Hallmarks of Goodwill and Resiliency: Locals help buoy the restaurant community

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, June 2020

Written by Gail G. Collins

Finding stories of goodwill during such tentative times has not been difficult as communities have been supporting each other in newfound ways during the COVID-19 pandemic. The people behind these good deeds, however, have proven a little more difficult to pin down.  They are busy, making positive strides in any way they can. When they sit down to share stories of comfort and compassion, they talk about others. Jamie Thousand, owner of Satchmo’s BBQ, is fond of saying, “No one loves Flagstaff more than Flagstaff.”   That’s a strong statement about the real character of our mountain community.

Like many of his fellow small business owners, he received endless encouragement from others in the midst of lockdown. Weekly customers, who had forgone logging into Yelp when business was thriving, wrote rave reviews and hopeful messages.

“There has been a challenge around every corner and curve balls thrown at us,” Thousand said, “and we adapt as quickly as possible.”

With owners nowhere near in the clear yet, and the hopeful summer boom ahead, the waters are uncharted. Planning is tenuous and preparation is dynamic. More processes, more space, but less confidence.

Along the way, Zoom conference calls and text strands buoyed and informed restauranteurs. State, city and chamber members exchanged ideas on how to interpret loose re-opening guidelines and implement safe practices, like face shields over face masks to counter asthma or a hearing deficit to continue lip reading. Scores of accepted human behaviors no one had previously second-guessed needed to be considered, such as the potential risks of a self-serve soda station.

John Conley, owner of Salsa Brava and Fats Olives, coordinated a multi-party Zoom call to share ideas and exchange information on new protocols. Tinderbox Kitchen’s Kevin Heinonen, Oregano’s David Kennedy and Thousand began a discussion of vital topics, among those the issue of liability.

“Never before in my 32 years of cooking in this amazing mountain town have I witnessed such unification, a fellowship of sorts,” Conley said, “where restaurants united and embraced one another, when a true sense of ‘no one is left behind’ prevailed.”

The crisis brought forth clear priorities.

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COZY UP: Find your ideal coffee shop in Flagstaff

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, November 2019

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Written by Gail G. Collins

For most of us, morning doesn’t come without coffee. It supercharges us for the day ahead. In fact, two-thirds of American adults begin the day with a cup of joe, and we average nearly three mugfuls. A welcoming vibe greets us at our coffee café. The beckoning aroma, friendly faces, comforting taps of the portafilter and hiss of steamed milk feel like your second home. You meet co-workers, study or steal away for a quiet afternoon hour. Sill looking for your perfect coffee vibe? Here are five places in Flagstaff to try.

Lux North 111 E. Aspen Ave.

The newest comer to the caffeine scene is Lux North, which expanded from Phoenix. Channeling the ‘60s with burnt orange leather couches, sleek lines and funky blown glass lighting, the entry steers service to one side and seating to the other. Owner Katie Calahan feels camaraderie with other coffee spots in town and focuses on her customers.

“We believe in building relationships, and that requires dialogue,” she said.

And the drinks are the perfect complement to quality conversation. Calahan’s la Marzocco espresso machine is lever operated, which requires serious skills, but offers defter options for infusing shots with water, following “the original principles of coffee creation.”

The company roasts daily in Phoenix, and the popular sippers are lattes, pour overs and cold brews. At 3 a.m., Calahan bakes croissants, cinnamon rolls, and her grandmother’s coffee cake among others to accompany that morning coffee. For a heartier start, try the eggerchief, so called for the portability of egg, meat and cheese as a pocket sandwich.

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Breakfast is Served

Brandy’s Restaurant and Bakery, New Owners and Same Traditions

Mtn Living Mag October 2014

Story & Photos by Gail G. Collins

Dish Brandys a Oct 2014Don’t mess with success. In fact, diners could be forgiven if, over their quiche, they didn’t notice the shift to new ownership at Brandy’s. That was the plan after 20 years, as retiring owners Ed and Brandy Wojciak handed over the keys to Kelsey and Jamie Drayton. In the end, it was more of a legacy transfer. Kelsey began working as a dishwasher for Brandy’s at 15 years old and advanced while working his way through classes at Northern Arizona University where Jamie also attended. The couple moved to Los Angeles for several years before returning to Flagstaff with plans to open a coffee shop and got wind that Brandy’s was for sale. Over two years, the Draytons transitioned from managers to owners. “We kept what was working for a smooth transition,” Kelsey said. “All the dishes are made from scratch, from batters and pastries to hand-sliced fries.” Continue reading “Breakfast is Served”