Pickle Barrel Trading Post celebrates its tenth anniversary
The old warehouse that sits alongside the railroad tracks at the south end of Broad street seems an unlikely candidate for what has become one of the area’s top draw for visitors and locals alike. Originally a warehouse for the Old Dominion Copper Co., this old ‘post & beam’ structure served other businesses over the past 100 years as a huge storage facility. Only recently has the 8000 square foot historic building commanded the attention it deserves. Today’s owners, Jim and Kelly Moss, purchased the property in 2002 and began to develop a ‘destination business’ — the Pickle Barrel Trading Post.
Today, the Pickle Barrel Trading Post is one of the premier trading posts in the entire Southwest, drawing customers to the area from as far away as Switzerland and Germany and as close as the San Carlos Apache Reservation and Globe-Miami communities.
But it didn’t start out this way. Originally, the couple envisioned turning the property into an antique mall, since the huge indoor expanse seemed to lend itself to leasing space to antique dealers. “Neither of us possessed a great deal of knowledge about antiques,” Jim says, “but we felt confident about managing income property, and over time developing a good business model that could fit the building and the town.”
When they opened their doors in September of 2003, they leased to just a handful of antique dealers, and showcased a small selection of Native American jewelry and crafts they had picked up at estate sales and auctions. Hardly enough to make a dent in filling the space. They closed off one half of the warehouse, then opened the doors for business.
Kelly says, “The place hardly had anything in it, but what we did have included some really nice pieces. We discovered early that quality sells.”
Jim remembers coming up with their signature tag line, “You Won’t Believe What’s Inside!” to counter the first impression many people had as they drove by. “You saw this old warehouse from the outside and it didn’t look like much,” Jim says, “and yet we did have some very distinct merchandise inside. The slogan seemed to work. People stopped, looked, shopped….and came back again and again. Something they are still doing ten years later.”
One of the most impressive attractions is a magnificent 8ft x 10ft original artwork elevated just beneath the rafters, that greets every visitor who enters the Pickle Barrel Trading Post. The grand piece of art is titled One Last Ride and depicts Geronimo astride his pony with the Southern Arizona landscape as a backdrop. The medium is pencil on canvass, and was created by local artist, Frank Balaam. The commissioned artwork was mounted between two massive wood columns. Jim initially suggested to Balaam a 4ft x 6ft rendition of Geronimo standing with his rifle. But, Balaam looked at the space and suggested a landscape which would span the entire 10ft. Neither Moss, nor Balaam, will discuss the commissioned cost or today’s value. It is believed to be the largest original pencil on canvass, and Balaam’s art work is found worldwide.
Within a couple of years, the business model changed dramatically. Space was no longer leased to antique dealers when the owners realized they needed the space for their own merchandise. A great variety of products were added to the inventory. Soon the 8000 sq ft. building was looking fully stocked. As the inventory diversified into collectibles, vintage reproductions, Native American jewelry, arts and craft, Southwest gifts, books & music, AZ souvenirs, rocks and minerals, buckskins and authentic trading post supplies — so too, did their customer base diversify. Today, they offer hundreds of specialty products, and represent brand names such as Pendleton, Minnetonka Moccasins, El Paso Saddle Blanket, and Tandy Leather. They constantly buy & trade, always looking for the sort of interesting items that both collectors and visitors will find appealing.
As you pull into the Pickle Barrel Trading Post today, you are greeted by a cacophony of garden ‘Yard Art’ created South of the Border, which delights most visitors. Although interesting and fun, the outdoor metal art and wrought iron arbors, fences, trellises and benches do not give a true hint to what you will discover inside the historic warehouse. When you step across the entrance threshold, and look up at Balaam’s world-class rendition of Geronimo with rifle, astride his pony — you realize this is going to be a one-of-a-kind experience. The exploration continues as you try to absorb 8000 sq ft of wall to wall unique merchandise. For newcomers, it can be overwhelming — in a good way.
There is something for everyone here, which is why the staff often hears customers proclaim, “This is the first place I bring family and friends when they come from out of town to visit.” Or the quip from the 13 year old boy, when asked by his dad where he wanted to go for his birthday, exclaimed without hesitation — “The Pickle Barrel Trading Post!”
The staff at the Pickle Barrel Trading Post is courteous, friendly, and knowledgeable. Kelly emphasizes, ”We look for potential employees who have outstanding customer service skills and can work as a team. Our Pickle Barrel Team is very aware of our #1 Goal — creating a memorable and satisfying experience for each & every person who visits.”
A timely business decision in 2005 enabled the Pickle Barrel Trading Post to grow and accommodate many more customers. Originally, cars were entering and exiting from a large gate that shared a common driveway with the restaurant next door. It was a congested nightmare and safety hazard. Jim found a way to negotiate for a strip of property at the south end of the building, suitable for an entrance. Now, traffic flows one direction. Jim says, “The investment in the extra land is one of those things that might not seem so significant, but proved to be a critical piece in the overall success of our business.”
As Jim & Kelly reflect on a decade of running a ‘Mom & Pop’ business they look at each other with a proud smile and shake their heads to say, “We’ve been lucky.” They say the most gratifying aspect of the evolving enterprise is the sincere pleasure that thousands of visitors have expressed. “The genuine compliments bestowed upon our shop and toward our employees, from folks who have travelled far & wide is very special,” Kelly remarks.
So what’s in the future for the Pickle Barrel Trading Post? Kelly says they have a joke between them when it comes to discussions of expanding the business. “Jim tells me, we can’t sell off an empty wagon…. and I reply, this wagon is so loaded it’s ready to loose all of it’s wheels!”
Jim smiles, “It’s been a fun ride so far….. as far as the future… well, the new frontier for the Pickle Barrel Trading Post clearly is on-line shopping. Will that happen? That’s a huge commitment of time and resources. We shall see.”
Rest assured, if the Mosses decide to take it on — It will happen.
Writer, photographer. Passionate foodie, lover of good books and storytelling. Lives in Globe. Plays in the historic district. Travels when possible.