By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
It would be hard to imagine Las Cruces without Spirit Winds Gift Source and Coffee Bar. It’s been a local icon for more than three decades and a fixture on south Locust Street for more than 20 years.
“People like coming in here,” said owner-operator Richard Parra, a native of Deming. “It’s a comfort zone. I want people to come in here and enjoy the atmosphere,” he said.
Parra has had a Spirit Winds at one of several locations in Mesilla and Las Cruces since 1978. Someone new, though, could end up running the place.
At 62 (as of Sept. 3), Parra’s thinking about retiring, and has put Spirit Winds on the market.
“I’ve got other plans,” he said. “I’m just not disclosing them.”
His first studio-gallery, all 800 square feet of it, was located on Valley Drive and had only one door and no windows. But, it gave him enough space to make the jewelry, stained-glass and leather work he was selling in craft shows in the area.
At one of those shows, at Holy Cross Retreat in the late 1970s, Parra was offered the rental of a building on the Mesilla Plaza. His first Sprit Winds was located first where J. Eric Chocolatier is now operating and later moved a short way down the plaza to where the Billy the Kid gift shop is now.
Parra had the store in Mesilla for 13 years, and ran a store in Ruidoso for three years during that time, traveling between the two cities and working seven days a week.
Spirit Winds sells a wide range of gift items, but “it’s always been about jewelry and women’s accessories,” Parra said. “Women are shoppers,” he said, along with some men.
The store also sells clothing, cards, wind chimes, mugs, figurines, clocks, artwork and many other unique gift items that Parra finds during his travels to trade shows on the East and West coasts and points in between.
Then comes coffee
Only after the retail end of his business was well established did Parra decide to add a coffee bar to Spirit Winds, spending about $10,000 on an espresso machine and other $5,500 on a double refrigerator. In addition to coffee that’s delivered daily to Spirit Winds from Picacho Coffee Roasters of Las Cruces, the café also serves a variety of food, including bakery-fresh pastries, soups and salads.
The gift shop and coffee bar are both decorated in a range of bright colors. “I wanted to make it happy,” Parra said. “It’s in your face, but it’s not in your face,” he said. “There’s never any hurry for anyone to leave this place because it’s so visual.”
Parra, a graduate of Deming High School who took art classes in college off and on for seven years, keeps his hand in the creative end of his business, where he began. “I have a jewelry studio hidden away,” he said, where he still occasionally makes jewelry and sometimes slips a piece he’s made into his inventory without putting his name on it. “Each one is one of a kind. That’s the key for me,” Parra said. “I just go into my studio and escape.”
Parra also has a warehouse where he keeps several motorcycles and cars that he’s restoring, including a 1954 Chevy truck he owned in high school, a1951 Mercury, a 1959 ranch wagon and a 1953 Chevy Belair. “I get away from the reality of retail,” he said. Working on cars is “my cleansing, I guess.” He also takes a month off every year to take a motorcycle trip somewhere in the western United States.
Parra credits the people who work for him with much of his success. “It’s not just me; it’s my staff. They’re spot on. I have to give a lot of credit that they watch my back,” he said. “Spirit Winds is more than just me. I have some incredibly talented people.”
Parra said he has also “been very fortunate that the community has supported us for 30-plus years.”
Spirit Winds, located at 2260 S. Locust St., is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 521-0222. Follow them on Facebook at Spiritwinds Gift Source and Coffee Bar.