After 47 years, Tres Mariposas to close

(By Nan Napier, Published in El Paso Inc., 10.23.2107)

They say that all good things must come to an end. Now Tres Mariposas, the store that has been such a part of my life and the lives of so many women here, is closing its doors after 47 years.

We are going out of business just one year shy of my own 40th anniversary at the store. But today’s dramatic changes in retailing, coupled with my desire to spend more time with my children, grandchildren and sisters, made this seem like a good time for a change.

It has been such a joy to be part of El Paso’s fashion scene and our local retail environment. Ever since I was a naive 24-year-old accounting graduate in 1978, I have enjoyed the chance to run a business built on customer service and quality. I loved seeing the company evolve, whether it was creating a Nicole Miller store inside Tres Mariposas in the 1990s or developing a fine jewelry department during this decade. We weren’t afraid of innovation in our business model, our floor plan or the designers we carried.

Having the privilege of helping women from El Paso, Juárez and throughout the region find their perfect outfits has been an honor. Special occasion dresses from Tres Mariposas have been part of so many weddings and other milestone family events. Presents from our store have made so many women happy – and that has made our staff happy beyond words.

Since we started our “everything must go” sale on Tuesday, hundreds of wonderful customers, both longtime and new, have come in to shop and talk about what the store has meant to them. For instance, it was great to hear longtime customer Sharon Kidd say that Tres Mariposas was “what kept us from having to shop out of town for so many years.”

It was good to see my friend Melissa O’Rourke drop by. She’s the owner of Charlotte’s Fine Furniture, another longtime store on Mesa Street that is closing. In August, Melissa launched their own final sale at the store that her mother founded 66 years ago. The times are changing, we all know.

Like our namesake butterfly, during the first three sale days, I felt like I was flitting between customers, clothing racks and cash registers – flying here and there just to try to keep up. Business owners who have closed companies probably understand the mix of emotions that come over you.

When I finally took a breath to look around, I thought about how great it was to see so many old and new friends in one place. I loved seeing friends visiting with one another. It was so exciting and rewarding to see that Tres served as their gathering place. Our vision has always included an environment where women – and the men who buy gifts for them – can enjoy relaxing and socializing, sometimes with a bottle of water, glass of wine, cookie or snack.

Even when shoppers came up to me to express their surprise and regret that Tres Mariposas was closing, their stories and their enthusiasm about the clothes and jewelry they’ve bought over the years were so gratifying. Of course, I know where some of that positive energy was coming from. There’s nothing like a good bargain to raise any woman’s spirit!DSC_0065


High-End Fashion with El Paso Roots

logo_blkWe absolutely love seeing El Paso and Juarez natives excelling in the fashion world! So we’re especially thrilled to tell you about Leigh Elena Navarro, 1996 Coronado High School grad, who will be visiting the city next week from her home in Austin. This gifted designer and entrepreneur has her own design line, known as LeighElena, featuring jewelry and other accessories that reflect her clean and interesting design aesthetic.

After graduating from the University of San Diego with a degree in Spanish and business, Navarro spent a number of years working in fashion and high-end retail in Los Angeles and New York. She moved back to Texas in 2005 to start her jewelry business.

Lots of people don’t know what they want to be when they grow up, but you could say that Navarro found her calling at the age of five. That’s when she began learning how to fuse enamel and glass together: her first teacher was her mother, Susan Navarro, a talented enamel artist. As a child, Leigh helped her mother at art fairs and then started creating and selling her own hand-made jewelry. Today Susan helps her daughter.

“My mom and I still do the enameling together here in Austin,” Leigh says. “The leather work is now done in a couple factories here in Texas and everything is finished in Austin.”

Her signature pieces include contemporary cuff bracelets featuring distinctive metal clasps. After a couple years in her new business, she began using leather and genuine exotic skins, such as alligator, stingray, python and ostrich, and the brand took off. The bracelets, in vivid dyed leathers and natural colors, are unique and striking.


Since she started the LeighElena line, the bracelets have developed an international following. They have been featured in both fashion and lifestyle magazines such as Southern Living and Lucky. Her accessories are carried at both large retailers, such as Anthopologie and Neiman Marcus, and small boutiques.


Some of her work has even found its way into celebrities’ jewelry collections. She’s seen her bracelets in photographs of such stars as singer Miranda Lambert and television host Hoda Kotb. “Many years ago I had a picture of Barbara Walters hugging Oprah with my bracelet on,” she recalls. “That was pretty fun!”

Navarro is inspired by role models such as Donna Karan. “I appreciate what Donna Karan does so much, because she created beautiful things for women that are truly wearable,” she says.  “She is a smart, strong woman and that comes across in her lines.”

She also is inspired by what she sees on her frequent trips in the United States and abroad.
“I travel extensively for personal inspiration as well as inspiration for my lines,” she says. “I travel about four or five months out of the year for both work and play. I find it fascinating to see what people think is beautiful, useful and adored.”

One of her favorite destinations is Mexico. “I will be there almost monthly over the year,” she says. “Guadalajara was a wonderful trip I took with a couple great friends in March.  I cannot wait to return!”

Coming up next for Navarro is a line of Native American-inspired pieces. “It is similar to pieces that my mom and her mom wore and treasures I have had growing up,” she says. “I love gold tones and I am making this line entirely in bronze.”

Navarro still has relatives in El Paso, including her father and his sisters and some cousins. She is looking forward to visiting this week for a trunk show at Tres Mariposas. It will be just the second time her work has been spotlighted in her hometown; a few years ago she showed her accessories at the Ruby and Lola store.

What can shoppers and friends expect at the trunk show? “I will have my best pieces from my collection with me,” Navarro says. “And there will be surprise gifts with purchase, too!” she says.

Where can you see LeighElena accessories?

LeighElena Trunk Show at Tres Mariposas
5857 North Mesa Street
Thursday and Friday, June 15 and 16
Leighelena SoCo
1714 S Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas
Leighelena Pearl Brewery
303 Pearl Parkway, San Antonio, Texas
 Trunk Cover

What is Going on With Retail?

The news is full of major retailing chains closing stores – or closing their doors completely. Just here in El Paso, the Sunland Park Macy’s was one of more than a hundred marked for closure and across the street, the long-time Sports Authority store closed when the whole chain was liquidated. Yet unemployment has been down and salaries have been creeping up the last couple of years. So what is going on?

A piece posted on in April – “What in the World Is Causing the Retail Meltdown of 2017?” – garnered a lot of attention in our industry. “The reality is that overall retail spending continues to grow steadily, if a little meagerly,” wrote Derek Thompson, one of The Atlantic’s senior editors. “But several trends—including the rise of e-commerce, the over-supply of malls, and the surprising effects of a restaurant renaissance—have conspired to change the face of American shopping.”

If spending hasn’t come to a halt, what do customers want outside of e-commerce? With all of today’s technology, people do not want to become simply robotic consumers.  We still need to recognize the “human element.” One takeaway: Since it is easy to get so many needs taken care of at the click of the cursor, consumers have developed into more discerning shoppers.

In many ways, the act of purchasing is an expression of identity.  According to Boston Consulting Group, BCG Perspectives, “millennials are changing the face of marketing forever.” In the U.S., 50% of 18- to 34-year-olds believe that the brands they endorse “reflect their personal character and values.”   When they do shop in person and not online, they want a unique experience and unique products appropriate to their lifestyle.

My friend and retail guru Doug Fleener says shoppers want three things;

  • A “curated” product mix. Today’s inventories should reflect a point of view and a lifestyle. For instance, my store has recently changed its product mix to reflect a new take on fashion. We see that women want relaxed fashion that is still put-together with an element of luxury. More than ever, today’s consumer puts together her own look to express her unique personality.

Women in particular like products with historical and emotional connections. Take for instance jewelry by Temple St. Clair, who designs with an artist’s eye and explorer’s heart. She uses gold and rare colored gems to illustrate universal narratives of the earth and cosmos. Unique and authentic resonates with today’s consumer who can be overloaded with tech.

Customers also seek out items that are interesting and one-of-a kind for their home.  In our new home and gift area, for instance, we have onyx items that came from a mine where intense heat from an adjacent volcano created unusual variations. Rich colors and patterns in the onyx pieces ooze a sense of earthy beauty that only Mother Nature can create.

  • A more personal store brand. Fleener says that stores that are succeeding today “are much more than simply a storefront with a name.” He notes that they’re a very personal brand in their community. Customers feel a real affinity for the business and its staff, and shop there to support c the local community. El Paso is a distinctive, unique city where people embrace its special culture and support its businesses.
  • A personal shopping experience.Successful store have highly engaged customers and a staff of associates who see their primary responsibility as building relationships. Associates get to know their customers’ tastes and become their personal shoppers.

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Temple St. Claire “tolomeo” pendant

Encircled by a stunning array of multicolored sapphire and tsavorite stones, a sapphire cabochon gleams at the center of this magnificent 18-karat-gold pendant finished with petite diamonds

Holiday wishes: Time to relax and reflect

HolidayAs you read this on Christmas morning over coffee, take a moment to look around. If you have kids and grandchildren around, you may be surrounded by chaos. “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day,” Andy Rooney, the witty commentator, once said. “Don’t clean it up too quickly.”

Maybe you have tamales and cheese grits warming in the oven for a family brunch; maybe you are basting a turkey for a big Christmas dinner. Or maybe your house doesn’t exactly look like a spread out of Southern Living. We all know that the holidays take many different forms in today’s homes.

Some of us might have enjoyed latkes and a nice brisket last night on the first night of Hanukkah. Some people may be alone with family and friends far away. Some folks are picking out which movies to go see this afternoon. No matter what your scenario looks like right now, it is time to sit back and enjoy the day. Finally!

We may have gotten carried away with the presents, the planning, the baking, and everything else that comes along. Then it’s time to remember what Bob Hope, the great entertainer who gave so much of himself to cheer up our troops during many Decembers, said about the holidays. “My idea of Christmas, whether old fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others.” So true.

In those moments when the action pauses, stop and reflect on what’s truly important. This is the day when time blurs, when we think back to holidays past and we look forward to the new year starting next Sunday.

After all our hustle-bustle to find just the right presents for everyone on our lists, here is a great perspective on the most important gifts we can share with others. Author Oren Arnold wrote that during the holidays – and year-round – we should remember to give…

  • To your enemy, forgiveness.
  • To an opponent, tolerance.
  • To a friend, your heart.
  • To a customer, service.
  • To all, charity.
  • To every child, a good example.
  • To yourself, respect.

It’s been a difficult year around the country and many families and friends have been split by politics, but this is definitely not the season for debate and divisiveness. I saw a great Christmas poem this week that the creative Kathrin Berg, who has worked at the El Paso Community Foundation for many years, composed for her 2016 Christmas card. It was funny, but had a serious side. Part of this cute poem was about Santa Claus visiting El Paso – and finding his elves breaking up fights among the Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in San Jacinto Plaza! Her closing stanzas went like this:

From high above the Cortez swooped St. Nick to the rescue,

Saying, “Be kind to your neighbor and respect each point of view!

We all have the right to be free thinkers, on that we can agree.

So, be kind, rewind (to a simpler time) and return home safely.”

Then away Santa zipped, leaving all on their own to make amends,

To put differences aside and reconnect with family and friends,

Have a Merry Christmas no matter where in the world you are,

And make a wish for world peace when you find the bright star.

I couldn’t agree more. May your holidays be happy and may all good wishes come true. God bless us, one and all!