by Amie Rodgers
There was a time that the western landscape was dotted with mercantile stores offering the basic necessities and fulfilling customers’ requests for special orders. Times have definitely changed in the Old West town of Holbrook, but with the opening of the Holbrook Mercantile Company, you can still walk into a small general store for a pair of jeans or something as exotic as German cutlery or Swiss cookware.
Opened June 11, 2016, the Holbrook Mercantile is predominantly located on the corner of Navajo Boulevard and Hopi Drive. A long-time resident and no stranger to the retail business, owner Ofelia Lange has owned Knife City Outlet for more than twenty years. This impressive store is known as the nation’s second largest knife store and it is located 6 miles East of Holbrook at I-40 (Exit 294).
With the help of her store manager Jerry Stark, Ofelia has used her expertise and buying power to put a variety of items from a great selection of brands under one roof. “We wanted to put a store here because there really wasn’t something in town with a variety of products like this. Everything we offer is well made and are good quality items. We started with clothing and western wear like hats and boots and then added some knives and cookware… and it just evolved from there,” smiles Jerry during our recent interview, “Some of the brands that we offer in clothing include Wrangler, Cinch, Dickies, Durango boots, Tony Llama, Twisted X, Hooley, Montana Silversmith and Montana West. The name brands can be a little more expensive than other products, but the quality more than makes up for it. The manufacturers back up their quality and it is always easier to sell a quality product than merely the cheapest.”
When you see the rustic aesthetic and sheer amount and variety of inventory, it is pretty hard to believe the Holbrook Mercantile has been open for less than a year. “We carry wallets, phone cases, hat bands, ropes, jewelry, and shaving equipment like double edge razors and straight razors, which I make myself. We carry a line of backpacks that are really popular and we also carry hiking boots. We have Route 66 souvenirs. We have a fun selection of super hot sauces, peanuts and salsas. We thought the tourists would go for them, but they have become very popular with people in town. For real foodies, we also carry a pretty good selection of kitchen knives from brands like Wusthoff as well as high quality cookware from Zwilling,” says Jerry, “We try to carry a good mix of things so there is something here for everybody. We bring in what our customers want. We also do special orders for our customers. We will keep adding inventory and look forward to seeing how it evolves.”
Speaking of evolution, Holbrook was founded in 1881 when the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad built a depot a couple miles from the Mormon settlement of Horsehead Crossing. The town was named after the first chief engineer. Around the same time, it became the headquarters of the Aztec Land and Cattle Company, better known as the Hashknife Outfit and one of the largest cattle ranches ever to exist. Although 1902 saw an end to the Hashknife era, the trains kept running and to this day the sound is a familiar melody to locals. In 1926, the coin of the realm became tourism when most of the Beale Wagon Road became Route 66 and tourism started taking over Holbrook’s economy.
“Holbrook really saw its hey day during the days of Route 66. Once the Freeway was built, the town began to suffer from the lack of traffic. Today, there seems to be a revival of interest in Route 66, especially with European visitors. Some of them know more about Route 66 than even we do,” laughs Ofelia, “With so many attractions like the Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon and the climate of the White Mountains, where else would you want to be (especially in the summer time)? We would like to help bring people to Holbrook as well as the surrounding communities. With the help of the Northland Pioneer College’s Small Business Development Center, we are now on Google Maps, which has already brought people in. They have also helped us with ideas on how to promote and advertise our business. Although we are not new to retail, it has been a new experience to sell products like clothes. The SBDC has worked with us and followed up with more ideas. They have been very helpful and we would recommend them to any business owner.”
Still a great place to get your kicks, be sure to visit the Holbrook Mercantile Company at 200 Navajo Boulevard and let them know you saw them in the Maverick Magazine. As a thank you to local customers, there is a 10% discount on any item in the store and they also offer a popular layaway plan. Store hours are 9 am to 6 pm Monday through Saturday. For more information, please call (928) 524-9629.
Are you thinking of starting a business or need help with your existing business? Free help is available by contacting NPC’s Small Business Development Center. For more information, please call (928) 532-6170 or visit www.npc.edu/sbdc.