Teca Tu and a Boutique, Too
Quality products, local flavor and community service make the Santa Fe, N.M.-based retailer a must-see destination
By Lizett Bond
When Teca Tu was rescued from the streets of Tecolote, N.M., 16 years ago to become queen of her own boutique, the mixed breed had no way of knowing how many other dogs and cats in the same plight would find themselves in loving homes thanks to her namesake.
As Runner up for Retailer of the Year for Adoption, Teca Tu—A Pawsworthy Emporium and Deli has helped place hundreds of homeless canines and felines in forever homes.
Teca Tu has since passed on as store mascot but current owner Laurie Wilson’s Bernese Mountain Dog, Mowgli, has happily trotted into the role.
Wilson purchased the store six years ago and was welcomed with open arms by longtime employees and co-managers, Mira Lopez and Joanne Buchanan.
“As a customer, I’d always loved Teca Tu,” Wilson said. “I thought it was an awesome store, so when I heard it was for sale, I jumped in.
A big motivating factor for that leap was an ambition to give back to the community, and she has found her niche. Adoption days have become a key aspect of that desire to contribute. Featuring various shelters and rescues, these events take place every Saturday and Sunday throughout the year.
“It’s really nice to see dogs that don’t have anyone go from rags to riches,” she said. “The stories are just great.”
|Located in a tourist-attracting center in Santa Fe, Teca Tu uses the Southwestern décor theme to great and profitable effect.|
Many adoptive pet owners are also customers, so the store is visited by adoptees on a regular basis. The progress is visible.
“Dogs are so adaptable,” Wilson said. “We have seen some little dogs come in and they are scared and shy and not socialized, and a couple of months down the road they come in and are shopping like they own the place.”
In the beginning, Wilson started small, holding a few adoption days a month. As word spread, they eventually arrived at their present busy schedule.
The indoor mall location allows Teca Tu to hold adoption days year-round. Tourist traffic further benefits rescues and shelters in the form of monetary donations.
AT A GLANCE
Location: Santa Fe, N.M.
Owner: Laurie Wilson
Size: 1,400 sq ft
Employees: 3 co-managers
Years in Business: 16
Products and Services Offered: Dog and cat accessories and gifts; fresh-baked dog treats and cakes; custom “Vestido” vests and jackets; unique items from local craftspeople; adoption days; training services; yappy hours.
Stepping beyond these gatherings, Teca Tu also lends its hands to local shelters and their fundraising efforts. The Santa Fe Animal Shelter holds an annual “Barking Ball,” and the boutique provides canine party favors for pets in attendance. The soireé benefits the shelter and serves as a get together for humans and their adopted pets. Held in a local hotel ballroom, dogs dress up for the fete.
A much-anticipated shelter function is “Look What the Cat Dragged In.” The fashion show will feature shelter dogs prowling the catwalk as they show off their chic Teca Tu “Vestido” vests among the fashions being presented.
At the store’s inception in 1995, the previous owner began creating these custom vests and coats, sewing them in her home. Today, Wilson continues the tradition, offering custom canine attire made from Pendleton blanket materials.
The custom “Vestidos” are extremely popular, with a wide range of sizes. Special orders are welcomed.
“The Vestidos are one of our best items,” Wilson said. “They are so unique, so “Santa Fe,” and they continue to be sewn here in town.”
Often, shoppers visiting from out of town will see the vests, go home to measure their pets and order by phone.
Tourists comprise approximately 50 percent of the Teca Tu trade and much of Wilson’s advertising efforts are aimed at these potential customers. Advertising placed in several tourist publications, including those found in hotel rooms, prove very effective in reaching this consumer base. Their most successful marketing technique, however, is through display windows at local hotels. Set up like a tiny store front, boutique items are presented in this unique way.
|Adoption clinics are a big part of Teca Tu’s success, as its ROTY award attests.|
“People are constantly saying ‘Oh, we saw your window at the hotel,’” Wilson said. “They are our best form of advertising.”
Reaching out to Santa Fe residents, the area newspaper features a “Scoop” section with articles and advertising. Wilson places ads and a monthly adoption schedule in this segment and finds this local effort to be valuable as well.
Wilson said word of mouth and regular advertising combined with their adoption days all play a role in Teca Tu’s success. Adoption days also prove beneficial to other merchants in the mall as people attending these events often browse through their stores.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” she said.
Always on the lookout for community-oriented opportunities, Teca Tu also holds “Pawsworthy Pub” happenings, which are also popular. This summer a Pub event will be held in conjunction with the local farmer’s market. Visitors will enjoy a “Chef’s Tasting” at the market, while Teca Tu will offer beer tasting, featuring suds from The Santa Fe Brewing Company for adults, with Bowsers doggy beer for canine participants.
All these activities find this busy boutique bursting at the seams with merchandise and goings-on. Expansion plans are in the works for 2011.
|Fresh-baked fare from local vendors are an added enticement for customers.|
Using an office space located behind the store will add a street entrance and an outdoor deck area street side. This will be the site for more Pawsworthy Pub-themed activities and workshops.
Customers often request merchandise specific to the breed they own, and the expansion will also feature a designated “Breed Room” with those particular items available.
“We have almost outgrown our current space, and at Christmas we are just so chock full of goodies it gets a little hard to move around,” said Mira Lopez, co-manager. “We will really be able to use the expansion to show off more cool products.”
Currently housed in 1,400 square feet, the store is set up like an old time emporium with lots of pine décor. Product includes toys, collars and leashes, coats and sweaters, bedding and health care products. Human boutique items include T-shirts and sweatshirts.
A deli section showcases fresh-baked delicacies created by local bakers. These goodies, made with human-grade ingredients and natural sweeteners, are displayed in a bakery-style case. Petit Fours come in a variety of shapes and Teca Tu’s own “Boneitos” bone-shaped treats are available in cheddar, peanut butter and chicken flavors. Custom party cakes can be ordered and generic party cakes are also available along with pre-packaged treats.
While pet foods are not part of the mix at present, they will be included with the expansion.
|From left to right: Laurie Wilson, Joanne Buchanan and Mira Lopez.|
Another unique facet is the wares created by local New Mexico artists. Merchandise includes hand-painted ceramic bowls and treat jars, toys, charms and collars and leashes adorned with turquoise and silver.
“There are so many great artists in New Mexico, and it sort of sets us apart, as there are things you won’t find anywhere else; they are unique to our area and handcrafted and that is what makes them so special,” Lopez said.
Customer service is stressed, and with two staff members, both of whom are co-managers and long-time employees, most training involves staying fresh and current with merchandise and trends. Both Lopez and Buchanan are involved in ordering, displays, merchandising and advertising.
“We make sure we know our products, keep up on what’s new, the best features and in that way we are giving the information customers need to know,” Lopez said. “That’s our biggest training focus right now.”
Other services include in-house training with classes held in the common area outside the store. Private training is also available. Experts are often brought in to hold workshops for customer education on a variety of subjects.
|Teca Tu’s other service offerings include in-house training with classes held in the common area outside the store.|
“Right now we are planning a photography workshop to help customers take photos of their pets,” Wilson said.
With such a large part of their customer base comprised of out of town visitors, Teca Tu is truly a tourist destination. Locals stop in often as well to shop, attend adoption days and for help with special orders.
“We try to go the extra mile for our customers” Wilson said. “If they are unable to find a product we can help them and place a special order for them.
“We like to give to people as well as animals and often donate items for charity auctions and fundraisers for local schools, we try to give to everybody,” she added.
“Every year we look for new ways to make it fun for people to get involved. It’s a matter of finding events that also benefit the less fortunate and we are always looking for new things to do,” she continued.
Little Teca Tu would be so proud. <HOME>
This article first appeared in the June 2010 issue of Pet Product News International. Click here to become a subscriber.
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