When I told the folks at an RV park in Texas that I was headed to Columbus, New Mexico, they said, “Oh, you have to visit The Pink Store!”
With a name like that, I knew I had to try.
The Pink Store is located just south of the border from Columbus in Palomas, Mexico. I drove the four miles from Columbus to the border and walked across. It was that easy. Then I wandered aimlessly around town with the self-consciousness of a foreigner in a place where everyone else has business to attend to. Eventually, I stumbled into The Pink Store, a gringo-friendly destination for aimless folks like me.
If you’ve ever traveled in Mexico, you’ve probably discovered that small-scale artisans produce a tremendous variety of exquisite work—pottery, fabrics, musical instruments, liquors, furniture. But each region specializes in a different craft, and it’s hard to find a good selection in one place. The Pink Store does it as well as I’ve seen anywhere—it’s chockablock with an impressive selection of regional crafts, from the woven-wire baskets of the Tarahumara in the north to the fanciful painted creatures, called alebrijes, from Oaxaca in the south. Prices are fair, and there is no bargaining.
Upon entering The Pink Store, I was offered a selection of beverages to enjoy while shopping. I had heard about this courtesy, and I was prepared—the famous margarita, of course. After slugging the first half, I realized I’d have to slow down or I’d embarrass myself. Fortunately, I had only to step into the dining room to dilute the effect of the drink with a terrific meal, complete with mariachis.
The Pink Store is a labor of love for Ivonne Romero. Scion of a family of merchants—her grandparents ran several enterprises—she has traveled throughout Mexico for over two decades to bring this cornucopia of Mexican craft to visitors from the North. She nurtures close relationships with the artisans, whom she describes as “longtime friends. We share their family events and their life journey.” Her own life work is to “bring the color and beauty of Mexico into people’s homes.” Once there, she explains, the handcrafted pieces often take on a life of their own as they grace the rooms, walls, patios, and porches of norteamericanos.
People mostly hear about the store like I did, through word-of-mouth. However, The Pink Store has also felt the effect of stricter passport requirements, rumors of violence, and the economic downturn. Still, “I’m grateful,” says Ivonne, “as long as I’m here, I’ll try to get these things across the border.”
I finished my shopping and returned to my trailer at dusk, warmed by the experience and the congeniality of the people I had met. So now I’m passing the word along to you. If you ever find yourself near Columbus, New Mexico, do not miss The Pink Store.