|4/8/2014 12:34:00 PM|
Bedouin has been offering something for everyone for years
By Jim Fisher
|Janit Brockway (right), founder of Bedouin, with Katelyn Andrade. Photo by Jim Fisher|
Janit Brockway and her employee Katelyn Andrade greet visitors to Bedouin each day.
It is one of the most unique and interesting shops in Sisters, offering gifts, clothes, and jewelry to both local residents and tourists. Janit and Jim Brockway, owners of Bedouin, are enjoying their 28th year of doing business in their rustic log-style store at 143 E. Hood Ave.
Bedouin's wares are best described in an online buyer's guide: "An eclectic collection of women's clothing, jewelry, and accessories. Many unique designs to energize your wardrobe including Nomadic Trader, Hanky Panky, FLAX, Kersh, Cut Loose, Tiagnello and more! Bedouin also offers a large selection of home decor (frames, candles, glassware, art), children's toys, stationery, cards, bath products and one-of-a-kind gift items."
Janit was born in Portland, and as her father followed his career with a telephone company she lived in several Oregon towns including Creswell, back to Portland, Pendleton, Lake Oswego where she went to high school, and to the Oregon Coast for a while. Back in Portland she went to an art school. She married Jim, a building contractor, and they had a daughter. At the time, her primary interest was focused in art and she had no plans to start a business. When both of their parents retired to the Sisters area, she and her husband decided to move here, too. They didn't plan to stay long.
In 1986, Janit and a business partner, Sarah Redford, started a whole business making custom canvas handbags with silk-screened designs. They chose the name "Bedouin" after reading a book about the nomadic people of North Africa.
"We were located in the high desert of Central Oregon, so we selected that name," Janit recalls. "It was an exotic name and it catches the eye of visitors."
Their handbags were sold to retailers throughout Oregon. Their shop was located in the Sisters Town Square. Soon visitors would come into their shop and ask if they could order a specific handbag with a design of their choosing. Gradually, competition increased from similar products made overseas.
"I probably would not have been brave enough to suggest a change in our business," Janit recalls, "but Sarah suggested that we cut back on the wholesale business and increase the retail side, which we did. Then after a few years, we decided not to be partners and I bought her out. She went on to start a writing foundation and I kept Bedouin."
Bedouin continued as a retail business, and after a few years Janit moved to another space in the Sisters Town Square. As the business grew, she enlarged the space for the store, eventually tripling its size. When the Hood Avenue building went on the market about 1999, she tried to buy the building, but it was being sold to another business. The new owners made improvements and Janit stayed in touch with them. In a few years, it went on the market again and this time she was successful in purchasing the building and the two lots where it was located. Janit and Jim added Navigator News, which sells magazines and has an espresso coffee shop.
During their trips to markets to buy goods for the store, Janit has preferred to support American-made items, but she still purchases products from overseas markets. Janit has become an experienced buyer for the store, knowing what her customers want and how their interests have changed over the years.
"I listen to my customers and hear what attracts them to guide me in my trips to markets," she said.
Bedouin weathered the recession fairly well, not feeling any impact until a year and a half after it started. Now she sees business starting to pick up a little more, but knows that the buying public's needs are changing. Janit enjoys meeting the customers to the business and watching how they almost always find something that attracts them that leads to a purchase.
"You have to like people in a business, and it is really something I enjoy," she said.
When they first moved to Sisters on a small acreage east of town, it was always a pleasant morning trip to town to drop their daughter off at school, knowing that she could walk to the store after school. Their daughter now attends college in Prescott, Arizona.
While she supports the improvements currently underway in Sisters, she is not sure that it was all needed. However, she is certain that most businesses will survive the impact of Cascade Avenue construction for several months.
"I don't think it will affect me too much," she said. "In fact, the traffic pattern change will make more people aware that I am here."
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