Saying his foot is “on the gas pedal,” a New Mexico entrepreneur will open a clothing and accessories store in Roswell in April, his fourth location since starting the business in 2015.
“You say that’s a fast growth,” said Thomas Wilson, a former oilfield worker who is now the chief executive officer of a family business. “I say it wasn’t fast enough.”
Wilson plans to begin renovations for the Rugged Trade store Monday at a property purchased at 126 S. Main St., at the corner of West Walnut Street.
When opened in mid- to late April with six to eight employees, it will join the first store, which is in Carlsbad, as well as locations in Artesia and Las Cruces. Wilson said he also expects to launch an online site by May and a Ruidoso store in 2020.
Rugged Trade, with the slogan “Lived Rugged,” sells both women’s and men’s clothing and accessories, from all types of work attire to more dress apparel, and from safety goggles to gloves to steel-toed boots. Prices range from inexpensive to luxury, he said.
“We are built around what we call the work-wear industry,” he said, “which is by far the most dynamic and headstrong, driven industry going around retail right now.”
He said the different clothing lines will suit blue-collar workers as well as professionals and executives. Styles will include western, contemporary, southwestern bohemian, tactical, medical and industrial.
Aware that several retailers in Roswell have closed in recent months or are in the process of doing so, Wilson said his store is different not only for its inventory but for its highly personalized customer service.
“We want everyone to feel like this is their shop, not because of, per se, the product but because of the environment that embodies and encompasses who they are and why they want to shop here,” he said. “My goal is to have our customers shop for the experience and leave with a souvenir we call our products.”
He expects that this location, like the others, will host events, including live music performances and brewery days. He also invites anyone who wants to help with the renovation to join in, in exchange for some merchandise. He said his stores start and end with the customer in mind, in terms of stock, service and atmosphere.
Wilson grew up in Artesia, graduating from Artesia High School. Several of his hometown friends join his family members in running the business that employs about 50 people at its various stores and administrative operations. The “tight-knit” group believes that pride in the individual and the community are essential, he said, and that is part of the “Live Rugged” ethos.
“Living rugged has to do with how people incorporate their work with their extracurricular lifestyle,” he said. “We are New Mexico born, we are New Mexico bred, and we are New Mexican through and through. These industries in southeastern New Mexico are thriving. It is the bloodline of what keeps the state of New Mexico alive, and we are here to help support that. We show our pride. We back our state. We back our workers.”
The company has its own private-label shirts and hats and does embroidery or embellishments for patches. He said that, because the operation works directly with businesses, it has a different business model than many other retailers, which rely only on individual customers. The company’s business model and its team, he said, enabled it to weather a tough 2016, when the oilfield work and potash industries in southeast New Mexico slumped and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad was shut down for a clean-up.
He said he left the oilfield when he found that the industry wasn’t interested in the type of change and innovation he wanted. Fashion, he said, is a challenging field that keeps him moving and learning.
“It is constantly changing. Just when you think you have your head wrapped around it, you’re behind the eight ball,” he said. “Plus to give a local community and the southeastern part of New Mexico that hasn’t seen an increase in a retail, that has seen more of a decrease in retail over the last 10 years, to give them something they can believe in … it is a gratification. I think organic relationships really drive the ball.”
Wilson chose not to divulge specifics about revenues or renovation costs. Chaves County property records indicate that the Roswell store, a 2,461-square-foot building residing on a 5,000-square-foot parcel, is owned by Black Bird Casas LLC, which is managed by Thomas and Laci Wilson. The property was valued at $86,238 in 2018.
The retail industry made up about 15 percent of New Mexico businesses in 2016, according to the New Mexico Department of Economic Development. It employed more than 92,000 people and paid about $2.63 billion in wages.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.