Bear & Blue employee putting the finishing touches on wood sign. Get a look inside and see how the design process works in the video player above. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com
IDAHO FALLS – Tucked away on the west side of Idaho Falls in a 7,000-square-foot building next to Roknak’s Hardware at 2290 West Broadway is a small business called Bear & Blue.
Customers think of it as a gift shop, but to owner Carrie Royce, (or Bear, as she’s known to friends and family), it’s a space where all of her creative ideas come to life.
“Everything starts with a design,” Royce tells EastIdahoNews.com. “I look at a design and say ‘What can we do with this? Can we apply it in wood? Can we apply it in fabric? Is it going to be cool on a T-shirt? Is it going to be cool on a sign?’”
The walls of her shop are adorned with products she’s designed, including everything from wood signage, keychains and furniture and other home decor items to cups, T-shirts and apparel, bags, leatherwork and other knick-knacks with images or phrases on them.
The wood products — signs, games and ornaments — are by far, the most popular, says Royce.
“Those three product lines are — they’re crazy, especially right now,” she says.
Board game created at Bear & Blue | Facebook photo
Get a look inside and see how the design process works in the video player above.
The business offers more than just home decor products. The southeast corner of the building includes a beverage service that serves beer, wine, coffee, Italian soda, slushies and more. Royce says the combination of home decor items with a beverage service is confusing to customers, many of which do not come because they mistakenly believe it’s a bar.
“It’s not a bar. Idaho Falls has this weird stigma to bars … but I’m not taking the beer out because we’re an event space,” Royce says. “I expected this to bring more people because (they can) sit down, bring their laptops and (have a drink while they) work. In three years, I’ve only seen two people come in with their laptops and work.”
Bear & Blue also includes space for guests to rent for any occasion and an outdoor patio with a fire pit where local bands and singers often perform during the summer.
As Bear & Blue surpasses its fourth year of business, it is also adding a printing service.
A business merger
Royce announced the acquisition of Snake River Printing Company at 1824 Jennie Lee Drive in a news release Monday night. She is finalizing a deal with the printing company this week with plans to incorporate the printing aspect in January.
All the equipment and machinery at Snake River Printing will be moved into Royce’s building next week. She says being able to offer print services will allow her to make her own product packaging and better serve customers with a package deal.
“By merging Snake River Printing’s capabilities with our own, we draw even closer to being a holistic creative house for both individuals and businesses,” Royce says in the news release. “For example, a wedding client could look beyond (just) announcements (and also include) matching cake toppers, signage, glassware, apothecary, decor and so much more. There’s really nothing else like us in the area.”
Bear & Blue at 2290 West Broadway in Idaho Falls | Courtesy Google maps, April 2018
Creating something ‘meaningful and lasting’
Royce grew up in Idaho Falls but moved away to attend college and pursue a career in the tech industry. She moved back in 2015 to be closer to family and to create something “meaningful and lasting.”
She purchased the building next to Rocknak’s and opened as a party supply business after a year of renovations. The business has continued to grow and evolve and Royce has discovered talents she didn’t know she had.
“I was going to the neighbors and begging them for their dead trees in the yard. she says. “I loved it, and as I did that, I started to buy tools so that I could do these (wood projects). Everything’s just branched from there. I thought, ‘What else can we make?’ and I bought these huge laser printers.”
In addition to wood art projects, Royce’s resume now also includes sewing and embroidery skills and she shows no signs of slowing down as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a challenge for many business owners.
Thriving during COVID
Bear & Blue shut down in March at the onset of COVID-19. It has since reopened for business one day a week, but Royce says online sales skyrocketed during the lockdown and kept her business alive.
“All of a sudden I got more exposure,” says Royce. “I thought, ‘What’s happening? Cause this stuff has been (available for four years).’”
Some of the things people were buying during the stay-home order were hand sanitizer, door hanger designs and bison T-shirts.
“I have a sticker that says, ‘Do not pet the fluffy cows.’ I designed that one day after someone did something stupid at Yellowstone and it took off,” she says. “My bison T-shirts were selling in Germany!”
Royce’s “fluffy cows” sticker | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com
Going forward, Royce expects the business to continue to evolve and she’s looking forward to see what happens next.
“I feel like a little kid because we customize (products) for families and people get so excited. I just love that!”
Bear & Blue is currently only open Saturdays, but online sales are active 24/7. Business hours will be adjusted once the acquisition of Snake River Printing is complete. Visit the store’s website or Facebook page for more information.