Ten sterling silver turtles, each measuring 7/8-inch X 5/8-inch, march in a row, one behind the other. When the lead turtle circles around to meet the turtle in the caboose position, they form a dainty bracelet that was purchased at Many Horses Trading Co. in Sonoita, Ariz.
Owner Ann Byron opened her retail store 10 years ago in the tiny Arizona town way down at the bottom of the Grand Canyon state. Sonoita sits about an hour south of Tucson between the towns of Sierra Vista and Nogales, Ariz. Drive just slightly south of Nogales, and you´ll find yourself in Sonora, Mexico.
The Native American jewelry sold by Byron and her daughter, Erin Bigford, is made by artisans from tribes in Arizona and New Mexico — Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Santo Domingo and Cochiti. The turtle bracelet is the handiwork of a Navajo craftsman.
Of the necklaces, bracelets, earrings, pins and belt buckles she sells, Byron says the perennial best sellers are bracelets and earrings. Besides the jewelry, she also sells Zuni fetish carvings — small stone sculptures of animals — and Native American flutes.
Byron decorates the walls of Many Horses Trading Co. with Getzwiller Navajo rugs, which sell on consignment. Steve Getzwiller, well known in the Navajo rug business, works with the Navajo women who weave the rugs.
Byron does some advertising in the local newspaper, but concedes that business at Many Horses Trading Co. is "mainly a walk-in thing. Sonoita is a place that people pass through. We´re one of the few retail stores here, and we do have a restaurant next door, and that´s our big draw. Our business is usually winter because the snow birds are here. It´s slow in the summertime."
Many Horses Trading Co. was Byron´s first venture into retailing, and she says she learned the business with help from her accountant. Her advice for a retailer just starting out: "It helps to know what you´re selling." As a jewelry collector, Byron did.
Oh, and about the name of her store, Byron explains: "I own horses, and I like horses very much." Enough said.
Coming up in Retail Strategies: Lessons from a gift card expert