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End of an era: 50-year-old Beatty business closing

BEATTY — It began with one woman operating out of her Beatty bedroom and grew into a business with more than 30 employees serving clients from all over the United States, and now, after over 50 years in business, it is closing its doors, probably at the end of this month.

With her daughters, Bunnie and Penny, active in the organization, Jane Cottonwood was a 4-H leader in Beatty back in 1969. When it came time to hand out awards, she was shocked at the cost of the prize ribbons and decided to do something about it. She bought some equipment and supplies and began making ribbons in her bedroom.

Soon she was getting requests from other organizations and events. She consulted with Vernal Pace, of Trophies of Las Vegas, learned the business, and her sprouting endeavor began to grow and flourish, over the years filling an increasing collection of buildings across the street from her house.

Janda Ribbons made prize ribbons, buttons, plaques and trophies for all sorts of events all over the country, although Arabian horse shows could be considered its area of specialization. Most of these items were made basically from scratch, starting with bulk materials.

In addition to those working in Janda Ribbons’ shops, some of the ribbon factory’s employees did piecework, taking ribbon components home to shape or assemble.

Jane was an early adopter of new technology, and she also invented some of the equipment in the business herself. She always kept notebooks handy throughout the shops and her house so she could jot down new ideas for the business at any hour they occurred to her.

Her husband, Ted “Bombo” Cottonwood, was the only man allowed to work in the business. Jane was once quoted as saying, “I don’t hire men. They can’t hack it. I’m a female chauvinist pig.”

When Ted took a job with the Nye County Road Department, it was with one stipulation: he could leave work at any time to go to the ribbon factory to work on the equipment. He was the business’ “Mr. Fix-It.”

Speaking of her mother’s business, daughter Penny Schmidhofer says, “This was her baby. She loved it.”

Jane passed away, June 17, 2001. It was Father’s Day, and thereafter Ted never wanted to observe the holiday. He passed on Jan. 24, 2022.

The business has struggled for the last few years, and as it nears closing it is down to four employees and Schmidhofer.

“You can’t grow when there’s no one to hire, and the equipment is getting old and is expensive to replace.” she says. Her father was the only person who knew how to repair some of the equipment her mother invented.

Referring to herself and the remaining employees, she adds, “We’re getting old, too. It’s time.”

Of those still working on the last orders left to fill, Ginny Faulkner has been with Janda the longest, having worked there for 30 years.

Some folks in Beatty were under the impression that the gathering of women working at Janda formed a sort of “town gossip central,” but Faulkner says that isn’t true. “Men are much worse gossipers,” she argues.

One of the final orders the remaining employees are working on is for Beatty Days 2024. After that, the town’s annual event will have look elsewhere for their awards.

Richard Stephens is a freelance reporter living in Beatty.

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