Monsterslayer receives official welcome after 28 years
KIRTLAND — Jacque Foutz's family business, Monsterslayer Inc., has been open for 28 years. But only today will the jewelry and wholesale metals supply store see an official welcome from this town's newly founded chamber of commerce.
At 10 a.m. today, Monsterslayer will get an official ribbon-cutting and open house celebration from the newly launched Kirtland Chamber of Commerce.
Foutz said the long wait has been well worth it and represents an ongoing effort to promote businesses in this small town west of Farmington.
Originally, the location was a grocery store and cafe, the 550 Grocery, started by Jacque Foutz's father-in-law, Russell Foutz. Jacque and husband John Foutz took over the business in 1977, but a decade of declining grocery sales led them to transform the business into a jewelry and metals wholesaler.
The switch was inspired by her husband, who was a goldsmith and silversmith. The couple named the new venture 550 Silver and Supply in 1987.
In 1996, their 15-year-old son, Joey Foutz, then a Farmington High School student whose primary hobby was coding and computers, helped his parents' business launch an Internet presence. These days, despite the still-sluggish economy, online sales account for 75 percent of Monsterslayer's business, Jacque Foutz said.
"(Joey) had an '80s (Cisco Systems Inc.) router in his bedroom, and he put us online. He wrote the whole program for us," she said. "At that time, we were the first jewelry supply house online in the world. In 1996, there wasn't a lot out there (online)."
The business owns its own servers, both in house and others located in Las Cruces, she said. But the business will reduce its costs and follow the latest trends by utilizing the cloud computing market to store data later this year, she said.
Foutz credits her son, who she said is a major reason her business has endured, if not thrived, despite the poor economy.
She said that her business really took off after Monsterslayer's website added a shopping cart, freeing up time the staff spent taking orders over the phone.
But one unexpected problem kept some customers away.
The name, coined before the highway out front was changed to U.S. Highway 64, led some customers to believe that the Foutz's silver was less than sterling.
"Sterling silver everywhere is 92.5 percent silver, and the rest is copper and other metals," she said. "Our customers thought, because of our name, that maybe our silver was only 55.0 (percent). It was a big problem. They thought we were selling inferior silver."
So, the couple changed the name to Monsterslayer, a nod to their in-store Navajo customer base and to the store's proximity to the eastern boundary of the Navajo Nation.
Foutz employs seven full-time employees, all Navajo, she said, and believes Native Americans have helped make her family's business a success.
"Monster Slayer is a Navajo creation myth, and we thought it was cool to honor who the majority of our in-store customers are and our location by naming it that way," she said.
The business hired medicine man Alex Benally, who runs a Farmington Native American jewelry store, Alex Benally's Hogan, to officiate the renaming ceremony.
Monsterslayer did approximately $2 million in business last year, Jacque Foutz said. In some years, revenues reached as high as $3 or $4 million, she said.
Jacque Foutz faced an unexpected challenge after her husband died three years ago. John Foutz had done much of the work photographing and maintaining the store's catalog of metals, beads and supplies on the website, and without him and his work to upload updated inventory and sale information, website sales began to wither. After three months, she knew she had to hire someone to do that work or learn how to do it herself.
She chose the latter. Fellow chamber member Kara Wood said that approach epitomizes her friend's integrity and is a key to the staying power of Monsterslayer.
"(Jacque) doesn't just give up. She takes on challenges, and she's always willing to do what's best for the community," Wood said. "For her, perseverance is not a long race, it's many short races and, I think, that's how she operates."
Wood, who has owned Kirtland Realty since 1998 and is a founding chamber member, said she and Foutz have been discussing the idea of starting a business organization for years.
Last fall, Wood, Foutz and other women business owners in Kirtland got serious and launched a women's business group, the Kirtland/Lower Valley Business and Professional Women's Group.
But it wasn't until friend and business owner Dianne Bonebrake challenged her friends to go further and commit to the idea of a chamber that a town chamber was born.
Not long after that, Kirtland was incorporated as San Juan County's fourth municipality. Wood's real estate business rolled out the newly formed chamber's campaign to celebrate and raise awareness of the town's business community with the chamber's first ribbon-cutting celebration in July.
Foutz's store is the second to be officially recognized by the chamber. Wood said the chamber will continue making up for lost time with a ribbon cutting and open house at another longtime Kirtland business, The Learning Circle Daycare and Preschool, sometime in October, Wood said. The preschool opened in 1983.
"I think that it's a bit of a party and a fun time," Wood said of this morning's event, which includes door prizes and snacks. "All these people just now had the opportunity to join (the chamber), so now we can finally honor them welcome them. Jacque is very well respected in the community, and there were many of us who felt we needed to do something to recognize her contributions to Kirtland through the years."