El Paso, TX (PRWEB) June 12, 2012
Wandering through the two building complex just on I-10 in El Paso, Texas, the road warrior encounters a five acre southwestern wholesale and retail extravaganza. Sixty showcases filled with silver and turquoise jewelry. Walls of necklaces. Mountains of Persian, Oriental and southwest style wool rugs. Scorpion paperweights. Racks of Cowboy and Cowgirl Boots. Saddles. Furniture. Iron Work. Pottery. Baskets. Freeze dried Rattlesnake. Arrowheads. Buffalo hides. Even cowboy style caskets. It truly is the World’s Largest Southwestern Trading Post.
Dusty Henson, the 67-year-old king of this eccentric empire, sits in his memorabilia filled office behind a battered, note-covered desk. With a knowing grin, a Texas twang, and graying hair down to his shoulders, Dusty is a rangy operator in jeans and a Hawaiian shirt who has been cutting deals for half a century. “Take a look a this,” he says holding up a bully bag, a cowhide container made from a bull’s scrotum. “ The Germans and Japanese buy pretty much all these we can produce.”
Behind a smaller, more organized desk, sits Bonnie Henson, Dusty’s wife and co-conspirator. Sid and Sadie, her beloved German shepherds, rest comfortable in cages by her side.
The Hensons fit right into El Paso, the crusty bordertown that has attracted empire builders, revolutionaries, bootleggers, smugglers and fortune seekers of every description for more than four hundred years.
Dusty has been trading since he was old enough to count change. He has peddled snow cones, donkey rides, trout fishing, small pine trees, wild roses, and even live chipmunks.
In 1968 Dusty set up his first trading post at the Old West Hotel in Del Norte, CO. Dusty and his father transformed the run down property built in 1872 into a gaudy western themed tourist attraction, stuffed with Mexican imports and Native American arts. Always the hustler, Dusty spent summers in Colorado and winters in El Paso where he ran a number of other businesses.
They tried to settle down, trading took them back on the road to Mexico, South America, China, India, Morocco, Turkey & the Philippines. “I’ve always been a trader not a collector,” Dusty observes. “I just couldn’t stop growing the business.”
In 1982, the road led them to Scottsdale, Arizona, where they got into the wholesale gold jewelry business with a guy Dusty describes as “a fun loving wildman.” “I think our ex-partner wound up trading arms in Russia, but who knows?”
After a brief but lucrative stay, they headed back to the border and establish their trading post in a 6,000 square foot store/warehouse in South El Paso, TX. “It was right next to a methadone clinic and a half-way house. There were hookers, pimps and smugglers everywhere. Just my kind of scene.”
In 2005, they bought a former bowling alley and began building what was to become The El Paso Saddleblanket World Headquarters at 6926 Gateway East in El Paso, TX.
Like the original southwest trading posts, El Paso Saddleblanket World Headquarters has become a focus for community events. The Hensons host The Dog Lovers Fair and the Spanish & Indian market every October, as well as a weekly dog adoption day that supports Bonnie’s devotion to animal shelters and dog causes.
For Dusty and Bonnie, who have no kids and no hobbies, El Paso Saddleblanket is much more than a business. It’s their home. Dusty likes meeting people, designing new products, trading, buying and selling. Bonnie uses the store to further her work as a devoted supporter of animal
shelters and dog causes.
“Trade is the oldest form of human communication,” says the master deal maker. “It’s a noble profession.”