Tippy Canoe: The History of Making Homes Feel Like Home
Learn all about the history of Tippy Canoe, a popular home furnishings store on Main Avenue in Historic Downtown Durango. We sat down to chat with Sharon, the owner of Tippy Canoe, to learn all about her history and what shaped Tippy Canoe.
Where did you grow up? How long have you lived in the Durango area? Tell us about your family.
I grew up just outside Terre Haute, in in a small town called Riley, IN. Born and raised as a farmer and coal miner’s daughter, I learned the fine art of what a good work ethic can do for you. Finding that character trait (among many others) in my husband Aaron, we married in 1981 and honeymooned in Durango. He declared at that time that we would move to Colorado. After visiting a couple of times each year, we made the move in 1991 with our two sons Jacob and Josh when Aaron started his custom home building business and I purchased the Durango Cookie Mine. Aaron, the founder of Aaron Taylor Construction, is one of the longest tenured and most respected home builders in town. Jacob went to school at the Art Institute and works in Denver for Rocket Communications and is married to Jen with two kids, Lincoln and Jaxon. Josh has followed his father Aaron’s footsteps into the family business.
What can you share about the events that led up to where you are now?
My lifelong passion of cooking enabled me to break into the local scene. First came the Durango Cookie Mine for seven years until I sold it and launched a Chuckwagon catering business. Serving old-fashioned chuckwagon food like brisket and beans along with homemade pies, we frequently catered weddings, parties, family reunions, and events like Fiesta Days. On the weekends we provided food for Treasure Auctions’ estate auctions held around town. These businesses allowed me to hone my customer service skills and develop a network of local relationships -- both critical to finding business success in Durango. They came in handy when it was time to hang up my apron (professionally) and pursue my other two passions, decorating and shopping.
What is your business and how / why did you start it?
Tippy Canoe was launched in May 2003. This came about because I saw the need for a home furnishings store through a seemingly chance occurrence. Aaron was building a custom home where his client “imported” all of their mountain home furnishings and decor from outside the area. Upon visiting the original Tippy Canoe in Tahoe City, I knew that we could fill an immediate need for mountain, log home style furnishings and decor in Durango, so I decided to make it happen. It was difficult to start the business back then because vendors required such large orders that it was hard to break in. We had to piggyback on our relationship with John in Tahoe City in order to have high quality inventory. And that’s what you need a lot of times in order for a business to get off the ground - a fortunate break of one kind or another.
What is unique about your business?
For a woman who likes to shop, it’s perfect. When people comment on our inventory, I just reply that “My momma taught me how to shop and now I do it for a living.” I go to markets in Atlanta, Las Vegas, Dallas, and Denver for sourcing inventory to help create that mountain lodge feeling with a little contemporary mixed in, and I take my sisters with me. We make a concerted effort to work with vendors who produce their items in the United States. Almost all of our furniture is produced domestically along with over 85% of the wall art. So much of what we offer is meant and able to last forever.
Besides focusing on offering home decor and furniture that’s made right here in the U.S.A., Tippy Canoe is all about bringing your individual design and style to life in your home. Customization is a nice way to achieve this; for instance, all fabrics and leathers are available to customize just about anything you might want to add to create the perfect touch.
Given your business expertise and the nature of what you do, what advice can you offer to the residents?
If you’re building a new home or going for a new decor throughout your place, it’s never too early to start your planning. It can sometimes take six to twelve weeks to get new furniture in, and if you begin collecting pictures and other decor a little at a time you won’t feel as rushed to make your decisions. One can easily get overwhelmed if you try to do it all at once. It’s best to take your time by ordering a little bit at a time so that you can add those personal touches. Through adding and mixing the new with the old, you can make an eclectic style that’s all your own. Maybe you can’t do it all at once, but by adding new pillows or a chair it can change the whole style of a room. By advancing through a project room by room, it will come to you as you go along.
What else would readers be interested to know about you, your family, or your business?
So much of what makes a home feel like a home are the experiences and memories you make within it. Tippy Canoe offers a variety of hostess and other gifts to bring to parties, and we’ve expanded beyond gifts to offering Nora Fleming so you have just the right dish for every occasion. In the fall, prior to the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, we transform part of our store into the most interesting Christmas decor you’ll find around town. Through this, we’re trying to help our customers get ready for Christmas a little early so as to make the season more enjoyable for all!
Learn more about Tippy Canoe here: