When Mary Kirkconnell found herself struggling with her brother's permanent brain injury after a horrific accident, her life plummeted into a deep depression.
And during her amazing journey to find her way out, she experienced a number of unexplained epiphanies that eventually lead to Peace Tree Trading on East Jefferson Street in Brooksville.
Peace Tree Trading is a unique concept of Indian-made items, mostly from New Mexico. A majority of her inventory is Navajo- or Pueblo-made. But she carries other tribes as well, including Creek and Cherokee.
"I am a member of the Indian Arts and Crafts Association, which protects native art," she said, "and protects the consumer."
The shop is a compilation of many different items from pottery to craftwork to housewares, toys and art. She carries music, books and even Native American flutes. And she gives flute lessons.
"I teach breath control, fingering and how to play the scale," she said as she indulged in a haunting melody, delving even deeper into the atmosphere that has made a visit to Peace Tree Trading such an unforgettable experience.
The quaint cottage-style building is elevated and rests on a cozy stretch of Jefferson Street that is heavily traveled as a bypass through the city. Her neighbors, Coney Island Drive-Inn, Tactical Supply, and Farmer John's Key West Café provide a nice diversity of businesses that support the unique flavors of Hernando County.
Before Kirkconnell transformed her building into an authentic Indian enthusiasts' paradise, it was an antique store. And with its old American feel, the building was the perfect fit for Peace Tree Trading.
In the past four years, Kirkconnell has filled each crevice with collectable pieces, a few difficult to find, and all unique to the Indian culture.
The amazing pieces of authentic jewelry — some handmade, others handcrafted — are a big hit. Kirkconnell explained that handcrafted pieces include stones that are set on a manufactured base. Handmade pieces, by contrast, refer to those that begin with raw silver.
Her merchandise is derived from various sources. "I try to do a cross section of supporting a co-op, which means I'm helping somebody create jobs for lots of families, and I have a few individuals that I also support." Her T-shirts, she said, are handmade on a kitchen table from an individual vendor.
Kirkconnell's journey has been guided by a deep spiritual presence originating from a belief in God and the powers of Native American healing. She found herself following that pathway as she tried to find peace with her brother's plight.
And it led Kirkconnell through a journey that began more than 10 years ago.
She was at a transitional point in her life, she said, when circumstances started to fall into place and eventually led to the opening of her original location in Tampa.
Kirkconnell took a one-year sabbatical to reconnect with her spiritual beliefs. And during that year she focused her energies on helping those in need. "I did a lot of labor work," she said, and met a lot of pivotal people who helped guide her journey.
A turning point for her happened when she met Linda, a woman who was suffering from cancer. Kirkconnell was her caregiver.
"I asked her one day what she wanted to do with her life when she got better," Kirkconnell remembered. "She told me she'd always wanted to open an arts and crafts store. She planted the seed in me that day."
Other events led to the opening of the store in Tampa. "I knew I was supposed to take over the space," Kirkconnell explained. "But I didn't know what it was supposed to be."
As she prepared the building, people were drawn to the store. One made dream catchers. Another made leather bags. Through them she found the store's direction.
Even the name, Peace Tree Trading, which Kirkconnell said was inspired during meditation, was an accident with purpose. She was told by a visitor to her store, an authentic Mohawk Indian who had been raised on a reservation, that the tree in her logo was actually the symbol of the Iroquois nation.
Kirkconnell had no idea.
As she settles into her fifth year in Brooksville, Kirkconnell accepts that her journey was guided by another force. The store has survived a tough economy intact, with visitors who have become regulars. Others are attracted to the unique flavor from all over the state of Florida.
It may appear like Mary Kirkconnell has reached her destination, triggered by her sadness over the misfortune of her brother, guided by a spiritual belief system, and decorated with people who helped define her path.
Like Linda, who perished from her disease but lives on in a plant named Linda given to Kirkconnell by a customer. It continues to spread life throughout Peace Tree Trading.
In reality, though, Kirkconnell's journey is ongoing.
Her message is very clear. "We all have those challenges and struggles in life. Mine taught me to take my brother's accident and to create medicine with it."
Peace Tree Trading is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Biz at a Glance
Biz at a Glance
Name: Peace Tree Trading
Address: 770 East Jefferson St., Brooksville
Telephone: (352) 797-7886