Bryan has a ‘Tallent’ for the arts

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Bryan Tallent and John Stonitsch’s Spruce Moose, located in the Fort, displays the work of more than 14 local artists as well as Tallent’s handmade candles. The duo opened Coyote Red’s, also located in the Fort, on March 15 that features jerky, competition barbecue sauces, hard-to-find jams, marinades and relishes.         Photo by Jay Pentrack

Bryan Tallent and John Stonitsch’s Spruce Moose, located in the Fort, displays the work of more than 14 local artists as well as Tallent’s handmade candles. The duo opened Coyote Red’s, also located in the Fort, on March 15 that features jerky, competition barbecue sauces, hard-to-find jams, marinades and relishes. Photo by Jay Pentrack

On July 8, Bryan Tallent celebrated his ninth anniversary in Idyllwild, and while Idyllwild is a long way from Tallent’s birthplace in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, the long and windy road to get here took him across the country with stops in several states where he honed the skills that allowed him the success he enjoys today.

A passion for the arts has been ever-present in Tallent’s life. “I was always interested in the arts, so in school I was involved in music, I was involved in marching band, concert band and I was the drum major in the marching band all four years throughout high school,” he said. Winning honors musically in high school, Tallent entered college at James Madison University where he obtained his degree in theater — specifically, costume design.

His first degree-related job came at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia, as a costumer in the live shows division. Lured away by King’s Productions of Cincinnati, owner of four Ohio amusement parks, Tallent, created costumes for all of the live shows at its four parks. “We produced their costume characters, the big dressed-up costume characters. It was a Hanna-Barbera company so we did [characters like] Scooby Doo and Yogi Bear,” said Tallent. “I was with them for about a year and a half and then I decided I wanted to move to California and work in costuming.”

With California beckoning, Tallent began researching opportunities in his field. He headed for California excited about his new adventure and hopeful to find employment with his place of choice, the renowned Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, a landmark for more than 75 years. “When I went to follow up on employment at the Old Globe, I found out that most of their staff works gratis to be able to have it on their résumé,” he said. “Only the main technical people and main actors were paid; everybody else did it for the glory.” Unfortunately, “glory” wouldn’t pay the bills, so Tallent perused the want ads.

“Bullocks Department stores in San Diego was looking for a visual presentation associate,” he said. Part of a team of six, Tallent’s group did all of the decorations for the stores — all of the mannequins and all of the special holiday decorations. Promoted to head of visual presentation, Tallent took his flair for the dramatic to new heights. “One year. we hung a 27-foot, fully rigged catamaran between the escalators for a promotion,” he said.

With an unprecedented offer to move from his visual presentation position to merchandising, Tallent seized the opportunity. “I tend to have a no-failure clause in my work ethic, so I had to make it work, I couldn’t fail at it. I may have had to work a little harder than some of these young people that were coming up in that part of the business, but I caught on pretty quickly,” Tallent said.

A move to Palm Springs and employment with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, owners of the Spa Resort Casino and Agua Caliente Casino, Resort and Spa, would once again offer Tallent the opportunity to show his flair for working with people. “I had moved from marketing into doing human resources at the spa and they were using us to help with the opening of the Agua Caliente,” he said. “We were doing interviewing and training and things like that.”  Another promotion, this time to director of Human Resources, proved to be the last straw.

Unsure of what would come next but knowing a change was needed, Tallent, along with partner John Stonitsch, received a life-changing email from a friend. The email read, “I saw this online. You guys love Idyllwild, you should do this.” The next weekend, the pair was in Idyllwild doing their homework. “We decided by the end of the weekend that this is what we wanted to do. We went back that night to Palm Springs and called our real estate agent.”

The name “Spruce Moose” came to Tallent in a dream. The business was called “Strictly Diversified Gifts” when they purchased it, a name they both disliked. “I woke up in the middle of the night because I do a lot of my thinking in the middle of the night and I sat up and said ‘Spruce Goose,’” Tallent recalled. “Then I thought no, that’s a plane. I’ve been there; I’ve seen the Spruce Goose. Then I thought ‘Spruce Moose.’”

A move from their original location on Village Lane where they expanded to three stores to the Fort in October 2008 proved fortuitous. “We checked out the space and it was a really nice big space and we realized that we could fit all three stores under one roof and the rent was lower than what we were paying over there for one space versus three,” Tallent said. “It really paid off because once the economy started to go we would not have made it [on Village Lane] and we did [at the Fort]. It has just done really well.”

Coyote Red’s, their latest venture, opened in the Fort on March 15 of this year.  In addition to offering a variety of hard-to-find gourmet items, with the closing of the House of Jerky, they now offer it in their store. We knew it was a good selling product; we had signs in the window [at the closed House of Jerky], and people would come down and say, ‘Is this the store that has the jerky?’ We sold the heck out of it,” said Tallent smiling. Competition barbecue sauces, hard-to-find jams, marinades and relishes line Coyote Red’s shelves. “We know everything we sell, we can tell you where everything is made. We taste almost everything,” he said.

Candles also sell quickly at the Spruce Moose and Tallent, having a “nose” for fragrance and a talent with color, began producing the candles himself about three and a half years ago. “Right now I work with about 400 different oils. I have all of these bottles amazingly organized so that if I want to do something new, or if I get challenged by a customer to do something new, I have all of these oils that I can work from. I use all high-end, high-grade candle supplies,” he said.

Tallent especially likes working with local artists. The Spruce Moose displays the work of 14 local artists. “We know all of the artists so we can talk about their work and tell people about their personalities and what they’re like as an artist and that sort of thing. It’s a nice partnership,” he said. He also has some good advice for visitors: “I always tell people that the first thing you do is turn off your cell phone … and take off your watch because you don’t need either one up here. I’ve lived in San Diego, I’ve lived in Los Angeles, and I’ve lived in Palm Springs, three pretty heavily populated places, and I love this place because it’s not.”


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