Meet Your Merchant: Unusual name, eclectic gifts
Sue Jones needed a break from the rigors of teaching high school math.
The longtime Carson City resident and her husband, Stan, who is retired from the National Guard, talked about their options and settled on a new course – opening a gift shop near downtown Carson City.
“And he said, ‘Well, I’ve got the perfect name: The Purple Avocado,’ and I said, ‘Well, this is all meant to be,'” Sue Jones said. “How do you think of a name like that in 10 seconds?”
Nearly 10 years later, the Purple Avocado still is humming, attracting shoppers on the prowl for the shop’s eclectic selection of gifts.
“It was a great way for us to become a part of the community,” Jones said. “We love every day that we come in. Every day is fun.”
The shop features things like jewelry, ornaments, lotions, candles and collectibles. Sue said about
80 percent of her sales come from 20 percent of her suppliers – well known names like Jim Shore, Essential Oils, Camille Beckman and Willow Tree Angels – and the rest of her sales come from smaller, one-item companies.
“That makes our store different than any other store,” she said.
Usually they’ll get customers looking for something small to give to a relative leaving for war or friend who’s fallen ill.
“Or they just want a little lift me up for somebody,” she said. “So we hear really heart-felt stories. We like being here for that kind of situation.”
Running the business has meant challenges, including picking out the right inventory.
“We try to turn it over before it’s dusty,” she said. “People always say, ‘God, I’d hate to have to dust this place.’ “
But Jones said running the business has come naturally to her after working in her father’s hardware store in Incline Village for 14 years before becoming a teacher.
And although sales are down compared to the big years before the recession, “we’ve been very, very happy these last few years,” Jones said.
After opening the shop nearly 10 years ago, Jones said it took about three years for the gift shop to hit its stride.
“We were very fortunate our first few years also, but there is something magical about that third year,” she said. “Our first year when we opened the store we thought we had a lot of inventory in here, and we look back on the pictures and there was nothing in here.”
Stan Jones said the key to successful business is customer service.
“We say hello to everybody who comes in the door,” he said.
Adds Sue, “And if you’re not loving it, they’re not going to like being here. You really need to love what you’re doing when you run your own business.”
The Joneses aren’t planning on opening a new shop or expanding their current location (they couldn’t even if they wanted to because they’re located inside a home that was built in 1863).
“We plan on being here a long time,” Sue Jones said. “We love it.”