 Bridge Street where she remained for four years.

Four years after that Morrow bought the building that currently houses Laura M Gallery.

"Laura M was a destination when coming to Saratoga and Blackhawk was a destination," said Morrow. She says it made sense to combine the gallery and the boutique, so she invited about 25 artists to come join the gallery. She not only had those artists come, but over the next years, more artists asked to be shown in her store. Morrow estimates she has close to 40 different artists displaying their work at her gallery.

Morrow has also been able to be true to her desire to assist others by helping orphanages in Mexico. Her good friend Donelle Maton was working with Tres Isle Orphanage Foundation and a couple weeks prior to Morrow's 50th birthday, she asked if there was anything the orphanage needed. She was told the boys' orphanage needed cleaning, a refrigerator and water heater. Morrow and nine girlfriends went down to do a "mission week" of cleaning, but not before Morrow raised $3,000 in Saratoga to purchase new refrigerator and water heater.

"That is what amazes me about this community," said Morrow. "It was the start of mission week and I found myself going down for the years after."

The five orphanages she has helped over the years are located near Mazatlan. Morrow says this work for the orphanages has given her great satisfaction.

"Laura is amazing in everything she does," said Nancy Wallace, enjoying herself at the 20 year celebration.

Wallace says Morrow made her daughter's wedding dress in 1983 in Cheyenne. "My daughter knew her there and introduced me."

Wallace lives in Saratoga and enjoys what Morrow has done over the years.

Mike Armstrong

Many people turned out for the Laura M 20 year celebration which featured Morrow's green chili, which got compliments from guests as they put it on tamales.

Morrow also made the chicken filling for soft tacos which drew raves.

As people mingled throughout the store, Morrow greeted everyone with a smile and thanked them for coming.

The gracious hostess made her guests feel comfortable as the store filled up and the goodwill for Morrow and her store was evident by the hugs of congratulations.

"I am just so blessed," said Morrow. "When I think about being able to buy this building and have my whole life has come around to have something like this, I get all emotional about it."

You might be interested in:
 

Reader Comments
(0)

 
 
Rendered 06/21/2017 11:05