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Closing of Drumbeat Indian Arts after more than 50 years inspires a new Phoenix bead shop

Coverage of tribal natural resources is supported in part by Catena Foundation

The historic storefront of Drumbeat Indian Arts was buzzing, filled with Native shoppers in search of clearance sales on leftover inventory. It’s been one of Indian Country’s longtime destinations for beadwork supplies and accessories in Phoenix. 

Until its recent closure after more than five decades.

“Today’s the last day,” said Reva Stewart, who’s been working there for 12 years, before owner Bob Nuss decided to retire and close up shop along 16th Street, just north of Indian School Road. 

“Bob’s been a huge asset to the Native community. It’s real now,” Stewart added, “because four years ago, we were in the process of trying to shut down. And we pulled through COVID, and for him to actually decide, ‘Well, you know, it’s time,’ it’s been bittersweet.”

That last Saturday in January was meant to catch stragglers who’ve missed the initially promoted closing date a week prior. They kept prolonging that final sale, giving those loyal patrons one more chance to help Drumbeat staff clear liquidated merchandise off the counters and shelves. 

Some customers even stopped to photograph the iconic Indigenous-themed retail space, now already under renovation for its next tenant. Now, Stewart has stepped up to meet the demand by supporting her fellow local, urban artisans amid this emotional transition in the Valley. 

“That’s why I’m opening up my own store,” said Stewart, “because we know that a lot of our Native relatives do a lot of beating, a lot of craft work. They’ll still be able to come and get their arts and crafts.” 

She recently started her own company: Shush Diné Native Shop. Stewart has drawn inspiration from both of her parents for the new brand. 

Shash, the Navajo word for bear, is also her mother’s clan. So, naming the business after her maternal clan is meant to honor her mother's memory since she passed away nearly three years ago. Stewart also depicted her father’s warrior sign within the logo’s design.

A brick-and-mortar grand opening is expected to occur sometime in March at 3449 N. 16th St., about a block south from where Drumbeat has been based since 1971.

Despite Stewart embarking on her new enterprise, the thumping rhythm of its beloved predecessor, Drumbeat Indian Arts, has been resonating inside that budding business. 

“The vendors that we used with Bob before, I’ve told them that I’m going to need them, too. Business as usual,” said Stewart. “And we told [Bob] that he can be our greeter at our store.”

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Gabriel Pietrorazio is a correspondent who reports on tribal natural resources for KJZZ.