Claire Johnson of Claire's Cafe (Photo by Taylor Noel Photography)

Claire’s Cafe & Gallery Closes After 38 Years in Business

April 30, 2024
By Matt Sterner

On Sunday, April 28, Claire Johnson welcomed everyone into Claire’s Cafe & Gallery one last time.

After nearly 40 years in business, Johnson closed her namesake café and art gallery that had been open since 1986 at 16140 N. Oracle Rd. It’s a moment to celebrate, though! It’s about time Johnson takes it easy and enjoys retirement.

“Thank you for a wonderful 38-year run,” she shared on social media.

Claire Johnson with awards she’s won in the past (Photo by Taylor Noel Photography)

“It’s with a mix of sadness and gratitude that we’re saying goodbye,” Tucson Originals shared. “Claire’s Cafe has been more than just a spot for grub it’s been the heartbeat of Catalina. From its humble beginnings in ’86 to now, Claire has filled our lives with laughs, good eats, and memories we’ll carry forever.”

In 1979, Johnson bid farewell to her hometown of Chicago and moved to the sunshine here in Tucson. Her culinary journey led her through local spots such as Blue Willow, Eclectic Cafe, Oro Valley Country Club, and Lodge at Ventana Canyon until she found her place in the mid-1980s as the executive chef of CB Rye, a Jewish deli.

Read Edie Jarolim’s June 2023 article “Where the Latkes Meet the Lariats.”

“Claire, your dedication and love have made this place feel like home. Your commitment to quality and genuine kindness have made Claire’s Cafe a second home for many of us,” Tucson Originals added. “As we say farewell, know that your legacy will live on in our hearts and in the community you’ve built.”

When it came to showcasing the community, Claire’s Cafe was also an art gallery — it’s in the name.

Johnson is a chef but also a silversmith. She offered her café as a showcase for her fellow creatives in the Catalina area. Eventually, her gallery started to attract art from the greater Tucson community. Creative pieces like sculptures, watercolors, oil paintings, and Western and Native American work could be seen on display over the years.

Claire’s Cafe & Gallery (Photo by Taylor Noel Photography)

“Though we’ll miss this spot dearly, we’re comforted knowing that the spirit of Claire’s Cafe will stick with us wherever we roam. Thanks for being such a big part of our lives and our town. You’ll always hold a special place in Tucson’s heart.”

So, what’s next for Johnson? A much-needed vacation!

Just the other day, friends set up a GoFundMe to wish them a vacation like no other.

To keep up with Claire Johnson, follow Claire’s Cafe & Gallery on Facebook.

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