Home on the rancho
“West without being Western,” is how Ginger Diaz describes the aesthetic of Rancho Diaz, the new retail store she and her husband, Mario, will debut at the Pearl this summer.
While the term “Western” often conjures up visions of cowboy fashion, twangy guitars, and tragic epics, Ginger's version of “West” goes beyond Texas and into Mexico. It is defined not by borders or the movies but by the landscape itself.
“It's the desert and the nature of it,” Ginger says on a call from San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico. “I'm just looking out over these mountains...all the tones of the blues and the greens and the browns in the landscape."
Unlike the couple's existing store, Feliz Modern, which is flooded with exuberant colors, Rancho Diaz will be cool and collected. The difference, says Ginger, centers around what they put in their home.
Both with design backgrounds — Mario was a graphic designer in ad agencies and Ginger was a photographer — the store owners simply have a keen eye for unique home goods. Ginger, as a favor or hobby, also helps her friends decorate their own homes. Feliz Modern started thanks to this skill, and Rancho Diaz is expanding on it with a more personal touch.
“We were collecting art from local artists, and friends would come over and say, ‘How can you afford to have all this art?’” she says. “And really, it was from students, auction[s], or direct from the artist. We knew how to find things that we loved without breaking the bank.”
There are a few focal points in the Diaz home that draw people in, including the embroidered Otomi wall hangings and vintage Fiestaware ceramics. The latter plays an integral role in the Rancho Diaz catalog, both as rare vintage offerings and in practical new sets.
Ginger's personal collection comes from her mother, and her paternal grandmother, who slowly collected the dishware back when it came free as a promotion buying gas. This breadth of options is an overarching business model for Rancho Diaz: connecting Texans to cultural items both preserved and recreated, so everyone has an opportunity to participate.
Rancho Diaz also carries miniature iron donkey statues that remind Ginger of the store’s origins. She bought one during a trip to Santa Fe, which prompted thoughts about the equivalent item in San Antonio: something that is emblematic of the area, that is both common and unique, appeals equally to a tourist and a local, and isn’t emblazoned with the name of a place or the shape of Texas.
“It doesn't say Santa Fe on it, but I know it's from Santa Fe. It sits on my shelf and every time I look at it, I think about my trip to Santa Fe. And so that was the inspiration behind it: where would I go in San Antonio to find that item?” she says.
The couple designs some original products to fill that niche at both Feliz Modern and Rancho Diaz. To tie Rancho Diaz even more to local artists, they hope to host residencies that allow artisans and sellers to work long-term in the store. The first planned residency features Rose Reyes of Tex Mex Dance Party, a shifting collection of items from estate and vintage sales, more in the country Western vein than Rancho Diaz's other wares.
Alongside the residencies, there will also be weekly pop-ups offering shorter interactive experiences as an answer to the Pearl’s emphasis on building community in the plaza. With Mario’s affinity for cooking and the Pearl’s status as a “foodie destination,” as Ginger calls it, Rancho Diaz will lend itself more to food-based pop-up programming. Some pop-ups will include cooking classes, tastings, and cookbook demonstrations. Mario will ensure that people who come to the Pearl for the food experience can also bring home the right equipment to keep it going, from professional chefs to those who’d like to pass off takeout as their own on the perfect serving plates.
Rancho Diaz will bring its Texican flair to the Pearl in August 2021. Whether shoppers are redecorating their whole homes or just browsing for trinkets that can fit in their backpacks, the Diaz family is creating a destination that reflects authentic life in the Southwest.