Sibley’s West: A small business success story

November 9th, 2016 | by Santan Sun
Sibley’s West: A small business success story
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By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

 

John and Michelle Wolfe have done their part to celebrate the Grand Canyon State.

Their 6-year-old downtown Chandler store, Sibley’s West, has become the go-to spot for all things Arizona; anything from prickly pear salad dressing to turquoise necklaces to State Forty Eight apparel is available.

In October, Sibley’s West doubled in size to 5,000 square feet, taking over the spot previously occupied by a boutique.

“What makes us unique is everything is from Arizona—an Arizona artist, an Arizona business,” said John, who calls Michelle “the brains of the store.” “We started off with 55 suppliers. Now we have more than 200.

“For the last year or so, it was a little cramped in here. It was just a narrow, 25-foot store. Then the opportunity came up with our landlord to go into the space next to us.”

The landlord hired contractors to cut three holes in the wall of the 100-year-old building. The bricks were removed individually by hand, so they could be preserved for future projects.

Variety of products

The Downtown Chandler Community Partnership’s Business of the Year in 2015, Sibley’s West supplies products by noted artist Diana Madaras of Tucson, Armadilla Wax Works of Prescott, Dirt Shirts of Mesa and the Queen Creek Olive Mill. New additions include artist Nikki Seiling of Peoria, who paints Southwest wine glasses; folk artist Charles Davison of Superior; and puzzle-maker Master Pieces of Oro Valley.

Chandler-based State Forty Eight, which has sold its apparel through Sibley’s West for some time, appreciates the expansion.

“The expansion of Sibley’s is great news for State Forty Eight,” said Michael Spangenberg, co-founder of State Forty Eight. “Sibley’s carries many styles of SFE as it is, so the expansion allows them to add even more of our product. We love working with our hometown retailer for many reasons, but most importantly they offer exceptional service to their customers. Sibley’s is a great partner and we hope to continue to shared success.”

An impressive prickly pear display is topped with a sculpture by Martin Ibarra.

“One of the unique things about our store is prickly pear,” Wolfe said. There are a lot of people who make products with prickly pear because it has an antioxidant trait. We have jellies. We have the syrup and candies. One lady makes soap, another does popcorn. There are hot sauce and barbecue sauce, and a creamy dressing, which is neat.

“With these prickly pear products, we wanted to create a fixture. If you see the yard art outside, that was done by a Chandler artist Martin Ibarra. We’ve carried his stuff for years. It’s spectacular. It’s exactly what we wanted to do with the prickly pear.”

The expansion features a stage with a TV above it that shows artist profiles on YouTube. Sibley’s West has a wide selection of necklaces, earrings and eyeglass chains.

“The last year or two we just didn’t have the room for anything new,” he said. “If we found somebody, like an artist in Tucson, or if we saw something in Sedona, we couldn’t do anything. We had nowhere to put it.

“When we had the extra room, Nikki (Seiling) was one of my first calls because I thought her wine glasses were so beautiful,” he said. “For us, this is very exciting. The expansion came out nicely.”

Small Business Saturday

Sibley’s West’s expansion comes in time for Small Business Saturday on Nov. 26.

“Sibley’s West is a great success story,” said Councilman Kevin Hartke. “They have found their niche, in terms of supplying Arizona-made items and they’ve become quite popular across the Valley and they’re even expanding their orders.”

Hartke said Small Business Saturday is a time to celebrate successes like this. The City of Chandler has been involved in Small Business Saturday for about six years, as small businesses are the “life blood of a community,” he said, quoting recent remarks by Mayor Jay Tibshraeny.

“We acknowledge that in Chandler,” Hartke said. “We want to help our large employers like Dignity Health, Wells Fargo, Intel, etc., but they are also the ones who bring life to our small businesses like Sibley’s.”

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