Posted by: TravisGood
N 35° 10.300 W 103° 42.900
13S E 617016 N 3892836
Quick Description: TeePee Curios is a curiously excentric souvenir shop with a great history and beautiful neon in Tucumcari, NM.
Location: New Mexico, United States
Date Posted: 3/15/2007 9:36:03 AM
Waymark Code: WM1AF0
The best part of Route 66 is driving among uniquely american icons of the 20th century. There are few chain stores, few major brands, few intrusions of 21st century living. There are however lots of one-off family-owned stores. Those which have survived the assault from the Interstate Highway system continue doing what they've always done, albeit under challenging conditions. However, out of their struggles comes character and great stories.
One of the best examples of what you'll find is TeePee Curious.
Mike and Betty Callens currently own and operate TeePee Curios and if I remember correctly they've been running it since they bought it back in 1985 from his uncle. Mike was born in Tucumcari but grew up in Southern California though his family would return every summer along Route 66 to visit so he has many memories to share. I mention this because while TeePee Curios is a family-owned souvenir shop with distinctive style and amazing neon, it's also had a recent impact on american culture.
Pixar Studios' "Cars":
When Pixar executives were traveling Route 66 with Michael Wallis, they visited with many businesses and personalities along the way. The idea was to gain experience and develop the story for Cars. Businesses such as the Blue Swallow Motel, TeePee Curios, and the WigWam Motel along with stories from people such as Mike Callens were woven into the fabric of the movie. An example of how Mike's history showed up in the movie is when Doc Hudson (the 1951 Hornet voiced by Paul Newman) was teaching Lightning McQueen (the star race car voiced by Owen Wilson) a thing or two about racing on back country roads. Mike's parents would drive back and forth from California in a '51 Hornet and his father would perform similar moves as Doc Hudson's to thrill his kids in the back seat.
Neon Sign Restoration:
Another way TeePee Curios has had an impact was when it was selected as part of the New Mexico Route 66 Neon Sign Restoration Project. It was one of nine sites with classic neon signs along Route 66 chosen for its cultural significance to be restored. The result was their sign returned to its blazing neon glory. A sight all who pass should see.
A report on the Restoration Project with pictures can be found here:
A wonderful documentary video of the projects can be seen here:
Visit Mike and Betty when you're in Tucumcari. Visit TeePee Curios and buy something while you listen to his stories. A stop here can add color and memories to your trip down Route 66.