Montana Strong is back and owner Shirstie Gaylord is hoping proceeds from the sale of the Hometana t-shirts will give out-of-work Montanans and their families a little help recovering from the economic impact of COVID-19.
Shirstie is no stranger to the Golden Triangle area. Her husband, Eric, was raised in Valier and is the son of Brent and Joanne Gaylord. Originally from Seattle, Shirstie “fell in love with Montana” while attending the University of Montana. She met Eric while they were working at a TV station in Denver.
Helping Montanans is a mantra for Shirstie. Three years ago, when the wildfires were raging throughout the state, Shirstie developed her “Montana Strong” campaign. Proceeds from the sales of the “Strong” t-shirts were donated to the Montana Community Foundation’s Montana Wildfire Relief Fund and distributed to help those impacted by the devastation of the wildfires.
“A week ago Eric looked at me and asked, ‘Why don’t you raise money with the Strong shirts again?’ He pointed out we already had a logo, a website, a design and production. It was a no-brainer,” explained Shirstie.
It didn’t take long for her to place an order for shirts and move into production mode. “Last week we ordered 50 shirts and sold out in two days. Now we have over 50 shirts on back-order and more orders coming in everyday,” she shared.
The t-shirts sell for $25 each and can be purchased at www.hometana.com. Shirstie has already talked with multiple agencies about non-profits currently established to help people affected by COVID-19 to make sure the proceeds will go to those in need.
Shirstie started Hometana in 2017, while she and Eric were living in Great Falls. Eric was the news director for KRTV at the time and then transferred to KPAX in 2019.
Last summer, she hit the road with Hometana’s traveling pop-up shop, housed in a vintage RV affectionately known as “Homer.” She traveled throughout Central Montana, taking part in 15 shows, festivals or outdoor markets over a 17-week period.
She expanded Hometana from an online operation to a storefront location in downtown Missoula in November 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Gaylords to close their storefront location in Missoula last month but their online business is still flourishing.
“The timing of this pandemic is tough for us because this coming tourism season was our opportunity to dig out of the expense of opening a brick and mortar,” shared Shirstie. “Fortunately, we have a robust online website we’ve fallen back on.”
How did Shirstie come up with the name Hometana for her business?
She gives all the credit to her niece, Khasia.
Shirstie’s brother-in-law Joe Gaylord’s daughter, who was four at the time, called Grandma Joanne in Valier from the family’s home in Alaska excited to come home to Montana for the summer.
“Grandma! Only four more sleeps ‘til we get to go to Hometana!”