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Business Happenings - June 2019

A Brief History of Vern Erb and the Hogan Trading Company
by Linda Schmidt

Moab, southwestern art, and...pickleball? Read on! It’s 1989. The uranium boom is over; Moab is quickly changing. A energetic young entrepreneur with imagination, a passion, and foresight invests half of his hard-earned savings, and a landmark Moab business is born! That young man is Vernon Erb, and his highly successful enterprise is the Hogan Trading Company.

Vern’s first exposure to southwestern Native American art was in the 70’s, when his family moved from Oregon to Blanding. It seems to have caught his heart right then. Several years and diverse activities followed, seeming to take him far from this ardent interest, but in reality preparing him for a great career with it. Graduating early from high school at only 15 years old, Vern set off for college in Texas, where he studied to be a CPA. Returning to the area and settling in Moab at the age of 19, he quickly discovered that accounting work was not for him. He took over a dry-cleaning business, building and all, and also opened a motorcycle shop. Hard work and a natural knack for business enabled him to build up his savings.

Realizing that the changes in Moab pointed to the possible success a new kind of business, Vern made a daring move, though not certain how it would go. After spending about 3 months on the Navajo and Hopi reservations making friends with various Native American artists, and learning a great deal about their work, he invested $2000 in pottery. In March of 1989 he opened for business in the Emporium building on Moab’s Main Street. His trading company was an instant success!

Over the years, Vern has become a true expert in southwestern art, and has developed lasting friendships with many of the artists who create these works. The Hogan is the largest southwestern art gallery in Utah, reflecting Vern’s love and knowledge of the beautiful work that he handles. The Hogan’s collection of Southwest art is wonderfully displayed, from the wind sculptures outside the building to the multiplicity of treasures within. It is a delight to walk through the lovely, airy rooms. Fascinating pieces of ceramic, metal, rock, wood, gemstones, and fabric vie for the viewer’s attention. Though everything looks very expensive, Vern enjoys selling beautiful things to happy customers, and has purposely created a collection with a very wide range of prices.

In 1992 the trading company expanded its Southwestern collection to include non-native artists. The addition of the brass wind sculptures proved highly successful. Vern was the first dealer for these eye-catching pieces of art crafted in Southwestern Utah. From the Hogan hundreds have traveled to new homes all over the world. And included among the other popular non-native works in the gallery are the fine watercolor prints of Moab’s own Kathy Cooney.

Vern built the beautiful 8000 square foot building that houses the business; the purchase of that piece of property was a remarkable adventure in itself. Negotiations went on and on, and when finally agreed upon, a second party suddenly became interested. Rather than honoring the existing agreement, the owner informed Vern that the two interested parties would draw straws for it! A day and time was set. Vern was there on time, and after waiting fifteen minutes for the other party, the owner told Vern that the property was awarded to him. The sale was transacted, but then denied... Eventually, however, all was settled.

Where does pickleball fit in with this? Somewhere along the line, it became another of Vern’s passions. It obviously helps keep him fit and healthy. Judging by the success of everything else he has done, surely it would be a very good idea to be playing doubles on his team, rather than playing against him!

Treat yourself to an breath-taking experience of the Southwest! Open daily from 9 am to 10 pm, the Hogan Trading Company is located at 100 South Main Street. 435-259-8118 www.hogantrading.com. And be sure to mention you read about the Hogan in Moab Happenings.

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