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For Alissa and Michael Marquess, the old laundry at 7 S. Mikes Pike is more than a building. Their paths crossed with the white façade often enough in the past. But it was a chance trip during a 2010 ArtWalk that sealed the deal for the then-vacant space to become the home of their business.

Mother Road Brewing Company opened in late 2011 as one of the new businesses revitalizing Southside — the scene of some of Flagstaff’s most monumental changes.

“I’ve always loved Southside because it’s kind of funky,” he said of the neighborhood’s appeal. “Southside would allow us to be who we are.”

Altering aesthetic

Renaissance catalyzed slowly with the existing bars, coffee shops and cafés linking Northern Arizonan University’s campus and Downtown. Restaurants and breweries helped reinvigorate a culture of cuisine in the area.

Evan and Winnie Hanseth jumped in 2008 with Lumberyard Brewing Co., followed by Kevin and Scott Heinonen with Tinderbox Kitchen in 2009.

Mikes Pike — the original alignment of Route 66 — saw renewed interest first with Flag Bike Revolution opening in the laundry complex in 2010. Shortly after, Caleb Schiff took over the tip of the wedge-shaped building with Pizzicletta.

Interest washed over Southside again and again, with the Heinonens opening The Annex and, later, Tourist Home. Historic Brewing Co.’s Barrel + Bottle House, Ewa’s Thai Cuisine and Proper Meats + Provisions now share a renovated former bar and strip club. Across the street, Southside Tavern, Street Side Saigon, Curran’s Tea Place and more enlivened South San Francisco.

Flood control

Southside received much needed TLC in 2010, too, with the City of Flagstaff’s Southside Restoration Project. Realigned and widened sidewalks on South San Francisco and Beaver streets offered cleaned-up thoroughfares in tandem with the Rio de Flag flood control project.

Karl Eberhard, the City’s Community Design and Redevelopment Manger, who led the restoration effort, noted revitalization has been a boon.

“This is testament to the best of redevelopment,” he said. “The area looks better; it’s more vital; and tourists frequent the Southside much more now. The biggest events taking place right now are the private investment.”

The area with a once seedy reputation now sees incredible foot traffic thanks to the entrepreneurial business owners. Mike’s Pike sidewalks are still narrow and buckled, but the Marquess duo said that’s part of its charm.

Restaurant renaissance

But with more businesses setting up, another wave of rejuvenation has arrived.

Phoenix-based La Santisima Gourmet Taco Shop will open later this month between Streetside Saigon and Southside Tavern.

At the end of the block, Firecreek Coffee Co.’s roasting facility now occupies the south end of the former Mad Italian Public House. And right next door, a new concept will see a grand opening no later than early June.

Dave Smith and business partner Jeremy Meyer have been searching for a location to offer their New American cuisine for about a year. The former chef-partner of Brix, Criollo and Proper Meats and the longtime manager of Rendezvous, respectively, will mix their experiences into Root Public House.

Building on the sustainable, local, organic philosophy, they will offer a complementary experience to what the Heinonens have brought Southside, Smith said, and elevate the idea of the public house

“The best way we can shake it is by creating a different atmosphere and a different vibe, especially in our location, than I think what people are used to,” Smith said of contributing to Southside.

Artistic swing

More than eateries, access to public art has drastically improved the neighborhood’s aesthetic. Large-scale murals in “Trust Your Struggle” by the Native Movements Collective and Dave Loewenstein’s collaborative piece, “What Flows Beneath Our Feet” on the side of Flag T-Company, both stand as testament to walkable art south of the tracks. The newest piece is Mural Mice’s reflective “Route 66” on the back side of the Lumberyard.

Eberhard said no other public art projects are currently slated for Southside, but added the Beautification and Public Art Commission “has long sought to do a significant sculpture in the area, but has been challenged to find a location.”

But Smith noted the San Francisco corridor has turned into a restaurant row. From Brix and Criollo, he saw First Friday ArtWalk offer the month’s best sales and traffic. Smith said he’d like to work with surrounding businesses on a new idea: Southside Second Saturdays.

“I think we need something like that Southside,” he said, noting art venues are largely absent.

Shopping is driven largely by Full Circle Trade & Thrift. Zani Cards & Gifts, operating since 1993, has led ArtWalkers to its Phoenix Avenue location since 2011.

Artistic venues like Flagstaff Modern and Contemporary Gallery and the Center for Indigenous Music and Culture offer exhibitions and events. And while The Pike Gallery at 100 Mikes Pike, owned by Jeff Maurer, no longer operates as a revolving art gallery, filmmaker James Q Martin uses the space.

Smith said if surrounding businesses continue Southside’s success, more artistic fare will move in. Though, he added, “I‘m sure it’s just a matter of time.”

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