Pippi Robben is the owner of Northwind Shirt Company, a local gift shop and screen printing business on Central Avenue in Whitefish.

What does your business offer?

We have an assortment of Whitefish, Montana, Glacier National Park and Big Mountain T-shirts designed by different local artists. We also offer graphic art, silk screening, vinyl, and photo prints by way of a heat press for custom shirt designs.

Who are your customers?

We have been an established business here in downtown Whitefish since 1976, so we have a very diverse group of devout clientele that keep coming back every year for their travel shirts when they pass through town. We have been silk screening dozens of other local businesses’ shirts since the beginning. And since there are so many new businesses in town we have picked up many wonderful new clients as well.

What do you like about having a storefront in downtown Whitefish?

I love really being apart of the community and ultimately the Whitefish downtown scene. Handing out candy to all the kiddos on Halloween is a blast! And connecting with all of the wonderful travelers and hearing their stories. The annual Winter Carnival is our ultimate signature Whitefish event, and the Grand Parade that happens right down Central Avenue is a must for everyone!

From your perspective, what does it take to succeed as an entrepreneur in the Flathead?

Prepping for the different seasons is essential. Our shoulder season has gotten busier but it doesn’t however pay the bills. Having a small shop, it is also hard to keep inventory in stock for the ever-growing summer business. We try to do specialty silk screening for local businesses during the off-season so that we can focus on having enough product to sell during the busy seasons. It is a challenge catering to both the local market and tourists.

How have you seen the Flathead Valley change in your time doing business here?

Unfortunately I am saddened by some of the changes that are happening. People come here to visit because of the lovely, hardworking western Montana town that it is and all the activities we have to offer. I worry that, with the influx of new buildings and businesses that don’t support our small town Montana feel, it will become something that ultimately loses the reason why people love it. Rising costs on everything from rent to food has really been a challenge and it is sad to see people who have lived here for generations move away because of this. 

With this being said, the Flathead Valley offers such an eclectic, dynamic sort of people and the quality of life we live up here is intoxicating! I understand why we are on everyone’s must go, see, adventure list.

Northwind Shirt Company:
215 Central Ave, Whitefish

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