by RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor
Cowboy hats, custom made boots, beaded jewelry western themed décor makes the Desperado Contemporary & Nostalgic Western Store a desired destination in Central Oregon. Celebrating 15 years in business with an eye towards fashion the eclectic, owner Joanne Sunnarborg will be celebrating with a special anniversary party on October 7-8.
Desperado’s origins began in the Portl Pearl District in 1996. Having always been interested fashion, clothes possessing a tremendous flair for dressing, Sunnarborg decided to open a distinctive shop following her original profession in the insurance industry. She wanted something high end with a unique theme. After dismissing several ideas, she realized Portl didn’t have a shop specifically focused on western attire. Sunnarborg had always enjoyed wearing western clothing, if only to be different while growing up on the east coast, so the leap to creating a store centered around stylish western fashions was a natural fit.
“What I love about the western theme is the history involved. The Native American art, hat making, boot making, beading, it is all wearable art. Things don’t go out of style because it is an art, a craft, a skill,” said Sunnarborg.
After 11 years in Portl , Sunnarborg was facing her son’s departure for college, decided to move the western lifestyle boutique to Bend where the resort atmosphere would most certainly make it a popular store. She opened in 2007 in a br new space in the Old Mill District. Many of her Portl customers lived in Bend, so she was fortunate to have a strong following from the start.
Soon the differences between doing business in Portl Bend were evident. Leather jackets sold in Portl , not in Bend. Vests in Bend, but not Portl . Sunnarborg has since learned how to tailor her shop to the seasons, local flavor the ebb tide of the tourist season.
Sunnarborg shares that one of the greatest assets that has come from owning Desperado is not just helping to crush the Hee-Haw stereotype of western wear, but from the incredible friendships she has made through the store. Some of her best customers have become best friends. Much of her business has spread word-of-mouth, she seems to like it that way.
Desperado carries a wide variety of fashion, but Sunnarborg pays special attention to her boot selection. Since opening the store, her relationship with boot maker Tony Benattar from Liberty Boot Company has helped launch his business introduce his beautiful works of art to Central Oregon. Bennattar will be present at the anniversary celebration along with music from Greg Botsford the Journeymen, food, drink more.
Desperado pays special attention to local artist’s work. Barbara Slater’s western themed paintings hang on the walls, bead work from around Oregon is on display Sunnarborg is always open to artists approaching her to sell or display western arts or crafts.
While life in retail can be challenging at times, Sunnarborg her seven employees truly enjoy their work. Her goal is to continue to challenge those western stereotypes with attractive, fashionable fun western couture.
330 SW Powerhouse Dr., Bend. 541-749-9980 or 800-380-3994. www.desperadocouture.com, email@example.com. M-Sat 10am-8pm, Sun 11am-6pm.
Liberty Boot Co. at Desperado
Tony Benattar, owner of the Toronto, Canada-based Liberty Boot Co., creates works of art that are coveted by celebrities cowboy boot lovers alike. You’ll feel like a rockstar when you slip on your 100 percent h made Liberty Boots during Desperado’s 15th anniversary October 7-8.
And you’ll get an opportunity to meet the famous boot designer who remembers that in 2000, Madonna bought eight pairs of his boots, which she her dancers wore on her 2001 Drowned World tour.
Now Benattar takes orders from the likes of Ralph Lauren, Taylor Swift, Brooke Shields Bruce Springsteen.
Benattar refers to his footwear as rock ‘n’ roll boots. From the beginning, he was thinking more music than Marlboro Man when he saw a western boot.
“In the ‘80s, rockers like Alice Cooper wore cowboy boots,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m making crazy boots for rock ‘n’ rollers hooking it all up with my b ,” added Benattar, who plays bass dobro with the Rattlesnake Choir in Toronto.
He was recently fixated on macabre skull- -crossbones motifs. One pair of Libertys, the 62 Muertos, features 62 h -tooled skulls retails for $2,500. Another, designed for “hot chicks,” is priced at $950 built in pink leather with a staring skull wearing a girlie red bow “Rock On” printed on the back.
However, the design is only part of the allure, these boots are made to last a bronc busting, bushwhacking or round-up. All Liberty boots are h made from centre-cut calfskin; the only thing not made of leather is a durable steel shank. The sole of a Liberty boot has 100 lemon-wood pegs that exp contract with temperature moisture.
Benattar introduces fresh exciting new designs every year. If you fail to see the connection between the perfect three-chord rock song a pair of killer cowboy boots, you need to spend a few minutes with Tony Benattar.