Gerard Kindt made a living for 25 years in 250 square feet of Jackson, selling the jewelry he taught himself to make after he was already in business.
His wife Karla helped run the place, made clothing and also learned the jewelry business.
Now the Kindts have emptied Teton Art Gallery, sold their condominiumized space in Gaslight Alley and moved to Arizona. They’re still in business, just doing it via the internet and in a place that’s warmer and cheaper.
Kindt, known by everyone, including Karla, as Lumpy, said that closing and moving “was kind of difficult after 48 years” in town but the change was due. The Kindts also sold their house in Skyline, where they had lived for 20 of their years in the area.
The gallery — more of a jewelry and clothing store — had been in business 20 years before the Kindts bought it. The previous owners, Marv and Sylvia Pack, ran a similar business but wanted out, and Kindt was looking for a change.
Kindt arrived in Jackson in 1972 soon after graduating from Penn State with a degree in business management. He tended bar at the Cowboy Bar and met Karla, who was a waitress downstairs at the Cowboy Steakhouse.
Kindt later worked about 10 years as a real estate appraiser and at Sirk Shirts and owned his own T-shirt store, Eagle Shirts, in a space on Millward Street where Jackson Hole Harley-Davidson now operates.
Eagle Shirts was “one of the first T-shirt shops in town,” Kindt said, but after a few years of that “I didn’t think I could keep on selling $5 T-shirts” for a living. He said the success of other shirt shops later made him doubt his decision.
Karla Kindt worked designing skiwear for John Horn’s Powderhorn Mountaineering, a predecessor of Teton Mountaineering.
Kindt had seen an artist bend a piece of wire into a moose and was intrigued with the idea of a jewelry business. The 250-square-foot shop was for sale, and included a workspace about the same size in the basement.
“I’d always been artsy, and when we bought the space it included tools and equipment in the basement, so I would run the store in winter and play with the toys, so I self-taught myself. I liked it. We started making things and it worked.”
Karla also started learning some jewelry arts and over time “we got a lot more skilled and a lot more creative,” Kindt said. Besides the metal work, they learned to cut and polish the stones they mounted.
“We decided on a good mix between jewelry, but over the years it was more and more into jewelry,” Karla Kindt said.
Gerard Kindt said he figured out what the tourists liked best and let that set his designs: “I made a lot of mooses and a lot of Tetons” in his jewelry creating.
The Kindts leased for years, then bought the space about six years ago. Over their time “we had increased sales every year we were there,” Gerard Kindt said.
Part of the reason for the move was financial, the Kindts said.
“We could buy a house here for a 10th for what we could in Jackson,” Kindt said. “It’s sad, but that’s the way it is.”
The couple are still making jewelry and might open a shop in Tucson, they said. Their work can be seen and purchased online at TetonArtGallery.com.
The Teton Art Gallery space was purchased by the Darwiche family, which operates Hotel Jackson and several other businesses in Jackson. The Darwiches own more of Gaslight Alley than any other owner, including two businesses they own, Touch of Class and Crazy Horse Indian Jewelry, which Jim Darwiche started in 1978. The spaces were sold rather than rented when the location was developed in 1976 by Gordon Graham, a Jackson Realtor and developer.
Sadek Darwiche, who focuses on being general manager of Hotel Jackson, said there’s been interest in the space but no deal so far. Darwiche said keeping the character of Gaslight Alley is a goal.
“We don’t have anything yet, but we want something that will add to the dynamic of Gaslight Alley,” he said. “Something home grown.”