Published December 21, 2012
Last minute Christmas decorating? Looking for a perfect stocking filler? Latino Christmas ornaments could be your answer.
For Darlene Tenes, it’s Christmas all year round. Her successful CasaQ ornament line is a one-stop-shop for those folks looking for that perfect culturally relevant decoration.
Perhaps it was because her father, grandfather, and uncle were all bullfighters in Mexico that Tenes is the tenacious woman she is. And because her mother almost didn’t marry her father because she thought she wanted to become a nun, that Tenes creates religious adornments unlike any other. (This year her parents will celebrate their 57th year together and Tenes says her mother is almost like a nun today--given all the time the now 80 year old spends ministering to young people in their local San Jose, California detention juvenile hall).
Tenes has only recently become the successful artist and designer of her small business CasaQ. She began her working life in the world of beauty as an esthetician. Trained in Madrid, Spain and working in spas in California while putting herself through college, Tenes has worn many hats. From working in non-profits to multi-media projects with Oracle in Silicon Valley. For over 13 years, Tenes was the CEO of her own marketing and branding company called Marketing Mavens.
She worked with businesses like the Latino Bar Association because she says, “I understood the Hispanic market. I helped Latino businesses grow and non-Latino business grow their Latino clients.”
She goes on to explain that in her marketing work she was required to throw a lot of parties.
“I was known for doing extravagant, glamorous, and often Latino religious events. I’m meticulous about doing everything culturally correctly," Tenes said. "I would have to import the decorations because I could never really find what I wanted. People would attend my parties and they were always asking where I got stuff from.”
So, the woman who had studied a little art in college, says she picked up a pencil and started drawing the ornaments she wanted, but could never find.
She says she realized that maybe nothing like this existed because when she thought about it, Latinos don’t usually have Christmas trees. They have Nativity scenes.
“I have a true cross-cultural product. Most ornaments are related to European traditions. I wanted ornaments that represent my culture and made in a very upscale way,” Tenes says.
Her CasaQ designs are manufactured in China and she admits to being a perfectionist when it comes to details. Her “Our Lady of Guadalupe” ornament, one of her best sellers, for example, has to have brown eyes, and the belt in the exact right place. She also sells a pregnant Virgin called “Milagro”, a “Pancho Claus”, a “Frida” (Kahlo), and “Sancho Snowman.”
It was the Latin Grammy’s that put CasaQ on the map. She says as a marketing person she knew she had to get her product into the right hands. In 2007, she sent out a press release with two samples of her work—“Pancho” and “Sancho”. Turns out the Latin Grammy people were in need of something to fill their presenter’s gift bags with…CasaQ ornaments were a hit.
Her leap to selling in the national chain Macy’s was another example of Tenes’ sheer grit. At a conference for Latina business women, held in her hometown of San Jose, Tenes was able to grab a few minutes with the keynote speaker; a woman responsible for multi-cultural merchandising for Macy’s. A few ornament samples later and a wonderfully warm thank you note from Tenes, and Macy’s was sold.
In addition to Macy’s, CasaQ is also sold in religious stores, over 100 museum gift boutiques, and the National Shrine in Washington DC—the largest Catholic church in the Americas.