FARMINGTON — Native Pride, a new T-shirt shop known for its humorous merchandise, got a serious grand opening Wednesday.
Members of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce's redcoats squeezed in between racks of T-shirts, books, CDs and DVDs to officially welcome the store at an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Owner Jasper Joe's uncle, Shiprock medicine man Jerry Tsosie, began the ceremony with a prayer for the store's opening and continued success. Devon Charley, from Chinle, Ariz., followed by playing blessing songs on his flute.
Joe opened the "Rez wear and Native music" shop in May at 3030 E. Main St., unit X3, a location he said has been a boost to his start-up business since retiring from a 30-year career in education.
Joe, 61, couldn't resist the temptation at the ceremony to crack a few jokes.
"Friends come by my store and say, 'Hey, J.J., you've gained weight.' And I tell them, 'What do you expect. My store is surrounded by Dunkin Donuts, Chinese food, pizza, restaurants on all sides.' But that's lucky for me. When people get hungry, they will come here."
Joe sells more than 30 different T-shirts and has recently designed a store logo which he began adding to many of the designs last month.
T-shirts in a rainbow of colors, from kids size 2 all the way up to 3XL, have messages that echo his irrepressible sense of humor.
One shirt, for example, reads, "Mary had a little lamb ... But Grandma butchered it," a nod to the Navajo custom of butchering sheep.
One with a close approximation of the National Football League logo on the front reads, "Navajo Fry-bread Lover." Another shirt has the Navajo word "Naat'áanii" above a woman brandishing a rolling pin.
"She's 'the boss,'" Joe said, chuckling at the shirt. "Navajo people are a matrilineal culture, so that shirt expresses that well, I think."
Another shows a man riding a billy goat, struggling to hold onto the goat's horns. It reads, "Rez County Chopper."
Two of his best selling shirts, purchased by or for young women, read "Future Miss Navajo" and "Pretty Rez Girl."
All T-shirts and Native American music CDs go for the same price, $15 apiece or two for $25.
Irving Bahe, a pastor and friend of Joe's for more than 15 years, designs many of the shirts Joe sells.
"I used to tease him, telling him, 'You must get stoned to think of all these crazy, funny things,'" Joe said. "But with the humor there is room for inspiration, cultural awareness, education, things people can relate to."
Not to be outdone by his friend, Joe recently began taping up some of his own jokes in his storefront window.
"I see people stop, read them and begin to laugh and they end up coming in to see what we sell," Joe said. "They are so popular that I am thinking of printing some out, framing them and selling those."
Joe says he once took a fiction-writing class from N. Scott Momaday, an award-winning Native American author of Kiowa descent, as an undergraduate at Stanford University. "I like to write," Joe said. "My ambition is to write a book like Reader's Digest, with stories and jokes. What I put in my window is just a sample."
Native Pride is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.