Arizona Gifts

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A store in Chandler is changing the way some tourists and Arizona residents shop. At Sibley’s West, you won’t find a cactus or Kokopelli stamped “Made in China.” Owners Michelle and John Wolfe work with more than 200 suppliers, mostly artists, in Arizona. You’ll hear the stories behind the products they make and take a tour of the Wolfe’s shop.

Ted Simons: A retailer store in Chandler is changing the way some people shop and artists become known. Christina Estes brings us the story.

Miles Roberts: I love the hand-throwing on the wheel. I'm not a Production artist. So I don't do a bunch of the same thing over and over again.

Christina Estes: Miles Roberts draws inspiration from Arizona.

Miles Roberts: I love the cactus. I love, you know, the smell of the rain when it hits the sage. I love the mountains, the Earth tones, and everything about the desert, comes through into my work.

Christina Estes: That includes a wolf named Sam.

Miles Roberts: Very gentle. Never aggressive. My wife raised this wolf, and he's mostly wolf with a bit of Collie. So, what happens is he sheds like crazy, more than I have ever seen any other dog shed in my life. You pet him for five minutes and you have a handful.

Christina Estes: Rather than get frustrated with Sam's hair, flying around the studio, miles started using it.

Miles Roberts: The wolf has a down hair, like ran undercoat, which is, actually, gray is where the term Grey wolf comes from, and the overcoat. So, one of them is a thicker, longer hair and one is a shorter, fuzzy kind of a light hair. And those two thicknesses of hair give it a nice dimensional quality. A little bit goes a long way.

Christina Estes: After the glaze and a couple of trips to the kiln, his hair stands out, while blending in.

Miles Roberts: It gives it a natural look, and a nice natural finish.

Christina Estes: Robert sells his pottery at shows across the U.S. and in downtown Chandler.

John Wolfe: We are a gift shop. You are going to see things you will not see any place else.

Christina Estes: Aspen walking sticks, carved in dewy and the blanket animals made in Avondale.

John Wolfe: We lived here for 18 years. We struggle, we struggled to find gifts to send to relatives in Illinois and New York that were from Arizona. We were finding that we were sending a lot of gifts that they probably have seen already in their own places. So, we said, it would be cool if we could do a store with just things from Arizona.

Christina Estes: That's just what John and Michelle Wolfe did in December of 2010.

Michelle Wolfe: We have more than 200 Arizona suppliers. And primarily, they are individuals. So, when I look around the store, I go there is Ken's work, and there is Gary's work. There is Barbara's work. They are not suppliers, they are people behind everything you see.

Christina Estes: The request for the prickly pear products pop up most often. Sheri's desert harvest V. has provided the taste of the southwest for over 30 years.

John Wolfe: She harvests 35 tons of prickly pear fruit every August and September. Then from that, squeezes the juice out and with the juice, makes the jellies and the syrups. She makes the chewy candies that everyone loves.

Michelle Wolfe: This is not what they expect. They are not expecting to see wine. For example. They are not expecting to see food. They are not expecting to see garments made here.

Christina Estes: And the wolves never expected to attract so many customers from around the world.

John Wolfe: When our guests come in, we invite them to sign our guest book. Then we put a dot where they are from. And this is our second man, our first map after three years was full.

Christina Estes: Wolf says that people from 100 countries have left is a mark.

John Wolfe: Virtually every check we write, goes to somebody in Arizona. That feeds the economy. And we're proud members of Local First Arizona. And we believe in this idea that small can be good.

Michelle Wolfe: It really is not about the products, itself. It's about the story behind it and the people behind the product.

Christina Estes: In one case, it's also about the wolf behind the products. Although Sam died a couple of years ago. Robert says he left behind memories and plenty of hair.

John Wolfe: Shouldn't run out.

Ted Simons: And that is it for now. I am Ted Simons. Thank you very much for joining us. You have a great evening.

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