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Continued: Custom potter surges in St. Paul

  • Article by: JAMES WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 25, 2014 - 11:47 PM

“The Renaissance was our renaissance,” Niles Deneen said. “[Peter] is the most talented potter of any of our guys. That came kind of easy for him. The business side — that was a challenge.”

Son Niles joined the operation and helped the company market its unique methods of personalizing — they won’t say how they do it — by hitting the phones and calling prospective customers. At first, joining his parents’ business was not an easy decision, Niles Deneen said. After the bankruptcy, “I wanted to get as far away from the pottery field as I could,” he said.

But after considering ­pharmaceutical sales, Niles said a friend told him, “You’re selling your dad’s pottery. Don’t be an idiot. Help your dad.”

For their part, customers are more than pleased that Deneen Pottery has found its resurgence in St. Paul.

Jake Smalkoski manages the Original Pancake House in Eden Prairie. They have boasted custom Deneen coffee mugs for several years.

“They’re awesome. We love our Deneen,” he said. “The stuff is handmade right in St. Paul and people eat that up.”

Steve Pipkin runs the Original Pancake House in Roseville. They, too, are loyal Deneen customers.

“The first thing I like about Deneen is it’s a small family business that has been around for a while and the family members are still doing the work,” Pipkin said.

That loyalty goes both ways. To save on shipping costs, Niles Deneen will personally run an order of new mugs out to the restaurant. In exchange, his breakfast is on the house.

There was a time, Niles Deneen said, that Deneen Pottery sold many different things in many small orders. Now, it’s mostly the custom coffee mugs.

“We know what we can do the best,” he said. “And we love always having been a St. Paul company.”


James Walsh • 651-925-5041



  • related content

  • Deneen Pottery potter Jonathan Conrad hand formed personalized coffee mugs on a pottery wheel. The company turns out 300,000 to 400,000 mugs annually.

  • Peter, left, and Niles Deneen make and sell custom coffee mugs the old-fashioned way, by tossing a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel. The firm has doubled its workforce to more than 50 over the last few years.

  • Mugs made by Deneen Pottery.

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