Pat Zamora, from Antonito, holds a sterling coral bracelet that protects babies from “mal ojo.”
The trolley connection
Atira’s Southwest started in 2004 as an offshoot of Atira Montoya’s first business, the Historic Taos Trolley Tours.
“I just wanted to sell trolley tickets from the Plaza so I rented a place at the Old Courthouse building,” said Montoya. “But since I only ran the trolley from May to October, I began selling Double D Ranch jackets and other items to keep the store going the rest of the year.”
From then on, the business mushroomed. Now Montoya is in a new, ample location, on the SouthTaosPlaza, and sells clothing, Native American jewelry and pottery, Old Gringo boots and Chimayo weavings, among many other items.
Montoya was born in Chimayo, studied psychology at Berkeley and then came back to the Southwest.
“I always wanted to do something related to tourism,” she said, “that’s why I started the trolley company and have kept it over the years. Now that I own a store, I love dealing with people and giving them the best customer service I can.”
A shopping experience
The store’s slogan is “the leading edge in Southwest.”
“Shopping is an art here in Taos,” said Montoya, “and I want my clients to enjoy it. I like putting their whole outfit together, not just selling them one piece that they don’t know what to do with it later. I also like to give the customers a ‘personal shopper experience’ so they learn how to use the product in a way that makes them feel better and happier.”
Pam Zamora, from Antonito, Colorado, comes in to look at coral bracelets. Montoya explains to her that, according to old traditions, babies can get mal ojo (evil eye) when people stare at them, even if they don’t do it with bad intentions.
“So the abuelas started using coral to protect them,” she said. “Since the stone is supposed to have miraculous qualities, they would put a piece of coral in a bracelet or a pendant and make the child wear it all the time.”
“When I was little, my grandma gave my sisters and me coral bracelets,” she said. “As we grew up, she kept buying us bigger ones. I have four now and I also gave one to my daughter.”
You can come in the store and go out with a complete new outfit, head to toe.
One of Atira’s signature items are the Old Gringo boots, which are all handcrafted in Leon, Mexico.
“They are a special addition to any footwear collection,” said Montoya, showing me a pair of turquoise and brown Monarca Old Gringo Boots. “They are all made of leather and really comfortable.”
Besides the boots, there are also one-sole shoes made in Florida.
“These are the perfect travel shoe,” said Montoya. “You can snap in different tops and interchange them to match the rest of your attire. We even have high-heeled ones.”
Now, before getting dressed, one may want to try out her Scala shapers, Montoya suggests.
“They will slim you down instantly. Let’s say that you have gained five pounds during the winter…well, they will make you look as if you had already lost them. The Scala shapers hug you in just a little bit, and are more comfortable than any other shapewear.”
Then we moved to the tops. Montoya carries the Mezon line, with and without sleeves. There are also a number of scarves and fancy purses.
The Mary Frances bags come in all conceivable, whimsical shapes. They are two that look like guitars, embellished with leather and beads.
“I like her products because she is also truly inspirational,” Montoya said. “Mary Frances started selling her handmade bags as a home-based business and today runs a multi-million dollar company that employs hundreds of people.”
Atira’s also carries pottery by well-known Southwest artists like Dominguita Naranjo.
A special corner is devoted to display the rugs made by Montoya’s mother, Eleanor Martinez. They are hand woven and 100 % wool. One is 54 by 84, “as big as a queen size blanket,” Montoya said.
Martinez is one of the original Chimayo weavers and started weaving when she was 9 years old. She often helps her daughter in the store.
“My mother learned the art of weaving from her father and her sister,” said Montoya. “They would harvest the crops in the summer time and weave during the winter.”
Later I spot a collection of little dishes made in Colorado from recycled materials, glass and clay. They can be used to put loose change, candles, tea bags, or rings.
“You can find all sorts of things here,” Montoya said. “There is a place for each of them in your house or as part of your outfit.”
Just come in and try them on.
Atira’s Southwest is located at 102 A South Taos Plaza
Phone 575 758 3186
I just got this cute dress at Atira’s 🙂