Originally visitors to Sun Valley from Seattle, Susan and Mark Nieves, the owners of retail shop Independent Goods, were so enthralled with the area that in 2013 they packed up and came to Ketchum to live, raise their family, and open their own store. Ever-present in their store is the importance of connection: to customers, to craft makers, to each other. And that same priority of connection is apparent in Susan’s perfect 24 hours in Sun Valley where much of the day is spent forming and strengthening bonds to others in this town.
How does your perfect day start?
Susan: We start by playing vinyl—anything from Mary Popins to Blondie—having coffee, and possibly a special treat of pastries from Hank & Sylvies or Konditorie or a Bigwood Bread Ham & Cheese croissant. That gets us and our 4-year-old going. After that, I head into the shop to help customers find gifts for themselves, loved ones, or clients.
What’s a day in the shop like?
Susan: People hang out here for a really long time and we get to know our customers or tourists really well. Mark and I write the story cards on display with each product; writing them connects us to the makers and artists and lets customers connect with the product and design history. All of these things are important to us. Mark and I work really hard to find unique products that are heirloom quality that we would adore personally to own or give as gifts.
There are a few items in the shop right now that I’m excited about giving this holiday season. The first is pocket cribbage. The design evolution story behind that is that in WW2 soldiers carried games in their pockets and the maker out of Oregon was inspired by the compact size and made this fold-over mini cribbage. The other things are the turntables we sell that are connecting generations of customers through music. We see a ton of grandparents buying albums for their grandkids that are teenagers or parents connecting through music. We sell vinyl as well as the turntables. And then the third that’s become really popular is the glass cuffs. Each cuff is hand-beaded on a traditional Navajo loom and made with high-quality glass seed beads. Although expensive, they’re preserving traditional craft on the reservation to let them take care of their families. It preserves the craft. A lot of women have been buying them for friends—they go in as a group milestone birthday gift. There’s a lot of preservation of culture through these cuffs and supporting women, not only in the tribal system but also those hoping to preserve this art form.
What’s your afternoon like?
Susan: Visiting local stores and walking through town with a cup of coffee from Maude’s is one of our favorite things; we run into friends out and about and it lets us connect with other shop owners who have become acquaintances and customers. We always stop at Maison et Cadeaux. What we love most is walking in the shop because you’re welcomed as a friend. Then we pop over to Baby & Company, Sway, Elephant’s Perch, V’s Boutique, and Sturtevants. We’re excited to see what they have and say hi to the shop owners and friends who work there.
The incredible thing about this town is you can pack in a day of shopping and have plenty of time to still enjoy snowshoeing or a quick ski run. I joke that I don’t have to worry because everything is 5 minutes away so rushing isn’t necessary and is a gift in this town.
Where are you heading after shopping?
Susan: I might grab lunch at Rasberrys or the Kneadery, though I miss Cristina’s! If there’s still time in the day, we might go sledding as a family or run the dog with our daughter. Then we’ll enjoy some hot cocoa at home while Mark finishes making shotskis in the garage—his new hobby.
What’s dinner like?
Susan: We like to cook and go out, but if we have a rare night out with a babysitter, we usually have a few favorites: fondue at The Ram or a romantic dinner with some of the best wine ever at Cookbook. Or we’re likely found sitting at the bar at Michel’s Christiania enjoying hands down some of the best French onion soup, catching up with bar manager and dear friend Jeremy, hearing a story from Michel, and meeting new faces and people who are visiting.
Any after-dinner plans?
Susan: Go see Dave and Gorby at the Casino! Most of our friends work in the industry or own restaurants so a lot of us going out and about is about seeing our friends because our times don’t overlap. We moved here in 2013 and had been visiting for years prior. What drew us here as visitors and to actually move are the people. Overall, our perfect day is connecting with old and new friends and hearing how their day was.