Michael Wendt started Wendt’s Pottery in 1973, after a life-changing experience. Mike was working on a masters degree when he decided to take an elective pottery course. “It was a moment of instant affinity,” Mike described. “I hadn’t realized what was missing from my life.”
The pottery business has been good to Mike and, at 72 years old, he runs a 10,000 square foot studio in Lewiston. Mike makes and sells pottery, and gives 300 to 400 individual lessons annually. Mike’s goal is to spread the idea that everyone, “even if they aren’t going to earn a living at pottery, needs a creative outlet in their lives.” He also mines and sells clay for other businesses, like toy-makers, to use.
For Mike, the governor’s business shutdown has a cascading effect. “If people are locked in their homes, they’re not going to patronize the people who use my clay,” related Mike. “If the potters aren’t selling, they’re not buying anything from me. Shutting the economy down is going to impoverish a lot of people.”
Mike had several orders just before the shutdown, but he hasn’t heard anything from his corporate customers in several weeks. “I’m still working at fulfilling the orders, but it costs money to keep running. My electric bill for processing clay can run to $500 per month, and I have property taxes on top of that. I can’t keep going if I don’t have money coming in.”
Mike acknowledges that he has, to some extent, been lucky. Because his studio is a one-man operation, he doesn’t have to worry about making payroll. Still, Mike loses around $400 per day when he’s closed. Mike says, after successfully running his operation for some 47 years, “If this continues much longer, I could wind up having to close my business.”