If it hasn’t been made evident by now, we love people here at AAT! We love hearing about their stories and passions for our community, but we also love hearing about what our fellow locals do and why they do it! For example, we have some wonderful neighbors who own/manager some fantastic local businesses and serve our town tremendously by doing so! This fact is why AAT has partnered up with our good friends at B3 Glass, to bring you all “Small Business Fridays!” Each week, we’ll feature a different, local small business and talk with its owner and hear about their journey, their business in general, as well as their heart for their customers and our city!
This week, we’re stopping by not only one of the oldest small businesses in Elko but the oldest business of its kind in the entire state of Nevada, JM Capriola! Established in 1929, this staple of Northeastern Nevada has been around almost as long as our town itself; therefore, it was only a matter of time before we had to stop in and hear some of the stories that have taken place within its walls. Our host for the visit was Susan Wright, one of the current owners of the business, along with her husband John and her father in law Doug who has been involved with JM Capriola since 1972 after his wife, Paula, and her brothers purchased the entity from their parents. Susan adopted Elko as her home after coming from Susanville, California, and John and his family have deep roots here in Elko County. “In 1958, my mother-in-law purchased the store from the actual Capriola family; there’s a huge history in itself from that point, but we’re now the 3rd generation of the family to be here.” Explained, Susan. “I met my husband in California, he was on the college rodeo team at Lassen Community College (Susanville), and my brother was his rodeo coach. I was home visiting for a weekend, and that’s how we randomly met! A few years later, we moved to Elko, and I’ve been here since 2002. I wouldn’t trade living in Elko for anything; I love it here. I’m super happy I can raise my kids here.”
The history of your business is quite fascinating, Susan. What would you say are some of the things the good people at JM Capriola have taken pride in over the decades? “We service people all over the world, but the store has become a destination place for tourist because of its history and longevity. We are old school; we still do things the way they’ve done them since the very beginning. Something that may set us apart from someone who may make mass production pieces would be we make everything from scratch. We don’t skimp on quality. If we don’t start with quality materials, our working gear won’t have the longevity. We have saddles that are over one hundred years that we’re still using. Any working gear that you see when you walk in, we make here at the store. We cut all our leather by hand; the only thing that is done by a machine is our sewing. Once upon a time, we had twenty saddle makers, but that tells you where the industry has gone: inexpensive, less quality. It’s like the difference between buying a diamond and buying cubic zirconia; they may look the same on the surface, but they’re totally different. That’s what sets us apart.”
Susan proceeded to explain all of which the store had to offer on our tour around the building. Eventually, we were met by “The Godfather” of the shop, Armando Delgado who has been with JM Capriola for thirty years and has acted as a mentor to owner John since he was a little boy. Armando opened his work bag to explain how every tiny handmade tool he had was uniquely used to create beautiful working gear, like saddles. You could tell, even after thirty years, Armando still had much pride in his work.
“We may be a business, but we’re a family first.” Explained Susan. “My mother-in-law was killed in 2012; this was her passion. This was her love, her life, her happy place, her everything. We’re just trying to make good on a promise to her that we will continue with the traditions and preserve the knowledge/lifestyle of the Spanish Vaquero and the Buckaroo.”
“In 2019, we will be ninety years old; we will never change the way we make and create our goods. We would hope that our kids would want to continue with this, but even if they don’t, we’d want to find someone who will and never lose it. It’s a sacrifice; we could all go work at some big business or corporation, but then we would be losing the history. That’s our goal, not to lose that.”
The motivation you all have to put forth your best work every day is powerful, Susan. Thank you for sharing all of this with AAT and our readers! Is there anything else you would like the residents of Elko to know about this historical business before we let conclude? “We try to stay as involved in our city as much as possible. It’s hard for small businesses to always because it’s hard being a business owner, but we try to pay it forward as much as we can. I want to let our community know that we may be ninety years old, we may be a Western store, but we have something for everyone! We’re not just for cowboys; we’re for everybody.”
Susan also wanted to invite her friend Jan Peterson, of the Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum, to share a little bit about the fundraiser they will be doing for the museum through iron branding! Take it away, Jan! “The branding is at the Elko County Fair on September 1st in front of the grandstand from around five pm to seven thirty. Instead of branding on an actual animal, we’re branding on wood; anyone who has an iron (active or registered) can bring them down, and all brands will be displayed on a wall in the museum! At three hundred dollars per iron, this is acting as our fundraiser for the museum. We’re celebrating the traditions of branding!”
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See you around, Elko!