History finds a home downtown with grand opening of Museum Guild

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

The term “historic partnership” gets used a lot, but is rarely so apt as in the case of the Museum Guild, which will celebrate its grand opening Friday, March 11 in the north storefront of the Panida Theater at 300 N. First Ave.

Left to right: Margot Mazur, Heather Upton, Josie Buckmiller and Brooke Moore. Photo by Zach Hagadone.

Beyond expanding the presence of the Bonner County Historical Society and Museum to downtown Sandpoint, the Museum Guild gift shop couldn’t have found a more fitting home under the wing of the community’s most iconic historic building.

“This is our opportunity to support the Panida and also be a historical voice downtown,” said Bonner County Museum Executive Director Heather Upton. “We both knew in our hearts that this had to happen.”

With a ribbon cutting scheduled for March 11 at 4 p.m., followed by tours of both the space and the theater next door until 6 p.m., the Museum Guild will be open Wednesdays-Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Calling it a “gift shop” doesn’t quite do the Museum Guild justice. The space is better described as a home for “bespoke museum merchandise,” typified by unique items including everything from boutique-quality vintage clothes to the Humbird Blend coffee blend (created in partnership between the museum and Evans Brothers) to history- and culture-related books by local authors.

Displayed throughout the space are offerings like furniture crafted from salvaged and reclaimed wood by Josie and Dennis Buckmiller, botanical art pieces by Margot Mazur, antiques sourced from local yard and estate sales, and a host of other items expertly curated by Upton and Brooke Moore, who locals will know as the founder and former owner of Azalea Handpicked Style.

“We’re always looking for really high quality goods … [and] we find treasurers everywhere,” said Upton, adding that donations are welcome, but must somehow tell the history of Bonner County and donors are to contact the museum first for consideration. Proceeds from sales go back to the operating budget. 

Moore, the Buckmillers and Mazur have all been vital partners in bringing the Museum Guild to life, contributing their expertise in antiques, merchandising, art and local history “to make this magic happen,” Upton said. “We truly believe the universe brought us all together.”

Every item in the shop has a story, and the larger story is about community, which Upton said is a critical role of the museum that will be strengthened with its new location in the heart of Sandpoint’s historic downtown.

“At the museum’s current location [611 S. Ella Ave., in Lakeview Park], we’re a little off the beaten path — it’s a challenge,” she said. “Now we’re going to be able to be that friendly face downtown.” 

Some of the other opportunities provided by the space will be a storefront in which to share information about the community and museum, another place where memberships and financial contributions can be received, pop-ups in conjunction with Panida events, and a nexus of support for other local arts and culture institutions. 

Eventually, Upton said the Museum Guild also plans to offer a catalog of select photographs drawn from the museum’s collection of 70,000 historic images, from which visitors can order prints.

“It’s going to be huge for new people in the community, but people who have lived here their whole lives will be ecstatic,” she said, underscoring the value not only of preserving local history, but making sure it remains as visible as possible — especially important amid so much growth and change in the area.

“This is how the museum is going to the next level,” Upton added.

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