Let's take a brief
detour from the framework of this manual to clear your mind from the facts, figures and structure of setting up a business. There is an attitude, a lifestyle and a love for life that underlies all that you are going to
undertake in the course of your business adventure. Allow your mind to drift through the following scenarios; then, at the bottom, add your own mental images of what you think best expresses "Southwest".
... Indian dancers in ceremonial costumes chanting to the rhythm of a primitive drum beat
... A young Navajo girl tending her flock of sheep
... Stagecoaches and Pony Express riders kicking up
clouds of dust as they rumble through Monument Valley
... Cactus and sagebrush beneath the scorching desert sun
... A flickering campfire beneath a midnight sky emblazoned with stars.
... Crystal clear springs bubbling out of rock ledges
... Boots and bandannas, cowboys and cornbread
... Miners and mountain men crusty and crude
... Loud Mariachi music dominating a colorful Mexican Fiesta
... Adobe houses adorned with strings of red chile peppers
... Spicy foods and Indian bread fresh from an outdoor oven
... Cochise Pancho Villa, John Wayne and Barry Goldwater
... Indians, Mexicans, Cowboys and merchants
I hope you added some thoughts of your own because there is room for a wide variation of opinions. In fact, what makes 'Southwest" so exciting is that it defies
a concise definition.
It goes far beyond geographic limitations
It escapes the boundaries of ethnicity
It changes in time like colors of a sunset
It has an open-minded "no fences" mentality
Beware of narrow-minded people who put strict definitions on who or what is Indian, or what is an Indian product. If you listen to too many "purists"
your scope will be so belittled and contorted that you will think the only authentic Indian artifacts are pot shards from the 10th and 11th centuries. While this may be of great interest to archaeologists and
anthropologists, the truth is that the stuff just isn't marketable. We can direct you toward extracting the best from many eras and how to market their adaptations.
The richness of Southwestern culture grew and
blossomed from the interaction of various peoples through the centuries.
Bands of Indians traveled and traded with each other
Indians traded with French trappers
Spanish Conquistadors arrived with horses and the Catholic religion
European settlers brought techniques of advanced agriculture and literacy
Cowboys emerged as a rare breed of people
Indians began trading with all the newcomers, a merchant class evolved.
Four major groups of people that played a significant role in the development of the New World west of the Mississippi include Cowboys, Indians,
Mexican, and Merchants.
Merchants? How did they play such a big part in the history of the Southwest? Think about it.
Who outfitted the Cowboys and gold miners?
Who sold silver to the jewelry makers?
Who provided designs to rug weavers?
Who distributed Indian arts back east?
This "merchandising" was carried on in general stores all over the frontier and in remote trading posts on reservations. As
Indians, Mexicans and the newcomers learned to trade with each other, the craft industry flourished. Simple utilitarian items such as blankets, baskets and clay water vessels developed into high art. Merchants and
traders had a huge impact in the production of Southwest arts because they were able to bridge the gap between producers and consumers.
For example, Navajo rugs were not marketable until J. B. Moore and Lorenzo
Hubbell furnished the weavers with designs to copy. Oriental patterns were favored by the folks back East, so the Indians adapted to a combination of their own ideas mixed with classic Persian and Turkish designs.
Merchants, through time, have influenced the development of and sometimes "reinvented" the items that we acknowledge today as Southwest Indian Arts and Crafts. The merchant is eternally the link between the
artisan and the public. It is the adaptability of crafts people that keeps Southwest merchandise from going out of style.
Your personal interpretation of "Southwest" will create a unique personality for your
store or trading post. The business will be an extension of yourself. You have, perhaps for the first time in your life, freedom of expression and artistic license to control the environment in which you make a living.
The more you develop your instincts and talents, the greater your income will be.
Choosing the right business can be as important as marrying the right partner.
Each is a decision you hope will be a lifelong
success. Choosing the Southwest theme is a sound business decision for many reasons. But let's first examine why you are attracted to it:
- Have purchased Southwest jewelry, baskets, pottery, rugs, etc., and enjoy them
- Have traveled to the Western U.S. and were awed by the beauty
- Have a hunch that a Southwest store is a moneymaking investment
- Have deep appreciation for the work that goes into handmade art
- Have appreciation for the way cultures are blended in the Southwest
- Love the warmth of a serape and the coolness of adobe
- See economic opportunity in the marketing of Southwest arts
-Want a business that allows travel and adventure
- Want to be an influence in the shaping and adapting of Southwest art for the future
- Feel comfortable and energized when surrounded by beautiful Southwest
-Feel confident your love for merchandise can translate into $$$ in your cash register
What are the advantages of choosing a Southwest theme for your store?
1. It is a specialized niche that chain stores don't compete with.
2. The merchandise is a "culture" not a fad, and does not go out of style.
3. There are reputable vendors such as