By Sharon McIntire If you're frustrated because you couldn't find the perfect gift for that special someone this year, maybe you didn't look in the right place. Located across from the courthouse on the corner of Canal and Mermod, Pistol Packin' Cowgirls has something unique for more than just pistol packin' cowgirls. With an unabashedly Western atmosphere, owner Tammy Knickerbocker offers unique, upscale clothing for women, men, girls and boys, as well as personally handcrafted jewelry, boots, hats, belts, purses, perfumes, décor and more. Though there are no pistols in evidence, she does sell knives and belt buckles, with more to come as she expands her men's department. The store has an upbeat, artsy feel, partly due to a sprinkling of husband Steve's wide variety of paintings and sculptures that decorate the store (more on that in an upcoming issue of the Carlsbad Local), but also to the bold, colorful clothing. And Tammy treats her customers as works of art as well. "I don't believe that there's anyone that cannot look nice," is her mantra. "The Lord made us all different, so no matter what your body shape, I try to show women and men how they can wear different things that they never thought they could wear in a way that is pleasing for their body-type. That's what we're about here. "Born and raised in Utah, Tammy raised her family of five while Steve worked in North Dakota in the oilfields. He spent more than 20 years there, spending three weeks in North Dakota so he could have two weeks in Utah with his family before heading out again to North Dakota. Tammy stayed busy on their small farm with her children who loved horses. Her daughters became rodeo queens, while her son discovered that steer-riding was not his niche. Tammy pursued various artistic pursuits, and when she she opted to open a store, her rodeo queens became models for the business –which is where the store gets its name. When Steve was transferred to Carlsbad, the commute became unrealistic and he refused to be without his family, so Tammy sold her store and moved here, opening in September of 1919."It's been good here," she says. "It's definitely different from Utah, but the people have been really great and very accepting, which is a huge plus. At Christmas a lot of people patronized the store and expressed their concern for us and wanted to do local shopping to keep us here. Many of them were doing all their shopping online, so they were excited to have some fashion options. "Store assistant Hannah Beasley knows why customers are so loyal. "With Tammy, whenever somebody walks in, whether she knows them or not, she talks to them –she greets them –like they're family. I don't know whether they know her or not. Sometimes they'll go up to her and hug her and sometimes they walk right by, but she always acts the same. So it's like once they walk in the door, they're family. "This family likes to play dress-up, and Tammy happily admits that the merchandise she carries is unusual. "It's me," she boasts. "I try to carry different price ranges. I'm definitely not Walmart, but I have unique and different things. I carry fashion. I'm about fashion: Western traditions mixed with a little bit of modern. You can still come in and find things that have that traditional flair, but we have ways to wear modern things in traditional ways. "My husband says I'm a walking billboard for my store because I wear what I sell," Tammy laughs. "I'll walk around town or sometimes I'm walking through Albertson's and I'm pretty 'over the top'. I get a lot of looks, a lot of people stop. And that brings them in here. "Hannah adds, "When I first moved down here, I didn't dress like this, but now I absolutely love it. I love how it can be so simple but it can still be so over the top and you love it. "Although the team is developing a website, Tammy admits it's not her passion. "We need to be on the internet, but that's not who I am; I don't know how to work business that way. I like associating with people; I like to have that person-to-person contact. I can't see how people can want to shop through a computer screen: you can't feel anything, you don't know if it's going to fit –you don't know what it looks like on." She feels the same about marketing. "When I go to market, I handpick. I like to feel the fabrics. I like to see what I'm bringing in. I like to meet with people I'm doing business with. I like to envision somebody I know or somebody I've seen and I can see that shirt on this person -that's kind
of how I sell. ""And if they don't find what they're looking for, if they'll let me know what it is they want I'll bring it in, or bring in something comparable." "The down side is my family's not here. I have five kids and seven grandchildren. They're my models. My daughters model for me –that's where you get the Pistol Packin' Cowgirls. Some of them have businesses of their own now. And my grandchildren will probably be inheriting my store. That's what I'm building is a legacy for them. "I would love to grow and expand. We're hoping to get into our own t-shirt designs. I'd like to do custom leatherwork. I'd like to get a hat steamer so we can shape and style hats. I would like to see the store get bigger, to grow and to get more customers so I will be able to bring in the items people want to have here in Carlsbad. And I would like to have more than one store. Before Covid happened we thought that was a possibility, but is that my future? It still might be. I don't know. "Despite Covid and it's dampening effects on business, Tammy maintains a positive attitude about Carlsbad's future as well as her own. "If we can get back to having our concerts and having our Cavern fest and enjoying each other's company and having our get-togethers, I think this town will come back around. And I think our oilfield will come back around." The next time you're frustrated because you can't find that perfect gift, give Pistol Packin' Cowgirls a look-see. And remember, it's not just for girls –or cowgirls.