BENSON — Singing Wind Bookshop and Ranch, a Benson destination with a global customer base, hinges on the heirs of Winn Bundy.
For 46 years, Bundy ran Singing Wind out of her home, located on an old cattle ranch in Benson that she and her husband purchased in 1956. She started the shop in 1974 with an inventory of 600 books, which swelled to 30,000 through the years.
After Bundy died last October at age 90, her daughter and son, Cookie and TC Bundy, along with granddaughter, Tasha Bundy, temporarily closed the shop as they sorted through its vast inventory and responded to customer inquiries about Singing Wind’s status.
“Actually, my mom had already closed the shop once COVID became a concern,” Cookie said. “While I would love nothing more than to keep the shop open, I know it’s going to be a challenge.”
Currently, TC Bundy is running the bookshop and opening it to customers by appointment only. He’s assisted by Cookie and Tasha, with the three rotating different responsibilities at the shop.
“Right now, I’m keeping the shop open, but customers need to call for an appointment until we know how we are going to be moving forward,” TC Bundy said. “My goal is to keep the shop open, but I’m working with my sister and a niece on this, and it’s something we need to agree on.”
One of TC Bundy’s goals is to list the books on the internet so they can be ordered online and shipped to customers.
“I’m investigating how to scan each book to get an efficient scanning system started,” TC said. “By creating a database, not only will we have an inventory, but we’ll have a way to easily look a book up, and most importantly, get the books online. That way, people can access them no matter where they live, whether they’re in Japan, China, South America or the United States. They’ll be able to place orders and we’ll ship the books to them.”
The shop’s unique setting, vast collection of books about the Southwest and extensive children’s collection are just some of Singing Wind’s big draws.
When first-time visitors step inside the bookshop, they often stand in momentary awe of the floor-to-ceiling books, situated on shelves crafted out of mesquite wood found on the ranch.
On Friday, Roxanne Beasley, an RVer from Colorado and her friend Teri Hoyt from Montana, were at the bookshop. Like other Singing Wind first-timers, they were struck by selections of out-of-print titles and extensive collection of Southwestern literature.
“Some of these books just aren’t found anymore, especially the children’s books,” Beasley said. “I started looking through the children’s section first, and am amazed by what’s here.”
Hoyt, who had learned about the bookshop before leaving Montana, had similar comments.
“This is different from any bookstore I’ve ever seen,” she said, while balancing on a stepstool so she could reach shelved books high overhead. “There’s so much to choose from, you could be here for hours.”
TC Bundy agreed. As he wandered through a neighboring room, he started reading some of the categories in the shop’s collection.
“We’ve got books about canyons, the outdoors, gardening, plants, trees, desert animals, photography, cowboy life, ghost towns, Southwest Indian tribes, and much, much more,” he said with a wave of his arm. “If you’re a book addict, this is the place to be.”
Situated off a dirt road about three miles north of Interstate 10, Singing Wind Bookshop has been a favorite tourist stop for visitors traveling through Southeastern Arizona, despite its location off a dusty, rural road with no parking lot, website or advertising. Winn conducted transactions with a calculator and notepad, writing out receipts by hand. Because she ran her business without a credit card machine, customers purchased items with cash or checks. All advertising was by word of mouth.
“My mom put her heart and soul into that shop,” Cookie lamented. “It was her dream. Customers loved the unique location, the ranch setting, the burros that greet you when you drive up, and they loved visiting my mom. She had time for every person who walked into her shop. One of her great skills was her ability to match books to people. And her customers loved that about her.”
In 2016 Winn was selected for the prestigious Sharlot Hall award, named in honor of Sharlot Hall who achieved fame as a poet, activist, politician and as Arizona’s first territorial historian.
She also received the Lawrence Clark Powell Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to literature and history of the Southwest, and the Juliana Yoder Friends of the Humanities Award from the Arizona Humanities Council. In 2012, she received the Arizona Culture Keeper Award, presented to outstanding Arizonans in honor of Arizona’s Centennial.
“It’s been said that my mother and her iconic little bookshop became an Arizona institution,” Cookie said. “I would have to agree with that.”