On the 'Net
To see or buy the Om Gallery's goods, visit www.omgallery.com.
Oak Creek When Max Halterman was just 6, he visited a palm reader with his mother and older brother at a house in Oak Creek. His brother refused to have his palm read, but Max and his mom, Karen, both asked the palmist what she saw.
The only thing Karen Halterman now remembers about that palm reading is that the reader told Max he would be a millionaire by the age of 25, and an older woman would be the seed for his wealth.
Turns out, the palm reader wasn't far off.
Now running a successful import, retail and wholesale business in Santa Cruz, Calif., built with the help of a cadre of Oak Creek friends along the way, Max Halterman is living up to the potential his mom saw that day when he was 6.
"Max has accomplished everything he has ever started out to accomplish, so I had no doubt that Max would take it all the way because that's what he has done with everything," she said.
Max Halterman sells textiles, clothing and artisan-made light fixtures and interior design pieces from Vietnam, all based on a connection he made when he was young and traveling across Southeast Asia.
Max was born in a house in Oak Creek, to Karen Halterman and father Dan Ellertson. He graduated from Soroco High School in 1995 as a state champion wrestler and active student, then traveled to Greeley, where he studied education and history and got a coaching minor.
"Then I went to India for student teaching as part of getting a teaching certificate," Max Halterman said. When his stint was finished there, he traveled across Southeast Asia, eventually visiting Vietnam.
He was traveling with his friend and fellow Oak Creek native Nick Rodeman, when the pair came across a chance to have fine-tailored silk clothes for a cheap price.
"We had been traveling for a year in Asia with a backpack," Max Halterman said. "We were pretty excited about getting some tailored stuff."
The stuff they found was good enough to bring back to the United States, Max Halterman thought, and before he knew it, he was in over his head, with a storage space filled with textiles and clothing. He began creating relationships with the families in Vietnam who produced the materials and arranged to ship cartons of the goods to the U.S.
Surviving the 'dog days'
Max Halterman and his friend Kyle Maloy started out selling the textiles, lamps and other silk-based products across Colorado, choosing from a list of county and regional fairs and hitting them one at a time.
"Those were the dog days," he said. "Getting it going was pretty tough. I used to have a pretty ugly beat-up truck," that he would park on the side of the road to sell items to passersby.
He sold in Steamboat Springs, from a stand across from the Routt County Courthouse on Lincoln Avenue. He sold at the former Go-fer Foods store at Lincoln Avenue and Seventh Street. He and his friends traveled from the Taste of South Routt to A Taste of Colorado, and finally to the two-week-long Los Angeles County Fair.
There, Max Halterman said, he and his friends made enough money to move out to California, to be closer to the source of the imports and more closely manage his business.
The store, Om Gallery, has now grown to two retail locations and a thriving wholesale business. Max makes frequent trips back to Vietnam where he works with each of the families that create goods for his shop.
"We promote fair trade, condemn demonic working conditions and enjoy helping Cooperative Cottage Industries in developing countries," the Om Gallery Web site states.
"Every article of Om Gallery merchandise is handmade by one of our many families of tailors, cobblers, lantern makers and lamp makers. We enjoy many meals with our partners, many laughs and the satisfaction of knowing that everything we make is handmade with an agreed price that is profitable to our partners."
Max Halterman said he designs the items, makes a model and shows it to the family workers. From there they can create the product.
"Through that, it was a lot of educating going on," he said. "We were getting educated ourselves on how and what we're doing."
Max Halterman has also worked with other Oak Creek natives, including Christopher Hoffman and others.
In the first year, 2002, the business made $19,000 in sales. The second year it made $135,000, and the third year $245,000. Last year, the company brought in $1 million. Max Halterman said it has been tough, with some down years, but overall the project has proven successful.
And that older woman predicted to help him in his life just may have been his mother. When Max Halterman was overseas making initial contacts that would become his business, Karen Halterman stockpiled credit card offers that Max Halterman used to start the business.
"My mom has helped me more than anyone to get me where I am today both in life and with my business. She worked many a show with me, always there when I needed her, lent me money she didn't have and always supported me and believed in me," Max Halterman wrote in an e-mail.