Precious Finds White Buffalo Trading Company
Written by T.E. Cunningham / Photos by Jami Marshall
There is a theory behind why some people find shopping so satisfying. It states that in the time of hunting and gathering societies, some of our ancestors focused on the gathering part. They set out each day to find berries, herbs, roots, and other valuable commodities necessary not only for a good life, but for their survival.
Fast-forward to today, and many of us do our shopping online. At the click of a button, we order clothing, groceries, toiletries—just about everything—all delivered to our doorstep.
There is something to be said about human interaction, though. There is the physical exploration, the “hunt” that comes with brick-and-mortar shopping, and the satisfaction of finding unique, precious items.
At White Buffalo Trading Company in Overland Park, owner Pamela Minick says that although some people do cruise through her store, quickly identifying what they like, most stay and shop awhile.
“I’m constantly bringing in something new, and there’s such a wide range of one-of-a-kind pieces,” Minick says. “I have museum-quality pieces and things that even turquoise fans have a hard time finding.”
Anyone who grew up in Wisconsin or who has spent time there knows about Wisconsin Dells. About 20 miles north of Madison, this quaint-but-picturesque town lies on the Wisconsin River in a region of glacier-carved sandstone formations. Its unique boating tours, waterparks, shopping district, and other outdoor activities are a draw for families.
This is where Minick’s mom opened her Native American jewelry shop, Poor Old Patty’s, more than 30 years ago, and where Minick found her calling.
“I learned so much from my mom,” says Minick. “She had a great eye, but she also knew how to build relationships and build a business. She never gouged her customers.”
Minick also learned about the U.S. turquoise mines from her mom. Located mostly in the Southwest, many of the mines have been closed due to concerns about over-mining the semi-precious stone. Some mines have even been depleted.
“Sleeping Beauty, Dry Creek, Number 8 … the turquoise is named after the mine,” Minick says. “I can tell by looking at them where most came from. For example, Number 8 is a really pale blue color. It’s a very popular collectible. But the mine was closed in 1961, so it’s hard to find.”
There are knock-offs, but luckily for jewelry- and turquoise-lovers in the KC area, Minick’s long-standing relationships with the mines and her eye for quality ensures that only the best pieces make it into her store.
Minick’s customers are her favorite part of what she does. She even has a specific moment with them she loves best. “It’s not about the sale. It’s how people look when they try the jewelry on and their eyes light up—that’s what I really enjoy.”
On Brenda Gavilan’s first visit to White Buffalo, she purchased a squash-blossom necklace. A typical necklace of this style is crafted in silver and turquoise consisting of round silver beads interspersed with beads that look like they are blooming, all leading down to what looks like a horseshoe or a crescent moon turned on its side.
“I bought my first squash necklace with White Buffalo,” Gavilan says. “Pam was amazing. A few other customers were in the store, but Pam engaged us all. She is the best!”
Someone who has never been to a store that focuses on Native American and turquoise jewelry might be surprised by the variety of the stones and the ways in which they are presented.
One of Minick’s museum-quality pieces is a sterling silver saddle with moving pieces, including the stirrups. She also has several hard-to-find heishi bead pieces. Made from pieces of tiny, hand-carved turquoise, these delicate strings of beads are also popular with collectors. Some of these pieces can be seen by appointment only.
Although the jewelry at White Buffalo holds an ethereal beauty that almost begs to be experienced in person, perhaps an equally special aspect of the jewelry is the woman behind it, and the story she holds for each piece.
White Buffalo Trading Company • 13328 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, KS • 913.789.8858
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