Native American art and tradition are a large part of Flagstaff’s history, and this little shop is showing it off. Winter Sun Trading Company sells art made by local Native Americans and is widely known for its herbal medicine, beauty products and remedies. The store captured the hearts of art enthusiasts, and have caught the attention of travelers who are fascinated by the wide variety of organic and herbal products.
The store is divided into art and jewelry on one side, herbal beauty products on the other and a small room with herbal medicines in the back. Herbalist Phyllis Hogan has been running the store for 43 years. Hogan said that though the art and herbalism are connected, they are two different worlds. The herbalism is healing arts, and the dolls and jewelry are visual arts.
Hogan said she feels reciprocity between herself and the artists. She worked with the grandparents and parents of a lot of the artists she currently represents, and is all about cooperation within her business and having products that are not made out of the country. She said their jewelry is all-natural turquoise and real silver. Winter Sun mostly has art from the Colorado Plateau tribes, including some from New Mexico.
“When you walk into our store and you see the walls are covered with Kachina dolls ... those are religious education items that teach the religion to the Hopi children,” Hogan said. “They’re all hand-carved from cottonwood root and they’re mostly mineral pigment paint. They all have their own significance of different tribes. They represent nature in its fullest, most elaborate form.”
Hogan said even though the store has been voted as the best Native American jewelry store in Flagstaff by readers of the Arizona Daily Sun, the store is more well-known for their herbal medicine. Hogan was trained by a Mexican healer who owned her own shop. The healer ran her own business, but gave Hogan her blessing to start one when she retired. Hogan was a committed apprentice and was interested in perpetuating the knowledge of the traditional elders and their herb use.
“You have to realize that 45 years ago there were no health food stores on every corner, there was no internet or cell phones, and people did not know,” Hogan said. “It was mostly indigenous people who knew about using herbs. I was interested in ethnobotany, the study of plants, especially southwest plants and how they are used by the native people. That’s what inspired me in preserving the tradition of herbs.”
Winter Sun is also a family shop. Hogan said she works with her two daughters, who have produced a line of natural skincare products. Hogan said they have been in business alongside her for almost 30 years. Hogan acts as a teacher and her employees as apprentices. She passes on her knowledge of herbalism so they can learn and help customers.
Employee Meaghan Smith said that working with Hogan has always been really important to her. She said the experience has been daily knowledge in a relaxed environment from an expert, which you can not find in a class. Smith learned most of her knowledge from Hogan.
“She has first-hand knowledge of southwestern medicine and herbs, and has direct knowledge passed down from Navajo and Hopi elders,” Smith said. “So, it’s an honor in that way and it’s nice to have that traditional knowledge from her to be able to apply it to modern-day people who come from all over and who want this medicine.”
Sasha Holiday is a Flagstaff local and an example of a regular at Winter Sun. Holiday said she loves that it is a family business that supports the community with organic products.
“The jewelry is amazing,” Holiday said. “The prices are really reasonable for the jewelry and skin products, and it’s all organic and mostly local stuff. It just works really well with my skin and my friend’s skin, and that is why I shop here.”
Hogan said all of the essential oils are from high-quality companies and the herbs are mostly from organic growers in the Pacific Northwest. Hogan said everything in the store is either connected to the wild or grown organically.
The Winter Sun Trading Company has deep roots and is culturally rich. The herbalism products are healing for one’s health and wellness. It is more than a regular shop, it is a part of Flagstaff’s history. It has been here for a long time, and is here to stay.