By Leslie Vreeland, Contributing Editor Jan 17, 2020 Updated Jan 17, 2020

Tom and Anne Connor with their golden retrievers, Joya and Danny. (Photo by Leslie Vreeland/Telluride Daily Planet)

By the time you read this, the Dakota Home Store, a fixture on Telluride’s Main Street for more than two decades, will be no more.

All gone: the carefully selected tables and chairs, the scrupulously curated kitchen supplies. Goodbye to Joya and Danny, the golden retrievers who lounged inside the warm store in winter and greeted kids outside in summer.

For that matter, farewell to the golden-retriever-shaped salt-and-pepper shakers, one of the few items left in the store Friday afternoon. Tom and Anne Connor, Joya and Danny’s owners — also the owners of the shop and its underlying real estate — surveyed their formerly spacious, by-now-cavernous showroom on East Colorado Avenue and agreed it has been a good run. Other than a 40-percent-off sale, which explained the nearly empty space, the Connors had no plans for a protracted shebang. No farewell parties for them: “We want to go out the way we started,” he said. “It’s never been about us. It’s always been about what we sell, and our customers.”

Some people have been customers ever since the first day Dakota opened its doors on Sept. 15, 1998. Those customers’ children have since grown up and had children of their own, and the Connors have been with them every step of the way.

“We’ve gone on to help furnish their kids’ dorm rooms, and now some of those same kids have gotten married, and we’ve assisted with weddings, and new homes,” he said.

“We’ll miss them,” she said.

The Connors took their roles as trusted family confidantes and tastemakers extremely seriously. “We sold the best,” he said simply. “In a small town, your reputation is everything. If you start to sell junk, it comes back.”

He was keenly aware of what this meant, both to residents and second homeowners.

“Say you’re a second homeowner, you’re entertaining some guests, and you want to make a cheesecake,” he said. “You can’t bake it in a crappy springform pan,” because the dessert must be a success. To that end, every offseason, the Connors took cooking classes “In Sonoma, in Berkeley, in Brooklyn, learning to use the items we sold. That’s the 24-7-365 way we operated this business. We were able to tell people, ‘This is the type of knife we used in cooking school,’ and why it’s important. We had to be able explain to someone why a good peeler” — for the record, Connor sold, and continues to use, Swiss-made peelers by Rosle — “is worth $37,” and why it can be worth it to spend $200 on a single pan (he recommends nonstick pans by Ballarini, distributed by Zwilling).

“You don’t need a full set of cookware,” Connor pointed out. “You can cook a perfect meal with just a good skillet and a saucepan,” adding to your batterie de cuisine as budget allows. He is concerned that customers won’t be able to find the same quality cookware and tableware in Telluride once he and Anne and the goldens retire to Bend, Oregon, in a few weeks.

“We’re talking with several other retailers in town, telling them, ‘Hey, you should carry this, not only because it’s good, but also because there’s a following for it,’” he said. If someone breaks a wine glass, for example, “You can buy the Riedel Vinum brand” — which Dakota carried, and which is considered “the wine drinker’s wine glass” — locally. “Riedel manufactures a line of Vinum stemware for Target,” he pointed out. “But those are made of glass. We sold Vinum crystal. There’s a difference. The same goes for cookware, and for knives. The good stuff lives on, and hopefully customers will be able to find it.

“We didn’t skimp,” he summed up. “You have to have an obsession if you’re going to sell it.” And speaking of selling, when their piece of real estate closed around Christmas time — the new owners do not want a home-furnishings store, which is why Dakota was out of business entirely as of Saturday — the Connors could have gone home and made dinner. This year, for once, they did not.

“The week between Christmas and New Year’s is the busiest time in Telluride,” she said. “Christmas was always just a day off.” This time, they went out to Cosmo.

The Connors are both from Illinois. “Next year, for the first time in 23 years, we’ll go back,” she said, “and have Christmas with the family.”


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