Unicorn School Supply & Stationery owner Pam Bland opened her shop in the spring of 1984. She has served multiple generations of Northern New Mexico and southern Colorado customers and watched them grow up. First buying their school and art supplies from her store as children and later coming into her store with their own families.
“I have customers come in and say they remember buying a sticker from me for 45 cents,” Pam recalls. “Years later they are bringing their own family in. They can still buy the same stickers, and the place still smells the same as they remember.”
Taos is home for Pam. She said growing up in the ‘70s “was wonderful. We rode our bikes everywhere. Our parents knew where we were because we knew everyone and everyone knew us.
“I started working in my family business, Randall Lumber, when I was 10 years old. Dusting shelves and taking inventory for 9 cents an hour. Through high school I worked for both of my uncles, John and Merlin, and my dad Charles. In high school Frank Concha taught me how to receive merchandise and price items. I’ve always liked that part of the business.”
Pam became interested in becoming a business owner for school supplies after starting a professional career as a teacher. She has a bachelor of arts in elementary education from Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado. After graduation, she worked at Taos Day school. She said she “loved the kids, and the staff was wonderful.”
It was during her first teaching job she realized she could merge her experience as a teacher with her real passion: Business.
Pam comes from a long line of business owners in Taos. Her grandfather is Elisha Randall who started Randall Lumber Company in 1921. Her father, Charles Randall, is also in the family business. Her husband, Britt, works at Randalls as the contract sales manager.
She realized her business calling could benefit the community by supplying teachers and students with the tools they need to do their job. She approached her family, who embraced the idea. After two years of intensive research, planning and locating merchandise, her parents helped her get a small business loan. “They were behind me from the start.”
She chose the name Unicorn because she “wanted something more fun and open-ended than Taos School Supply, and it may appeal to a wider range of people.”
She started small with her first place, “my stock was tiny, a few workbooks and class decorations, a few stickers, a display of pens and two small racks of greeting cards.” She expanded after two years and moved to a larger space and expanded her inventory, and 15 years later moved to the building she occupies now.
Unicorn’s inventory grew from school and art supplies to include a sizable greeting card center. Pam carries over 500 different cards. Some are handmade by local artists Jonathan Warm Day, photographer Kim Triber and others. She carries blank card sets with Southwest art themes, and there is a card for every occasion in her store.
She said people in town know Unicorn is the place to go for school supplies. Besides greeting cards, most people don’t know that she also carries puzzles appropriate for preschoolers to adults. On her shelves you’ll find simple shape and number puzzles for kids and more complicated 1000-piece puzzles, like Monet’s iconic “Water Lilies,” among others.
Because Pam knows the business from the teacher, student and artist’s vantage pointd, she can keep her shelves stocked and can special order with planning. She loves to find new and creative items to sell, “Shopping is one perk of the job.”
Pam said the community rallied around Unicorn during the pandemic at Thanksgiving and Christmas. She said she doesn’t know if she would have been able to stay afloat without the support. What she enjoys most about owning the business is the customers. She thinks about retiring some days more than others, but said she still enjoys going to work everyday because of her loyal customers.