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Five Guys Open

Pictured from left to right, Debbie Sawyer, Liz Risi, Joe Sawyer, Steve Risi and Anthony O'Sullivan stand in the dining room Thursday at Five Guys shortly before the store opened for business in Flagstaff. (Jake Bacon/Arizona Daily Sun)

Jake Bacon

There are no new towering monuments to symbolize growth in the local economy in the last year.

No new big box stores came to Flagstaff, nor did a strip mall.

The good news is that fewer businesses closed their doors in 2012 than in previous years and several new businesses opened in empty buildings.

Some local owners reinvested in their businesses by modernizing while others moved into new retail niches.

Several new regional brands moved into Flagstaff last year, with many choosing to locate on the busy Milton Road corridor.

-- A pair of out-of-town Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchisees converted the former Dallas Real Estate building into a restaurant, adding to the number of places selling burgers on Milton. Five Guys opened in January.

-- Down the street, the Native New Yorker franchise expanded into Flagstaff, opening in the former home of Garcia's Mexican eatery in April.

-- The Furniture Barn moved to Fourth Street after spending more than a decade on the corner of Butler and Milton, with Colorado-based Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage opening up shop a few months later after making renovations to the iconic building. The massive Holstein cow painted by artist Melanie Thomson-Myers was only touched up -- the new owners said they never had any plans to paint over the Flagstaff icon.

-- Also on Fourth Street, a new Cal Ranch store moved into a long-vacant former supermarket and immediately began attracting more shoppers to the corridor.

-- Sprouts Farmers Market announced it would come to Flagstaff in 2013 -- moving into an undisclosed space in the University Meadows Shopping Center off Milton Road. The 26,000 square-foot store will be in the same shopping center as Bookman's and Pier One is located.

Several businesses also celebrated major anniversaries in 2012.

-- The Garcia family celebrated their ownership of the Kachina Restaurant, just east of downtown Flagstaff. The restaurant traces its history in Flagstaff as far back as the 1950s, but the family recipes have built a loyal following over the last 30 decades.

-- "The House That Chilaquiles Built" informally celebrated roughly 50 years in Flagstaff this year by moving out of its cramped quarters on North San Francisco Street into a larger space a block away. Anne Martinez, who owns MartAnne's Burrito Palace, has expanded the kitchen, the number of tables and even the menu since re-opening in her new digs off of Route 66.

-- Terry Marxen tweaked the name of his Chevrolet and Cadillac dealership earlier this year as part of a massive remodel of his showroom off West Route 66.

-- Alan Chan also gave an expansive facelift to his Ford dealership showroom, but kept the Babbitt name. The family -- who started the dealership 100 years ago -- still has partial ownership of the dealership.

One popular business decided to close its doors in 2012 but did not turn its back on loyal customers.

Downtown boutique Fizz Bath Shop still sells bath salts, fizzes, scrubs, oils, lotions and butters but only through Kim Yuhl's online store.

The city also saw some good signs on the horizon in the private construction market. No longer fueled by federal stimulus projects, some local contractors have shifted to building homes.

City building permits show developers pulled permits in the last 12 months to build new homes next to the Presidio in the Pines subdivision off Woody Mountain Road as well as atop McMillan Mesa.

The city's building department has also contracted with an outside group in Phoenix to expedite reviews of building permits earlier this year.

The initial results have been promising, but city officials say they need more time to evaluate the pilot program.

The city also reported tourism-related tax revenues set new records in 2012, with hotels, restaurant and bars seeing larger crowds than even before the recession hit the local economy in 2008. Overall, retail sales still lagged pre-recession levels, held back mainly by construction-related sales.

In real estate, median home prices hovered well below $300,000 for most of the year, reflecting high demand for smaller houses but a low inventory of larger homes. The median price per square foot in November was the lowest since 2004.

Joe Ferguson can be reached at 556-2253 or jferguson@azdailysun.com.

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