Gondola General transformed

Entrepreneurs fill half of Gondola Square store with classy garden accessories

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— Did someone say ribit? Walk into Gondola General this summer and you may be surprised to find yourself in a garden store. In the same space where T-shirts, ski goggles, gloves and sunscreen hold sway in winter, you'll now find birdhouses, arbors and compact patio furniture. You may also be taken aback by the frog who greets you at the entrance.

The fiberglass amphibian, outfitted with an inconspicuous motion detector, greets all arrivals at Gondola Gardens inside Gondola General, with a loud "croak." Make that a "ribit."

Partners Janis Noyer and De Taylor have transformed Gondola General to take on a new identity this summer filling half the store with classy garden accessories.

If you're looking for bedding plants, head elsewhere. Or, if you need a shovel and a wheelbarrow, Gondola Gardens isn't the place. But shoppers looking for handsome steel garden ornaments coated with a patina of rust, or clever outdoor chairs and tables that are just right for the smallest of condominium "gardens," will be rewarded with a selection that reflects the taste of the two owners.

"We were motivated by boredom, really," Noyer said. "People think of the mountain as a place to get winter sale items. Gardening to De and I is just fun. We think there's a hole in the local market for decorative, fun garden objects. We didn't want it (the merchandise) to be practical, we wanted it to be whimsical."

Noyer and Taylor were raised by gardening mothers.

Taylor's mother, Helen England, followed her husband's career all over the United States and succeeded in growing vegetables and fruit trees wherever she went. Noyer's mother, Luella Hellwege, is still growing champion roses in Portland, Ore., at the age of 91.

The time they spent gardening with their mothers is reflected in the items they have chosen for their store. Noyer and Taylor attended industry gift shows and tilled the Internet to find compact furniture suitable for the decks and patios of the many condominium and townhome second homes in Steamboat. They found a variety of chairs and tables that are very attractive but conveniently fold flat for winter storage.

For people who entertain on decks, and don't want to stash the ice and beverages in a plain picnic cooler, there are galvanized party buckets in decorative iron stands, meant to sit table-side. At $58.95, they are fitted with coiled wire holders intended to serve as either wine bottle caddies or can holders.

The store is packed with flower planter stands for people who must do their flower gardening in pots. One planter is designed to fit snugly over a deck rail so the wind can't blow it off.

Noyer is fond of the store's many flat garden sculptures cut out of rusted steel.

"Just one of them in a flower garden makes it much more attractive," she said.

The sculptures are welded to tall iron spikes that make them easy to "plant" anywhere in the yard. They come in a variety of sizes and species a 4-foot-tall elk is priced at $210 and a smaller moose is priced at $67.

Noyer and Taylor also have sculptures in lighter gauge metal at a more affordable price point a metal rooster sculpture is just $16.95.

The shop is full of small items from floating candles to light-up bird baths to small metal lanterns and artistic glass hummingbird feeders.

Noyer and Taylor said they're committed to sticking with their summer garden store beyond the first summer, no matter what the response, but they think their lines of merchandise will click with people wanting to add an artistic flair to their gardens and patios.

Gondola Gardens is just up the stairs from the Silver Bullet Gondola building at the base of the ski area, with parking close by in the gondola parking lot. Summer hours are from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. seven days a week.

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