I first met Kiersten over two years ago when I started working at Liberty Market. She has more energy than most people reminding me of a hummingbird. She constantly injects puns into her speech, and she forgets to eat often. You had better be ready to eat big though if you ever go to a restaurant with her and her husband because they will order EVERYTHING on the menu. They want to try it all!
(photo credit Jen of kreatid photography)
JM: Tell us a little about yourself.
KT: I grew up in Bozeman, Montana….the oldest of 4 kids. My Dad is a potter, and he and my Mom have owned and operated Mountain Arts Pottery since I was a kid. I grew up in a family where my parents were (and still are) very supportive and encouraging. Christianity was the foundation of all we did but we all knew our faith had to be ours…not just because Dad and Mom said so.
I did pretty well as a track athlete in high school and decided to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to run. I wasn’t very good at the check sheets in college and as such, ended up taking so many classes I have a Double Major in Elementary Education and Special Education as well as a minor in Deaf Education and a Master’s in Special Education/Learning Disabilities – and now I own a restaurant….go figure!
I moved to Arizona to work at ASU and met my husband at a dinner he was cooking for. Long story short…we got married and work together as co-owners of Liberty Market in Gilbert.
JM: How did you get involved with Special and Deaf Education?
KT: My younger sister, Becky, who is, as she likes to point out, exactly four years and eleven months younger than I am, was diagnosed with a learning disability soon after she was born. Referred to as Global Retardation, her disability affects each aspect of her life in different ways. Becky has a difficult time with her fine motor skills including printing and tying her shoes but reads at a college level.
She didn’t talk for the first three years of her life, and I remember with absolute distinction when she said her very first words….”Indian hat”. We were traveling to an art show and had stopped somewhere to fill up for gas. They must have had one of those plastic Indian hats with fake red, green and blue feathers sticking out of the top and when she pointed at it and said, “Indian hat”, my parents purchased it in absolute shock. Since then, I don’t think she’s stopped talking!!!
She has a job at Fuddruckers making the guacamole and helping in the kitchen and has told David more than once that he needs to learn the recipe she has memorized. Her memory is one that baffles all of our family. She has always corrected us when we would say something like, “Remember when we went to visit Grandma in 1985?” by saying, “It wasn’t 1985, it was 1984, and it was a Tuesday.” We would laugh it off until we started checking her dates and she was correct. She has more Civil War knowledge than the guides she used to drive with when visiting Gettysburg and her bible study teacher has stopped checking facts when Becky brings something up from the bible, because she’s always right.
The deaf education part of my life came into being as a result of my cousin Courtney’s deafness. I loved sign language and started learning it to communicate with her when she would visit in the summer. I would practice with my brothers on Sundays after church when my grandparents would take us out to lunch. We had no ipod, itouch, ipad, phone….etc. and would have to self-entertain. Practicing the alphabet forwards and backwards was ingrained in my head and in college I quickly learned I could forego the foreign language component by taking sign language!
It sat dormant in my mind between college and the opening of Liberty Market when we hired two employees who are deaf. Having a glassed-in kitchen is the greatest thing because I can communicate across the restaurant and into the kitchen! It does confuse guests, however, when I ask them if everything is alright or explain something to them and realize I haven’t said anything!!!
JM: You grew up in Montana. What’s it like? Do you see yourself moving back there?
KT: You hear a lot about people from small towns itching to leave never to return, but I never felt that. God has allowed some amazing opportunities to insert themselves into my life that have moved me to the next chapter in my life but never because I didn’t like the one I had just finished.
Bozeman is located in a valley surrounded by five mountain ranges and is amazingly beautiful. It’s cold and snows for half the year but there are three ski hills within thirty minutes of my house, the sledding hill is literally over the creek, through the park and across the street. I spent a lot of my summers in the Gallatin National Forest at our cabin. The back door opens up to the forest and the running water is connected to an underground spring so if you want it any warmer than ice cold, you have to heat it up on the stove.
It’s definitely a different world than Arizona. More REI-ish and less Fashion Square-ish. The magnitude of open space and sky is such a difference in comparison to Phoenix. It SMELLS….not bad….it just has a smell. When you get off the plane and walk out onto the tarmac (it’s a pretty little airport) it smells clean and clear, brisk and like pine. It’s one of the best parts of the whole area!!!
Will I ever move back….probably not permanently. David and I have this small little thing going on here that takes up a lot of our time – Liberty Market – however, we’d love to get to a place where we could spend time there over the summers. I’m not sure what that looks like but I can guarantee you that summer in Montana is significantly more enjoyable than summer in Phoenix!!!
JM: You trained a work dog once-what was that like?
KT: We raised a service dog through an organization here in Phoenix, and it was amazing. Johnny was a Golden Retriever that we trained as a “hearing dog” to work with an individual who was deaf. I only recommend doing this if you have TONS of time. We were in the process of opening Liberty Market and I had no set location at which I needed to work, so I was able to take him everywhere with me. As a result, he became extremely social which made him a better trained service dog.
The day David and I turned him in, we went and watched the tail end of the Iron Man Triathlon because we figured they were the only people more miserable than we were! If we ever do it again, I think we’ll do a dog with hospice. Even though we knew giving him up was in both ours and his best interest (we spent the first month of the restaurant opening working eighteen hours a day without a day off), it was the most ridiculously hard thing I’ve ever done!!!
JM: Your family is full of creativity-your dad and you knit, your parents have a ceramics studio and bakery, your brother is a photographer (what else am I missing?)-was creativity something your parents fostered?
KT: My brother Tim is amazingly musically inclined, and my sister Becky who has a learning disability has moved socialization with people to a whole new level!
My parents made us take piano lessons from Kindergarten through our senior year in High School and I say “made” because I am not gifted in that realm in any way! Other than that, they just encouraged and loved us. More and more, I see that the family I thought “normal” growing up was and is anything but normal. My parents are together, they love us, they support us, they let us be us.
I hesitate to express how amazing it is to have a shelter to come back to during good and bad because there is no way to give it the credit it deserves without sounding goofy! When you see kids (and I see a lot of them in the restaurant, at church, in stores) you can tell those kids who don’t have to worry about the love of their family – whatever that family looks like. They are secure in the fact that they are loved and accepted. That was the world I grew up in. It wasn’t perfect…I can list my fair share of fights!!….but it was safe.
So….back to your question, did they foster creativity….not so much as they fostered us and creativity came out of that!
JM: Give us a list of some of your favorite restaurants and why you love them.
1 – El Pollo Supremo – Beef or Chicken? Flour or Corn? Those are your only options…great, inexpensive Mexican!
2 – Pizzeria Bianco – It’s our favorite because it affords us, as a couple, of at least 3 hours of uninterrupted “us” time. But….we always eat something first!
3 – Matt’s Big Breakfast – I hope my trainer doesn’t read this but I get the Hog + Chick with the ham steak, eggs scrambled on the side (and I give them to David) sourdough toast, hash browns and a waffle with bacon….but…I then don’t eat for the rest of the day. Mainly, because I can’t move.
4 – Houston’s/Chelsea’s Kitchen – in the vein of a little more costly, either of these two. Houston’s is the best chain/non-chain. They do a great job with everything and the service is impeccable! Chelsea’s Kitchen has the best Rib-eye Tacos I’ve ever had but I have a hard time justifying the price if I don’t split them!
5 – Café Wasabi – A little Japanese place on Southern and McClintock. It’s a nice place to get sushi at a reasonable price. You can get a salad and ten piece California Roll for $7 or $8.
JM: Is there an internet link you’d like to share?
KT: As a plug for how really great my parent’s pottery is….www.mtartspottery.com
I really recommend looking at the history behind the Blessing Jar!