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Thunderbird Jewelry celebrates 50 years in business

Don Cosper already had a lot on his plate as the Thunderbird Motel owner in the 1970s when he decided to take on a new challenge: selling turquoise stones out of the motel. Local artists began selling their jewelry to him, and thus Thunderbird Jewelry was born.

His business grew so much, that soon he had to move it out of the motel. Then, in 1974 the company moved again to the building it’s in now at 1923 W. Hwy. 66. And now, the business’s employees are getting ready to celebrate the store’s 50th anniversary.

Many of the employees have been with the store for almost 50 years themselves.

Danny Thomason initially thought of the jewelry store as a nice summer job in 1978. He said working in the jewelry environment brings challenges every day, and that’s something he really enjoys.

“I enjoy the challenges,” he said. “ I just kept saying ‘OK, I can do that, OK, I can do that.’”

That gung-ho attitude helped Thomason climb up the corporate ladder at the company over 40 years, and he became CEO in 2017.

He said facing the challenges and fixing problems is his favorite part of the job.

“There’s always something in business that needs improvement,” Thomason said. “So it’s always “What can we do better, what can I do better.’”

Knowing his employees and how they can work together is another part of Thomason’s job.

“Some of them are jackhammers, and some of them are not,” he said. “You’ve got to learn which tool you can use where and where they can fit best.”

Angel Rohrer also began her career at Thunderbird Jewelry, moving up in the company from a salesperson in 1986 to the current day store manager and jewelry buyer.

As the jewelry buyer, Rohrer meets with the artisans who come in looking to sell their products. She said her favorite part is interacting with all the different people she gets to meet.

“My favorite part is talking to the vendors, the artisans,” she said. “I’ve gotten to meet so many people, and we’ve become friends.”

Most of the jewelry makers Rorher works with are from the Zuni and Navajo tribes. Jewelry making runs deep in these cultures; some of the vendors she works with are the children of vendors she worked with in the past.

She said the hardest part of her job is telling potential vendors “no.”

“The hardest part is not being able to purchase [all of the pieces that come through the door],” Rohrher explained. “There’s just some things that aren’t right for the area, or it doesn’t fit a certain price range, or maybe we don’t have the clientele for the colors.”



Thunderbird Jewelry staff will celebrate the store’s 50th anniversary with a refreshment celebration on June 7 from 1 pm to 3 pm. The event is open to the public.

Staff Reports