Charming customers for over 20 years
By Jeanne Drennan
The name of this sweet little store nestled into the Turquoise Trail perfectly represents every item inside. In fact, owner Teresa Stribling says that’s exactly how she came to call it that. While attending a craft show in Lubbock, Texas, more than a few of the attendees looking at her wares exclaimed, “Isn’t this just too cute?”
The name stuck.
October 2017 marks 20 years in operation for Stribling, no small feat for a small business in a small community. A Texas native who moved with her family to Albuquerque in 1990 and the East Mountains in 1997, she attributes her success to her loyal local customers, friendly staff, and excellent customer service. “Everyone feels welcome when they come through that door,” she says. She always has a coffee pot going, and hot tea is readily available too. “We try to create a warm, friendly atmosphere.”
As a member of both the East Mountain Chamber of Commerce and the Turquoise Trail Association, Stribling also promotes her business via these outlets, so the store attracts not only local visitors but also tourists traveling along the Turquoise Trail.
Stribling grew up taking arts and craft classes and making all manner of crafts, which were “a big thing in the '80s and '90s,” she says. As a teen, she would regularly take her creations to various craft shows until a friend, who was in the wholesale business, took some of her items to Dallas Market.
That’s when life turned upside down. “There I was [19 years old] and living at home, and the next thing I knew, I had an order for 18,000 pieces.” Her family had just moved to the East Mountains so she decided to move production out of the house and find another place to work. That place was the downstairs of the building that houses Just Too Cute today.
Then it hit her: “Why not use the front of the building to sell things while I use the downstairs to make my items?” She also knew many like-minded local crafters, so she was able to bring in a variety of custom-made merchandise on consignment.
While her original intent was wholesale—just to have a space to make her crafts—the retail business blossomed. Stribling eventually purchased the building, and balances the upstairs retail operations with her wholesale production in the workshop downstairs, where she creates her hand-lettered signs with witty and inspirational sayings, along with magnets, ornaments, and souvenirs, all of which are distributed to outlets across the country. And while both ends of the business are enjoyable and thriving, Stribling says that she gets the most satisfaction from going out and sourcing things for the retail end, decorating, and ultimately seeing the joy on her customers faces when they come in.
Some local artisans still consign their wares at Just Too Cute, but crafting has somewhat “gone by the wayside,” according to Stribling. She stocks an eclectic selection of items that appeal to a wide array of tastes and preferences. Jewelry, wind chimes, soaps, paintings, candles, greeting cards, New Mexico-specific items, scarves, home décor, little collectibles and trinkets, and ornaments are just a few of the items on the shelves. In the last six or so years, she has added clothing to the mix, the kinds of things that would appeal to women in the East Mountains. “I can’t go by big-city fashion trends because they don’t apply to us,” Stribling says. Instead, her clothing reflects a kind of bohemian cowgirl aesthetic. “I never dreamed I’d be selling clothing, but that’s what the customers wanted, so I did it. The store has totally shifted gears and turned into a little boutique.”
Listening to her customers and going out of her way to get what they want may be one reason why Stribling has been able to stay in business for 20 years. However, her journey has not been without certain challenges. Trying to please everyone keeps her on her toes, and because she does cater predominantly to locals, “trying to keep it fresh and new and exciting,” is always at the forefront of her mind.
She also keeps things interesting with events that take place year round. The first weekend of November, for instance, always marks Just Too Cute’s annual kick-off Christmas open house, with drawings, festivities, and refreshments to start the holiday season. “We’ll be full-blown Christmas by then,” Stribling says. The day after Thanksgiving is host to the annual Black Friday pajama party, where customers are encouraged come in their PJs to receive 20 percent off their entire purchase. December will be full of more surprises. You may even see Stribling’s dog dressed up as Santa, or possibly a few Christmas elves floating around the store.
As Stribling says, “It’s just a fun place with great gifts—and don’t miss our events!”