Step into main street’s The Gordon Collection and you are instantly aware that this may not be an ordinary shopping experience.
In fact, it’s likely to be anything but ordinary.
Located at 220 E. Colorado Ave. and online at thegordoncollection.com, The Gordon Collection features fine Navajo weaving and Native American jewelry and art in a light and lovely storefront that doubled in size recently after space next door became available.
Corina Gordon, whose parents, Bill and Ginny Gordon, founded The Gordon Collection, said of the expansion, “We have a massive amount of inventory and needed room for it to shine.”
Gordon isn’t joking, which brings us to the store’s extraordinary collection.
“The newly expanded space can now showcase all of our Native American jewelry,” she said. “Every piece of our jewelry is handmade by Native American artisans; we are very specific on this. We primarily carry Navajo, Zuni, Hopi and Santo Domingo styles. Along with contemporary jewelry, we also have a very extensive collection of vintage pieces.”
Gordon continued, “The larger space has also allowed us to expand our Native American pottery and basket collections as well.”
And the textiles?
“We are now able to have a designated textile room to showcase our immense inventory of Navajo weavings,” Gordon explained. “Every weaving is Navajo, handmade and original art. We have an amazing antique collection with pieces that date back to the 1880s, as well as a large contemporary weaving collection.”
If the merchandise sounds like it has been carefully curated with passion and expertise, that’s because it has — thanks to the Gordon family’s unique story, which begins more than 50 years ago.
“My parents’ passion is what drew them to move to the Navajo Nation in 1969, right after they were married, to teach school,” Gordon said.
The school the pair worked at was the Rough Rock Demonstration School near Chinle, Ariz.
It was a life-changing experience for the young couple, according to their daughter.
Centered on a community where 80 percent of adults spoke not a word of English, the school was the first in the United States to have all-Navajo leadership that prioritized the involvement of Navajo parents and the preservation of Dine history, culture and language.
During this time, Bill and Ginny Gordon became immersed in Navajo life. It wasn’t too long before native silversmiths and weavers became regular visitors, oftentimes demonstrating their craft to staff and students at the school.
Eventually, the Gordons — whose family expanded with the arrival of Corina in 1971 — decided their passion lay in “sharing the arts and culture, and they began their journey as merchants,” said Gordon.
After a few years moving around selling Native American arts and crafts, Ginny and Bill heard about the opening of a new ski area in Telluride. They arrived in the box canyon in 1973 and settled down.
For the past 50 years, among other enterprises, the Gordons have collected and sold — for many years privately — Navajo weavings, Native American jewelry and more.
“They built the building on main street that currently houses the Green Dragon in 1973,” Gordon recalled. “It is that front stoop that I was raised on, along with my brother, Jason, and sister, Darcie.”
It sounds like a cool upbringing.
“We are very aware of how special and unique our lives have been,” Gordon, who eventually joined the family business, remarked. “It is incredibly important to us that people understand not only our love of Telluride and our history here, but the long-term love, knowledge and interest we have in Native American people, arts and culture.”
That love, knowledge and interest is shared by long-time staff, Norwood couple Oak and Carrie Smith, she added.
“Oak and Carrie lived Kayenta, Ariz., on the Navajo reservation for 18 years before moving to Norwood,” said Gordon. “Carrie actually taught there. They have an extensive knowledge of the culture and arts of Native Americans and bring a lot of expertise and passion to the gallery.”
“Knowledge” and “expertise” are words that come up a lot in conversation with Gordon and it becomes clear that clientele will benefit from the Gordons’ and Smiths’ expertise and experience.
Said Gordon, “Yes, it is 100 percent our goal to not only find you that very special piece of jewelry, weaving, etc., but to also have you leave feeling as though you have learned something in the process.”
She continued, “The expertise of my father, Oak and Carrie is almost overwhelming in nature. I have good knowledge, but they could spend literally hours talking about just one piece.”
This brings us to another feature of the unique Gordon Collection experience: the blurring of the line between store and gallery. This summer, for instance, The Gordon Collection will become a participating venue on the Telluride Art Walk.
“The model behind the Gordon Collection is obviously retail sales, but just as important is the museum-like experience,” Gordon said. “In fact, many of our pieces are museum quality.”
She paused for a moment and then added, “We are passionate about it all.”