The Utility Shack closed (at least temporarily) in late December 2013 after 40 years of buying directly from Native American artisans and selling jewelry, pottery, baskets, rugs, etc. The Stouts had to deal with some health issues but now they have reopened!
Don't let the name or the location fool you. This is one classy store. It is like going to a Native American museum and gallery. Don't miss the back of the store where things are for sale but look more like art exhibits. There is also a vintage jewelry case, where people have sold their old jewelry to the store. I have made some real finds there. It is both a retail and wholesale place, so most items cost half of what they are marked, i.e., the prices are good. The service is friendly, helpful and low key. Definitely one of the best, if not the best, places to buy Native American art and crafts in Albuquerque. BTW, the name cames from the fact that Linda and David Stout originally opened the business in Saint Joseph, Missouri, in 1974 in an actual utility shack. They moved to Albuquerque two years later.
What to buy You can find all kinds of authentic Native American jewelry, pottery, sculptures, blankets, rugs, kachinas and fetishes.
What to pay You can find items like $4 earrings, $15 fetishes, $60 bracelets, all the way up to museum-quality pieces that cost thousands of dollars.
The Palms has been around since at least the 1930's. It is a place where you can get authentic Native American jewelry, pottery, and rugs -- not to mention a host of other things which won't cost you an arm and a leg. The website crows, "Palms Trading Company has the most complete inventory of Pueblo Pottery and Indian jewelry in the industry today. Our 5000 square foot showroom displays thousands of pieces of Pueblo Pottery, even more Indian jewelry as well as hundreds of Navajo rugs, Hopi and Navajo Kachinas and much, much more."
The morning after my arrival in Albuquerque, my hostess was wearing a unique necklace with tiny carved animals, or "heishi" (I may be spelling this wrong). I coveted it, and she promised to take me over to The Palms, where she'd purchased it.
There are several rooms to explore at The Palms, including ones devoted to pottery and rugs and things like drums, carved wooden objects, and other souvenirs. There are salsas, candles, cookies, and kachina dolls. But there's a boffo collection of jewelry, which was why I wanted to visit.
I discovered that there was quite a selection which covered length, quality, type and number of animals, and price. Ultimately I settled on a necklace which was somewhat similar to hers, but with more animals on it. It was $90.00 but everything at The Palms is 50% off so the final cost was more palatable -- and of course it was much less than a Zuni necklace would have been. I also found a lovely three-strand turquoise necklace which was $60.00 after the discount, and a number of fetishes and small doeskin bags. Overall, a very successful trip!
What to pay Original artwork can be very expensive. Expect to spend several hundred dollars for an Acoma pot or Zuni necklace; rugs can be even more costly.
Southwest Indian pottery is beautiful and comes in many shapes, sizes, and designs. Like all good art, personal preference will dictate what you might find attractive and decide to take home. My advice is to visit each of the shops in Old Town and get an idea of the quality, selection, and different types of pottery. I like most of the pueblos? work but my favorites are Mata Ortiz, Hopi, and Santa Clara, and Santo Domingo. Talk to the shop/gallery owners and ask them questions to gain an education and a better appreciation of who the potters are and the methods (most centuries old!) that they use in their craft. Then go back to the shops with pieces you remember 'speaking' to you and make your purchases!
My favorite shops in Old Town are:
Ancient Traditions, 400 San Felipe NW (good quality pieces from a variety of pueblos); www.ancienttraditions.com
Andrews (some of the best quality from Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Santa Domingo, Santa Clara and other pueblos); http://www.andrewspueblopottery.com/
Tanner Chaney Gallery, 300 Romero NW (the best quality and selection of Mata Ortiz pottery you're likely to see in one place); www.tannerchaneygallery.com
What to buy Southwest Indian pottery. Most stores also have jewlery and other Native American crafts.
What to pay Anywhere from $25 to $3,000
Saturday plans were to drive the hour and a half to Santa Fe to revisit this scenic Southwestern town, but before we left Albuquerque, we were encouraged to stop by Utility Shack. I am so glad we did!
Anyone desiring to pick up a nice piece of handcrafted silver jewelry should make the effort to visit this wonderful shop. I had already been pricing silver bracelets and pendants. I realized these handcrafted items were not going to be inexpensive when set with torquoise, but I was surprised to see how affordable they were here.
I would say the prices were perhaps 30-40% less than at other stores selling jewelry. On display were rings, bracelets, concho belts, pendants, earrings. All these pieces were crafted in plain silver or embellished with torquoise. We spent a longer time than expected here, because of the huge selection and great prices!
As we shopped, Native American craftsmen brought their jewelry into the store to sell. All area tribes are said to be represented. Also, on hand: a smaller assortment of gold jewelry, pottery, basketry and kachinas.
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What to buy Silver Jewelry
What to pay Less than expected--great prices
It's a large shop but I really took a liking to the first room I stepped into, where there's jewelry and pottery and some arts & crafts, but most of all genuine Navajo rugs. The clerk was actually very informative and actually knew what she was talking about.
What to buy I bought a tree of life rug and those do not run cheap but when I went to Santa Fe it was tripple the price for a smaller and poorer woven rug than the ones that I found in Albuquerque's shops.
What to pay For different rugs... $500 all the way to $5,000 or more
The Chili Patch is a unique store that specializes in chili peppers.
Note: This shop may and may not still be in business. Please check.
What to buy Various kinds of foods made with chili such as sauce, chips, popcorn (yes, popcorn), etc.
There are also recipe books featuring chili peppers and chili sauce and even toys and gifts.
What to pay Depends on the item.
The "shop" per se, is actually the sidewalk. Many indians come in from the outlying areas and set up shop on the sidewalk, selling anything from pottery, to jewelry to other types of indian wares. Some of it is quite beautiful, some of it is, well, the same touristy crap! But, the nice thing is the shopkeepers don't bug you, just let you look and ask questions. It's a nice, relaxing atmosphere. You can also wander around the other stores located around the square. The website below gives more information
What to buy Jewelry and pottery is what I would recommend. They sell equisite torquoise pieces that are quite elaborate
There are many, many, many, many unique little gift shops in what is known as "Old Town" Albuquerque. Over 80 boutiques with great souveniers await you as well as over 25 local art galleries and many restaurants all conviently located within easy walking distance of one another. When traveling to Albuquerque, Old Town is a MUST!
However, buyer beware as many things are "Made in China". Painted Ponies are a local treasure and take special care when buying Native American Indian crafts as there are many knock-offs.
This has to be one of the most beautiful shopping experiences that doesn't scream cheesy tourism!
Visitor information booth is open 7 days a week from 9:00am-5:00pm April-Oct.
303 Romero NW
What to buy Enjoy shops such as Angel Town, New Mexico Bead Company, Pasitos, Sisters Phoenix and more.
Definately stop by the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for such treats as Jalapeno Peanut Brittle and chocolate covered strawberries!
What to pay Very, very affordable. Even the local artists under sell themselves.
Here you can find Navajo rugs, Hopi Kachina dolls, various Pueblo and other Indian pottery.....and a whole lot more. The prices were really great as well.
What to buy I purchased a piece of Navajo Horsehair pottery.
What to pay Prices ranges vary, depending on what you purchase but over all, from shopping at a lot of other places...thought Skip Maisel's had super great prices!