After four years of learning the language and culture of Mexico with her family, Julie Oberholtzer returned to the Valley and started her own business in Downtown Phoenix called Cosas.
“I thought (Cosas) was really simple and catchy,” said Julie. “I fell in love with the things of Mexico. I fell in love with the culture, the respect for family, the food, the music, the zest for life, and the beautiful colors of Mexico.”
Cosas is located within the new shipping container building of 1st Street and Garfield called The Churchill.
“The store is an explosion of color,” Kell Duncan, co-founder of The Churchill said.
According to her husband Ryan Oberholtzer, owner of restaurant Provecho in The Churchill, the family went to central Mexico to raise their twin daughters Riley and Morgan for their high school years. While in Guadalajara the family learned Spanish, the Mexican culture and the art history within the area.
“I volunteered at a soup kitchen in Guadalajara with one of my girlfriends. It was under the umbrella of the Junior League which provided financial backing,” Julie Oberholtzer said.
The soup kitchen was not subject to the many restrictions like a food handlers’ card and other regulations that are put in place within the states.
Prior to moving to Mexico, Oberholtzer worked as a counselor and taught social-emotional learning and psychoeducational classes within the public-school system. Oberholtzer received her Bachelor’s degree in Special Education and Rehab from the University of Arizona and her Master’s degree in Counselling from SMU in Dallas, Texas.
“In retail, you are dealing with people all the time. It’s really important for me to get the story of the different products I carry,” Oberholtzer said on how she uses her degrees to run her store.
Coming back to the states after taking four years off of work, Oberholtzer decided to open Cosas after her daughters went off to study at the University of Arizona. Oberholtzer wanted people from Arizona to be able to experience the same textures, fabrics, and culture that she fell in love with while in Central Mexico.
Before Cosas became a part of The Churchill, it started as a website. During the year and a half long process of building and leasing The Churchill, Julie ran the online version of Cosas. While The Churchill was under construction, Oberholtzer also ran pop-up versions of Cosas at the Phoenix Flea Market.
“She’s in there all the time. It’s crazy how many hours she works,” Ryan Oberholtzer said.
The import store is Oberholtzer’s way of bringing Central Mexico here rather than people only visiting the beach or border towns of Mexico.
“It’s a great excuse to go back to Mexico on a regular basis,” Oberholtzer said.
There are two staple pieces sold at Cosas that both Oberholtzers said they loved. They are what Julie calls her “Passion Projects”, the recycled flowers and the plastic recycled tote bags.
“I’m kinda biased. I love everything in the store,” Julie Oberholtzer said.
The flowers are papier-mache 2 liter plastic soda bottles that are painted by a group of children and their parents from a Citac Special Needs School in Tapalpa, Mexico. Each flower is signed by the artist on the stem. An equitable portion of the proceeds for each flower is given back to support Citac, a community organization, that provides services to the talented artist and their families.
“Ninety-five percent of the artist I have a personal connection with,” Julie said.
The Oberholtzers chose this organization because they volunteered with the children within the program and saw their work being sold at a local craft store in Mexico.
“I love the flowers. I just love the colors. The store is an explosion of color,” said Kell Duncan, co-founder of The Churchill.
The plastic recycled tote bags are made as a result of an organization called MexiArte that’s mission is to help women in the Jalisco Prison System. Julie met the woman who runs the mission, Lucy, while in Guadalajara. The money made from the tote bags goes back to the organization to purchase feminine hygiene products for the women in prison such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and menstrual products.
Coming back from one of her most recent trips to Mexico, Julie bought several pieces inspired by and that represent Dia de los Muertos. This marked the first shipment from Guadalajara. Prior to this, every piece would be brought back through Julie’s car or attached trailer.
Julie wants to hire a part-time worker in the hopes that it would free up some of her time to go out in the downtown area and better market her business.
“I always want to be a part of it. It invigorates me to be in a country I love so much,” Oberholtzer said.