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Business profile: Chupco Indian Art Gallery

Sally TommieHOLLYWOOD — Sally Tommie opened the Chupco Indian Art Gallery as an outlet to represent the Seminole Tribe and to share Native American heritage through artwork. It’s also a place to find fine gifts for dignitaries visiting the Tribe.

As a former employee of Tribal government, Tommie presented Tribal gifts to VIPs but had a hard time easily finding high-quality items.

“I thought there has to be a place to make a quality purchase, something handmade by Tribal people, that is ready for gift giving,” said Tommie, a member of the Bird Clan. “Instead of sitting on the sidelines and waiting for it, I took the initiative and created it.”

The gallery, which opened in 2000, is named for Tommie’s grandmother Sallie “Chupco” Tommie. Raised in a camp in Fort Pierce, Tommie shares her grandmother’s name and always felt she had to live up to it.

“Filling the shoes of someone so grand was a tremendous responsibility,” Tommie said. “As a little girl, she was a giant. She and my mother did whatever was necessary. Things seemed so easy living in the camp together.”

Inspired by her mother, Minnie Tommie, an artist who made sweetgrass baskets, dolls and patchwork, Tommie wanted the gallery to showcase Native American heritage, culture and art. She purchased the old metal building on U.S. 441, which had been previously vacant, and transformed it into a place of refined beauty. Wood floors gleam throughout the spacious gallery, silk draperies adorn the windows and placement of custom-built display cases draw customers through the gallery.

There, art from about 50 Tribes, including Seminole, are for sale. Items include jewelry, clothing, paintings, sculptures and home goods. Prices range from an affordable small Seminole pin doll to an expensive original Guy LaBree oil painting or a Jim Jackson bronze sculpture.

For nearly two decades Tommie has traveled through Indian Country to collect art that catches her eye. She tries to find unique pieces not commonly found at festivals and pow-wows. Discovering that rare find or unusual item summarizes Tommie’s purchasing philosophy for the gallery.

“Everything in here was created by hand; a part of the spirit of the creator is in each piece of art,” Tommie said. “The entire space gives people a good spiritual feeling.”

Because she chooses every piece of art herself, Tommie gets attached to certain pieces.

“When you sell it, you miss it,” she said.

There are a few challenges to owning a gallery, such as getting Tribal members to frequent the store. Her greatest joy is when they come in and appreciate the Seminole work on display. She purchases many traditional arts and crafts from Tribal members and also sells a line of clan T-shirts adorned with Swarovski crystals and sterling silver clan charm bracelets and cufflinks.

Tommie, who also owns Redline Media Group, believes one of the most important things about owning a business is choosing the right name and buying the online domain name. She also advises having a business plan with realistic projections and enough savings to make it through hard times.

“We needed an outlet that would represent the quality of the people we are and the morals we have,” Tommie said. “I wanted to educate the world about the Seminole Tribe and all the great people we have here by giving them a peek at who we are.”

Chupco Indian Art Gallery is located at 3621 N. State Road 7 (U.S. 441) in Hollywood. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call 954-893-9460 or visit


Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at