museums&MORE Spring 2016
Art of the Old West By Zeke Jennings

Museum and on-site greeting card operation makes for unique gift shop experience

The Old West is alive and well at the Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art in Boulder, Colorado. It features the private collection of Ed Trumble, who has assembled hundreds of pieces from dozens of artists, some living and some now deceased.

Trumble’s love of Western art also played a big role in his career, as he just so happens to be the co-founder of another entity with the same name as the museum: the Leanin’ Tree greeting card company.

Trumble and Bob Lorenz, a Western artist in his own right, started the Leanin’ Tree company in 1949 with a series of Western-themed Christmas cards designed by Lorenz. After Lorenz died of cancer in 1965, Trumble purchased sole ownership of the company and remains its chairman of the board. His four children hold high-ranking executive positions and manage the day-to-day business.

The museum opened in 1974 and expanded in 1994. An outdoor sculpture garden was added in 2005. Not surprisingly, Leanin’ Tree greeting cards are the gift shop’s biggest seller, although nearly half of all sales come from non-stationery products, including jewelry, women’s fashion accessories, bath and body products and holiday ornaments.

Danielle Vorthmann has been the manager of the 1,150-square-foot gift shop for two years, although she’s had 20 years of retail experience overall.

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MM: What percentage of the merchandise is from Leanin’ Tree?

DV: Leanin’ Tree products currently account for about 53 percent of our sales. Before we added the Christmas room and expanded our additional merchandise offerings, it was 60 percent. Obviously, we have a higher profit margin on our Leanin’ Tree products since they are made right here in the building, but sales have really increased since we expanded the gift shop and created the year-round Christmas room.

MM: How do you go about finding outside products?

DV: I typically go to the Rocky Mountain Gift Show at the Denver Merchandise Mart twice a year. I meet with sales reps regularly, both reps that I have worked with previously at other companies, as well as reps that the Gift Shop used when I started here. We try to feature products made in Colorado or the U.S., since that is a big selling point of the Leanin’ Tree products we manufacture. I am always keeping my eyes and ears open for that. Of course, I love to shop as well, so wherever I am, I have the gift shop in mind.

MM: Are gift shop operations under the umbrella of the stationery company?

DV: We receive the same support that all Leanin’ Tree retailers receive, which is very beneficial. From fixtures to Best Sellers reports, there is a lot of help. As far as merchandising and what to stock, that is contained within the gift shop. We are unique in that we carry more Leanin’ Tree product than anywhere else in the world, so that is a fun challenge. We want the gift shop to be attractive and shoppable, and to tell a story with our other products. We provide feedback to the product department, as we have a direct line to them, and customers feel comfortable sharing information with us. Leanin’ Tree retailers have a customer service representative that they would work with to find the right card assortment for their store, but since we don’t utilize that in the gift shop, I am that person.

MM: Where did the name Leanin’ Tree come from?

DV: At the beginning, Leanin’ Tree produced Western-themed Christmas cards exclusively, and Ed Trumble wanted something representative of that. He liked the idea of a resilient, wind-swept tree, and thought Leanin'” sounded more Western than “Leaning.”

MM: What do you enjoy most about what you do and working for Leanin’ Tree?

DV: It’s a great family-owned company that truly values every employee (about 200) and believes in their mission. I love working in a beautiful environment with great coworkers and great guests. To see how one person’s lifelong dream and commitment can have such a profound effect on so many people in so many different ways is inspiring. It’s great to be a small part of that, whether it’s telling the story of Leanin’ Tree to a new group of visitors or selecting unique gift items for people to remember their visit by.

Double attraction

How many museums can one visit and also tour a functioning stationery plant without leaving the premises? There is such a location in Boulder, Colorado, where the Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art and Leanin’ Tree Greeting Card plant are housed in the building.

As an added attraction to the museum and gift shop, the Trumble family-owned company offers free tours of the production plant four times daily most weekdays throughout the year. The tours last about 45 minutes and take visitors on a half-mile walk throughout the plant, where they’ll observe the process that turns blank paper into colorful greeting cards and envelopes.

Tours begin with a short video on the history of the company before beginning the trek around the plant, where they see working printing presses, cutting machines and automated batching equipment, as well as the staff of 200 employees busy filling orders.

The Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art gift shop’s five full-time employees also serve as tour guides as part of their responsibilities.

At a Glance

  • What: Leanin’ Tree Museum and Sculpture Garden of Western Art
  • Where: 6055 Longbrow Dr., Boulder, Colorado
  • Collection: Approximately 250 paintings and 100 bronze sculptures of Western-themed art, all owned by Leanin’ Tree co-founder Ed Trumble.
  • Gift shop size and staff: 1,150 square feet and five full-time employees
  • Bestsellers: Leanin’ Tree stationery accounts for a little more than half of total sales. Other big sellers are women’s fashion accessories and holiday ornaments.
  • Online:

Zeke Jennings

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