By Timothy Rawles / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ
In a non-distinct building in historic downtown Casa Grande, there’s a family who knows just about everything there is to know about specific elements of Southwestern culture.
Their business is more than a retail space it’s also an antique shop, auction house, and setting for an award-winning reality show.
The Western Trading Post is owned by Jim and Bobbi Jeen Olson, and Betty Whitley, who is affectionately known as “Grammy.” Jim and Bobbi’s son Rowdy serves as the store’s concierge helping customers with sales and questions. Rowdy often helps with styling shoppers in need of jewelry for special occasions.
The shop is visited by both collectors and sellers. They have come to trust the Olson family’s expertise to evaluate and appraise items fairly. Their business is a world-record holder for having the most expensive squash blossom necklace ever sold at an auction. A bidder bought the necklace for $112,000.
Squash Blossom necklaces are a quintessential part of Western American garb. They are usually long and crafted of silver and turquoise with interspersed beads leading down to an inverted crescent moon, or as some describe it, a horseshoe. Either way, the official name of that pendant at the bottom is called the Naja.
Conflicting history says that the design originated with the Navajo after seeing Spanish soldiers wear a pomegranate pattern on their uniforms. Others think the design literally comes from the flowers of the squash. Either way, these necklaces can be as elaborate or as simple as the jeweler makes them as long as they have the “blooming” beads and the crescent symbol at the bottom.
As experts in the field, The Olsons could probably tell you more about them, but you don’t necessarily need to go to their store to find out. They have a reality show currently airing on The Great American Westerns Channel. Or if you would rather stream it on YouTube, you can find two seasons on there.
The show is low budget but doesn’t feel cheap. It could easily take its place among the best of its ilk on a major network. Much like the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars,” the Olson’s converse with sellers who want to offload their western antiques for a fair price. The transaction begins with background information on the pieces they are trying to sell, and finally what the item is worth.
If Vogue had an Old West edition, host Bobbi Jeen would be the perfect cover model. In filler segments, she chats with artists, specialists, and other experts about their respective fields. For instance, in episode one of Western Trading Post TV, Bobbi talks to Lee Anderson, one of the country’s top horse bit and spur experts. We learn that the Mexican military taught American cowboys how to ride horses. In addition, we are given an informative lesson on the hardware that goes into horse riding including the placement of the bit and the importance of spurs. I’d consider starting the sentence with If Vogue had an Old West edition, Bobbi Jeen would be the perfect cover model. (something a little more active and it shows that vogue doesn’t actually have that)
Bobbi Jeen is an excellent host. It’s as if she was a born television personality. In fact, she is a professional model, stuntwoman, and actress. But her real love is keeping the western heritage alive. She has been nicknamed “The Arizona Cowgirl.”
The Western Trading Post is a historic business that goes back nearly 150 years. Today it’s a place that honors both culture and heritage. Whether you drop by the brick and mortar in Casa Grande or watch the Olson family on TV, you might find newfound interest in things you never knew you wanted.
“We feel the best way to achieve our mission of preserving and perpetuating our rich Western History and Lifestyle is by helping others. We get to help both sellers and buyers on a regular basis during the process of finding a new home for western collectibles,” The Olsons say on their website.
The Western Trading Post is located at 403 North Florence Street, Casa Grande.
You can watch the reality show on YouTube.