Originally published in Taos News
It all goes back to dinosaurs.
Kyle Henry, owner of the arts and crafts supply and jewelry store Thunder Lizard, was in the business of selling petrified dinosaur bones after he cut them and made them into beads.
“That’s where the store’s name comes from,” said his wife, Sharon Henry. “Thunder lizard is the English translation of the Greek term Brontosaurus.”
The Henrys met in Seattle and came to Taos in the summer of 1969.
“We lived in a commune, the Llano Quemado Hot Springs,” said Henry. “Later we returned to Seattle, but we felt we had to come back to Taos, which we finally did in the early 80’s.”
They sold beads and jewelry at the Santa Fe Flea Market for ten years. “It gave us the experience we needed to eventually start our own business,” she said.
The Henrys opened Thunder Lizard fifteen years ago.
The store specializes in stone beads. They sell different kinds of turquoise as well as semi precious stones like amethyst, garnet, agates, and carnelians.
“Plus we have Italian coral, sterling silver, brass and copper, and jewelry ranging in price from less than ten dollars to a few hundreds,” said Scarlet Henry, the owners’ daughter. “There is something for everybody!”
They have “findings,” as she calls them, from all over the world, side by side with pieces made by local jewelers like Ron Wesley.
“When vendors from Arizona or Santo Domingo pass by Taos, we like to buy from them too,” said Henry. “That’s a good way to keep our inventory fresh and varied.”
They also carry oriental rugs and carpets. A big selection of Turkish and Afghan rugs is on sale now.
Henry points out at what she considers one of their most interesting stones—staurolite, a natural formation found here in Taos.
“This is one of the few places in the world where staurolite is available,” she said.
Then she shows me a box full of smooth antler beads.
“All the antler we sell is naturally shed,” she said. “One of our artists cuts it by hand and polishes it.”
Thunder Lizard is a family business. Scarlet and her mother are there Monday through Saturday with Scarlet’s son, Zander. “He is a salesman in training,” his mother says.
Meanwhile, Kyle Henry and his daughter Tepreth take care of the wholesale part of the business. They travel to California, Texas and Florida selling the same inventory that they keep here.
They have a loyal local following. A number of Taos silversmiths and jewelry artists buy their supplies from Thunder Lizard.
“We are grateful for our out-of-state clients, but if it weren’t for the local repeat customers we wouldn’t be here now,” Scarlet Henry said.
Heidi Mixson, a Santa Fe artist, is one of these repeat customers, and a happy one.
“I have bought lots of beads throughout America, but I keep coming back here,” she said. “This store has a wonderful variety and really special beads.”
When asked for ideas about how to stay in business in a tight economy, Scarlet Henry says, “As an entrepreneur, you need to listen to people. If necessary, change your prices. Learn to adjust. We used to sell more high-end items like silver necklaces, now people tend to buy mixed-metal jewelry.”
She teaches customers to make lookalike pieces that resemble closely the high-end ones, but cost much less.
“If you see something that you like in a magazine, but it is too expensive, you can come here and I’ll be happy to teach you how to make it for a fraction of the retail price,” she said. “It can be something simple like a pair of earrings, a bracelet or even a necklace. When they request it, I give my clients one-on-one lessons on the art of jewelry making. It isn’t complicated, and it is fun.”
In that sense, the store works as a therapeutic center.
“Some women tell me that coming here is cheaper, and more amusing, than going to a psychologist,” jokes Henry. “They buy a supply of beads and get to work… and they forget all about their troubles, or find a way of solving them. While the hands are busy, the mind is free to process stuff.”
Thunder Lizard is located at 1545 Paseo Del Pueblo Sur, Taos, NM87571
Phone (575) 751-1752
Scarlet Henry and baby at Thunder Lizard