by Miranda Vega Rector of the CUJ
MISSION – When Melinda Broncheau invested everything she had into opening Ruby’s Indian Crafts & Supplies on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, a global pandemic was not included in her business plan but still she prevailed.
Broncheau, a Tribal member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), has had a passion for business since she can remember. It started when her Grandmother Ruby McFarland ran a bead and craft store out of her home on Shortmile Road in Mission. Broncheau was raised in that house by her mother, Lois Broncheau, and she raised her own children there as well. Both her matriarchs taught her how to bead and weave, and as she got older she expanded her craft creating Native regalia, hats, baby boards, and other traditional attire and accessories.
In Dec. 2019 she decided to move out of her apartment in Pendleton and temporarily move into a cousin’s home while she found Tribal housing and got her store running. The plan was for the store to open in Feb. 2020. Then COVID hit the reservation.
“Once we found out that it was here around January or February … we found out that there were two positives at the casino, I was like ‘Oh great, everything is shutting down,” said Broncheau. “But I had pretty much put everything I had into opening and inventory.”
Ruby’s Crafts and Supplies didn’t get to open until June 2020 and since then, the business has had to close its doors four times due to COVID-19 restrictions and exposure. Because of this, Broncheau is currently working full time for the CTUIR as a COVID-19 Screener to supplement her income and has still not been able to find local housing due to a long waitlist. She has been on the list since Dec. 2019 and currently rents a room from family. After she works her 8 hour shift with the Tribe, Broncheau then goes to her store to open for business.
“I’ll be tired for a bit but hopefully that changes, so it will all be worth it,” said Broncheau. “It’s more positive than anything.”
Even with all the unpredictability, her business is succeeding and her inventory has tripled in size. She said that slowly more and more people are hearing about her store and she gets several local customers as well as visitors from Yakima, and some from Lapwai and Warm Springs.
Broncheau’s goal with Ruby’s Indian Crafts & Supplies is to offer products that are not easily found in the Pendleton area. The inventory consists of beads and supplies, brass, tin, shell items, and brain-tanned buckskin. She also has other Native artists and merchants products’ on consignment such as jewelry, beadwork and clothing. Another goal of hers, once COVID restrictions lower, is to have her consignment partners teach community classes at the store so that others can learn about weaving and beadwork as well.
Broncheau said she is really grateful for the community and for her children – Jeremy and Jessica Azure, Eric Broncheau, and Nai Saecho – and family members who have helped her keep her business running this past year. She also said that the Tribal Business Service Center has been a big help to her and she recommends anyone looking to start a business to get in contact with them.
For store hours and inventory, visit www.rubysindiancrafts.com or like her facebook page Ruby’s Indian Crafts & Supplies.