Aztec considers ways to support small business
FARMINGTON — Some entrepreneurs might start up a new business by spending months working out a business plan and consulting with established business leaders for ideas on how to execute a strategy for success. Others might lean more toward fashioning a prototype with plans to launch the next big thing. Still others might aim to secure a business loan first and go from there.
Twenty-seven-year-old Shelly Nunn said she tends to start her businesses after an epiphany. Soon after the idea comes to her in a flash, she sees it through, without much delay or fuss. On Dec. 12, Nunn did just that, opening a new furniture store, Abode Furnishings Gallery, on Aztec Boulevard across the road from the San Juan County Government Complex.
"This is idea is literally six weeks old," Nunn said. "It happened really fast."
Teri Bailey — Aztec Chamber of Commerce board president, manager of the town's Microtel Inn and Suites and a single parent — said she admires Nunn's pluck and finds her endeavor to be an encouraging sign that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Aztec.
"Being a parent or a single parent working, there's a lot of hurdles and obstacles, so at the end of the day you're the only one who's going to make it happen," Bailey said. "You have to put yourself out there. I'm so glad (Nunn's store is) opening. I'm looking forward to going to Abode and checking it out. It's really exciting."
In an effort to help that progress, the city is expected to launch a business incubator or resource center next year. This month, city commissioners approved a new lease-purchase agreement for the incubator, which will assist entrepreneurs like Nunn toward a successful storefront or business expansion. The incubator project is a collaboration between the city, the chamber and the Enterprise Center at San Juan College.
City Manager Josh Ray said that small businesses like Nunn's are helping build the city's retail district.
"We are excited to see a local person open a business (here)," Ray said. "I think that mom and pop stores are the future of our downtown district ... that's the way small towns grow."
Nunn said working with the city to establish her furniture store was a lot easier than she anticipated. A number of resources are also available online at the city's website — aztecnm.gov — including a guide for new business owners that offers lists of questions to consider before opening day, how to obtain a business license and how to connect with a business mentor.
The idea to get into the rustic furniture business struck her during a Halloween visit to see another sister in Ardmore, Okla. Dunn dropped into a furniture store there and walked out convinced she would open one herself in her hometown of Aztec.
"We went into a furniture shop there and when I left the store I thought something like that should go well here," Nunn said. "I came home and a month later we're in business."
The mother of three children under eight admits another reason prompted the new entrepreneurial adventure.
"Boredom prompts this," she said, laughing. "I needed something else to do."
Four years ago, Nunn launched a company that maintains foreclosed properties after she spoke with a friend about the issue. That business was up and running with equal speed, she said.
All her store's home furnishings — from bedroom and dining sets to coffee and end tables — come from a wholesaler in Dallas who makes furniture made with white pine from Argentina, Nunn said.
With her eye now on rustic furniture, Nunn said her new business has already found a niche popular with holiday shoppers.
Customers have made her store's assortment of concealment furniture — pieces that can be used to securely store firearms but not appear to — a store favorite.
"So far (customers) really like it. The hidden gun racks are the hottest sellers so far," she said. "They are the eye-catcher that brings them in. That is probably the most unique piece of furniture we have."
Nunn sells a standing grandfather clock with a duck hunter and hunting dog across the timepiece that are popular with male shoppers and a curio cabinet popular with women, she said. Each secret gun locker goes for $444 each.
Bailey, the Chamber of Commerce board president, said the chamber will hold a ribbon cutting celebration at the business later this month. She also advised new business owners to do their homework and seek available resources before jumping in.
"I'm so excited for any new business in Aztec," Bailey said. "People don't always have a business plan or marketing plan or all their ducks in a row, so there's resources for that."
Christie Robison and her husband Caleb Robison opened The Bistro on North Main Avenue in July 2014. Robison said that small communities like Aztec may mean the difference between success and failure.
"My degree was in English. I had no experience in (running a business)," she said. "Getting the help you need — what to do, knowing where you go — having a community of friends helps. You're first few years are hard. Having people around you who are gifted in things you're not can be the difference."
Robison said she has relied on her sister, Melissa Greenwood, to stay successful. Greenwood designed the business' website and helps manage The Bistro's Facebook page and online presence.
"Being a mom isn't easy and being in business isn't easy. We've learned a lot of things the hard way. We've had a lot of firsts through this, but we also aren't doing it alone," Robison said. "We have a lot of help. God has carried us through this first year. I love the fact that the Bistro is part of the community. For a small community like Aztec, you get to really know your customers. I love that about it."
"God opens doors, and we walk through them," she said.
James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.
What: Abode Furnishings Gallery
Where: 1815 W. Aztec Blvd. in Aztec
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday
More Info: Call 505-793-0401 or visit their business on Facebook