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Baja Pottery

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This is Fred Ball for Zions Bank, speaking on business.

One Utah business is proving that everything old is new again. Baja Pottery in Midvale is the state's largest distributor of outdoor terracotta fireplacesÑthe same type of fireplaces that were used hundreds of years ago in exotic locations around the world to provide warmth for outdoor gatherings.

Bret and Raini Cunningham say their store carries the largest variety of the fireplaces, offering dozens of different styles in a wide range of sizes, at prices that are often half of those found in other retail outlets. The Cunninghams say the fireplaces are a backyard staple in Arizona, and that they are just beginning to catch on in the Utah market.

The fireplaces are typically teardrop in shape, with a large opening in the front and a smaller hole on top. Many are true to their heritage and retain their terracotta color. Furthermore, all are produced in Mexico by hand. In fact, Bret says that Baja Pottery is responsible for providing enough work to keep six families busy year-round.

I asked the Cunninghams how they got into the pottery business. Raini started the company after a visit to a successful pottery yard in Boise and realized that if such a business could be profitable in Idaho, a similar venture had to succeed in Utah. One year later, after working for 19 years as the comptroller for a major menÕs clothing chain, Bret decided he wanted to do something completely different and joined his wife.

Baja Pottery is much more than just a terracotta fireplace store. It is also the state's largest outlet for all kinds of pots from all over the world. Each year, the Cunninghams travel the globe in search of every kind of pot imaginable, and on any given day, their inventory typically includes more than 1,000 different styles of items. Some of the fireplaces are simple and utilitarian in design, while others are more whimsical, designed to look like animals. The store also carries fountains, cast-iron pieces, fiberglass planters and even wishing wells. While Bret estimates that about 40 percent of his inventory comes from Mexico, he adds that he works closely with an Italian pottery factory based in China to provide many of his Old World pieces.

For Zions Bank, I'm Fred Ball. I'm speaking on business.

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