EL PASO/SUNLAND PARK — From fresh local produce and artisan foods to hand-woven baskets and natural soaps, Ardovino’s Desert Crossing in Sunland Park, New Mexico is one popular local spot to get a taste of El Paso and New Mexico specialties.
Julia Cipriano, owner of Of The Earth Beads & Jewelry, greets potential customers with a genuine smile at her booth. She tells shoppers that she can adjust any piece of handmade jewelry to their liking. She calls it negotiation.
“Once I make something, even if I make a duplicate, it’s not an exact duplicate,” said Cipriano, who has been beading bracelets, earrings and necklaces since childhood. “When you buy something from me, you know you’re not going to see (the same piece of jewelry) on the street.”
Earrings hang from a black felt rack on Cipriano’s table. They reflect the jewelry tastes of Hispanic culture. Little calaveras, Mexican-styled skulls, and turquoise beads with silver crosses sparkle in the Southwest sunlight. Every piece of jewelry is handcrafted in Cipriano’s West El Paso home.
“In my bedroom I have a workspace where I can see out my window,” she said. “The view is really great.”
As the holiday season approached, El Pasoans – like the millions of other Americans – hit the malls, shopping centers and online websites to find the best bargains for people on their gift list.
But local artists and vendors say there seems to be something more touching and personal when a shopper buys an item that is unique to the place where one lives. A locally-produced gift can elicit a stronger sense of home and community while supporting small businesses.
Gabriel Acuña, co-founder and owner of OSAPLE, a company that promotes El Paso branded products and an internet radio program, says the area has a lot of unique gifts to offer holiday shoppers that often get overlooked.
“The famous tagline most people hear is that there’s nothing to do in El Paso,” said Acuña. “I think it’s a mentality that you find common because it comes from people who were born, raised and have lived here their whole lives.”
Acuña says that El Paso has unique economic potential because it draws customers from nearby Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and Las Cruces, New Mexico. Residents of the Mexican state of Chihuahua account for approximately 15 to 20 percent in local sales, said Acuna.
“We’re not just El Paso; we’re different cities and we’re a huge community,” he said. “We’re not just 800,000 people; we’re a city of two million people in two different states and two different countries.”
Thomas Fullerton, a professor of economics and finance at the University of Texas at El Paso, says that shoppers from the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez-Las Cruces hub prefer to spend their dollars locally rather than to do their shopping in Albuquerque, Phoenix, San Antonio or Dallas.
“El Paso experiences very large retail surpluses every year because it draws so many more customers from Alamogordo, Carlsbad, Las Cruces, Cuidad Juarez and Chihuahua City,” said Fullerton.
A business that has placed El Paso on the literary map nationally is the publishing house, Cinco Puntos Press, on 701 Texas Ave. Owned and operated by El Pasoans Bobby and Lee Byrd, CInco Puntos publishes many books for children and adults that reflect the border region’s unique Hispanic and bilingual flavor.
The passion and love for books and publishing began inside the Byrd’s Central home three decades ago. Then, in 2001, they relocated the business to its current location near downtown El Paso. Since 1985, Cinco Puntos Press has published 130 books and has featured award winning authors such as Joe Hayes and Benjamin Alire Saenz.
“The word local is a dismissive term,” said Byrd. “We sell our books all over, you’ll find them in Minneapolis, in Seattle, New York and all over California. We publish books that no one else would publish and we’ve done quite well.”
Cinco Puntos caters to different audiences including adults, young adults and children. It publishes different genres such as fiction, non-fiction and poetry. In addition, the press is known for its bilingual children’s books. Among them are: La Llorona by Joe Hayes, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero and Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club by Benjamin Alire Saenz.
“When we first started selling books we would sell them along the border and through California because people knew the value of them,” said Byrd. “To people who have spread out (to regions outside the Southwest) our books began to speak to other people of those communities.”
In El Paso, going local means items that span the gamut from handmade jewelry made in someone’s bedroom, to cowboy boots displayed on the window of a downtown shop and books by writers and poets who reflect the Hispanic experience.
Shopping for something unique to the El Paso metroplex has the added benefit of keeping money in the region and supporting the local economy.
“For every person that buys from me, that money goes to buy more beads, to put food on the table to feed myself and my daughter, to put gas in my car, so it helps support me,” said Cipriano. On a personal level, she says, “I would want to support someone for what I know they’re going to use it for.”
For more information on shopping local in the El Paso area visit http://visitelpaso.com/visitors/to_do/4-shopping/sections