Jerry & Donna Wood – Giving Back to Downtown
October 20, 2005
Walk through the doors of White Buffalo and you will find a collection of treasures as unique and varied as the stores owners, Donna and Jerry Wood. Peruse case after case of handmade Native American jewelry, each piece an original creation of silver and stone; admire the traditional rugs, each of which required dozens of painstaking hours before a loom to complete. There are paintings, ornaments, decorations, and collectibles, each one hand-selected by Donna or Jerry, who travel frequently to the reservations and showrooms of the American Southwest.The business began in Truckee after Donna, a former tax accountant, and Jerry, a former CPA, decided to leave the corporate grind of West Los Angeles and join the family business. Donnas father and sisters all own similar stores, including the Pot Lodge in Incline. Now, nearly 16 years later, White Buffalo is a downtown mainstay, popular among both locals and visitors.”Their store is who they are,” says Dana Frederick, who has worked in the shop for three years. “Their vision is to be the best, most friendly, quality, Native American store out there. They represent themselves through their product and work very hard for this store and the community.”That community has changed quite a bit in the years that Jerry and Donna have seen pass, but they say that the original draw is still there.”Truckee is an up and coming market for business, and it was back when the Buffalo opened, which was part of the appeal of the location,” Donna says. “Merchant quality has increased as the town has grown, though rent prices are driving some merchants out. But nothing compares to Truckee for business, its the hot-spot of the lake.”Maintaining that constant flow of patrons has recently become a challenge for downtown merchants.”The bypass has been a two-edged sword,” says Donna. “There is 30 percent less traffic downtown, which means fewer people driving by, but it also means that customer quality has improved because the people downtown are here for a reason.”Donna is now working the merchants association and the state to increase signage on the Interstate in order to draw more visitors downtown.Nancy Acord, who has spent her entire professional life in the retail industry, said that working at White Buffalo has been the most unique retail experience she has ever had.”I came to work here one summer and enjoyed it so much I didnt want to leave. I live in Hayward with my husband, but I drive up here every Wednesday night. Its the best job Ive ever had in my life. People who work here do not leave this store; its like family,” she says.And Donna and Jerry are quick to extend that relationship to their customers too, with unrivaled customer service and sincere business relationships.”No body walks out of here unhappy,” says Jerry. “We want everyone to enjoy their purchase, and by doing that we have created a very loyal group of customers, some are local and some come from out of town just to see us.”But for all the time and energy that the Woods pour into their business, its likely that they give much more to the community.Stefanie Olivieri, owner of Cabonas and friend of the Woods, said that the couple is “timelessly involved in the health and welfare of Truckee and give so much to the vitality of the community.”Through business ventures at White Buffalo and Jerrys position as a former president of the Merchants Association, the Woods have spent countless hours putting on the Truckee Follies, participating in spring clean up, the Sunrise Rotary duck races, and the Cadillac Ball, planting flowers downtown, and voicing any needs for community improvement.”We try to donate to all local events because there is so much local need,” said Jerry.”They want to make sure that downtown is up to standards, and they are a tremendous asset to this community,” said Olivieri.On days the Woods arent helping customers and neighbors, theyre usually out biking, golfing, kayaking, or snowboarding.