Michelle and John Wolfe opened Sibley’s West in December 2010. Back then, the store was half the size it is today and featured a much smaller amount of inventory, the couple said, but they wanted to bring more retail to downtown Chandler.
“We were coming down here to go to the restaurants, but there really wasn’t much retail,” Michelle said. “Saba’s was here, but there was not much retail. We were asking the other business owners what they would want to see down here, and they all said retail. I thought it would be nice to have a little shop but not just the same thing that you could find everywhere.”
They started with 55 suppliers, and they now have more than 230, Michelle said. There are cards placed on the displays throughout the store identifying artists and the story behind their work. The cards also highlight which artists have worked with Sibley’s West since it opened.
“These people in Arizona are doing quality items, whether it’s art or pottery or candles. They are just not doing it on a mass-production scale, and so you won’t see them everywhere you go,” John said.
When the coronavirus pandemic forced the store into a temporary six-week closure, John and Michelle said they were still at the store every day, building up an online inventory for people to peruse.
“Being a mom-and-pop, we applied for and got some of the grant funding, which helped carry us through,” John said. “Our online store now has about 500 items; it used to have 170. The nice thing is that we can get sales 24 hours a day, and it’s from people placing orders all around the country. So that helped us to get through. You try to adjust and serve the customer and help and hope that things work out and get better.”
They said supporting the local community is at the crux of their business and that they hope others will shop local to help businesses like Sibley’s West recover from the economic impact of the pandemic.
“Every dollar we take in stays in the state,” Michelle said. “I only buy from people I can write a check to in Arizona. When you shop here, you see the artists. They are people. They are not some corporation I am buying a bunch of tchotchkes from; [they] are people we’ve known and met and gotten through a lot together with.”