Flagstaff has its own Phoenix
FLAGSTAFF HAS ITS OWN PHOENIX
Tourist Home All Day Cafe’ Turns Five, a Story of Remarkable Rebirth from the Ashes for a Building Rich In History and Culture
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz., October 21, 2019— For nearly forty years, a building sat surrounded by weeds on South San Francisco Street in downtown Flagstaff. More “Flop House,” than a boarding house, the curiously named “Tourist Home,” was a place you avoided walking past let alone walking in. Now celebrating its fifth year in business, the Tourist Home All Day Cafe represents the community meeting place in downtown Flagstaff, Arizona.
Built in 1926 by Jesus Garcia (a Basque sheepherder) and his mother, Isabella,
the Tourist Home was conceived as a boarding house for sheepherders who would descend on Flagstaff to conduct business and have some fun. The business served as a sort of cultural way place for those of Basque descent (a region of Europe which is a mixture of French and Spanish influence). The sheepherders would stay at the Tourist Home before moving their flocks from summer locations in the San Francisco Peaks to winter locations farther south. Immediately adjacent to the Tourist Home a pelota (handball) court was built by the pair. The traditional Basque game of handball helped visitors to stay in touch with their cultural roots. Garcia eventually became the cook for Tourist Home, the first in what is now a forever tradition; good food made from scratch for hungry Flagstaff residents and visitors.
For decades though the building sat in ruin, a battered phone booth, boarded windows with the occasional sound of a falling decaying brick from the handball court or the whistle of wind through the leaking roof the only testament to the buildings rich past.
Renovating a near-condemned building is not for the faint of heart. Enter Kevin Heinonen, a self-described accidental restaurateur and former attorney who saw an opportunity to add to the rejuvenation of the south side of Flagstaff. Tourist Home (www.touristhomecafe.com) became the third concept he developed in Flagstaff. Rising from the ashes of decay and neglect, the Tourist Home All Day Cafe’ was born. Heinonen partnered with investor and contractor Chris Kemmerly of Miramonte Arizona to redevelop the site into a thriving concern, and to better represent one of the entry points to downtown Flagstaff. The rebirth of the Tourist Home was recently part of a case study prepared by the Urban Land Institute as an example of redevelopment and economic development of historic places in Arizona, and as an example of private developers and city governments working together to add vigor to the community.
In October 2014, Tourist Home opened its doors; its interior is clean and modern and bright, while still maintaining the charm and historic character of its exterior. “The business was and continues as an example of always meeting the changing needs of your customers,” said Heinonen. Since opening, the interior has seen four major modifications, transforming into counter service and faster to-go lanes and the menu itself evolving to bring the same level of sophistication as its sister concept, Tinderbox Kitchen. Tourist Home eventually would be the kitchen to support the Annex Cocktail Lounge as well, which opened next to Tinderbox in 2010 in order to handle overflow and heavy demand.
“Tourist Home is one of the most sought after destinations, and considered a downtown gem,” said Terry Madeksza, Executive Director of Flagstaff Downtown Business Alliance.
“Not only does the menu offer exceptional baked goods, breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes, it is also a vibrant place for locals and visitors to gather. It is important to remember that before Tourist Home, the building was dilapidated and considered an eyesore for years. The vision and ongoing investment into Tourist Home has spurred revitalization of an entire area.”
This past year, Heinonen made additional improvements, introducing technology to speed order taking and analytic software that helps General Manager Lisa Valentine and her team know what product is most “customer approved” and how to move customers through at a pace that balances their needs as well as the desire Valentine has to keep that warmth and charm ever-present.
Outside Heinonen brought the historic handball court to life with a new purpose of being a performance stage with built in acoustics for live music. He installed pavers and fire pits, custom-designed tables and umbrellas and a service window for Annex so that the entire yard between the two properties now serves customers from early morning to late-night, having a tremendous impact on profitability and economic development for the city of Flagstaff.
Tourist Home’s culinary team includes Master Pastry Chef Kat Biemann and Chief Culinary Officer Mike Schmitz, who oversees all menu creation, ingredient selection and relationship with producers and purveyors as well as the back of house staff training and development.
For more information or for interviews, contact Tony Felice at 480-567-6890.
About Tourist Home All Day Cafe:
Tourist Home is the center of the community and the most hospitable start to your day or a perfect mid-day break. As a multifaceted restaurant, bakery, & local hub, the Tourist Home provides counter service breakfast and lunch starting at 6 a.m. Enjoy made-to-order hot breakfast items (including the BEST breakfast burrito around), soups, salads, sandwiches, espresso drinks, beer, wine, mimosas, and bloody marys. Join friends for conversation or sip hot coffee with a fresh pastry over today’s newspaper. Welcome home.
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