How a love for funky finds and Office Space inspired downtown Kalispell’s wittiest gift shop.
By Mary Jo Gardner. Photograph by Archer Messenger.
According to the dictionary; flair: 1. a special or instinctive aptitude or ability for doing something well, talent, gift, instinct, natural ability 2. stylishness and originality, style, elegance, pizzazz, poise and good taste. Sara and Ryan Berweger truly have a flair for flair. Their Main Street shop, Flair Gifts & Cards, offers a unique and fun shopping experience where one finds an eclectic mix of gifts, jewelry, greeting cards, souvenirs, art, home décor, wearables, accessories, and more.
Originally from Oregon, Sara and Ryan came to Montana in 2005 to work one summer in Glacier National Park. They sold their house, bought a motorhome, and planned to live and work near different National Parks every year. They fell in love with Glacier and never managed to leave. Starting as a cashier and a freight handler, Sara and Ryan were eventually promoted to running all four gift shops for the West Glacier Mercantile Company.
When the West Glacier Mercantile Company sold to new corporate interests in 2014, “We thought it was a good time to make a leap and open our own store, which we had been dreaming about for a while,” Sara shares. The pair knew they wanted a fun and funky shop. “When we would travel in the off-season, we’d see the same sorts of things in many of the corporate-run shops. Our goal was to make sure our store was unique and special.”
It was an ambitious undertaking and a labor of love. In late summer of 2014, the couple cashed in their meager 401(k)s and signed a lease at the KM Building. Ryan began the carpentry work and built displays while Sara focused on merchandising. “We are 50/50 partners. Ryan tends to do a lot of the building, maintenance, and clean up, but we help each other out.”
Flair Boutique opened its doors on November 1, 2014. Looking back, they are surprised and flattered by the loyalty of the locals that continued to come back after a modest beginning. They would often receive compliments from their customers that the shop had items that couldn’t be found anywhere else.
The couple took turns staffing the store through its first three years, building the inventory and reputation of the shop until it was overstuffed. With help from family and friends, Flair Boutique moved from its original location to a space they remodeled at 123 Main Street in May of 2018, renamed as Flair Gifts & Cards. The move has been a game changer. Flair has been able to use the extra space to stock more variety and depth of their offerings while incorporating more breathing room in between.
Now two employees, Pattie and Brenda, are part of the team. They both help choose new items for the shop, expanding the “personality” of Flair. Pattie chose some of the current best-selling greeting cards. Brenda picked out some of most irreverent and laugh-out-loud funny fridge magnets. One of the workers’ favorite things about their jobs is listening to people laughing and chuckling as they move about the store.
Sara and Ryan recognized that a small business survives and thrives by supporting as many other local businesses as possible. They sought out local providers like Gina at SnowGhost Design in Kalispell to do the logo and branding. About a third of the items stocked at Flair are sourced from local makers in Montana. Tees and hoodies are designed and printed in Kalispell by Dawson Supply. One can peruse prints of beautiful hand-painted historical maps of local places by Kalispell artist Lisa Middleton. Flair stocks every variety of Hurraw! lip balm from Whitefish. Huckleberry products are supplied by Huckleberry Haven just outside of Glacier National Park.
A collection of zany and sassy socks, dishtowels, bags, coin purses, and gag gifts from Blue Q are featured at Flair. One percent of all Blue Q sales supports humanitarian and environmental initiatives around the globe. Blue Q’s mission statement is: “We just want you to be happy. No really, that’s it.” It makes perfect sense that Sara and Ryan would partner with such a fun company.
The Berweger’s favorite parts of owning their own business is the freedom to make their own rules and decisions, and the opportunity to be creative. Sara paused and giggled when I asked her how they choose the name Flair. In the movie Office Space an employee of a corporate restaurant is reprimanded daily for failing to wear the required number of pieces of flair on her uniform. Sara wanted her business to have flair – but for it to come about in a fun and voluntary way.
Another favorite perk is bringing their dogs Mystique and Marvel with them to work. Yes, Flair Gifts & Cards is dog friendly! In fact, your doggie might even get a Montana-made dog treat if they come shopping with you.
Who would be a typical customer? Sara replies, “Literally everybody.” One guy told her, “I hate shopping but I love Flair. There are so many fun things to look at and so much variety.” An online review from a customer reads, “With everything from funny to fine art this boutique is a wonderful place to shop for everyone on your list! The owners are way cool down-to-earth people. The atmosphere is inviting and the merchandise is affordable on every level.”
Come visit at 123 Main Street in Kalispell and see for yourself why the team there says, “Flair is Fun!”
Flair Gifts & Cards is open seven days a week. 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM Monday through Saturday and 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Sunday. Shop online at www.flairmt.com. Contact at (406) 407-7210 or email@example.com. Gift boxing and wrapping are free and they ship anywhere in the U.S.
About the Author: Mary Jo Gardner is a fifth-generation Flathead Valley resident. A grade school teacher for almost 40 years, she is now enjoying retirement in Kalispell.P