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Family establishes origami-inspired gift shop in Uptown Butte

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Aunt-niece duo Missy Okrusch and Jubilee Stearns have been dreaming about Paper Cranes for three years. This isn’t to say they’ve been dreaming about actual paper cranes — the folded origami birds — but their store, for which the Japanese creation is the namesake.

The store, which opened on June 18, has been a dream of Okrusch’s for as long as she can remember.

“When I was younger, I always wanted to own a boutique,” Okrusch said. “And (Jubilee) worked in a boutique in Missoula, Mother Moose (Gifts & Gallery), and just fell in love with it.”

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Jubilee Stearns, manager of Paper Cranes, demonstrates how to fold a paper crane July 22 in Uptown Butte.

Stearns, Okrusch’s niece, moved from Missoula to open up the boutique with Okrusch, but it took a little longer than they anticipated.

“We started purchasing and setting up shelves and getting things together in September,” Stearns said.

“We really got serious because we thought we were going to be open by Christmas,” Okrusch said, adding that it eventually became evident that there wasn’t enough time.

“You think it’s simple in your head and then there’s so much more to it,” Okrusch said. “I mean, getting your POS systems, stickering everything, our shelf day — we still had to finish this building.”

In addition, Okrusch owns the King’s Kids Childcare and Preschool, and while she and Stearns got help setting up the store from Okrusch’s brother, they both have jobs, and Stearns just had a baby, so the time they were able to spend getting the store up and running was limited.

“I think unless you were given or handed wealth, you kind of have to do it that way,” Okrusch said.

The “shelf day,” where the two of them did nothing but assemble shelves, was one of the more challenging parts of the process, Stearns and Okrusch said.

“We did it in just a couple of days,” Okrusch said. “Where our hands were hurting.”

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Missy Okrusch, owner of Paper Cranes, stands behind the shop's register July 22 in Uptown Butte.

“And we got blisters,” Stearns said, laughing.

Although the store has been in the works for roughly three years, and Okrusch has owned the building with her siblings for six, the pair didn’t decide on a name until about November.

Okrusch and Stearns had a host of names they were tossing around, but none of them sounded quite right. One day, they were eating lunch in Missoula and Okrusch suggested the name after she saw a paper crane on the wall, but Stearns turned the idea down.

However, after months of running the name by friends and family, they decided it was the right fit after all.

In some stories in ancient Japanese culture, it’s said that anyone who folds 1,000 origami cranes in one year will be granted a wish by the gods, according to Paper Crane’s website.

“And it means like peace and hope and security and all these beautiful things,” Okrusch said. “So we have to fold 1,000 paper cranes this year.”

Stearns had some experience folding paper cranes from childhood, and picking it back up was easier than she though it would be. She’s taught Okrusch, and some of the paper cranes they’ve made hang in the window.

As they make more, they put them in different places around the store and sometimes give them away to customers.

“There’s been some days where I’m like “I’m going to make a lot of paper cranes,” and I get down here and I make like 50,” Stearns said.

The name of the whole building will eventually be The Hoist House because their building is next to the headframes, Okrusch said, a suggestion of her brothers’s, and next door, Drizzle, an ice cream and coffee shop Okrusch and Stearns hope to open by summer 2023.

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Missy Okrusch, left, and Jubilee Stearns look at paper cranes folded during an interview at the Paper Cranes shop in Uptown Butte on July 22.

They said the store will have basic ice cream flavors for bases, and then create unique sauces to drizzle over both the ice cream and coffee drinks. They hope the store will be somewhere families can visit when they go uptown, where people can take their kids to sit down.

From the name to the merchandise, every detail of the store was chosen with thought and care from both Okrusch and Stearns.

“It’s stuff you can’t find anywhere else,” Okrusch said. “We want our target audience to be every age and every price range — we want our customers to be everyone.”

The store has a lot of unique merchandise, spanning many different categories culminating into a melting pot of sorts. Inside, you can find clothes, jewelry, small batch snacks and drinks, home decor, kitchen ware, youth toys, baby items and gift baskets. There are also handmade fabric birds in colorful designs that magnetically clip to branches so customers can buy just one or multiple, and clip the birds to the branch to make a “bird family.”

Another thing Okrusch and Stearns pride themselves on is the type of businesses their store supports. While they strive to have many local businesses in their store, they also work to make sure they support women-owned businesses and businesses that support what they believe are worthy causes.

“And that’s one of our big things is our vendors that we buy from, a lot of them are from Montana,” Okrusch said. “We want different stuff from Montana. I love supporting artists, love supporting small businesses. We have some businesses that have fair trade or are helping women from Guatemala work.”

For example, Stearns said one their vendors donates to a company that helps house and employ sexually exploited and trafficked people.

“So we like finding businesses like that, women-owned businesses,” Okrusch said. “When you buy from our small business, you’re buying another small business.”

The best part for Okrusch and Stearns is talking to people who are shopping and getting to know the Butte community.

They said not only have customers given positive feedback about the store, but nearby businesses have been referring customers to them.

“Our neighbors are fabulous,” Okrusch said. “They send customers to us all the time.”

“It’s just a community,” Stearns said.

At the end of the day, Stearns and Okrusch are excited to get to know Butte’s market.

“I don’t think we’ve touched the surface yet,” Okrusch said.

“It’s stuff you can’t find anywhere else. We want our target audience to be every age and every price range — we want our customers to be everyone.”

— Missy Okrusch, owner of Paper Cranes in Uptown Butte

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