Phyllis Engleman not only wants you to buy local when you do your Christmas shopping this holiday season, she recommends the Rim Country Museum gift shop for a great selection of hometown treasures.
Engleman, who retired from First Interstate Bank (before it became Wells Fargo), has managed the gift shop on a volunteer basis for eight years.
"We have a lot of people who just come for the gift shop, especially at Christmas because a lot of what we sell is local," Engleman said. "December is one of my best months."
What people buy most of at the museum gift shop is books. While the popular "Rim Country History" is temporarily out of print, there are plenty of other options available, including "Pioneer Women of Gila County," "Arizona Goes to War," and books by local authors like Marguerite Noble, Stan Brown and Dee Strickland Johnson. Books that go along with various museum exhibits also are available, including "Quilting Beneath the Rim," the exhibit that just opened last month.
The gift shop also carries pottery, candles, figurines, jewelry, toys, T-shirts and a host of other items, including an extensive collection of old "Arizona Highways" magazines. What you won't find is pricey items.
"We have a lot of tours come in, usually Elderhostel," Engleman said. "We try not to get high price items, because if you get up to $50, $60, $70 they're absolutely not going to sell. We try to price items so people will say, ‘Oh, this is neat. I think I'll get this.'"
Nor will you find many big items.
"You need to buy things that aren't large, because they have to go in suitcases."
Engleman was born in Duluth, Minn., and lived there until 1948 when she joined the U.S. Air Force. During the Korean War, she served as a control tower operator at a base outside of Houston.
"I hate to say this, but it was before jets," she said. "In fact, jets were just starting to come in as I was leaving the service."
The onset of the jet age meant tower operators had to be a little faster on the draw.
"I remember my first jet," Engleman said. "It was 15 miles out and I told them to call at three miles out, and the first thing I knew it was over my head."
Engleman met Dave, her husband-to-be, while in the Air Force. They eventually built and operated their own KOA campground.
"Dave was working for Sears at the time," she recalled. "He was reading the newspaper one day and they wanted people for KOA.
"We camped a lot and we started checking it out and got interested in it. We bought land in Green River, Utah and built a campground. We had it for five or six years."
In 1998, Englemans sold the campground and moved to Payson.
"We had traveled a lot and we really liked Payson," Engleman said. "We started in Prescott, but drove over here and liked it better."
Payson is also strategically located for one of Engleman's favorite pastimes -- visiting her four children and seven grandchildren.
"They are in Moab, Utah; Green River, Utah; Las Vegas and Glendale -- all within a day's drive," she said. "I just made a 1,400-mile tour."
When she heard the museum was looking for somebody to manage its bookstore, Engelman decided to give it a shot.
"We had a gift shop at the KOA, but this is an entirely different gift shop," she said. "We're dealing with locals as well as visitors. It's more important to have gifts from the area here," she said. "For example, I can't sell whales here."
Over the years, Engleman grew the museum gift shop.
"It was absolutely nothing when I started," she said. "There wasn't enough in there for anything."
Now, Engleman is looking to retire from the gift shop business. In fact, she's been trying to retire for three years.
"I'm running a little stale on what to do, but everybody thinks no," she said. "I told them I won't leave them in the lurch, and I think I never should have said that."
The Rim Country Museum and gift shop is open from noon to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.
Name: Phyllis Engleman
Occupation: Retired teller from First Interstate Bank
Birthplace: Duluth, Minn.
Family: Husband, four children, seven grandchildren
Personal motto: Pray for peace.
Inspiration: To think and act young.
Words of wisdom: Enjoy each day as life is short.
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Reading, sewing, listening to music.
Three words that describe me best: Busy, busy, busy.
I don't want to brag but: I used to walk three miles in rain, sleet or snow while in grade school.
Person in history I'd like to meet: Violinist Andre Rieu
Luxury defined: Reading a good book.
Dream vacation spot: Paris
Why Payson? It reminds me of northern Minnesota with the pine trees and without the cold and snow.