Back When Payson Had A Hopi House



New Year's Day is a fitting time to consider the changes that take place in our lives.

When Robert and Beth Sies visited the other day from their home in Oregon, the changes they beheld brought tears to their eyes. The Old Hopi House at the junction of Payson's highways 260 and 87 was totally gone. This brown pueblo building had once been their dream fulfilled.

The Sies had come from Kansas, with Joel, their 1-year-old son, and Lorie, their 10-year-old daughter.

As a 20-year veteran of school-teaching, Bob was ready for a change.

At first they had opened their shop of Indian art and artifacts in the Swiss Village, then in April of 1975 they purchased land from Louis and Ruth Oestmann. The land was adjacent to the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise that had just gone in where the highways converged.

The dream of having their own gallery for Indian art and antiques had been taking shape.

"Bob and I decided the building should have a Spanish look, and we also wanted it to look as if it has been there for some time," Beth said. "After it was constructed, I don't know how many times we were asked if it was an old building trying to look new or a new building trying to look old."

The Sies family hauled logs from Prescott for the ceilings and porches of their new building, and put in a corner beehive fireplace with an idea that customers would gather around it. Much of the work they did themselves, having some close calls handling the big logs.

Bob and Beth still recall the friendly help and encouragement local folks gave them.

While The Old Hopi House was being built, the Sies borrowed floor space in a neighboring Swiss Village shop operated by Neal and Helen Reynolds.

The two couples became good friends.

Neal Reynolds will be remembered as one of Payson's former mayors.

After the two-story building was completed, the Sies family moved into the apartment over their gallery store. Those were halcyon days for Bob and Beth.

Memories flooded back as they shared how great Payson people were and how often a gang of them would go down to the Beeline Cafe for lunch.

"There was a time or two," said Beth, "when the door of our shop didn't get locked, and guess what? We'd come back to one of our customers behind the counter making a sale for us. Payson was that kind of town."

In October 1976 they sold the back part of their land to friends Neal and Helen Reynolds. The Reynolds erected the Health Food Store on the property, and in 1978 purchased another parcel of the Oestmann holdings for an ice cream shop.

The sale to the Reynolds enabled the Sies to build additional shops on to the Old Hopi House. These were then leased to various merchants and an insurance company.

On weekends they brought rug weavers, jewelry makers and artists to Old Hopi House, and the artisans set up outside to attract the passing vacationers.

Beth remembers special moments, such as the time a wealthy man flew his plane from California to buy his wife Christmas gifts. He was dying of cancer, and, said Beth, "she just loved him more than ever as they were waltzing in the middle of the shop to a record playing on an antique Regina music box."

Or there were the times during the Payson area filming of "Grizzly Adams" when Loni Anderson, Dan Hagerty and other actors would come and go at Old Hopi House.

Looking back on the eight years the Sies operated Hopi House, Beth relishes the memories. "What a wonderful time we had and place to be in," she reminisced. "The building was built with a lot of love."

Even though it is now gone, "it was a wonderful dream come true. We have life-long friends in Payson," she said.

It was 1983 when Jess and Barbara Nicks entered the scene and began consolidating the original six parcels owned by the Oestmanns. They bought the Sies' Old Hopi House in August, and two years later bought out the Reynolds. In October 1985 they purchased the remaining Oestmann property.

The Nicks family carried on the tradition of a museum and shop dealing in antiques and Indian art.

Jess and Barbara will be recognized by many for their 17-year ownership of Old Hopi House. Some will also identify them as the parents of Stevie Nicks, who found fame as a rock star with the group Fleetwood Mac.

In November 2000 the Nicks family trust sold the entire group of six parcels to Walgreens Arizona Drug Company. The Old Hopi House, ice cream shop, health food store and the other shop spaces came down to make way for Walgreens to build a new building.

So as the New Year dawns, change comes with it not only for a Payson landmark, but also for all of us who venture into an uncharted future.

Some things don't change, of course. Most Rim country folk will still echo Beth Sies when she says, "What a wonderful time we had and what a wonderful place to be in."

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