TUCSON, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Reuben Monroy is the chef and chief designer of Elvira's in Tubac.
"Tubac may be a small community, but given its proximity to Tucson and the border, it has many influences when it comes to food," Monroy said.
The tastes of Tubac reflect the Sonoran desert from both sides of the Mexican border.
"Mexico City is where everything is born when it comes to Mexican cuisine. I went to school in Mexico City, this is the cradle of Mexican cuisine in a way," Monroy said.
And southern Arizona, the birthplace of a new fusion cuisine.
"I wanted to do that and bring something they don't have here. Even in Nogales I started doing that, and when I came here it really expanded my horizon, doing different things. We do a lot of fusion, a lot of - I like French and Thai and Japanese and Mexican. So I like to play with a lot of the ingredients right now but without leaving the Mexican scene," Monroy said.
"Elvira, it's my grandmother's. She started this restaurant in 1927 in Nogales, mexico on the border with Nogales, Arizona. And so yeah, it became a travel destination over the years for all those people who go to Nogales, Mexico. You know, when you're in the business, you don't want to be in the business. So I went to college and I became an interior/graphic designer, I wasn't too much interested in the business. But then, out of the blue, circumstances of life put you in this, so I ended up taking command of the business and then eventually you like it, and here we are here," Monroy said.
Monroy decided that the original restaurant needed a few changes.
"I went to college in Guadalajara, Mexico - Jalisco and when I came back to run the restaurant of my family, I wanted to change it because it was very outdated, and when you're in design, you become kind of like a perfectionist in a way, because that's what's in the career. So I started to remodel my family restaurant and my father was not happy because you cannot touch something that's been there forever, and then you come from a big city and you touch it, they wanted to hang you, you know, he was mad at me. But then people started asking, what are you doing, it looks very nice, so my dad was a very conservative person, so then he came to me and said, when are you going to start putting more things? It was funny, but then I knew he accepted it in a way, what I was doing," Monroy said.
But then, it was time to take his role a step further.
"When your house is behind the kitchen, the restaurant, you learn how to cook very easy. So after being here and in the restaurant, I wanted to bring more of what is real Mexican cuisine so I went to culinary in Mexico City, and there I brought a lot of the ingredients that we use here, like squash blossom and corn truffle and different kinds of malas, and different things that Americans are not used to yet. So I brought all these ingredients and different kinds of chilis, all stuff. But also, I brought a different kind of Mexico when it comes to the side, you know because this is more modern Mexican - a lot of people think Mexico is pinatas and serrapas," Monroy said.
Elvira's is now an explosion of that eclectic culture.
"I like to create spaces that take you somewhere else, when you have a long day you wanna go somewhere, I wanna transport you somewhere else. I want you to have fun, and then you go back to your normal life. Culinary wise, here I think we all want to discover and keep discovering more recipes and things, and the more you play with them, the more you wanna discover more things."
"My name is Ann Groves, my shop is called The Artist's Daughter."
There are no art supplies in Ann Groves' Tubac shop, in fact, there is nothing artistic about it. So why would she name her shop 'the artist's daughter'?
"It's called The Artist's Daughter because I'm next door to the Hal Limpy gallery, and Hal Limpy was my father. When we traveled to one man shows when I was a child, I was always introduced as The Artist's Daughter. So I registered it some years ago, and I've had my shop now 24 years," Groves said.
Groves' shop is one of those things you have to see to believe. She doesn't sell unmentionables, rather what she calls 'un-needables.'
"Un-needables. There's not a thing in here that you need, but I do sell a lot of signs. I carry probably over 700 signs at any time. But I'm proud of my price range, and I believe the success has been that I'm kind of the dime store in town. I have a price range for everyone. Here's a popular one - 'I'll have a double mocha, vodka-valium grande latte, to go, please.' I also carry antique tins and reproduction tins, and I have hundreds of those as well. I try to stay with the nostalgic look, like an old-time general western store. How about a buckskin dress for barbie? Here's an apron necessity for every cowgirl's kitchen. Some of the questions I get from customers when they walk in and they see this, they wanna know who does the dusting, and who does the inventory. But they like it, it takes a while to see everything, and I designed it this way on purpose, so I could have few employees, and you'd have to go around several times in order to see all the merchandise," Groves said.
So what is the hot seller in Groves' store right now?
"Right now? Cowboy boot birdhouses! They're recycled materials, I have a friend who goes out and finds all these old cowboy boots, he reinforces the insides so they'll stand up in the weather, and he uses old barbwire to hang them with and old tin for the roof, and a nice hole for the birds, and they're very, very popular and people carry them back home all over the country."
So if you're ever in the vicinity of Tubac, stop by and visit The Artist's Daughter. Even if you don't buy anything, we guarantee just walking in will put a smile on your face.
Also check out the Turquoise Tortoise, an art gallery in Tubac owned by Debbie Barrios and Jackie Zeitler.
"Kind of an unusual happenstance that we came to own this particular gallery. Both of us have worked in other galleries around Tubac, fell in love with Tubac and the different businesses here, and we ended up working together in a different gallery. When the prior owner of this business approached me and said you know, I need somebody to take over my gallery and I can't think of anybody better. The two of us talked it out and said this is what we should do," Barrios said.
"This store is one of the anchors of Tubac, I feel, and I felt it at the time and I think it anchored us to Tubac being in this gallery and running it. And I've worked my whole life with artists and now I get to work with fifty or so! And represent them and be a part of their lives and a part of our lives. Artists are very unique people, you always want to invite them into your life, at least I do," said Barrios.
"This is a local artist, Lou Miastis, he lives right here in Tubac. I'm originally from Seligman, Arizona but I moved down here about three years ago. And about a year ago I said I'm staying, I've got a few bucks, I'm staying here! But he was just approaching it, tiptoeing it, which he's been an artist for 40 years. He just didn't know if this is where he really wanted to be, but yeah, it is," Zeitler said.
"It's how each of us ended up here. Just came to town and said 'oh my god, this is where I need to be, I feel the energy. And maybe not everybody feels that energy, but the people that do can't bear to leave it. It draws you here. Tubac's been an artist's colony since the 1940s so it has the feel about the entire community as you walk around you can see, you know, the old mixing with the new and growing but keeping the roots and the origins of the artists' movement in this town, and it just continues to flourish," Barrios said.
"There's an energy here, and a history with art in this community, so that's really the main thing. And people come and then they find that this is so peaceful and beautiful and the mountains and the skies and everything says 'okay. This is for me.' and it's a magical place. People can tell you. You either get it or you know, you move on," Zeitler said.
"And then Charlie over here, even though he's not from Arizona, he's felt the magic of Arizona, he painted the red rocks of Sedona, he painted the idyllic spots in Jerome. That's part of who we are and where we live and why we're here. Most people will come in and they'll spend the time and they'll walk a pattern around the entire store. We want that to happen, whether they buy or not, we want them to enjoy and appreciate what's here and what we have to offer. If you're into western, we have wonderful western artists. We have contemporary, we have abstract, a lot of realism too. And the artists find us here, we don't have to go out and search for them, they find us," Barrios said.