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Two More Businesses Close their Doors

It’s with great sadness that I’m removing two articles from wickenburg-az.com today.

The March Hare

The March Hare was one of my favorite restaurants in town. Located in a small house on West Wickenburg Way, it was the perfect place for a “girls lunch,” with lots of lace and doilies and pictures of animals on the walls. The two owners worked together to prepare and serve meals. And while lunch was always good — a selection of fresh quiche every day, as well as soups and a great chicken salad sandwich on croissant — dinner, served just one night a week, was even better.

I think what made the March Hare’s food so good was the fact that it was all home made with the best ingredients — much of it organic, purchased in the Phoenix area to ensure quality and freshness. (I never saw a Sysco truck backed up to their service entrance!) The owners cared about their customers and it really showed.

The March Hare closed for the summer, as many Wickenburg businesses do. But it never reopened its doors. I don’t know why — it’s none of my business so I didn’t ask. It’s my hope that the owners find a new place to open shop and continue to serve quality food to the folks who now miss them.

Robson’s Mining World

Robson’s, which is located in nearby Aguila, AZ, was a great place to spend a quiet day in the desert, browsing acres of antique mining and farming equipment, hiking into the hills to view one of Arizona’s largest saguaro cacti and ancient petroglyphs, and having a good lunch of shepherd pie or chili or even a burger, finished off with a slice of home made pie. Each year, Robson’s would offer free admission for its Anniversary celebration, which attracted visitors from all over Arizona. I often participated by offering helicopter rides at this fun annual event.

Robson’s also closed its doors for the summer season, as it did every year. But like the March Hare, it did not reopen. There’s been an ownership change and a management change and things there are in flux. While scheduled events such as weddings are likely to go on as scheduled, Robson’s is closed to the public until further notice.

The Bigger We Get, the Smaller We Get

As the population of our town continues to grow, it’s odd — at least to me — that the available services seem to be shrinking. I can recall writing about a number of Wickenburg businesses for this site and then, a year or two later, removing the articles about them. While some new businesses have sprung up, they’re not the quality businesses that we seem to be losing.

I blame this on three things:

  • The town’s half-year population. How can a quality business expect to stay in business when half the population disappears every summer? Some businesses — such as March Hare, Robson’s, Charlie’s Steak House, Buckshot Babes — the list goes on and on — actually close their doors in the summer months to save on payroll and utilities during the dead time of year. How can I blame them? I’ve already made the decision to close down my own Wickenburg-based business every summer and seek work elsewhere when the snowbirds go back to their “real” homes in the Midwest and Northwest.
  • The townspeople’s willingness to travel to Surprise, Glendale, and Peoria for goods and services. How many times have you heard someone complain about the gas prices, food prices, and medical services here in Wickenburg? Too many. The ones who have time on their hands — mostly retirees who are here only half the year — think nothing of making multiple trips each week down Grand Avenue to buy groceries, clothes, gas, and other commodities 40 miles away from Wickenburg. So even when these people are in town, they’re not shopping here, supporting the businesses that make this town a town. Did these people ever stop to consider that if the existing businesses got more regular business, they’d be able to lower prices and provide more quality good and services? (It’s called the economies of scale, a very basic economic theory.)
  • The Town and Chamber of Commerce’s failure to attract enough good businesses and good employers. Let’s face it: there are very few high-paying jobs here in Wickenburg. This is something that cannot be denied. My husband drives down to Tempe every day to go to work. A friend of mine told me just yesterday that she’s moving down to Phoenix because she doesn’t want to be a checker in Safeway (the town’s third largest private employer). While I’m sure the town will argue that it has a low unemployment rate, that’s easy to accomplish when less than 50% of the year-round population aged 16 or over are in the workforce. And, for the record, 11.5% of Wickenburg’s residents live below the poverty level. (Where am I getting this information? From the U.S. Census bureau, which took its census in May 2000, after most snowbirds had gone home.) Rather than working hard to build a year-round economic base, the Town and Chamber continue to promote Wickenburg as “the west’s most western town” — while allowing developers to replace horse property with higher density housing — and attempt to attract more retirees by getting placement on “best places to retire” lists.

The Town, Chamber of Commerce, and local newspaper work together to sugar-coat everything about Wickenburg with the goal of pumping up population and property tax revenues. They ignore the basic needs of residents — good jobs and local businesses to provide goods and services. The only goal is to get the tax revenue up. They do this by imposing unreasonably high taxes on restaurants, bars, and hotels — we have the second highest BB&B tax in the state! — by building as many homes as the local Realtors can sell, and by annexing all surrounding lands, often against the will of the homeowners being annexed.

At this rate, before long, Wickenburg will be nothing more than a bedroom suburb of Phoenix, with heavy traffic going in and out of town during rush hour and throughout the day, filling the Hassayampa River Valley with the same smog that blankets Phoenix. Whatever was special about Wickenburg will no longer be special. New residents — including the snowbirds — will care less and less about the town since they spend so little time there. The downtown will become nothing more than a haven for real estate agents and mortgage brokers.

That’s a bleak future. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Only if we work together to support local businesses and attract quality employers can Wickenburg — and its businesses — thrive.

Last 5 posts by Maria Langer

13 comments to Two More Businesses Close their Doors

  • You said a mouthful.
    And your absolutely right ! I don’t live there, and I’m actually from New York, but I moved to Phoenix for a better chance at surviving. Little did I know that the outlining areas like your town are suffering the same deficiencies as Upstate New York and New Jersey 20 years ago. Back then, the luxury was overshadowed with seasonal traffic that crippled the private businesses when the Winter came and the tourists left to return to the big city. I can feel your pain. I thought I’d find something different here in the west, but its turned out to be the same nightmare I left. A Wonderful place to visit, but making a living here is another story.

  • donna stocker

    You’re absolutely right about the BB&B tax being so high..don’t understand why the council permits this tax to go to the Chamber of Commerce. Seems like a conflict of interest to me, but then our Council and Mayor in particular are not interested in Ethics. The downtown is already a hub for real estate interests in town, with limited retail. It’s frustrating for year round residents like myself to have the entire town shut down in summer…there are people who live here in summer!

  • Lee Pearson

    Maria,

    All is not lost. The “The March Hare” building has been leased by Greg & Crystal Calloway, now called “Cafe Azure”. Dinners only for now. Ate there last evening… one word: Excellent.

    Lee

  • Maria, I think you have a wonderful idea. “Only if we work together to support local businesses and attract quality employers can Wickenburg — and its businesses — thrive.”

    We all need to ban together and support our local businesses. I would love to see such a program start on this website with citizens encouraging each other to support the local businesses.

    By the way, the BBB tax does not go to the Chamber of Commerce as someone has suggested. The purpose of the tax is for a very limited and specific downtown beautification project that is now on the way. With it we will see a more attractive downtown with unique sculptures and a more pleasant place for visitors and locals alike. Making the downtown area more attractive for customers should help those local businesses about which we are speaking.

    The Chamber does get a limited amount of funds for marketing from the Town since the Town, along with the local business community, also benefits when visitors come to Wickenburg.

  • Jim Ferman

    Does the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce offer to sit down with any of the business owners who want to open new businesses and provide them with demographics so that they can better understand their community and its needs? How often have we seen new businesses in town open and unfortunately close within the first year of operation?
    If not, shouldn’t the Chamber feel obligated to do so seeing as they receive money from the town and its citizens?
    In order for local businesses to attract the townspeople into their establishments, these businesses need to understand and promote customer service. I have lived here almost 18 years and have made every attempt to buy locally. When I purchased a car at a local dealership, I found myself eventually taking this car to Phoenix for service as the dealer could not fix the problem after three tries. (This happened on more than one occasion).
    A local dealer installed a satellite internet service in my home. Because of poor reception due to a lousy installation, I was forced to have another company come and repair the problem.
    During the building of my house, I came across 2 local contractors who did an excellent job and who stood behind their work. Unfortunately, in my opinion, they are outnumbered by too many businesses and local contractors who do not offer and promote customer service.
    How many times have townspeople gone to a local hardware store in order to purchase material for a weekend project and been told that they were out of stock? Replacements could be ordered, but it would take a few days to have them in stock. When you want to do a home project, you want to do it today, not in a week or so.
    I think we all are cognizant of the excessive price of gasoline here in Wickenburg. Prices here average at least twenty cents a gallon over what is found in the valley. Is it any wonder that, for the reasons mentioned above, a large percentage of local citizens go to Phoenix with the idea of accomplishing a number of errands and purchasing fuel at a price where they don’t feel gouged?
    I completely support what some of the other respondents are attempting to promote, however I think more people would be inclined to stay and buy here if businesses promoted customer satisfaction and offered substantial inventories. Our town could have the most beautiful downtown area, but educated consumers are looking not just for quality businesses, but price, selection and customer service as well.

  • I’ve owned several businesses in Wickenburg in the 8+ years I’ve lived here. One of the greatest barriers I’ve observed is the price of rental space for offices and shops…Junky space here is offered for considerably more than brand new facilities with complete amenities (like AC) in Suprise around Bell & Grand … The Ramuda Ranch has completely taken over the downtown area, jacking any available space to the point that a retail operation simply can’t afford it…Maybe the downtown has a future once the bypass is built and functioning, but it really won’t make any difference if Ramuda keeps gobbling the available space at prices simple retail can’t affort…Property owners can’t be blamed because they need to get every dime they can and operations like Ramuda are willing to pay it…I certainly don’t have the answers, but this town’s management seems to be looking down the barrel of something it neither understands nor is competent to deal with.

  • Lee, you’re the second person to tell me this. I’m VERY excited. Hope to try it out one night this week.

  • Daryl

    I’m afraid the “retail leakage” Wickenburg is experiencing is the same as that suffered by towns across America that are within 30 miles of a Wal-Mart.

    Then add in that as we grow older most of us consume less and Wickenburg’s seven-month-long “slow season.”

    A tough picture for retail.

  • […] Maria’s recent article “Two More Businesses Close Their Doors” provided excellent and thoughtful observations about some of the factors that lead to business closures as well as the historically anemic record of economic growth in Wickenburg. Whether you are a full-time resident or seasonal visitor, I hope you will read it and the numerous comments posted by readers. It prompted me to engage in some reflection about why we chose to move here seven years ago. More importantly her article made me think about the underlying issues, possible solutions and consequences of healthy and sustainable growth for our town. My conclusions may not be perfectly aligned with those stated by Maria and they are probably even less aligned with the Town Council and Chamber of Commerce; but I think we all share a common desire for Wickenburg. That is: […]

  • Beverly

    Yeah well EVERYONE would be doing a whole lot better if the Town of Wickenburg would quit up-ing their rates, if we all would get a break in sales tax anihilation, if the chamber would not want a kidney (or your first born) to advertise in their “program”, and if people would take light of the rest of the world’s economy problems and realize that if we all dont find some way to make it better… this town is doomed to failure!–and why don’t you write me a ticket for my bad attitude and spend the proceeds putting another flower pot in the road!–and this is how our “tax-money” is spent? Learn from our mistakes and learn how to see the world from a struggling to make ends meat point of view. Someone offer a job for heaven’s sake! Or better yet, let a Wal-mart in and save us all from the maddness. No matter how you look at it, this town is going to crawl out of its sheltered society and learn how much better people are treated that live in a city…WITH OPTIONS.

  • Nancy

    Stumbled on this site of Maria’s while looking for the Calloways. Interesting comments but needs updating. The last substantive store in Wickenburg has now closed in October 2011. And that’s Vance Appliance. As for customer service: we made appointments with both pool companies for service and neither showed up. March Hare WAS great as was Cafe Azure. Qorri’s WAS the last of fine dining in the downtown area. The choices for shopping are: thrift shops, salons, landscaping,tattoos, mining equipment, American cars, pulled pork and beans, pizza, paint, exclusive clothing (in season), fencing and horse equipment. Safeway has raised prices about 40% so it’s Basha’s or Fry’s from now on.