In the first piece I wrote about the 125th Anniversary of the Gunfight at the OK Corral, I provided a general summary of the fight. The second piece was about where to stay, eat, and drink. I seem to remember promising a piece about shopping. No problem here!
My motto I life is simple: I shop, therefore I am.
My credo: When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping!
My advice in life: Shop 'til you drop!
I think you get the picture. Let’s be honest here, I don’t know anyone more qualified to give you an overview of shopping in Tombstone and its environs. I feel as though I am highly qualified for the task. It’s a dirty job, but what the heck, let’s give it try!
I am only mentioning stores I know first-hand. I was in Tombstone last March. If there are changes in quality or service, those changes have occurred since that time.
There are simple dress codes in the Southwest.
Formal for men: The good cowboy hat, the good sterling silver belt buckle, the good cowboy boots, clean shirt, and clean jeans. Bolero tie is optional. For occasions that call for a jacket, don’t wear the one with the fringe. A man can get away with a massive sterling cuff bracelet and inlay sterling watch, no problem here.
Formal for women: Broomstick skirt, scoop neck blouse, and jacket if you need one; blended colors, but not necessarily matching unless you go for black. Add a sterling silver Concho belt and matching silver and turquoise jewelry (the more expensive, the better).
Boots are fine, but we are loath to give up our sandals and mules, trust me. Stockings are optional. You might want to add a good-looking handbag. Women in the Southwest eyeball handbags and jewelry. You don’t need the most expensive clothes in the world. Good sterling on black will get you in just about any function no matter how casual or formal.
We can be a little tacky about handbags, also. In Vegas, it isn’t the shoes, haircut, jewelry, or the outfit – it’s the handbag, baby. That’s where you carry your Prada, and I don’t mean knock-offs. Just a little FYI.
We love our sterling jewelry. It’s a Southwest thing. Over the years, I’ve noticed various and sundry relatives and friends from other parts of the country who just don’t understand our jewelry. Unless the woman is from Los Angeles or Texas, diamonds, precious stones, and gold don’t matter all that much.
You will find sterling pieces that cost as much as any diamond tennis bracelet. We have a tendency to match turquoise colors and styles. You don’t want to go around wearing Navajo and Zuni at the same time. (I think this calls for another article.)
Tombstone is full of jewelry. I have been shopping with the owners of the Whistle Stop for at least a dozen years. They sold their Silverton, Colorado store several years ago and are concentrating their efforts in Tombstone. It may look like a train and souvenir shop, but the owners commission their own Native American jewelry.
The Whistle Stop has some beautiful traditional and modern pieces. I prefer the traditional. There are other stores in town that sell Native American jewelry and some of it is absolutely magnificent. My problem is that, once upon a time, I was in retail and bought everything in either Albuquerque, Gallup, or Farmington, New Mexico. Wholesale. Makes a difference.
You can also find beautiful Native American art, paintings, and sculpture in the same shops. Unfortunately, Southwest Native arts have finally caught on and the prices are starting to show it. (Yep, I think this calls for another article also.)
The Shady Lady’s Closet near the corner of 4th and Allen (across the street from the OK Corral) has lovely western clothing. They have cute reading glasses and shoes, and they usually have a nice selection of fun watches. Over the years, we’ve purchased a number of shawls, throws, and beaded handbags from them. The prices aren’t all that bad.
Where else in town are you going to find a hurdy-gurdy’s corset but the Shady Lady's Closet? A hurdy-gurdy was a ‘loose’ woman or a saloon girl, but not necessarily a prostitute. The best thing about shopping with the Shady Lady is the location. Because it's across the street from the OK Corral, you can dump the guys and have at least a half-hour of shopping before their limited attention spans wander.
Across Allen Street on the corner of 4th is Tombstone Old West Books. I definitely recommend it.
I would recommend shopping for the guys (guns, leather goods, holsters), but it isn’t exactly my thing. Spangenberg’s gun shop was located in the new section of The Shady Lady’s Closet during the Earp era. Today, it is directly across the street.
Smoke Signals is a cigar shop across Allen Street from the Crystal Palace. Okay, I confess. When I am in Tombstone I smoke cigars — rum flavored cigars. All the men do. Why should they have all the fun? After a few years of attempting to smoke them, I no longer turn green! My mouth still tastes like a sewer the next morning, but what the heck.
Tombstone’s true bonanza is antiquing! Shops come and go, but Steve Elliott seems to be a fixture. His antique shop has somehow morphed into the Tombstone Heritage Museum. Steve specializes in antique clocks. Somehow, year in and year out, he manages to produce something my mother does not have in her collection.
Forget Sierra Vista for unique shopping unless you need to make an emergency trip to Target (pronounced tar-jay, please). There’s a mediocre Dillards that does have Clinique if you have an urgent need, and a Hastings if you run out of things to read. I must admit, though, one of the best Chili's I’ve ever dined in is there on the corner of the same strip as Target.
I saved the best for last. Bisbee is unique. It is an old mining town situated on the side of a mountain. Bring your camera. Send the family on the copper mine tour while you shop. And, you will shop until you drop.
Antiques – be still my beating heart! It is possible to spend an entire afternoon just doing the antique stores on Main Street. Trust me, been there and done that! Just meander up Main Street until you find a place to park. If you are coming into town, you go by the Copper Queen Hotel and go to the left.
All you need to do is walk up and down Main. I recommend the weekend. There will be a little bazaar up on Main where small vendors, who usually aren’t open, set up their little stalls.
Don’t miss the Old Bisbee Roasters. They specialize in coffee from boutique plantations throughout the world. Aside from the coffee my sister will soon be selling in her new café, it is some of the finest coffee you will ever consume. Do not confuse it with the Bisbee Coffee Company. The two can’t compare. Seth, who owns the Old Bisbee Roasters, also makes lethal chocolate truffles. (Would I lead you astray?)
There are two very nice antique stores as you start walking up Main. One specializes in clocks, the other glassware. Keep going. Don’t miss the Killer Bee Honey Shop. It may be a tiny shop, but they stock some of the best mustard you will ever put in your mouth.
When I had my gift shop I specialized in mustards. This is the best I’ve ever tasted. They put various flavors of killer bee honey into whole mustard. The flavor explodes in your mouth. Traveling? Bring a bag of pretzels with you. Get a jar of honey and a jar of mustard and you have your midnight snack. The honey is sweet (please forgive the pun) and it is excellent, but it cannot compare to the magnificent mustard.
The other must-stop is Optimo Custom Hatworks. Their hats are handmade straws from South America. This tiny shop is literally the hatmaker to the stars. They make hats for the likes of Tom Selleck and Glenn Close. Be warned, this is not a shop where you want to take your children.
If you decide to buy a hat, plan to shell out at least $200 and be waited on like you were Glenn Close. They cater to you. They bully. They tell you what looks good and what looks bad. I had to do some fast-talking to get them to allow me to wear my hat out the door. It was a perfect fit and I did not want a leather band inside it. We’re talking glamour with a capital “G”!
Along Main there are any number of wonderful little arts and crafts shops, jewelers, rock and mineral shops, potteries, and galleries. Face the fact that you are going to end up spending the whole day shopping. If you plan to stay over for dinner, make sure something is open. Meals are not cheap and reservations are a must. If you want my honest opinion, head over to Sierra Vista to Outback.
While you are in Bisbee, make sure you drive around the open pit of the Lavender Pit Mine. Continue around it and drive toward Naco. If you’ve never seen an open pit strip mine or copper mining, it is an experience.