Brick and mortar, mom and pop. Taos Plaza shops and galleries have faced economic challenges, an aggressive online marketplace and now a pandemic. Any of these events could cause a business to go under, let alone all of these. It takes special grit and fortitude to be still standing.
The experience of buying something from a real person, in real-time, sometimes the person who curated the items in the store or even made them is an exchange as old as time. Seeing and conversing with who you are doing business with creates a bond that goes beyond the purchase. It builds community. It creates goodwill, trust, accountability and a relationship that can last a lifetime. Gifting someone something you searched for in person, is special. There is nothing more satisfying than finding that one of a kind, wrapping it and giving it away.
The shops and galleries in Taos specialize in items and services which are one of a kind. All are well-versed in what they sell, and maintain offerings and goods sure to please the most finicky shopper. Years of catering to visitors from all over the globe, they know what people are looking for. The Taos Historical Plaza is the corazón, the heart and soul of Taos for over 300 years. It is a destination like no other.
Tempo asked shops and galleries on the Plaza and the nearby streets one question for this article: "Why are you still standing?"
The responses we received all had one theme in common: the importance of people in their lives, and support of family, friends and their repeat customers. Here are some edited responses.
Artwares Contemporary Jewelry
129 North Plaza; (575) 758-8850
Artwares Contemporary Jewelry is still up and operating in the same physical place after 45 years. It is a fine jewelry store that helps create special memories and provides a customer service experience based on trust and integrity. One of owner Ranee Malanga's favorite quotes is, "'Life is a stage, it's done with smoke and mirrors and be careful how you reflect.' My shop is a destination point, not a click-on e-commerce, we're not a big box, we are a specialty shop offering the highest quality customer service and jewelry found anywhere in the world because we are trusted to deliver quality service from the point of sale and beyond."
Studio 107 B
107b North Plaza; (575) 779-7832
Artist and owner Maye Torres says Studio 107B is still standing, she said, "because the other option is to fall and falling is not an option anymore. Northern New Mexicans have a specific gene for survival: some call it love, some call it faith. Others call it sacrifice. The ability to adapt, improvise and create are essential to our survival. We continue to stand because of our families and friends, animals and trees, mountains and gorges, and because the Great Spirit asks us to. May we find our strength, to carry on with grace and wisdom. Amen."
107 North Plaza; (575) 758-3455
Mesa's Edge specializes in Southwestern and Native American jewelry and art. Louise Pasaka opened her first shop in 1989 at the Taos Ski Valley. She had just returned from working as a nurse on the Navajo Reservation and formed close relationships with many artists from the Navajo and Pueblo reservations and still maintains those relationships. Pasaka said, "We are surviving thanks to our wonderful customers and very adaptable and loyal employees who have bent over backwards to give great customer service through phone orders and onsite sales while following COVID guidelines."
Taos Mountain Outfitters
113 North Plaza; (575) 758-9292
Taos Mountain Outfitters motto is: "A good day outdoors begins with preparation and knowledge. Come in and see us to get what you need to explore our beautiful backyard!" Owner Bill Gaydosh said, "At Taos Mountain Outfitters we're still standing because of incredible customers both local and abroad. That's what has kept us afloat."
Maison Faurie Antiquities
1 McCarthy Plaza; (575) 758-8545
Robert Faurie is in his 80s. He opened his antique shop on the Plaza in 1982. He said his secret to success is he created a unique shopping experience that attracted people from all over the world. In short, he became a Taos Plaza destination with clients flying into Santa Fe and making the drive to Taos to see what new items he had in his shop. After many years in the business he is transitioning his shop to a new owner. Everything Faurie built over the last 40 years remains the same. Faurie's sage wisdom and the secret to his longevity in this life and as a Taos Plaza business owner is "tenacity, a keen eye for the unusual in the world of antiques, and a sense of humor."
"My clients visit me just to see what I have in the shop at the moment, not always and only to buy, but also for our relationship," he added. "Bonds forged over the years in the business. I've been in Taos 40 years, had three children and survived the ebb and flow of a recession and this pandemic. It is the relationships, the joy of discovery on my shopping excursions and a happy client who finds (with me) that one-of-a-kind item. My advice to Taos business owners is to focus on making the experience of walking into your shop a memorable one. We are all still standing. C'est la vie!"
Taos Mountain Candles
102 West Plaza; (575) 737-0463
Any candle you can imagine is on a shelf at Taos Mountain Candles. You'll always find a candle burning, and everything from red chile pepper candles, to Southwest petroglyphs to classic high desert candles. Cindy Maestas and her crew have continued to create for Taos visitors and the community. Maestas said, "I have to attribute my success to my employees who come to work and will work doing whatever it takes to keep our business running. Whether it's making candles or helping guests in our retail store. Candles are the mainstay of my business, we've been making them in Taos for almost 40 years! People enjoy burning candles around Christmas time. I am thankful for the folks in town who are remembering to shop local. I give a 15 percent discount just for saying 'I am local.' We fill my store with many treasures, such as fashion jewelry, silver jewelry, clothing, gifts and much more! In these unprecedented times, paying close attention to detail is a must. Like lowering bills, combining forces for the good of the business, staying positive and never giving up."
Jackies Trading Post
Bill and Joy Slay
129 B North Plaza; (575) 758-4828
Jackies Trading Post features treasures of the Southwest, pottery, jewelry and paintings. The Slays are still standing because of their determination to keep the business operable during the pandemic to continue the family's legacy of almost 45 years in business in Taos. Bill Slay's mother began this special store in the mid-1970s and was later joined by his brother. Both have passed on now, and Bill Slay inherited the business from them. Although never intending to stay in Taos after his brother's death, circumstances kept him here. He grew up in Albuquerque and his grandmother introduced him to the beauty of Northern New Mexico with weekend fishing trips up north. It was an experience that stayed with him always.
Slay said, "We are still standing because of the kindness and concern of locals who knew my family and were always here wanting to support my business. I have had people come into my shop and reminisce about my mother and how much they enjoyed her company. She always did her best to accommodate her friends and customers alike because they are the same. We can continue because of the availability of financial help at both a local and federal level. Without those opportunities to apply for loans and grants, I don't think I could have held out for the duration of this calamity we are now experiencing. We are still standing because of what few creditors I have. They are understanding and patient by extending my financial obligations even though they themselves, being small wholesalers, are in a similar situation. They have expressed a sincere concern for my health and well-being by calling and wishing me well.
"There are many reasons Jackies Trading Post has not shut its doors," he said "and of course that could still be a possibility depending on how long this pandemic creates hardships for so many. My wife Joy and I are grateful to the people of Taos who have stood by us, lending us strength with their support through these years and especially in the year of 2020. We hope to still be standing throughout next year and beyond as times will improve for all. Thank you for the opportunity to express my thoughts and gratitude."