Maybe a little bit of all of these things listed above describe Tin Pan Alley. The eclectic store is located on Highway 260 right smack in the middle of Heber. Open Thursday through Sunday throughout the winter, and Thursday through Monday during the tourist season, the owner/management team is as fun and funky as the store they run.
The team is made up of Marty Jensen, Doug Cairns and Toni Prather who met while independent operators at the Red Barn which is across the highway from where they are now. Several years ago desiring a space where they could be open year round, they came together and relocated to a new location they called Tin Pan Alley. The store has about 20 independent vendors who rent space for their wares with a waiting list 10 pages long of those who’d like to rent a space. “We prefer local vendors who are here year round to rotate their inventory and keep their space fresh and appealing,” Doug said.
Tin Pan has a little bit of everything. There are new items like homemade jams and aprons, purses, hats and cabin décor, to older items like antiques, collectibles, jewelry, china, western and leather items, toys…Basically, you name it. It’s really hard to explain as there is so much. What it isn’t, is boring. Toni told me, “Some people bring their out of town guests here for entertainment. I’m not sure if we’re a museum or an attraction,” she laughs.
It is interesting like a museum, but you can shop, too. Mornings, they serve coffee which has turned into a bit of a social phenomena. People show up to socialize over a cup of joe. “Sometimes we have a full house,” Doug said.
“Our customers are the best,” Toni said and Doug agreed.
This generous trio are community minded. Each year during the holidays they have a Senior Tree project. “Guess there used to be a Senior Tree years ago, but it had stopped for some reason,” Doug told me. “We didn’t know that when we started ours.” Tin Pan Alley puts up a Christmas tree and asks the community for requests from senior citizens for gifts they may desire. “It’s amazing the amount of them that ask for the basic necessities,” said Pam Martin, who is a vendor here.
“There’s a lot of tears and thank you’s,” Doug said. He continued, “One lady opened her gifts and passed away the next day.” He had more similar stories and they were all deeply touched by them.
Tin Pan also has a collection jar on the counter for the Rim Country Senior Center which they present to them after Christmas when their membership and funds run low. They display collection jars for other types of fund raising as well, which is so common here.
So, who are these people who make up Tin Pan Alley? When I asked Doug and Toni where Marty Jensen was from as he wasn’t there, they both quipped with good-natured humor, “I dunno…Mars? He’s been here a long time is all we know.” Many of you probably know Marty as he’s lived in Heber-Overgaard for 40 years, graduating from Snowflake High. Marty collects a wide range of antiques, art and “whatever strikes him”. “We especially like Western stuff,” Marty shared with me when I got him on the phone. “For either the store or for our private collections.”
Doug Cairns is originally from Niagara Falls, NY. He lived in Phoenix for 28 years working in corporate for a large water treatment company. He first came to Heber-Overgaard because his brother had a place here.
Toni Prather is originally from The Bronx, NY. “You have to write THE Bronx,” Toni instructed. She worked in retail for 25 years and owned three day spas in the Valley for 15 years. “I’m an LMT (Licensed Massage Therapist), but don’t practice because I have carpal tunnel,” Toni shared. Toni and her husband had a second home here. “Growing up, my family had a cabin in upstate New York. I always wanted one and my husband loves to hunt and fish so this was kind of a natural for us,” Toni shared. “We just got to where we wanted to be here all of the time,” she said. (Understand that.)
Tin Pan purchases a lot of their stuff from private collections, garage sales, flea markets, and many times from the trunk of somebody’s car.
“We have a lot of fun,” Doug said. There’s a lot of friendly banter between Doug and Toni that goes on most of the time. “She’s a pain,” Doug says, “But I love her,” referring to Toni. “And, her husband agrees with me!” Toni just laughs.
“There’s always interesting things happening at the store, because of the people that come in.” said Doug. For example, just this past Christmas a black Mercedes tall van-type vehicle with bullet proof glass pulled in Tin Pan Alley’s parking lot. Three men got out, came into the store and looked all around. Then, they went back out to their vehicle and brought in their boss and his personal assistant. Turns out they were his bodyguards. He came in and looked all through the store buying all sorts of items. “It was the largest single sale we’ve ever made,” Toni said. He bought old cameras, die cast cars, jewelry and a $500 belt buckle plus other items. Toni said “We had to wrap and ship all of it.”
We’re not saying who it was but Doug and Toni did some checking and found he’s worth $1.7 billion and his cousin is worth only a paltry $45 million – the poor relative I guess. Everyone has them, right? Wait, I think that may be me…?
One thing you may not know is when you see their ads in the Mogollon Rim News, they’re always hand drawn by Doug. Talented guy, eh?
They tried to get a swap meet going last year in their parking lot but there was so much wind it kind of killed the interest. They would still like to see it go because it’s not ALWAYS windy. The parking lot is roomy with lots of room for your stuff and parking. It has great visibility from both directions on SR 260 with lots of traffic. If you’re interested in participating this summer, let the crew at Tin Pan Alley know. Stop in Thursdays through Sunday and talk to Doug, Toni or Marty. The address is 1828 Highway 260, Heber, AZ.
You may just see your neighbors browsing the aisles or engaged in conversation with a fresh cup of joe…