South of the border in Tryon

Published 5:21 pm Friday, October 20, 2017

TRYON – In the depths of the Tryon Antique Mall, near the back, under a big metal carving of a donkey, is another world. Sandi Quisenberry brings her colorful heritage to Tryon shoppers.

Quisenberry grew up in Texas and her mother is from Mexico. Quisenberry has turned her passion for colorful whimsy into a business. She travels all over the world with her husband, Jeff Quisenberry, bringing back nick knacks, garden décor and holiday decorations with a “south of the border” theme.

“I like to have stuff around that makes me happy and makes me feel good,” said Quisenberry who has eight booths in the mall full of garden, home and holiday decorations.

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Quisenberry sells everything from iron benches, arbors, candleholders, chandeliers and decorations, to Mexican style Christmas decorations. However, her most intriguing items are the Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, decorations. The skeleton dolls are made of everything from pottery, to iron, to papier mâché.

“People think Day of the Dead is about Halloween or demons. Bad stuff,” Quisenberry said. “It’s really about honoring your loved ones who have died.”

According to Quisenberry, Day of the Dead is an annual festival and parade in Mexico where people celebrate their loved ones who have passed away. The skeleton dolls are used as festival decorations and carried in the parades.

“I think people are celebrating it [Day of the Dead] more now,” she said. “Lot’s of people are buying these as regular decorations year round.”

Regardless of whether a shopper is looking for something to decorate their house year round, or something for Halloween or Christmas, Quisenberry has volumes of whimsical decorations and even practical items to outfit a house, yard or garden.

One of her more popular themes is the chickens. On her shopping trips to Mexico, she picks up colorful chicken statues of all sizes from five feet tall to small handheld ornaments. The models come in every material from the big iron chickens ideal for a yard or garden, to small handheld ceramic or paper mâché ornaments. She even has a six-foot tall pink flamingo that is very popular for baby showers.

Quisenberry said, even though she doesn’t think the business is making much money, she breaks even and really loves what she does. “I love going to flea markets out in the fresh air and meeting funky people,” she said. Another reason she enjoys the business so much is that she loves to shop.

When the Quisenberrys were first starting their family 40 years ago, she started working for an antique store in Houston. “That’s where I learned the business,” Quisenberry said. “I’ve always loved old things, but realized I liked the ones with character and color.”

The Quisenberrys moved to Campobello 30 years ago and then had to leave in 1997 for Jeff’s job. Quisenberry said with his work they did a lot of traveling and she enjoyed buying things from all over. She soon realized she had to do something with all the stuff she was accumulating and started renting a booth at the Tryon Antique Mall 17 years ago.

“We loved the area and still came here as often as we could,” said Quisenberry who retired with her husband back to Campobello two years ago. Now she travels to Texas in her van to pick up the beautiful things she sells in her booths in the mall.

“I’m lucky to have a husband who supports what I do,” she said adding that her husband also has a booth in the mall selling train paraphernalia.

The Tryon Antique Mall, owned by Kim and Michael Ravan, is ideal for the Quisenberrys who still like to travel. With the help of Martha Dozis, Quisenberry sets up and maintains her vast inventory, pays her booth rent and pays a percentage of her sales to the Ravans who handle the sales for her.

The name of her business is the Iron Donkey, and while chickens are a big seller, Quisenberry explained that she’s always loved donkeys. “Because we travel so much, I can’t have a real one,” she said.  “The iron and ceramic donkeys are the closest I can get.”

The Tryon Antique Mall is located on South Trade St. between Tryon and the South Carolina border. They are open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m.