Teresa Dovalpage: You were chosen Entrepreneur of the Year by the Taos County Chamber of Commerce. What is the secret for staying afloat financially in these times?
Jude Gochee: Flexibility. You have to constantly reevaluate what you are carrying in your store. You have to ask yourself, “Is there a need that I’m missing?” Sometimes it’s not about need; it’s more about making life more comfortable. The idea is to have happy customers not just the day of the purchase, but down the road… I walk a fine line to keep quality affordable.
Teresa Dovalpage: What makes the furniture sold at Graystone Furniture and Sofa Gallery unique?
Jude Gochee: I try to stock the unusual. As our ads say, “Quality, affordable furniture as unique as our surroundings.” There are plenty of places to buy mass-produced furniture. I try to give people an alternative.
Teresa Dovalpage: What is your favorite piece and why?
Jude Gochee: I’m not sure that in a store this size I can narrow it down to one piece… I adore the comfort of the power recliners I sell. Each one can be customized for perfect comfort. I am also a fan of the solid hickory extension tables we carry because they can be opened with one hand. No more tug of war trying to extend the table! As I get older, ease and comfort have move to the top of my list.
Teresa Dovalpage: What is the biggest challenge for a business like Graystone Furniture here inTaos?
Jude Gochee: Probably keeping the inventory turning over quickly. Keeping the inventory fresh requires a lot of flexibility and a knack for juggling!
Teresa Dovalpage: Do you carry the work of local artisans?
Jude Gochee: Yes. I purchase from a number of local woodworkers and have some new ones on consignment. Jerry Rainault and I started out together in 2002 and I buy from him on a regular basis. The store is full of his work. I also sell Allen Nysse’s work, and Glenn Sweet has just joined us. Totally different styles but that’s what makes Graystone furniture unique. I also carry probably the largest selection of aspen log furniture in the area and that’s also made locally. Then there’s a retired couple who buy up trees when people are bulldozing to build houses. They mill the wood and build great tables and benches out of walnut, mesquite and cedar.
Teresa Dovalpage: Where do you get the furniture that is not locally made?
Jude Gochee: I carry a full line of upholstered furniture. Sofas, sleepers, love seats, chairs etc. It’s not made locally, but roughly 90% is made in theUSA. I also have a handmade line of cactus wood furniture that is built inChile. Sadly, that organization has closed up shop. Occasionally I get some things from India,Taiwan or China. I try for American made, but sometimes I find a really attractive style, at a great price, and it’s made elsewhere.
Teresa Dovalpage: Graystone opened in Taos in 2002. How has your business developed since you launched it?
Jude Gochee: We started really small, 800 square feet. We have slowly grown since 2002 and now the store is about 10,000 square feet. We keep our overhead down so we can pass the savings on to our customers. As the owner-operator, I work hard and so does John Vidaurre, my sales and general services manager. Between us, we peddle just about as fast as we can! We work very hard to fill our customers’ needs while not breaking their budget.
Teresa Dovalpage: What do you see happening with your business in the future?
Jude Gochee: I’m very happy with the size of the store and the product lines. It’s big enough to display the furniture nicely, but not so big as to lose the Taos charm. I’d like to add a couple more employees in the future. Most of the changes will probably be behind the scenes, though. Becoming debt free is my goal. I believe debt free will lead to stress free. For today, I’m doing what I like and I like what I’m doing!
Teresa Dovalpage: What has Taos given to you in these 9 years?
Jude Gochee: Number one: contentment. Since I came here I’ve not wanted to be anywhere else. Taos is home!
Teresa Dovalpage: Thank you, Jude!