WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - It all started with the hogs, of the clay variety.
"I was known as the Pig Lady for several years because that isall we made, little pig heads with different hats," RebeccaBollinger said.
Now, decades later Bollinger's Clay Critters come in every shapeand size and can be found in souvenir shops across the U.S. andCanada.
"I hear stories of people who go to Alaska and get a totem poleand get home and turn it over and it says made in Lafayette,"Bollinger said.
Her small staff hand-makes over 500,000 critters every year.
"We did $2 million in sales back in the busy days when we had 85employees, but with 18 employees we are doing $1.2 million insales. So, we are a lot more profitable and efficient," shesaid.
It takes a steady hand and a commitment to carefully craft eachcritter. Employees are all part of a profit share program and haveflexible hours. In turn, Bollinger said there is a very lowturnover rate.
"We've developed ways to make them faster and better and it'smore pleasant with a smaller number," Bollinger said.
Swaraski-crystals add a special touch to each creation.
"We decorate with three or more. Some of them have seven. Peoplerecognize it. They like that added quality," she said.
Nearly every critter is laser printed with a name or sayingbefore it leaves the warehouse. And, it's no wonder thebeach-themed critters are the most popular.
"Our number one critter has been for years, and it is anon-critter, is the flip-flop," she said.
Clay Critters' latest creation is a state collection and thecherry blossom magnet for Washington, D.C.
So, the next time you waiting for your flight to take off, checkout the gift shop you might be surprised to find a little piece ofhome.
For more information on Clay Critters clickhere.
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