Posted by Leslie Garcia on September 25, 2015
Who Am I?
I would like to introduce myself. My name is Leslie Garcia, owner operator of mesaverdesouthwest.com. I was born and raised in Gallup, New Mexico, USA. I have worked in this industry for almost four decades. My parents started this business as Native American Jewelry wholesalers in the 1970s. During one of their selling trips, they were asked by Sears to move into their local stores in Tucson. So, in 1997 we moved to Tucson, Arizona where we got our start in local department stores and set up concessions inside JCPenney, Sears and Robinson May and eventually into mall stores. My parents continued their ties to Gallup, the foundation of our business. There, they opened a store front on East Highway 66 called Nizhoni Traders. They employed various silversmiths and bought jewelry from independent silversmiths from that location. This enabled them to control costs and at the same time create unique jewelry that none of the competitors carried.
By the time I got married in the early 1980's, it became a bit overwhelming for my family as we had over 30 concession locations, mall stores, and a group of courtyard shops in Old Town San Diego. So my husband and I managed several retail locations for my parents. In 1995, we purchased a portion of my parents business so it was more manageable for them to handle on their own.
In 1997 we divorced and I bought my ex-husband’s portion of the business. In 1999, I made a life changing decision regarding my business. During that time I had full custody of three school aged children. I never expected to deal with ruthless competition as well as unscrupulous landlords. After much convincing from a representative from General Growth Properties (GGP, now bankrupt), I opened a beautiful store in Sierra Vista Arizona, one of the biggest learning experiences of my life. Long story short, I had what I thought was an iron clad lease that protected my brand from competition. However, the mall and a local shop owner colluded to create a clone of my business. I had no choice but to sue the landlord and after three grueling years, and several appeals, I won the lawsuit. I wish I could advise entrepreneurs on how to review a commercial retail store lease. Without revisions, they are land mines that do not protect the business owner. This experience changed me as a businesswoman -- for the better. Looking back I don’t know how I juggled it all! But, I’m certain that the love of my work carried me through. The fact that I get to make a living doing something that I enjoy is what got me and the children through the solo parenting years and the tumultuous years in brick and mortar retail.
In the mid 2000’s, something was in the air. Things were changing in my industry. Mall traffic and sales numbers were declining due in large part to the popularity of eCommerce. I knew that I had to make some big changes if I wanted to continue to thrive.
So, after 17 years, in February of 2015, I made the decision to close my brick and mortar store in a local mall. I closed my retail location in Tucson to become a fully eCommerce business. I have been selling online since 2007 so knew what to expect. So far the ride has been exciting and am enjoying devoting all of my time to this segment of my business.
What Do I Do?
I'm in the business of selling unique custom made, signature Southwest jewelry, and authentic Native American Jewelry that even the most selective and budget minded customer will love! My parents have since retired but because they bought so much jewelry in the 1970's, I am able specialize in hard to find and never worn vintage pieces!
Why Should You Choose My Store?
I'm a straight-forward person who believes above all else, that honesty is the best policy. So what you see is what you get. I've seen too many members of the competition describe their products as genuine Zuni or Navajo when they are actually imported from China or the Philippines. Don't get me wrong. I love the artwork of the talented craftsmen from the Philippines, but I don't believe in smoke screens and un-truths when dealing with your customers.
I also have a strong kinship with the makers, as I grew up in Gallup with and among many of them. Long story short, a few years ago I donated a kidney to the daughter of a Navajo Silversmith who has been a loyal business associate and family friend for decades. I had to think long and hard before I mentioned the kidney donation here in this introduction. I only want to convey my concern and compassion for my comrades and hope you have some insight.
There are two main characteristics that top my list of importance in running my business. Integrity is a virtue that I hold dear, and hopefully I have conveyed this to you so far. That being said, approachability is very important to me. I feel that too many companies are stiff and rigid and lack that personal touch. Many small business owners hide behind a toll free phone number and hire robotic clerks. Rarely do you get to know the story behind the business... Most owners don’t share their personal cell phone on their website, but I do. So when you call my number, rest assured that it's going to be me you'll be talking to. If you send me a message or write a Facebook post about how much you love my jewelry, you can be sure that I've seen it with my own eyes and will respond personally. In fact, customer involvement and feedback is how I make some big decisions for the future of my business. This is how I keep may finger on the pulse of what’s important.
So you can rest assured that when you give me your business, you're helping to support USA artists and now an empty nester who actively runs her business.
One last word, I encourage more engagement from my customers. So if you will please send me a picture and a message on Facebook, I'd very much appreciate it. My followers love seeing jewelry modeled by my customers!
You may reach me via email, Facebook, phone, or text.
President, Mesa Verde Traders, Inc.