Flagstaff Urban Market

A new business has arrived in Flagstaff taking over the abandoned Tourist Home located on the south side of Flagstaff. Tourist Home, formerly a boarding house for immigrant Basque sheepherders who traveled through Flagstaff, now has become a restaurant and market — the Tourist Home Urban Market.

Tourist Home Urban Market (THUM) opened in mid-October after some mild complications. Owners and cousins, Scott and Kevin Heinonen, originally planned to have the market open by the end of summer.

“There were issues with the city because the building’s a historic building so we had to work with them,” Scott Heinonen said. “We were trying to preserve it to certain standards that the city has or is developing.”

After the snags with construction got worked out, THUM opened its door to Flagstaff. Scott and Kevin Heinonen consider themselves locals after living in Flagstaff on and off since the ‘90s. They had the idea for the market for a couple years and finally Scott decided it was time to do it.

The market is a mixture of market, deli and restaurant offering pre-packaged or made-to-order foods as well as many items from the market such as cheeses and meats. Scott and his workers stress that one major benefit of the market to the Flagstaff population is its grab-and-go capability.

“It’s a new concept for Flagstaff. There’s not really any place that’s quite so grab and go like that,” said Mollie Muchna, worker at THUM. “There’s nowhere you can go get breakfast, then grab some food to go, plus get specialty drinks and wine or things like that. It’s all right there and there’s not really someplace in Flagstaff that combines that idea of a local market in the community with a kitchen.”

The foods that THUM offers range from sandwiches, soups, salads and more but with a twist. Scott, a graduate of Northern Arizona University (NAU) in ’94 with a degree in hotel and restaurant management, is not only co-owner of THUM but also, chef. He comes up with all the recipes with suggestions and help from coworkers as well.

“It’s certainly a melting pot of different types of things,” Scott said. “For instance, the breakfast is not your true breakfast fare where it’s eggs, your traditional configuration on the plate. Yeah, we have a breakfast potato dish but it’s a little bit different. We do a couple breakfast dishes but they’re a little bit tweaked. As far as the cuisine, I couldn’t really label it as anything right now. It is what it is.”

Scott also described THUM’s food as “All-American” since the market offers soups, salads and sandwiches as some of its main dishes. However, Muchna said it is not that simple.

“It’s more gourmet than that though,” Muchna said. “It’s so good. I eat there way too much. The ingredients they use are all really high quality...the quality of the food is really important.”

The twist of the food comes from the recipes Scott, along with his fellow chefs, comes up with. For him, coming up with recipes is a “constant development.”

“You can write a recipe but executing it and fine-tuning it is the key so there’s consistency,” Scott said. “I’m kind of finding that that’s going to be the key to my success and our success.”

The menu at THUM is set and then there are daily specials offered as well. However, the menu does change as Scott comes up with new recipes and suggestions are made from workers as well as customers.

“Scott and his ideas sort of takeoff on a whirlwind and end up being really good and not something you can find at most other places,” said Sharon Baudelaire, worker at THUM.

Not only do the Heinonens want THUM to be a place where Flagstaff residents can come and get quality food, they also want it to be a sort of hub for the community. Right inside the door is a chalkboard with Flagstaff events going on, which Scott hopes will inform his customers and help create a tight-knit community atmosphere.

“I think it will become known as a local spot, a gathering spot for locals. Even having the name tourist on there might draw some tourists too and that’s part of why we put the little calendar of events and things going on around town,” Scott said. “We kind of wanted it to be a social community hub. So say you are a tourist coming up from Phoenix, you can come get a cup of coffee, look at the board, see what’s happening for the day, get some picnic items. It’s kind of a cure all.”

However, in order to create a friendly, community atmosphere, the workers at THUM need to be good representatives of that ideal.

“The key is having good people around you,” Scott said. “We’re developing a pretty good team of managers and leaders. I think Kevin and I are present a lot. We’re around talking to people, making sure things are good, we have presence in the restaurant and the market...I think that’s really important.”

The workers at THUM seem to enjoy the work environment and its welcoming atmosphere.

“I think one of the things I enjoy the most about working here is that the separation between manager and employee is really vague,” Baudelaire said. “Like you’ll see Scott, the owner, doing dishes sometimes. It’s just nice to work in a place where everybody is pitching in for the same goal.”

Adding to that Muchna added, “I really like the business atmosphere. Their specific business is really welcoming.”

THUM opened during a slower month in Flagstaff so the business has not been exactly what the Heinonens hoped for but is has been decent, mostly due to their loyal customers. THUM is not the Heinonens first business in Flagstaff. They also own Tinderbox Kitchen and The Annex, which happen to be located directly next to THUM. According to its website, Tinderbox Kitchen serves “American comfort food...redefined,” while The Annex is a cocktail lounge that serves “Tinderbox-style ‘bar food.’” Therefore, THUM is a completely new concept for the owners.

“You know, it’s very easy to talk yourself in and out of things and we can certainly do that,” Scott said about him and Kevin attempting to decide whether to open THUM. “So we finally just sat here one day and I said ‘look, I think the third piece to our puzzle is that building and doing the market.’”

The three pieces of the puzzle work well together logistically. THUM is open in the mornings and afternoons giving customers a place to get breakfast and lunch. Then, Tinderbox Kitchen and The Annex open during late-afternoon for dinner and stay open till late. Therefore, the Heinonens offer their customers more than 15 hours of service per day. Although similarities in taste occur because Scott makes the recipes for all three businesses, there are differences in the food and concepts of the three businesses.

“I think for the most part the concept itself sets the food apart from [the other] two places just because [they] are more fine dining,” Scott said. “Whereas this is a market, it is a deli, its grab-and-go foods. Its quick made to order things. Not to say that we don’t try to put as much heart and soul into what we’re doing...and create a great product but they’re just very different in concept.”

Another difference is the market concept itself. Scott and his team have had to learn different aspects of running a market because neither himself nor his team have ever worked in retail. Therefore, learning aspects such as stocking, labeling, barcodes, contacting purveyors and more have been challenging but not discouraging.

“I know eventually within a number of months it will be more streamlined,” Scott said. “Then again, why do you want to do something you’ve already done? You might as well do something new to broaden your knowledge about the industry.”

Tourist Home Urban Market will continue to grow and form its identity in the south side of Flagstaff. Residing in a historical building that was formerly an eye-sore and being threatened to be torn down, THUM is another business that is helping with the south side’s rebirth.

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