For Katie Thomas, just about everything she’s done in Taos has required a leap of faith. And, so far, taking those chances has paid off.
Thomas took a chance and made the move from Albuquerque to Taos in 2007 to take a human resources management position. When that job disappeared in 2009, she decided to stick around and see what she could do to make a living in her adopted hometown.
Import Outlet, a rug and home décor shop on Paseo del Pueblo Norte, came up for sale, and Thomas made the plunge into retail: “I took a chance and then tried to learn everything I could about owning a retail business,” she said.
She changed the name to Moxie and in 2012, moved into a larger space in Yucca Plaza. Then, in 2015, Thomas dove into the landowner business when she bought all 13,000 square feet of commercial space in Yucca Plaza.
“I had never owned commercial space before,” Thomas said. “But I saw a bunch of locally owned shops with an out-of-town landlord. I thought there was an opportunity to better represent the group and make some much needed improvements as a local landowner right on site.”
Right away, she put money into the building, which needed some TLC. That meant a new roof, rebuilt outside stairs, new evaporative coolers, revamped restrooms and bright turquoise trim. Nine stores remained from the previous ownership:
Green Beauty, a non-toxic hair salon;
Qigong Academy; tai-chi instruction,
Polished Nail Salon;
Tierra Title Co.;
Aspen Business Systems;
ENIPC, a federally funded counseling agency;
She filled out the rest of the 12-store space with the Wild Leaven Bakery, Head’s Up Music and Taos Floral Design. And she has not finished refurbishing. Long-term plans include paving the parking lot and installing solar panels.
“Because the landowner is located in Yucca Plaza, we’ve created a family atmosphere,” said Thomas, who expanded Moxie into a total of 2,000 square feet. “Tenants can walk right over and speak with me. We held an open house for all the stores in December, and found out that our tai-chi expert also does an impressive Santa Claus. We plan to do more events this summer that include all the businesses.”
Moxie: Fair Trade and Handmade
The Fair Trade Movement contends that everyone in the retail chain — producers, retailers and customers — can all benefit when a fair wage is paid to the people who hand-make the products that are imported by American retail stores.
And right from the start, Moxie has been a Fair Trade store — practicing social values often disregarded in conventional business that build equitable, long-term partnerships between consumers in North America and producers in developing regions.
“We purchase products from people in poverty who, otherwise, don’t have an alternative means to support themselves,” Thomas said. “They suffer in poor working conditions and oppressions like child labor. But when they sell the work that they produce themselves and receive a fair wage, their quality of life improves. That’s what I realized I wanted to do when I got into retail,” she said.
Worker exploitation exists all over the globe, so Moxie sells products from far and near. Most of Moxie vendors go through a vetting process from the Fair Trade Federation to assure that their products are made in safe working conditions and they have been paid a fair wage.
Handwoven and handcrafted clothing, accessories, home décor, blankets, jewelry, textiles and more come from Nepal, India, Ghana, Peru — to name just a few origins.
Closer to home, Thomas buys U.S. products from locales, like T-shirts from New Hampshire and wooden baskets from Maine. Taos artisans also get space at Moxie, with products from New Mexico prominent. And, Thomas always keeps her eye open for emerging artisans who need to receive a fair price for their hard work.
Recently, Thomas opened up Moxie for Men, a section of the shop dedicated to male clothing. Pants, hemp belts, wallets from recycled rubber, colorful shirts from Bali — these are among the one-of-a-kind items that appeal to today’s man, she said. And they are priced in line with the Fair Trade philosophy of helping everyone along the retail chain.
“While we do a great tourist-based business, our main customer base is local,” said Thomas, noting that Taos was the first Fair Trade town west of the Mississippi River. “We try to maintain a reasonable price point on our items and have created a strong repeat business from our Taos locals. We also thank our locals for shopping with us by providing a frequent shopper program.”
Among other things, “moxie” means facing the unknown with courage and spirit — and Moxie in Taos embraces that sense of adventure with every product in the store.
Moxie: Fair Trade & Handmade
216 Paseo del Pueblo Norte
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