Grayce supported many small businesses.

Anyone passing through Patagonia on Naugle Avenue will have noticed Grayce’s Gift and Candle Shop, a cornucopia of arts, crafts, and specialty goods that celebrates its 40th anniversary this October. If you’ve failed to spot the ad touting organic medjool dates, you’ve surely noticed the sign for the Day of the Dead Museum. And if you’ve ventured inside, you’ve likely seen African baskets, photos and memorabilia of the Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, stylish hats, a trove of cosmetics, coffee from Chiapas, killer-bee honey from Bisbee, and a miniature motorcycle exhibit. And that’s just for starters.

Grayce Noteboom (the last name means “nut tree” in Dutch) was born in 1908 in Philadelphia and died in Patagonia in 2005. The Notebooms were Quakers and tenth-generation Americans.

In the early 1930s, Grayce married John Patton Arnold. They had three children, Elaine,
Janie, and John David. In Doylestown, PA, where she moved after living in Philadelphia and Mississippi, Grayce was well known for her Pennsylvania Dutch pastries and her artistic talent. Her neighbors frequented Grayce’s kitchen and savored her shoo fly pies. Her best friend in Doylestown was author Pearl S. Buck: during the Second World War, they traded turns as volunteer school bus drivers.

In the early 1950s the Arnolds moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, traveling there in a 1949
Ford panel truck they converted into what was to become a prototype for RVs. In Mexico Grayce continued to refine her recipes, ceramics, and sculptures.

The family moved to Nogales in 1956 and later to Tucson, where Grayce studied with the famed artist Ted De Grazia and learned how to make sand-cast candles and masks.

In 1978, after her husband’s passing, Grayce moved to Patagonia, living in a miner’s home built in about 1908 by Neil McDonald, head engineer for the local mining company. Grayce once stated that she had never balanced a checkbook when she opened the shop, but she adjusted and continued making sand-cast candles, sculptures, masks and other creations out of natural materials. Grayce often referred to the shop as her home and customers as her guests. When filming near Patagonia, actresses Faye Dunaway and Joanna Cassidy befriended Grayce, took her out to the movie sets, and frequented her shop, attracted to her masks and Tarahumara sculptures.

Grayce always backed businesses owned by women and people whose businesses were
too small to support a stand-alone shop. She was known to bestow a small gift to her customers even if they didn’t buy anything. Clara Hamilton, who as a little girl once came to the shop with only a quarter, became inspired by Grayce and became an accomplished artist and musician who once serenaded the pope and eventually managed Grayce’s shop.

While visiting Egypt, Grayce learned the art of belly dancing and opened classes in her living room at age 72. (Her belly-dancing dress is displayed at the shop.) At 95, her birthday wish was to go horseback riding – and she did, at a ranch in Tubac.

Grayce’s legacy has been cited in the U.S. Congressional Record by Gabrielle Giffords and Raul Grijalva. “She stands as a wonderful example of the significant contributions that women in the west make to the cultural and economic development of our communities,” Giffords said in 2008. Grayce’s honors include an award for her work with small-business women.

The shop is still operated by the Arnold family. Grayce’s son, John David Arnold, travels
worldwide, establishing contacts with creative and unique artisans, many of them female entrepreneurs. The shop is currently featuring goods made by Afro-Mexicans in Oaxaca who are descendants of slaves, and West African jewelry called “jewelry for life,” designed and made by single mothers who use the income to support their families.

Grayce’s candle-making workshop has been restored, and sand-cast candles are still made. Admission is free, and dates, coffee, honey, and African skincare products are available through a 24-hour dispenser on the back porch where the honor system applies. Guided tours are available, too. For more information, email info@graycegiftsandcandleshop.com or call 520-394-2035.