Country Furnishings of Taos has been cultivating loyal customers for three decades. The home décor and gifts store has always featured an eclectic, even quirky array of items — and has always carried work by local artisans and artists.
Now something is afoot at the intersection of Paseo del Norte and Camino De La Placita: A new owner.
Franchesca Zoppe took over Country Furnishings on July 1, after purchasing the business from Mary Shriver who opened the store in 1986 in the old adobe where it still is today. For Franchesca, the store is her first foray into retail — and a chance to finally be her own boss. Franchesca brings an entrepreneurial spirit that leverages her experience in high-tech sales and marketing.
Taking chances is nothing new for Franchesca Zoppe, a first generation Italian. She was born into a circus family and began performing in the circus before she was one year old. The family’s specialty was an acrobatics-and-comedy teeter board and unsupported ladder act. Franchesca’s part was being perched atop a 19-foot pyramid made of her mother, Sula, standing on the shoulders of husband, Francisco, balancing on a ladder without any support.
After she retired from the circus, Franchesca went into the Navy during the Viet Nam conflict as a medic. After leaving the Navy, she pursued a registered nurse career, but eventually went back to a childhood passion in computer science. She earned an MBA and set upon a long career in product marketing and managing in high-tech Silicon Valley. Furthering her love of stretching herself, Franchesca got into trekking around the world — in Africa up Mount Kilimanjaro, and in Nepal to Everest base camp being of the most memorable — and running a total of 14 marathons in the states.
“Looking for my next chapter, I read about Taos in a retirement magazine, so I came out to see for myself,” said Franchesca. “I fell in love with the area right away, and decided to make the move from San Jose (California).”
She bought five acres in Angel Fire — checking living on a mountain off her “bucket list” — and settled in. But she didn’t want this new chapter in her life to require starting over from scratch right away. So she has continued working her high-tech job from home, but an itch started and she slowly looked around for other opportunities. As luck would have it, Country Furnishings made itself available to her.
“The turnkey aspect of the sale appealed to me, as well as Country Furnishings’ brand and the store’s ambience,” she said. “But the store also had to speak to me to make this kind of change in my life.”
Luckily for Franchesca, it did. She worked with Mary Shriver for a couple of months to get familiar with the business, and they have plans to attend the Dallas Mercantile for the top home furnishings and gifts show in the country to get a feel for the upcoming season purchasing side of the business.
“Mary has been such a great mentor for me,” Franchesca said. “She’s on my speed-dial and I can call her with questions that come up.” To ensure continuity at the store between the ownership change, Franchesca is fortunate to have the experienced sales staff of Brenda, Sharron, Sheri and Holly staying on.
Country Furnishings attracts people from all over the region, many who vacation regularly in Taos and make a habit of shopping at the store whenever they are in town. Franchesca inherited a mailing list of more than 800 customers and feels compelled to ensure the essence of Country Furnishings remains solidly intact.
“I’ve had lots of customers come in this summer and say they are so glad that the store wasn’t closing after Mary left,” she said.
About half of the merchandise in Country Furnishings comes from the work of local artists and artisans. Headboards carved by Pedro Chavez, dishware by potter Abby Salisbury, retablos by painter Lynn Garlick, mosaics by Sharron Tavernier and metal work by Holly Burger are among more than a dozen Taoseños who sell their wares at the store.
“The store has always supported local artists, and they help link us to the community,” Franchesca said. “I even have two artists on my staff, so the connection to the community — something I wanted to be part of with a business — is strong.”
Split up into a half-dozen rooms, the layout of the store reflects the eclectic nature of Country Furnishings. Each showcases a line of items in the context of where they would go in a house or gifts that appeal by age group. For instance, there is a Children’s Room with fun and practical gifts, in the Bedroom are carved headboards, santos and rings, bedside tables and lamps. In the Dining Room, the table has been set with handcrafted dishware, ornamental chandelier, table runners and interesting center pieces.
One of Franchesca’s marketing credos is, “Listen to the voice of the customer.” So she has spent the first couple of months at Country Furnishings with a keen ear open to what her customers like, what they want and how they interact with the store and its staff.
“Of course, there will be interesting enhancements, but they will come in time and always with the ‘voice of the customer’ in mind,” said Franchesca. “I want to expand the demographic visiting the store, so I will be increasing the store’s presence in social media, and make online purchases readily available.”
But she assures everyone that the fundamentals of Country Furnishings’ 30-year success will remain in place, especially how shoppers are treated: “People who come here like to wander around. They don’t want a hard sell. So we greet them when they come in, and then let them do their thing as if they were strolling around a house full of
one-of-a-kind furnishings and gifts.
“What really happened here for me is that I bought the ambience of Country Furnishings,” said Franchesca. “That’s why this place is a gem, and I plan to keep it a Taos gem. Come in and say ‘hi’ to the Country Furnishing’s team!”
Country Furnishings of Taos
534 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Taos, New Mexico
Success Stories is a PAID advertorial feature. Stories about successful businesses and institutions which are sponsored in part by the businesses and institutions themselves.
Success Stories runs weekly in The Taos News. If you would like to have your business participate in Success Stories, please call The Taos News at 758-2241.
Missed a Success Story? Check them all out on the web at taosnews.com. Success Stories are designed for individual businesses. Under no circumstances may they be used for political or partisan purposes.