An Interview With The Owner
Deb:Why did you let us interview you finally?
Don:I felt people that didn't know me would feel more trust when they knew there was a face behind the emails. Some won't deal with a store that is owned by a huge corporation or run by an automated machine. I've noticed with a lot of internet stores you're slammed with products from the first click. I prefer to be a little more personal.
Deb:Well I can see your real.
Why do you sell Native American art, and how did it start?
Don:First of all I would say Southwestern art. Mexican, Native American, Southwestern, and Santa Fe. Ever since my youth I loved the unique: antique stores, border towns, seaport shops; anywhere I could get an eye full of raw and natural art I was enamored. I had a fascination with painters, potters, and acoustic musicians. You know, someone that can take a single thought and transform it into a masterpiece. Nowadays they call it a lost art. May the day never come! Oh [back to the subject] living out West has a lot to do with what we sell. Go with what you know.
Deb: Do you have a good relationship with the Indians?
Don: Well, now you've gotten to me. The Europeans thought they were in India when they settled here. This is one of the biggest misnomers of all time. These people are truly Native Americans. They were here first. Out of respect, I refer to their tribal names. The Tarahumara in Mexico are still considered Indians; this is due to the influence of the Spanish language engulfing their culture; in Spanish, the word indigos means indigenous people. Sorry, that just gets to me. As for the question, I am proud to share these gifts with others. There are many diverse people that sell their [Native American] crafts for a living.
Deb: Sorry, I didn't mean anything by that.
Don: That's alright. I guess people don't understand unless they live here and are in my shoes. I just admire their gift of creativity and respect every person I deal with. The art wholesalers, as well, that I know have made this a very positive journey.
Deb: Why did you turn to the internet for sales?
Don: You would think it's because of the volume you can sell worldwide, right? First of all, you don't realize the workhorse it is. There are no vacations and get rich overnighters! It's all work. That's why I love it. I take photos sometimes at 3:00 A.M. I check out Ebay at 4:00 A.M. Sometimes I get an idea that wakes me up at midnight; whereby, I enter this site by my personal computer and change everything. I can work all the time and I love it. Do you remember when work was a privilege in this fine country? I have great help here, but I still enjoy doing everthing. Well, I still believe in old school values. And if I'm elected...[he laughs]
Deb: Why fromthisplanet.com,don't you own Trading post Southwest?
Don: Yes, I wanted a separation. I jumped up in bed one night and thought: raw art comes from products of the Earth and this is our planet or something like that. I'm sure we could get more traffic with another name, but once someone finds us it becomes a personal experience. They can write me anytime.
Deb: Did you once drive four hours and spend a day looking for a basket for a customer?
Don: I know this sounds crazy. We will sell out of something and it won't get off the net fast enough. I hate for this to happen and I take it to heart. I don't expect anyone else to solve this problem other than myself. That basket cost me fifty bucks and a days wages, still I never found it. We sell those baskets for tenty-five bucks and the other shops want to charge me fifty-five. They wouldn't budge when I told them I was in business. Figure that one out. Anyway, I sent her a refund and a long letter of apology. In fact, right now the Navajos are custom making a Kachina doll for a customer at my expense for the same reason. Don't worry, it's a rare circumstance.
Deb: You carry some reprodutions and imported baskets and rugs with all the fine originals, why?
Don: I carry what people ask for. You can pay thousands for an Apache basket or Navajo rug and I can get them. There are a lot of people that would rather buy a high quality, imported, hand-woven basket and use it for decorating than pay for an original and fear it getting stolen or damaged. It does make sense. Most will mix it up: fine wool rugs, an alabaster bronze, a few baskets, and an origial Zuni pot. We always are clear about defining what is what around here. If it is hand-coil and made in Casas Grandes, Mexico, it is explicitly stated. Folks, that's the law and I respect it.
Deb: That doll you were holding is getting to me. It looks so real.
Don: Well, it feels real too. The Navajos use porcelain faces and hands and fill the body with a type of pellet to make them have weight and conform to your hands. It's funny, I end up holding it like I would hold a real baby. It's like I fear for its life or something. Weird,I do recommend them, though they are to be passed down and treasured not treated like a toy. Hey, that reminds me, I saw dolls like these the other day in a well known chain store for $255.00! Come on, give me a break! Isn't theft still a crime?
Deb: Wow! What chain was that?
Don:Yeah right, Debbie, I want to get sued.
Deb: Well, where do you buy all your collectibles?
Don: Sorry, I can't tell you that.
Deb: [Laughing]It was worth a try. Ok, how about why don't you give an addresse or a phone number for the store?
Don: It's about security. If you had a collection like this, would you tell people where you keep it? I could have when I was growing up, but it's a different world today. It's all split up into different locations. I'll tell you that much. I feel responsible to guard it until I get it to my friends out there. As for a phone, we are on the road collecting constantly, mostly picking up requests. We use email and there's still not enough hours in the day.
Deb: Hey, that guitars a beauty! You used to be a musician didn't you?
Don: Yes, it's an original Laravee, one of the old ones. Now I just use it at Church. I guess that's why I work late at night because I was used to the long hours. You know there's another thing, now that you brought it up. I quit because people have lost the appreciation for a guy and a guitar; like, how It used to be when I did a love song by James Taylor, Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot, Bread, or America, and people felt it. Hey, I felt it! Now it's karaoke and DJ's. These can't touch the young and old like a true talent can. Hey, they have to work too, but I'm here to defend the real artists.
Deb: That's beautiful.
Deb: So, if you were going to give advise for someone starting a business, what would you tell them?
Don: My father always taught me to be honest, to treat people right, and to care for their needs--to always have strong values. The ame values that are taught in the Bible. A former boss and friend taught me that you can't sell out of an empty wagon. You need to stock the shelves and give people choices; Go for service not just the money. Work hard,love your products,love your people,and you will be blessed. NEVER GIVE UP!
Deb: Your values are so strong. I don't see that a lot.
Don: I can thank my teachers for that. May they be friends, parents, school teachers, artists or any other people that I must give credit to them all. I have much to be grateful for. You know this world and its values need to be restored. There are still people that love this country and they are people like me. We should all work for this goal. I still fly the American flag on the front page. Be proud of where you live.
Deb: That's very positive Don. I still have faith.
Don: Debbie, we don't have to pave paradise and put up a parking lot.*
*Based on a qoute by Joni Mitchell. Thank you for your gift Joni we love you.
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The Telechild Co.
Po Box 72
Lakeside, Arizona 85929
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