Dawna Heller bolsters local business with new storefront

Mountain Mama's now has a storefront at its is new location at the west end of town.
Mountain Mama's now has a storefront at its is new location at the west end of town.

by Marissa Lorenz
Dawna Heller of Mountain Mamas Embroidery and Screenprinting was destined to excel in the roles of both business owner and local business advocate.

Dawna Heller, finds it natural to support other community businesses in her role as Chamber president and owner of Mountain Mama's.
Dawna Heller, finds it natural to support other community businesses in her role as Chamber president and owner of Mountain Mama’s.

Born and raised in Kremmling, Dawna describes “growing up in retail” in her family’s business, Tri-River Ace Hardware, where she learned such skills as marketing and purchasing even before leaving to obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology with an emphasis in business and a minor in business marketing from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

But like many small-town natives, Dawna dreamed of other vistas, and after college she moved to San Diego, becoming a purchaser for Spy Optic and then a retail buyer for NoFear, two dynamic names in the sunglasses and activewear industry. While she worked specifically in the sunglasses division, she notes that action/sportswear and garment decoration have always been a part of her work history.

Eventually, Dawna was called back to Kremmling when her dad, Jerry Carpenter, became ill. The family would lose Jerry, but blessings often follow heartache, and Dawna met her husband-to-be, Stuart Heller, upon that return also.

Dawna and Stuart would marry and finally decide that they wanted to settle in her hometown of Kremmling. “The people we love are here,” she explains. “It’s a great community, a perfect place to raise kids, and a beautiful location.”

Dawna’s passion for business persisted, however, and she joined the Kremmling Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors in 2012. “I want to see growth in the community, but hope to keep the small-town Western appeal that is the reason we love it here. It is why we moved back and a big part of what we value about the community.”

Dawna has served as Chamber Chair for the last two years and is easily recognized for her dedication to the success of area businesses.

“Dawna’s loving and caring nature goes beyond her friends and family,” says Dillon Willson, owner of Thirsty Dills, a mobile beverage business, and fellow Chamber Board member. “It extends to every business in Kremmling. That’s what makes her a great Chamber chair!”

In 2015, Dawna opened Mountain Mamas Embroidery and Screenprinting in her mother’s garage, a home-based business that would allow her to be at home with the Heller’s two children.

From the beginning, the mission has been to cater to the local community, helping locally-owned businesses develop unique marketing and promotional items and providing a stability of service and relationship that can be rare in mountain/resort communities where pop-up businesses can be here today and gone tomorrow. “I soon realized the large need in the community,” she says. And Mountain Mamas soon went from part- to full-time.

The success of Mountain Mamas has continued to grow, with regular demand now coming from East Grand County and Summit County–so much so that they recently moved into their first commercial space, the former Omni Real Estate building on Highway 40.
With the new retail and sample space, Mountain Mamas now provides a storefront and display area, showcasing garments and other items to be decorated and expanding their offerings with new printers and other equipment.

They have expanded their inventory to include more sporting lines and outdoor or tactical gear.

“We really saw a need for this locally. We now work with the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, EMS, and other first responders to provide more of the specialized gear that they need,” Dawna observes.

The storefront also meets another of Dawna’s goals: to help bring vacant spaces back to life. She hopes to see more and more use or “reuse” of Kremmling’s existing commercial properties.

“I’d really like to see more small-business and home-based operations have the opportunity to move into retail spaces. I want to see individual business owners succeed and grow within thoughtful parameters that maintain the Western appeal and integrity that make Kremmling so unique.”

And true to form, Dawna is also using her new location to promote other small businesses. “Another fun aspect of the space,” Dawna explains, “is having some consignment space where we can give home-based craftspersons more exposure for their hand-crafted items. It’s another opportunity to showcase others.”

This reciprocal, cooperative type of relationship seems to characterize all of Mountain Mamas’ business practices. “An important part of our vision is to fill the voids we see in our community, working to make our local businesses in the county and region as successful as they can be, keeping things local,” describes Dawna. And then later–“My customers really promote me and are so supportive of wanting to see me grow. They will stay local even if there are sometimes higher costs in our remote region, and in return we can offer greater convenience, through smaller quantities or minimum orders. It’s a really cool balance, seeing how it all works together. It’s another thing I really love and value about our community.”

One growth direction that Dawna did not envision was Mountain Mamas becoming a family endeavor. But Dawna’s mother, Diane Carpenter, enjoys some of the more hand-crafted tasks, according to Dawna, such as sewing patches on garments.

She reports that Stuart joins the Mamas in his off-time from Terravita Farms Trucking and “is our in-house expert in laser and specialty large printing,” creating a lot of the vinyls and larger billboard-style signage. “And in the case of a busy time or large event, both friends and family will come in to help.”

In the longer-term, Dawna would like to use her business to promote interest and exploration in Kremmling’s youth. She describes hiring two local students this past summer and talks about how much fun it was.

“I really hope to be able to offer a work-study opportunity,” she says. “I visualize it as being a fun thing for a kid to see the many different aspects of business, including marketing, graphic design, customer service, et cetera. I think it would be a great chance for them to explore the different niches and discover their own areas of interest.”’

For more information or to order your own custom-made apparel or signage, call Dawna and her team at 970-531-3347, go to facebook. com/mountainmamasco, or visit them in-person in their new sample and production space, just across from the Kremmling Mercantile.