ROAD TRIP, ANYONE?
Arizona State Route 82 lays lazily across Southern Arizona like a snake catching warmth in the road, stretching all the way from Tombstone to the Mexican border. If you’re coming from Tucson, you’ll connect with the route through rolling hills and ranch land in Sonoita. Turn right and you’re Mexico-bound.
When you reach the stop sign in the middle of the route, you’ve arrived in the town of Patagonia.
Look to your right and you’ll see a small corner market stocked with provisions. There, you can pick up a copy of the town paper, the Patagonia Regional Times, and read about how to prevent your home-grown tomatoes from cracking, the history of the local book club, and opinion pieces questioning how growth and tourism might hurt — or help — a small town like this one. Look left at the stop sign and you’ll see the old Railroad Depot building, built in the center of town in 1900, now home to the offices of Patagonia Town Hall.
A stone’s throw from Town Hall is a modest building whose sun-baked signage reads “Patagonia Lumber Company.”
An outpost in the most sincere sense of the word, Patagonia Lumber Company is a beer and wine bar nestled beneath the Patagonia Mountains, less than 20 miles from the Mexican border. A sight-for-sore-eyes watering hole in a tiny town of tin roofs, adobe walls, big skies, and no traffic lights.
Patagonia Lumber Company was reborn in 2021 thanks to owners Heidi and Zander Ault. The building’s original flaked paint sign and Western false-front architecture echo its previous lives like a “howdy” bounced off a canyon wall.
The original structure was built in 1913 as a “satellite field office for the Arizona Timber Company based out of Flagstaff,” explains Zander. This was during an era of timber harvesting in the Santa Rita and Patagonia mountains, which facilitated a lot of the mineral extraction the town of Patagonia was built on.
Patagonia Lumber Company’s current incarnation is a light-dappled, neighborhood bar that radiates a warm, welcoming vibe. You can sense the history here immediately, but you can also easily palpate the passionate pulse of a reborn and refreshed new spirit.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT
Before their current existence as bar owners, Heidi and Zander were already successful entrepreneurs, founding a bike tour company in 2014 called The Cyclist’s Menu. Zander’s experience as a farm-direct chef and Heidi’s professional mountain biking and coaching career were natural gateways into this business endeavor, and the pair continues to craft cycling-centric tours with a culinary slant.
The couple first toured the gravel roads of the San Rafael Valley in 2015 and, “Fell in love with this place,” said Heidi. They soon began running 4-5 night bike tours out of Patagonia regularly to acquaint cyclists with this hidden gravel paradise.
In 2019, Heidi and Zander founded the Spirit World 100, a bike race that gets riders out onto the gravel roads of the San Rafael Valley and within footsteps of the Mexican border in an enthusiastic test of endurance.
In early 2021, when the old Patagonia Lumber Company building became available, Heidi and Zander were already aware of the positive impact their cycling ventures had on the economy of Patagonia. They saw their opportunity to create a truly special neighborhood hangout for Patagonia locals as well as travelers exploring the region. The dream of the new Patagonia Lumber Company was born.
A WATERING HOLE AND SO MUCH MORE
I first met Patagonia Lumber Company on a drizzly monsoon Saturday night. As it turns out, there is nothing more complimentary to a beer in a quiet town than rain gently falling on the tin roof of the bar. You could charge a cover for that kind of ambience.
That night, Heidi and Zander were hosting a “Sonoran Supper Club,” a dinner fundraiser for the Patagonia Volunteer Fire Department. Zander had cooked up a delicious meal of Forbes Meat Co.’s bavette steak on a bed of brown rice, dressed up with green cabbage, pickled beets and onions, spicy peanut sauce (I’ll take a pint, please), and a soft boiled egg from Pivot Produce. I paired my meal with a La Cumbre Malpais Stout followed by a Pueblo Vida Cereus IPA (both perfect rainy day beers).
If you like joyful, delicious meals in rustic settings, you’d be wise to stay tuned for future Sonoran Supper Club events.
With eight beers on tap, many more in the coolers, a two-page wine list, and oodles of non-alcoholic beverages, the Patagonia Lumber Company well never runs dry. Grab a seat at the bar, in the spacious backyard beer garden, or at one of the cafe-style open window seats and prepare to have your cup filled, literally, and metaphorically.
Pueblo Vida Brewing Company, Tombstone Brewing Company, Dragoon Brewing Company, and more Arizona offerings adorn the tap list, along with regional favorites like La Cumbre Brewing Company (Santa Fe, New Mexico).
Locally baked goods from The Farmer’s Daughter, Red Table Salami, and Tucson’s own [POPPED] Artisan Popcorn round out the available snack selection. Alternatively, you can grab tacos or wood-fired pizza from the food truck parked out front.Patagonia Lumber Company also hosts live music under the stars several nights a week, making it the perfect venue to relax and enjoy a brew or two.
HONORING A SACRED PLACE
While Patagonia Lumber Company has good vibes to spare, the region surrounding the bar has an undeniable history of its own. The well-traveled gravel roads of the surrounding San Rafael Valley hold the memory of all those who traversed them prior. This is the land of the Sobaipuri, the Tohono O’odham, the Ópata, the O’odham Jewed, the Hohokam, and the Chiricahua Apache (Nde).
The native footpaths utilized by the people indigenous to this land were shown to Father Eusebio Francisco Kino in the 1600s. Father Kino’s extensive cartography of the region resulted in those same footpaths evolving into local cattle trails, stagecoach paths, and mining roads, most of them still unpaved. Thanks in part to Heidi and Zander, they are now primarily explored by bike.
“Heidi and Zander have worked hard to be respectful of the land and inspire others to do the same. It is a privilege to have access to the area, and I believe they are great stewards of the land,” said Sarita Mendez, Tucson Women Shredder’s Captain and beer enthusiast.
Mendez tells us that cyclists planning a Patagonia excursion can look forward to “the glorious views of the surrounding mountains, all kinds of wildlife, and vast open spaces,” or they can simply enjoy the solitude. “I enjoy the quiet and the time it gives me to connect with myself,” she says.
Before a ride, you can pick up a Gravel Adventure Field Guide, an extra inner tube, or a cup of coffee at Patagonia Lumber Company. The bar and cafe is a proud purveyor of Presta Coffee Roaster’s beans, drip coffee, and pour-overs for the highest quality pre-ride java jolt.
As if the bike-friendly bar weren’t enough, Heidi and Zander have just announced upcoming plans to open up a neighboring full-service bike shop called Patagonia Bikes, which will also serve as headquarters for The Cyclist’s Menu tour operations. Patagonia Bikes is slated to open its doors on Saturday, October 8.
SMALL TOWN, BIG HEART
The day after my inaugural visit to Patagonia Lumber Company I returned for a happy hour beverage and some live music under the setting sun. Heidi and Zander were there, greeting every customer like old friends. The small town atmosphere and the sense of community cultivated by the proprietors feels so very… Patagonia.
“That was a great dinner last night, Heidi”, a woman shouted graciously as she entered the bar.
“One of the biggest things in this environment that we’ve created here, is exposing the kindness of opening yourself up to other people,” said Zander. All who enter are embraced, regardless of whether they themselves embrace the ongoing evolution of this small historic town.
The town of Patagonia is wholesome and simple, profoundly beautiful, and sinks into your soul like a desert rain. Patagonia Lumber Company similarly bonds with you from the moment you settle onto your barstool. The bar feels alive with laughter, clinking glasses, and the flush that comes after a hot ride on desert roads.
Perhaps like many of Father Kino’s visitas, in another 300 years, the structure will be a relic, something that can only be pondered in terms of what it once was and formerly meant for the community. For now, it’s comforting to know that the Patagonia Lumber Company outpost is there, just to the left of the stop sign, awaiting your return.
Patagonia Lumber Company is located at 289 McKeown Ave., Patagonia, AZ and is currently open 4 – 9 p.m. on Friday and 8 a.m. – 9 p .m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit patagonialumberco.com and follow Patagonia Lumber Company on Instagram.
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