Q&A with Alpacas of Montana


Alpacas of Montana are back this holiday season with their Owenhouse Ace Hardware pop-up shop. The beautiful alpaca clothing and accessories are not only fashionable but incredibly functional! Soft as cashmere, warmer than wool and hypoallergenic. Plus, those cute alpacas from their alpaca farm are a highlight of our year when they visit! Although it’s the busy season for Alpacas of Montana, we caught up with owners/founders, James and Sarah. We wanted to learn more about how they got started making high-quality alpaca clothing and found themselves in Bozeman, the owners of 120 alpacas!

What is the story behind Alpacas of Montana?

With James’ medical background, Sarah’s manufacturing background and having raised a couple of dogs and horses over the years, how did we end up with a full-time business and 120 mouths to feed? Years ago, we realized that we were ready to work for ourselves and put our energy into our own company. We researched restaurants, retail, ice cream shops and service industries, but nothing fit us. We wanted to live in Montana, make a living and really like our job – which really narrowed the options.

alpaca wool clothing at Owenhouse ACE Hardware - Bozeman, MontanaOne day James was flipping through a Costco Connection Magazine and came across a couple who had retired, began raising alpacas, and after 10 years still loved it. James enthusiastically went to Sarah with the article and she had four words for him. “What’s an alpaca? No!”

He went back to his office and on the MSN homepage was an article from the Wall Street Journal about the financial benefits of raising alpacas. This piqued his interest, but Sarah still was not impressed. She stated, “You went to school for 10 years and I have my degree in psychology – that’s way different than raising livestock.” On the way home from work, we had decided to move on to other ideas.

Later that same evening we walked down to our mailbox. James’ sister had sent James a flyer with a note, “Wouldn’t this be fun?” The flyer was about how to start your own alpaca business. They had never discussed this topic before with each other. All three of these events happened in one day.

Well, after having never heard the word alpaca before, and then being inundated with the idea throughout the day, we decided we had better at least check into it. We started making phone calls, visiting farms and researching how it would work for us. The more we researched, the more excited we became.

Six months later, we had purchased 8 alpacas.

For the first 3 years, we raised and sold alpacas. We had always heard alpaca was soft – but how soft? And why is it water repellent? We began researching the qualities of alpaca, learning about why it’s been used as a garment for over 6,000 years. Then, Sarah’s sister became pregnant with twins. We thought, wouldn’t it be amazing to give them alpaca hats from our alpacas. We went to a local farmers market to find someone who could spin and knit two baby hats. And that began our textile company.

What makes Alpacas of Montana unique?

We are a vertically integrated company and design and create nearly all of our products. From socks and shirts to scarves and hats, you cannot find the style or quality anywhere else for Alpaca products. We have developed 32 new alpaca fabrics for cut and sew manufacturing of clothing and other textiles.

alpaca wool vest - Bozeman, MontanaWhat are some of the “hottest” features Alpacas of Montana have to offer?

Alpaca is as soft as cashmere, warmer than wool, and hypoallergenic. We offer hundreds of unique designs and styles of products. We are constantly innovating and creating new products.

What Alpacas of Montana apparel is your favorite for a Bozeman winter?

Sarah’s favorite products are the extra cushion socks for warm and cozy feet year-round. James is most excited about our new base layer and thermal layer pullovers for men and women. They breathe and keep you warm and comfortable in a variety of different climates.

Wow, what a story! An amazing series of events that happened so quickly – and changed the course of their life. Supporting fellow local businesses in Bozeman is important to us and we are thrilled to have Alpacas of Montana back in our stores this holiday season! Whether you need new socks, scarves and hats for yourself or are looking for a thoughtful stocking stuffer, you can find it at Alpacas of Montana Owenhouse Ace pop-up shop this holiday season!

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