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Lines of customers became common this week at the Arizona Law Dawgs gun store. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera


Business owners say panic buying and food shortage led to an increase in sales of firearms and meat cuts.

Arizona Law Dawgs and The Box Meat Shop have seen their businesses impacted by consumers worried about what is to come from the spread of COVID-19. The two storefronts, which are next to each other on Hathaway Avenue, have seen lines of customers outside their doors every morning for the past week.

Both shops cite COVID-19 fears and ripple effects for their increase in sales.

Customers at The Box Meat Store quadrupled this week as meats ran short in grocery stores. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

Arizona Law Dawgs is a firearm and tactical-weapons shop that has been owned by John Callaway II and his wife Jennifer for seven years.

“It’s panic. They’re panic-buying,” Callaway said. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen next. Some of the other states are experiencing people getting robbed.”

Jennifer Callaway agreed COVID-19 was driving an uptick in customers, something she has never seen before in the business over seven years of operation.

“They’re concerned about somebody kicking in their door,” Jennifer said, “and they want to be ready.”

The average number of customers the store is seeing per day has doubled since the beginning of the week.

“The past couple of days have had us wiped out,” said Anthony, a long-time employee of Arizona Law Dawgs. Anthony chose to withhold his last name from publication.

Jennifer Callaway

Anthony has worked the counter with customers all week, describing it as, “wild,” saying patience goes a long way in the store.

“I had one guy who was a little impatient. He started yelling at me and wanting to come in and get out with a firearm,” Anthony said. “I had to tell him, yelling at me is not going to speed the process up at all. He has to respect the process and have patience when we’re already overwhelmed.”

There has been a shortage of multiple handguns, including 9mm and 10mm, and background checks have had trouble running. Earlier in the week, the store had to close early due to an issue with running background checks.

“The system is overwhelmed with the amount of people buying nationwide. So, you might get people who could normally proceed, but they just get delayed because it’s backed up,” Jennifer Callaway said.

Wait times for a pending background check can take as long as four days.

In the store, there have been shortages of almost all ammo, including 9mm, .223 rem, 5.56 mm, .38 special and .357 magnum.

John Callaway

“My distributors are five to six days behind,” Callaway said. “Supply chains are out of stock. I do sales online; I’ve had to refund three of them because product just sold too quickly. [Restocking] has been a never-ending battle. I tried to stay ahead of the curve, and starting yesterday the curve got heavy. It’s challenging to me because I always want to succeed and it feels like I failed a little because I can’t keep up with the demand of the customers.”

The Callaway’s are encouraging people to come in to the store to get the most up-to-date grasp on what is available in the store at any time.

“The money is good now, but what’s going to happen when all this is over? Everybody has their firearms and their ammo, we’re going to see a decrease in sales.” Jennifer said.

Meanwhile, next door at The Box Meat Shop, the year-old storefront fills in the gaps where other stores have run out of food due to so-called panic-buying. Karen Pozzolo works in the store, owned by her husband Luis.

Karen and Belen Pozzolo

“Customers are coming from everywhere, all over Maricopa, outside of Maricopa, a lot of new customers,” Pozzolo said. “It’s to be expected because there is no meat in town, so we’re the only ones who have anything to buy for everybody.”

The shop now sees a line out the door every morning at opening.

According to Belen Pozzolo, Karen and Luis’ daughter, there have been nearly four times the normal number of customers purchasing meats, also beginning early in the past week.

“I feel like my parents are just trying to be nice because they know what it’s like to have to struggle. So they would rather help other people in this situation,” Belen said.

The Pozzolos work quickly to keep the cases stocked at the high-end meat store. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

The Box Meat Shop has seen business go up in a positive way because they are able to provide food for the community without worries of distributors running low, according to Pozzolo. The store is restocked two to three times a day as needed. So far, there have been no issues in restocking for the shop.

“Yes, we’re having good business, but it’s a good feeling to provide for everybody,” Pozzolo said. “Some people don’t have anything, some mothers are working all day and they don’t have time to go and get some meat, so we’re here for everybody.”

Pozzolo said prices are expected to go up slightly for meats starting Monday.

Arizona Law Dawgs is not expecting their prices to go up on anything in the store as of now.

“Those of the people that bought guns, be safe.” John said, “Remember the basic gun rules. If you’re going to buy a firearm, it’s a tool and you have to know how to use that tool. A lot of people who have purchased out of fear need to get training and learn how to use a firearm correctly.”

Staying stocked has been a struggle this week for Arizona Law Dawgs. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera


Dollar General, which has a store on Papago Road south of Maricopa, and Bashas’ announced this week they will dedicate a shopping hour for senior shoppers as part of their approach to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting this week, Bashas’ and its affiliates Food City and AJ’s grocery stores in Arizona will open an hour early, from 5 to 6 a.m., each Wednesday just for shoppers age 65 and up. Shoppers will be required to show a valid I.D. at the door. If there is a need for a caretaker, one caretaker is welcome but will not be allowed to shop for themselves.

Most Bashas’ stores temporarily have regular hours of 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“In an effort to continue to support and closely monitor health, we are providing additional cleaning resources, encouraging anyone who does not feel well to stay at home and providing regular updates on important CDC guidelines and recommendations,” President and CEO Trey Basha said in a letter to customers.

The Maricopa store also starting limiting shoppers to just one purchase per item.

Dollar General is dedicating its first hour of operation to senior shoppers every day. All DG stores across the country also plan to close an hour earlier than their normal schedules to allow more time for cleaning and restocking.

Other customers are encouraged to plan their shopping trips around this window of time to allow the most susceptible customers in our communities the ability to shop during the first hour that stores are open.

“We appreciate our customers’ understanding of our decision and request they visit our stores later in the morning to allow at-risk populations the ability to purchase the items they need at affordable prices,” said Todd Vasos, Dollar General’s CEO. “During these unprecedented times, Dollar General is diligently working to meet the ongoing needs of our customers and communities.”

Dollar General will closer an hour earlier than usual each day.

Meanwhile, Fry’s Food Stores have adjusted their hours of operation for most stores to 6 a.m.-10 p.m., and Walmart, which is usually open 24 in Maricopa, has been closing overnight.


Remy Nieves (right, with brother Rayden) suffered a medical emergency when he was 3, a difficulty for his self-employed father. Submitted photo

Health insurance has been a hot topic in the nation for a long time. With programs such as the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” being inconsistent even when available, the healthcare hurdles and the ramifications of an unexpected medical problem are an everyday struggle for many Maricopans.

Ray Nieves, owner/operator of 911 Air Repair, recounted his battle with an insurance company after his oldest son was attacked by their dog. In July 2018, Nieves was on a job in Gilbert when he began receiving calls from his wife McKenzie.

“When I’m with a customer I usually don’t answer the phone. Obviously, we’re trying to maintain professionalism,” Nieves said. “So, I kind of just hit ‘ignore.’”

When a third call came in, Ray answered and received horrifying news — their German shepherd had bitten the head of their 3-year-old son Remy.

“The first responders and everybody showed up before I got there,” Nieves said. “They got him wrapped up, wrapped his head and put him in the ambulance. They were taking him to the children’s hospital in Mesa.”

Remy never lost consciousness, but the doctors determined his skull was fractured.

“They were really concerned with any skull fragments getting into his brain,” Ray recalled. “So, they had to go and do surgery. They brought a pediatric neurosurgeon who went ahead and ensured that there wasn’t anything in there.”

After a few days of monitoring in the hospital and 19 staples, Remy was back to a happy kid, albeit with a shaved head from surgery. Ray and McKenzie decided to shave their youngest son Rayden’s head as well.

“We tried to help him be a little bit more comfortable,” Nieves said with a smile.

Then the medical bills began rolling in.

“[It was] $10,000 for this, $2,000 for that, $15,000 here. It added up very, very, very quickly,” he said.

Nieves described the difficulty in acquiring and providing affordable health insurance as a self-employed, small-business owner.

In a 2019 survey published by The Kaiser Family Foundation, small businesses in the United States that do not provide health-care
benefits to their employees still cite the cost as the central reason. The survey reported the average annual premiums as $7,188 for single coverage and $20,576 for families.

“When you are self-employed it’s very difficult to get health insurance,” Nieves said. “It’s kind of like a pay-to-play thing. I’m paying more than my mortgage to have insurance for my family. You know, 1,500 bucks a month to carry insurance that isn’t even the best insurance available.”

“There needs to be reform when it comes to stuff like that, and I just don’t think that anybody’s coming forth with long-term solutions,” Nieves said. “I mean, it’s always been a really touchy subject as far as health insurance and stuff go. To me, it seems that it’s a really bad industry because there’s a lot of money involved. You see what the CEOs and stuff are making, and I’m not against them making money. I mean, that is capitalism, but it’s also a human right.”

Medicaid programs such as Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) aim to provide care for low-income households that otherwise would not have insurance. The Census Bureau estimated 4,000 Maricopans — 7.8% of its population of 50,000-plus — were without health insurance in 2018.

U.S. Department of Health data shows 17.4% of children in Pinal County are not covered by health insurance.

Nieves is not hopeful the status of U.S. health care will change anytime soon: “There’s just a lot of stuff that comes into play, and that just goes to show you why it’s such a difficult problem to solve.”

Dr. Philip Wazny, NMD, believes no one knows how to solve the health-care problem, at least not yet.

“Looking at the medical literature, wages and income have not kept up with deductibles,” Wazny said. “It is at the point where patients are not coming in for what may seem like just a cough, now it’s bronchitis or pneumonia.”

Wazny described this lull in people going to doctors in fear of being charged as an “unfortunate rebound” because people could end up with a far more severe ailment if left untreated, oftentimes high blood pressure or diabetes. He said people should be able to choose how they are treated, but with so many big companies involved, it could be quite a while before the nation sees a shift.

“I really think the doctors get paid through the pharmacies, and I really personally do not like doctors,” said Manny Chavez, owner of Prestige Landscaping. “It went from healthcare to a money gold mine.”

He is not in a position to offer health insurance to employees and said they are covered by liability insurance if they are injured on the job. “If the employee gets hurt or not, I’m still paying so much for how many hours they work,” he said. “I still get charged from unemployment insurance, and that’s like the biggest killer to me.”

Health insurance and even healthcare was not a priority when he was growing up, just the work.

“As a Mexican, you were never going to the doctor, and you couldn’t afford it anyway,” Chavez said. “Personally, we were never really supposed to retire. We were supposed to work until our body just quit.”

He said the U.S. healthcare system isn’t necessarily rigged on purpose, “it just happened the way it happened, and everybody’s in each other’s pocket.”

With the Affordable Care Act turning 10 years old, new steps are being made to further solve problems presented to patients in the medical industry. In December, U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions and bipartisan House leaders approved the Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019.

According to a summary of the proposed legislation by the House Committee on Ways & Means, included in this agreement is the protection of patients and families from surprise billing with a system for “independent dispute resolution often called arbitration.”

These proposals could protect millions of Americans just like the Nieves family who happen to fall victim to the expensive and intimidating health-care system.

This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

Agave's Restaurant re-opened as the last stage of the expansion of Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino. Submitted photo

Agave’s Restaurant reopened after a four-month renovation, marking the final chapter of the expansion of Harrah’s Ak-Chin Resort and Casino. The interior and menu were updated for the restaurant, which seats 118 inside and poolside.

The future Roots Eatery is transforming the former pizza shop of Dominos at 20046 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 104, as it transforms itself from a home-based business of catering and cooking classes into a restaurant.

Iconic Tire & Service Center has a commercial permit to build a 6,277-square foot facility at 19945 N. John Wayne Parkway. The same development, the city’s Planning and Zoning Department has the plans for Maricopa Animal Hospital, a 4,000-square-foot structure on the south side of Maricopa Self Storage.

Pinal County broke ground on a new court administration complex at 20025 N. Wilson Ave. Jan 17. It will include improved court facilities, sheriff’s office facilities and satellite offices for clerk of Superior Court, assessor, recorder, supervisor’s office and more.

North of Maricopa Self Storage, an AAMCO is under construction. That development also has plans for John Wayne Parkway Self Storage under way.

Bahama Buck’s, a shaved-ice eatery, has a development review permit at 17452 N. Porter Road, where the city replatted to accommodate the business needs.

Leading Edge Academy received a commercial permit for a planned 5,000-square-foot charter high school at 18700 N. Porter Road.

Central Arizona College is expanding its driveway and firelane at its campus at 17945 N. Regent Drive.

Global Water Resources installed new waterline liner along Honeycutt Road east of White and Parker Road to decrease the likelihood of line breaks.

My Home Group real estate office officially opened Jan. 25 at 20046 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 106.

This item appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.

Vinny Fiordilino of Brooklyn Boys Italian Restaurant. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera


As the final fixed increase to minimum wage hits, local businesses are adjusting.

Jan. 1, the state of Arizona increased minimum wage from $11 to $12, after several increases from previous years. In 2021 and beyond, Arizona’s minimum wage will change based on the cost of living in the state.

Local business owners shared the struggles of running a home-grown business under rising minimum wage, costing the employers more money from limited resources.

Headquarters Restaurant and Bar owner Alma Farrell discussed tough choices the eatery has to make. Since the minimum-wage increases started in 2016, she has had to raise prices.

Alma Farrell, owner of Headquarters. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

“You have to keep your customers happy because they don’t want you to raise the prices, but how can you not raise them? How do you keep your vendors happy?” Farrell said. “That’s the biggest issue, is trying to find the balance to raise the wages for your employees, keep the vendors that you have, and keeping the customers happy.”

Arizona voters passed Proposition 206, the Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act, in November 2016, when minimum wage was $8.05. The initiative implemented two measures into law: minimum wage increases until 2020 and paid sick-time requirements.

Brooklyn Boys has been a locally owned restaurant in Maricopa since 2007. The owner of the New York-style Italian restaurant, Vincent “Vinny” Fiordilino adjusts the budget with each minimum-wage increase.

“Looking at a different point of view as an owner, especially when business is kind of slow, it hurts. It hurts a lot because you’re always on a tight budget,” Fiordilino said. “It’s a rough business, no matter what kind of store you have, but you adapt and you go with the flow. You try to make the best out of it.”

The Industrial Commission of Arizona implements and enforces Prop 206’s requirements.

The current state minimum wage far exceeds the federal minimum wage of $7.25, which Arizona has been above since 2010, when the state last matched the nation’s hourly wage. According to the U.S Department of Labor, in 2011, Arizona raised its minimum wage 10 cents above the federal wage and has been increasing it ever since.


Pat Kieny of Native Grill and Wings

Maricopa’s Native Grill and Wings is part of a chain of locations across Arizona, Texas and Illinois. The raises since 2016 have caused layoffs and cut hours while the restaurant figured out ways to reduce supply costs. Native Grill also had to recover from a months’ long closure in 2019 after a fire.

“Some places end up closing and stuff like that when minimum wage continues go up. It’s too early to tell how it’s going to affect us,” owner Pat Kieny said of the latest increase. “Hopefully it’s not too damaging. So, all we can do is wait and see and keep moving forward.”

 Another demographic affected by the minimum wage increase is the employees. Maricopa High School graduate Harrison Edmondson, a full-time Arizona State University student studying supply-chain management, said his major gave him a lot more insight into how minimum wage can affect people within the same community very differently.

Harrison Edmondson

“Small business-wise, they rely so much on community support and community engagement, that when they have their operating costs increase, they’re going to have to lay people off or cut hours, benefits,” said Edmondson, who works as a community assistant for ASU and previously worked at Fry’s. “But, unfortunately, if they can’t afford to pay these workers and decrease the profit margin a little bit to cut the labor cost, I just feel like they may need to reevaluate the business model.”

Edmondson said he has struggled to keep up with expenses despite the increases in pay.

“Budgeting was always something that I tried to do, but considering the amount of money I made, I still wasn’t able to cover my basic expenses. I had to get a credit card to help cover the expenses, so I have a little bit of credit card debt right now,” Edmondson said. “Personally, whatever medical expenses come up for me, I am basically not able to pay those at all.”

According to the U.S Department of Education, the average cost of in-state college tuition in Arizona was $9,337 from the 2018–19 academic year. This does not include housing or other costs. This is $1,114 less than the previous year (10.7% decrease). This also is representative of one academic year; students will typically pay four to six years of university tuition.

Arizona now has the fifth highest minimum wage in the country, tying with Maine and Colorado, which share the $12 hourly wage, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Only Washington, California and Massachusetts are higher.

Antonio Gonzales

Maricopan Antonio Gonzales is a full-time ASU student who also has to make ends meet working entry-level jobs while attending school. He is currently employed at a Chipotle.

“I think it’s a good thing, but I don’t think it’s going to solve all of the problems that everybody thinks it will,” Gonzales said. “Minimum wage jobs aren’t for people that are trying to support a family and pay off the house and all that stuff. It’s an entry-level job, and then people use that and build into a career where they can afford that stuff.”

Local government is also affected by minimum-wage jumps, as many minimum-wage employees provide various services for the City of Maricopa. Spokesman Adam Wolfe said the City has 71 employees impacted.

The 2018 median household income for Maricopa sits at $68,908, 16% higher than the state’s $59,246, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Over the past decade, the average annual cost-of-living adjustment has been about 1.5%. The cost of living in Maricopa has risen 2.2% during the past year, with the biggest increases in transportation and food, though housing is edging up, too.

 Minimum wage will continue to increase to accommodate any rising cost of living, which means some years may see no increase, large increases or small increases depending on what is deemed necessary by the Industrial Commission.

“Hopefully, it’ll get easier from this point on,” Fiordilino said. “I’m all for this for the employees, because I used to be an employee once before being an owner, and I understand what kind of hardship they go through, making a living. However, being an owner has its perks and disadvantages. Owning a business is not easy.”

This story appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.

Angela Mattson of Buff City Soap. Photo by Kyle Norby

Business and development activity in Maricopa Nov. 16-Dec. 15.

Wade Jurney Homes received administrative design review of five plans for 53 lots in the Alterra subdivision.

Volkswagen, continuing to construct its charging station at its facility at 17169 N. Murphy Road, received commercial permits for a small office and a bathroom.

Pinal County’s project to expand its court and administrative complex at 19955 N. Wilson Ave. was allowed right of way for potholing to determine future utilities.

Buff City Soap opened its doors Dec. 14 at 21101 N. John Wayne Parkway.

Forestar Real Estate Group received subdivision improvement permits for three parcels in Rancho Mirage Estates.

The former Pet Club at 21145 N. John Wayne Parkway received a commercial tenant improvement permit to expand as a boarding facility and 24/7 pet hospital as Exceptional Pets Maricopa.

AAMCO Total Car Care, being constructed at 20215 N. John Wayne Parkway, and the new fire department administration building at 45695 W. Edison Road check out on automatic fire sprinkler systems. Sacate Pellet Mill’s northside hay company installed a sprinkler system in its office, 38743 W. Cowtown Road.

Global Water Resources received a permit for “minor interior alterations” at its office, 22590 N. Powers Parkway, a project valued in city paperwork at $680,000.

This item appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.

Bahama Buck's is planned for a site on the east side of The Wells.

The future site of a Bahama Buck’s in The Wells shopping area received the OK to re-plat during the City Council’s approval of its consent agenda Dec. 17.

Owned by CAPDEVL060, a Scottsdale-based corporation that owns several commercial lots in Maricopa, the subdivided lot is off Porter Road on the east end of the Walmart parking lot. Planning a drive-thru at the location, Bahama Buck’s did not need the full 0.9-acre parcel.

The replatting made the parcel 0.64 acre and gave the rest of the parcel to the neighboring lot, enlarging it from 0.96 acre to 1.22 acres.

The replatted parcels are outlined in red next to Porter Road.

Neither CAPDEVL060 nor Bahama Buck’s has stated a schedule for construction on the lot. The business specializes in shaved ice. The Maricopa store is expected to be approximately 2,000 square feet. The company is planning a store in Casa Grande, too.

The final plat is good for 12 months, according to the staff report on the proposal. If required improvements are not made in that time period, the replat will be voided.

The development of the lot is part of renewed business interest in that section of Maricopa.

Also near Walmart, west on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, are lots for another Fast & Friendly Car Wash and an office building that will house dental offices. North of Walmart are a lot for Oasis at the Wells apartment complex off of Porter and a lot for A+ Charter Schools between Alan Stephens Parkway and Shea Way.

The Maricopa location will be the 31st franchise of Buff City Soap and the first in Arizona.

A Tennessee-based soap-making company is making its Arizona debut in Maricopa on Saturday.

The grand opening of Buff City Soap runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 21101 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite E102, next to Say Sushi. The store is open until 7 p.m.

Buff City Soap creates plant-based soaps, from hand soaps to laundry soaps. Each shop has a “makery” where customers can watch the process of their soap being made.

“We’re very transparent,” franchise owner LaDonda Dees said. “Every single thing we do, we do in the store.”

Buff City has its popular soap scents like Narcissist, Unicorn, Island Nectar and Ferocious Beast, but it will also make custom blends of two scents chosen by the customer. Soaps are made from olive, palm and coconut oils, sodium hydroxide and essential oils.

Dees has converted the 1,400-square-foot shop space to allow for product display and the makery. It includes a 17-foot bar, where customers can sit and experience the products. A Maricopan since 2012, she hopes to open five franchises in Arizona.

She plans to have kids’ parties and soap-making classes for clients age 18 and up.

Besides herself, she will have four employees. She said she was already in the franchise process when she discovered she was pregnant. She expects her staff to be able to run the show as her due date approaches in February.

She has worked in sales 15 years, most recently an account manager for Verizon supporting several stores for eight years. Her husband Kevin is from Bartlett, Tennessee, home of Buff City Soap, and that is where her sister-in-law introduced her to the company.

Contact Dees at ladonda@buffcitysoap.com. Learn more about LaDonda Dees’ Buff City Soap in the January issue of InMaricopa magazine.


Shamrock Farms was among food facilities getting an excellent health inspection.

All Maricopa food facilities inspected by Pinal County health inspectors from Oct. 16 to Nov. 15 were given excellent scores.

EXCELLENT [No violations found]
Domino’s Pizza
Bashas’ – AFC Sushi
Bashas’ – Bakery
Bashas’ – Starbucks
Fry’s Marketplace
Fry’s Marketplace – Bakery
Fry’s Marketplace – Deli
Fry’s Marketplace – Starbucks
Fry’s Marketplace – Sushi
Jack in the Box
JB Farmer’s Convenience Store
Maricopa Head Start
Province Community Association Clubhouse
Shamrock Farms
Walmart – Deli

SATISFACTORY [Violations corrected during inspections]

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT [Critical items noted during inspection cannot be corrected immediately requiring follow-up inspection]

UNACCEPTABLE [Gross, unsanitary conditions necessitating the discontinuation of service]

Aly and Amber Miller are a mother-and-daughter team working at Native Grill. Photo by Kyle Norby

By Joycelyn Cabrera

Native Grill & Wings creates a family-friendly atmosphere in more ways than one. About one-third of the sports bar’s staff have relatives working with them.

At Maricopa’s Native, there are 10 families working in the same restaurant, half of whom are siblings. Twenty out of 63 employees have a relative on staff.

“What’s funny is, a lot of times at restaurants, friends work together, and sometimes siblings do and whatnot, but we have an unusual number of siblings and parents with their child,” owner Pat Kieny said. “My theory is they must like working here, plus mom or dad can better keep track of what their child is doing.”

Families working together may face obstacles at the restaurant when certain members hold supervising positions. Kieny said family sets that experience the most trouble with the dynamic are parent-child.

Amber & Aly Miller (mother and daughter)

Amber Miller has worked at Native Grill & Wings 17 years, beginning as a hostess and now bartending. Her daughter Aly has worked at the Maricopa restaurant as a hostess for about a month, getting the job shortly after turning 16.

The two said they sometimes struggle finding time to spend with each other outside of work by getting the same days off together.

“For instance, tomorrow’s my birthday,” Amber said. “I had requested the day off; she didn’t request it off, so she has to work now. She’s going to miss family dinners.”

“Oops,” Aly said.

The mother-and-daughter duo rarely work the same shifts and typically end up working on opposite sides of the restaurant, leaving a lot of room for independence at work.

“I get to work with (my mom) and meet new people,” Aly said.

DeAndray Curtis and Tara Pelletier. Photo by Kyle Norby

Tara Pelletier & DeAndray Curtis (mother and son)

Tara Pelletier has worked at Native Grill for three and a half years. Her son DeAndray Curtis joined the team two years ago.

Tara said she needed to adjust to having her son at work, which included being easier on him while at work.

“She definitely made sure that I did my job to my full potential,” DeAndray said. “When I first started, it was the standards that she’s put me to, just because she knew that I could get to them and that I could work harder and be better at what I’m doing.”

The now-18-year-old said he doesn’t want to think about what it’s like to work separately yet. The parent-child team said their family can be found at the restaurant rather than at home.

“I’m a single mom,” Tara said. “I have one other daughter, but we don’t have any family. Our regulars, we go to Christmas there, we go to Thanksgiving there, my boss has picked up my daughter from school when she’s sick. I mean, my coworkers are my best friends. This is our family dynamic.”

Heather and Rene Garcia. Photo by Kyle Norby

Rene & Heather Garcia (husband and wife)

Other family sets face their own obstacles, such as keeping home at home, and work at work.

Rene and Heather have been married five years. They have worked together at Native Grill for about two years. Compared to the struggle of commuting out of town for work, the couple said Native Grill is the best choice for their working needs. The couple said they sometimes struggle keeping it separate.

“We do what we call hug it out, so we give each other a hug before we work the same shift and we tell each other that it’s going to be OK that we’re on the same team, basically,” Heather said.

The couple have seen staff with relatives working together ever since they began working at the restaurant, so they were not surprised to see the trend growing.

“It’s like a big family,” Heather said. “Everybody just really tries to help each other a lot inside of work and outside of work. We’re friends outside of work, so that helps.”

Tiffany and Kelly Davis. Photo by Kyle Norby

Tiffany & Kelly Davis (siblings)

Many staff members and their relatives shared their inside jokes created at the restaurant, and others discussed the support they receive from management and each other.

Kelly, 23, has worked in the restaurant since in high school. Her younger sister, Tiffany, 18, has only been working a few months. Coworkers and managers refer to Tiffany as “Mini Kelly.”

“Before Tiffany even started working here, the manager came in for work one time and he goes, ‘Oh look it’s Kelly, and look, it’s Mini Kelly. But Kelly’s already mini, so it’s mini-mini Kelly.’ They just kept teasing her about being the mini-me,” Kelly said.

“It’s not even just the owner anymore,” Tiffany said. “There’s someone who calls me KJ, which is Kelly Junior.”

The sisters said they love working at the restaurant because of the family atmosphere it has developed for its employees.

“I know that there are a lot of us that are related, but my coworkers are pretty much my family anyways,” Kelly said.

Katie and Kyle Brentana. Photo by Kyle Norby

Kyle & Katie Brentana (siblings)

Kyle and Katie are not new to the Native Grill atmosphere. While Katie, 23, has only been an employee for about a year, Kyle, 26, has been in and out of the restaurant since high school.

“There’s a lot of people that work here that I actually went to high school with and graduated with, so it was really nice coming back here, No. 1, to a good job, and No. 2, for the familiar faces,” he said.

After losing their father, the siblings shared the support they received from management and coworkers.

“I’m very appreciative of the managers. Our father passed away Sept. 10 of stage-4 neck and throat cancer,” Katie said. “They were very caring, very understanding. They said, ‘Take as much time as you need,’ and a lot of businesses aren’t like that, so I’m very appreciative.”

Leah and Mark McCormick. Photo by Kyle Norby

Mark & Leah McCormick (in-laws)

Mark and his sister-in-law Leah are two of the newest employees at Native Grill. While Mark has been working at the restaurant a few months, Leah began training in November. The two have worked together in a previous job, so while they are accustomed to working with each other, they said they were surprised to learn how many other coworkers were related.

“I was not surprised with one or two, but that there’s 12 or 15 people that have somebody related to them that works here,” Mark said. “I think it makes it a closer group.”

From Native Grill’s opening to the present, employment has dropped from 90 to 60. Kieny said the smaller staff size has resulted in closer relationships and a supportive environment among workers, thereby creating a positive experience for their customers.

“Really, we’re selling the same lettuce, the same cheese, the same Bud Lite, the same things as other people. The difference has got to be the people we have here working. The No. 1 thing for me, as an owner, are the employees,” Kieny said. “If I do that correctly, then the customer gets a really good experience.”

“Two of my daughters worked their way through college here, and three or four of the other people who work here currently, their parent or their spouse used to work here, too. So, we’ve got a lot of that going on, and it’s kind of nice. Sometimes they meet here.”

This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.


La Quinta Inn & Suites, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., received a permit for on-site improvement.

Buff City Soap received a commercial tenant improvement permit for work converting Suite E201 at 21101 N. John Wayne Parkway into a soap-making and retail space. Plans are to open for business in mid-December.

Sacate Pellet Mill received a certificate of occupancy for its site at 38743 W. Cowtown Road. It is owned by Red River Cattle Company.

Apex Motor Club received a permit for a subdivision final plat in its plan to construct 48 garage condominiums at its site at 22408 N. Ralston Road.

Domino’s Pizza, in the process of moving into a former restaurant space at 20024 N. John Wayne Parkway, received its permit for a fire alarm and detection system.

Wendy’s in Maricopa Fiesta at 21000 N. John Wayne Parkway added 336 square feet to the back of its premise for a fully enclosed walk-in cooler/freezer.

In anticipation of New Year’s Eve, Walmart and Fry’s received permits to sell fireworks and pyrotechnics.

This item appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

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Jason Plotke is co-founder of Apex Motor Club. (submitted photo)

Jason Plotke, co-founder and president of Private Motorsports Group, has joined the board of directors of Maricopa Economic Development Alliance (MEDA).

MEDA is the City of Maricopa’s private-public partnership for economic development. As a 501(c)3 corporation, the organization champions strategies and solutions that foster economic growth and prosperity in Maricopa by bringing together the business, government, education and civic sectors to identify and advance policies that facilitate investment, growth and workforce development.

Plotke, an innovator and entrepreneur, has founded several high-profile companies throughout his career. Private Motorsports Group owns and operates Apex Motor Club, a motorsports country club in Maricopa. Phase 1, featuring a 2.27-mile racing circuit and 48 private garages opened in April of 2019, with plans to add two more additional phases.

“The elected leadership and the city staff in Maricopa have been great partners to us as we continue to expand Apex Motor Club in the area,” said Plotke. “It is important to me as a business owner to be involved with the communities where we do business. With a commitment to smart economic growth, the mission of MEDA and its board of directors aligns with that philosophy. I look forward to working with this dedicated board of business leaders and elected officials to continue to bring business to Maricopa.”

MEDA’s board is comprised of the leading executives of Maricopa’s major business sectors, representing expertise and experience in utilities, finance, development, health care and infrastructure development. Equally important are the elected officials and public sector executives who bring the essential representation of the City of Maricopa’s City Council, City Management and Economic Development functions.

“The City of Maricopa and Private Motorsports Group have been connected for several years as Jason and his team brought Apex to Maricopa,” said Mayor Christian Price. “I am pleased that he will now be a part of the MEDA board of directors, knowing that his business acumen and commitment to our city will be beneficial as we continue to bring thriving businesses to Maricopa.”

The Maricopa-MEDA partnership is an important component of the city’s economic vitality and sustainability. Through the Maricopa Economic Development Alliance, the City of Maricopa and business and education leaders join forces to identify and support promising economic development opportunities for the City of Maricopa.

“MEDA’s mission is to work in partnership with Maricopa’s leaders and staff as well as the business community to identify and capitalize on opportunities that benefit the entire community,” said John Schurz, MEDA’s board chair. “Jason knows first-hand what it means to invest in a community and we look forward to his knowledge and expertise on our board.”

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A Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Hall is planned at 40675 W. Honeycutt Road and received its commercial permit, valued at $793,000. Contractor is Sutherland Construction Company.

Volkswagen, 20053 N. Murphy Road, continues work on its new electric-vehicle charging station, receiving a commercial structural permit and a major electrical permit, which was valued at $1 million. It also received a permit for a hydrant flow test.

Buff City Soap, describing itself as a “soap makery,” received a permit to do some non-residential demolition for its new location in a storefront at 21101 N. John Wayne Parkway

Omni Storage, 42200 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, a planned self-storage company off Stonegate Road, also ran a hydrant flow test as it moves forward with construction.

Mountain Trace Development, planning an apartment complex at 41337 N. Shea Way, received a permit for a hydrant flow test for its 5.83 acres at Oasis at the Wells, between Walmart and Banner Health.

A+ Charter School, a planned high school in Glennwilde, received a permit to run a hydrant flow test at 41949 W. Barcelona Drive. It has scheduled a Dec. 4 groundbreaking.

Meritage Homes received a subdivision final plat amendment for 41897 W. Friendly Place on Parcel 10 in Province.

New projects getting their fire sprinkler systems prepped were the electric charging station at Volkswagen, the new location for Domino’s Pizza, 20024 N. John Wayne Parkway, the new location for Mount Moriah Church, 19275 N. Gunsmoke Road, and F.O.R. Maricopa food bank.

This item appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

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Edison Place is at the corner of John Wayne Parkway and Edison Road. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson


The newly finished Edison Place on the southeast corner of John Wayne Parkway and Edison Road sold for $4.578 million to K&N Investors, according to county records.

The previous owner and developer of the lot was Signal Healthcare of Paradise Valley. K&N is based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The 9,000-square-foot commercial building is fully occupied by SimonMed Imaging and Heartland Dental.

The sale was brokered by commercial real estate firm Newmark Knight Frank. NKF announced the sale in October. The sale took place Aug. 30. It amounts to $531 per square foot.

“The Maricopa property is an example of how healthcare providers are occupying retail sites for convenient access and visibility for patients,” NKF Managing Director Trisha Talbot said in a media release.

This item appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Kyle Norby

According to City Councilmember Nancy Smith, Walgreens has applied for a tenant improvement permit for the building located west of Walmart on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

Smith posted on her Facebook page the new store “should be opened by the end of the year or first of next.” The application was submitted today, according to City documents, and requires 24 standard inspections.

The shell building was constructed in 2009 on 1.52 acres with the intent to be a drug store, but the ensuing Great Recession halted its development. The current project is to complete interior alterations.

The land at 41840 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway is owned by Maricopa 7 LLC, which purchased it three years ago for a reported $7 million from Maricopa WG LLC. It previously belonged to Shea Maricopa LLC and Homestead Village South, according to county tax records. The commercial area is officially known as Maricopa Power Center The Wells.

An AAMCO is planned among other businesses as part of the redevelopment of a parcel south of Aaron's on John Wayne Parkway.

Business briefs in Maricopa from Aug. 16 to Sept. 15:

AAMCO is building a 4,411-square-foot shop at 20215 N. John Wayne Parkway north of Maricopa Self Storage. It received a commercial permit for the project valued at $595,441 to be built by Henes Construction. It also received permits for turn lane and driveway off John Wayne Parkway and other improvements.

Ground was broken for a La Quinta Inn at Copper Sky Sept. 20. The hotel is planned for 89 rooms in four stories at 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

The former Pet Club is now Exceptional Pets at 21145 N. John Wayne Parkway. Managed by Bridgette Graeb, the location carries pet supplies and offers salon and spa services, including horse feed and tack.

Seeking to turn an old building in the Heritage District into office space, Gen Systems Inc. received a commercial tenant improvement permit for work at 45115 W. Garvey Ave., a property owned by Maricopa Heritage Pointe.

Heritage Pointe is reworking property in the Heritage District.

Aztec Ventures plans to open a comic book store, gaining a commercial tenant improvement permit for 20800 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 108.

The City of Maricopa filed notice of its plan to adopt new development fees. A public hearing on the matter is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 15 for adoption in November. The proposed maximum development fee on a single-family home is $5,473.

Sacate Pellet Mill put in a fire sprinkler for its northside hay office, a 4,230-square-foot structure at 38743 W. Cowtown Road. It is owned by Red River Cattle Company.

Wendy’s completed its fire hood suppression system and had its permit for a 348-square-foot patio addition before opening Aug. 29 in the former Carl’s Jr. at 21000 N. John Wayne Parkway.

The City granted a permit for Maricopa Police Department to install four shade canopies in its parking lot at 39675 W. Civic Center Plaza. The listed value was $120,000.

This item appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Brian Lindblom has opened Mr. E Comics at 20800 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 108. Photo by Kyle Norby

Geeks and nerds, rejoice. A brand-new comic book shop has opened in Maricopa.

Since moving to Maricopa last November, Mr. E Comics owner Brian Lindblom has been working night and day to get his shop off the ground.

“The community here has been awesome,” Lindblom said. “Just the support for things that are local is great.”

Although born in Washington, Brian moved with his family to Phoenix when he was 13 and spent most of his life here.

“I lived in Colorado for a couple of years at the top of the mountains,” Lindblom said. “I was planning on opening a much smaller version of this place out there.”

Located in the Shops at Maricopa Fiesta, Mr. E Comics offers rows upon rows of current issues, vintage titles, trading cards, and collectibles. With such a far-reaching medium of entertainment, Lindblom explained he wants to maintain an open and inviting atmosphere in his store. This includes the plan to eventually host large tabletop/card games events with titles such as, “Magic: The Gathering,” “Pokemon,” and “Yu-Gi-Oh!”

“The geek culture is kind of what I wanted to embrace,” Lindblom explained. “So, I’m sort of going to let the community speak as to what I should hold for events in this store.”

With less of a focus on graphic T’s and posters around the store, Lindblom emphasized wanting to focus on purchasing local art for the walls of the shop, showcasing the talents of local artists.

When asked about the evolution of geek culture becoming mainstream to general audiences, Lindblom said the popularity and interest in Maricopa is very much present.

“The market in this industry is generally older teens and people from 20 to 40 years old,” Lindblom said. “There’s been a significant amount of families who come in, I guess just excited that there is something more for kids than there has been in the past.”

With the comic industry catering to a mainly male audience, Lindblom noted another strong factor for his business the progressive surge of female readers.

“Almost 50 percent or more of the market is women at this point. I have many female customers that come in already,” he said.

With the goal of eventually sponsoring the Esports league and other events around town, Lindblom is excited to be part of the Maricopa business community.

“It’s more the community that gives me a sense of belonging,” Lindblom said. “The way that other businesses come in and want to work with you as opposed to feeling like competition. I feel like that’s how it should be.”

Photo by Victor Moreno

The franchise owner of a planned La Quinta Inn, accompanied by family, partners and city officials, broke ground at Copper Sky Regional Park on Friday morning. Andy Bhakta also turned earth for a hotel in Holbrook this year.

“Last year, we came to the city, it was the weekend. We met Rick [Horst], the city manager. He asked us, first question, how long it takes to build a hotel,” investor Ravikumar Balenalli said during the groundbreaking. “We said, if everything works out, one year. That was last September.”

“We have this beautiful park, and it’s one of the nicest in the state, and yet we don’t have the ability for folks to come and have tournaments here and stay here,” Mayor Christian Price said. “When you start to look at the employers and you start to look at the domino effect that happens, it’s a really big deal.”

Heritage Academy received a new address. Photo by Kyle Norby


Domino’s Pizza, 20046 N. John Wayne Parkway, is moving to the former Peñascos location, 20024 N. John Wayne Parkway in The Shops at Maricopa Village. The pizza store received a commercial tenant improvement permit after getting approval to do some demolition work in the new place.

Heritage Academy received a permit for a fire sprinkler system and fire alarm in its A building and a commercial permit for the 16,101-square-foot academic building. It also convinced the city council to allow a name change of its street. Formerly on Lucera Lane, the new charter school is now on Heroes Way in Glennwilde.

Richmond-American Homes started a grading and drainage permit for its driveway extensions at 44307 W. Palo Nuez St. in Palo Brea to accommodate a three-car entry.

Meritage Homes is converting a garage into a sales office at 19769 N. MacNeil Court in Homestead North. Meritage also received a standard plan review for lots in Province. K. Hovnanian Homes was allowed a temporary construction trailer at 46172 W. Mountain View Road in Maricopa Meadows.

Sacate Pellet Mill received a commercial permit for a pre-engineered metal building at 38743 W. Cowtown Road. The new business also received a permit for its fire sprinkler in its hay office.

Apex Motor Club was allowed to place a $35,000 pre-manufactured building on its property at 22408 N. Ralston Road through a factory-built commercial permit. The building is 2,500 square feet.

Sequoia Pathway Academy, 19265 N. Porter Road, used a commercial alteration permit to restore a modular bathroom after work on a mold problem.

The Jamie Brisbin Agency of State Farm moved into office space in Bradley Butz’s building at 19395 N. John Wayne Parkway, received a new tenant final inspection July 24.

In putting in an electric vehicle charging station, Volkswagen received a commercial foundation-only permit as “at risk” at 17169 N. Murphy Road.

Hope Women’s Center, 45978 W. McDavid Road, received a commercial tenant improvement permit for work contracted by Habitat for Humanity of Central Arizona.

Simon Med Imaging received a permit for a fire alarm in its new office at 44555 W. Edison Road, Suite B.

This item appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

Nick Sanchez owns a tattoo business in the Blue Barn, which sits directly south of the railroad tracks and is now on a cul-de-sac instead of a crossing. Photo by Kyle Norby

To say the overpass construction has been complicated for Maricopa citizens and businesses alike would be an understatement.  

The overpass had been a distant dream in many Maricopans minds until the project finally broke ground in late 2017. Numerous local businesses have been affected by the construction, with hightraffic routes being cut off.  

In the early stages of the project, Honeycutt Road was the first long-term road closure, significantly affecting customer traffic for the Maricopa Business Center until the overpass opened in July 

“There were some days that were so slow that I thought I made a mistake,” said Honeycutt Coffee owner Tanya Powers, who purchased the business during the road closures. “Now there has been a lot more foot traffic, and business has been a lot better.”  

With the overpass open to traffic, old John Wayne Parkway’s intersecting roads have been torn up from Hathaway Avenue to Edwards Avenue to develop new routes eliminating vehicular crossing of the railroad tracks. Aside from the inconvenience for local businesses and customers, many owners are claiming they received no warning their businesses would be at a dead end. 

“I think it could have been handled differently,” said Redemption Tattoo owner Nick Sanchez. “It took the whole curb appeal away from a business. I still don’t understand the cul-de-sac thing.” 

ADOT spokesman Steve Elliott said the road plan was developed in collaboration with the railroad and approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission to improve safety. “A key part of the safety benefit comes from eliminating the at-grade crossing next to the overpass while maintaining access to businesses,” he said.

The plan is to re-open the old John Wayne Parkway north of the tracks (now called Maricopa Road) for a direct route under the overpass to Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. South of the tracks, the road will be a cul-de-sac at Edwards Avenue in front of A-1 Pawn and the Blue Barn.  

Mayor Christian Price has said State Route 347 is owned by ADOT and the matter is out of the city’s hands. Early 3D concept videos created by ADOT in 2017 visualize these routes and plans for SR 347, reinforcing the change wasn’t the city’s choice at that point. 

Jim Shoaf, who runs local food bank Maricopa Pantry, addressed the cul-de-sac issue at a city council meeting in July. 

“I think it’s a shame that the powersthatbe can actually command the city to do what I think is not in the best interest of the city,” Shoaf said. “I think it’s going to hurt small businesses in that area.”

This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

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Photo by Victor Moreno

By Fran Lyons

Vernon St. John
Age: 73
Hometown: Tolleson
Resides in: Hidden Valley
Education: ASU
Family: Wife Lynn; daughters Lesley and Verna; granddaughter Anastasia
Pets: American bulldog Diesel

A third-generation Arizonan, Vernon St. John was born in Phoenix and has worked with cattle all his life.

“I can remember feeding the cows before I was 5 years old, and when I drove the tractor, I couldn’t even reach the clutch,” St. John said with a big smile.

The owner of St. John Farm Fresh Meat, selling ranch-to-table beef, recalled his first memories of life on his family’s dairy farm on the west side of the Valley. St. John was raised on the farm and worked with his father, who mentored him in every step of the process of cultivating and caring for livestock.

“Cows are a lot smarter than you think,” St. John said. “You just have to be very careful when they get angry or irritable. You don’t want to be around kicking cows.”

St. John left the farm and went into the Army and overseas to Vietnam. The skills he learned added new possibilities to his life and livelihood going forward.

“I went into the service as a heavy-equipment operator. When I told my superiors that I had worked in a bank and could type, I was assigned to the job of financing clerk,” he said.

After leaving the service, St. John returned to Arizona and enrolled in college. There, he met his wife, Lynn, who was also a student at the school. The couple each went in different directions, career-wise, when they started their life together.

Lynn joined the world of business as a banker.

“I was a city girl who happened to love animals” she said.

Vernon immersed himself in the agricultural industry, doing what he loved to do, working with animals – cattle to be specific – and ranching.

He wears a variety of hats and is an expert in multiple aspects of his industry. One primary arena is cattle breeding via artificial insemination or AI. He has been employed at Select Sires for over 33 years as a certified AI specialist, sales representative and educator/instructor of programs.

“I trained people how to breed cows,” he said.

Select Sires is an agricultural cooperative that provides livestock breeders with a superior genetics program offering AI techniques and optimal reproduction outcomes. “AI isn’t always easy. It’s a science and everything has to be just right for calves to be born with ease and become healthy and strong,” St. John said.

The St. Johns, along with their two daughters, moved to Maricopa in 2004, establishing their 19-acre cattle ranch in Hidden Valley. St. John developed a program to raise cattle for beef that was analyzed by the U of A College of Agriculture & Life Science to be much lower than average in cholesterol. He did this by implementing the animals’ diet with chelated vitamins and minerals as well as high quality alfalfa and barley feed.

“I recommend using grains over grass for feed. It creates good marbling and flavor yet still maintains the health benefits of being lower in cholesterol,” St. John said. “This product is available for purchase here at the ranch.”

Photo by Victor Moreno

St. John Farm Fresh Meat sells:

  • Ground beef
  • Rib steaks
  • T-bone steaks
  • NY strip steak
  • Round steak
  • Tri-tip
  • Beef tenderloin
  • Top sirloin roast
  • Brisket
  • Chuck roast
  • Shoulder roast
  • BBQ ribs
  • Short ribs
  • Bones

St. John is also working on the concept of a “Farm to Grill” co-op. It involves investing in an animal raised for beef from birth to harvest. It includes a purchase fee for the animal and a fee per month for feed until product is ready for market.

This concept will revolve around the development of a breeding program utilizing the prized and rare Akaushi breed of cattle from Japan. “It is very similar to Kobe beef; we just don’t feed them beer,” he said.

The plan is to breed from embryos that are Akaushi DNA source verified and grow certified Akaushi cattle in the next 18 months. Superb quality, tenderness and flavor are the hallmarks of this ranch-to-table product. American-grown Akaushi cattle are predicted to revolutionize the beef industry and produce an extraordinary dining experience.


This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Kyle Norby

Maricopa Water and Ice celebrated its first 15 years with a party Saturday as customers got deals, freebies and service by special guest scoopers Mayor Christian Price and Vice Mayor Henry Wade. The shop opened in 2004 selling bottled water and serving up ice cream, shaved ice and other frozen treats as well as candy.

Related: Water and Ice a throwback to simpler times


True Grit Tavern. File photo

Thirty-one of 34 establishments inspected by Pinal County Environmental Health Department in the Maricopa area from June 16 through July 17 received excellent marks. Two were found to be satisfactory, and one received the cautionary mark “needs improvement” because of a refrigeration problem.

True Grit Tavern received the “N” rating when the inspector found raw meats in the prep fridge at higher temperatures than the required maximum 41 degrees F. According to the report, fish was at 50 degrees, chicken and hamburger patties at 46 degrees and shrimp at 44 degrees. An embargo notice was signed to discard the food. The inspector also noted a floor drain not working and bad lighting in the prep area, circumstances that could not be corrected immediately.

Meanwhile, Denny’s and Say Sushi received “S” ratings. Say Sushi also had a cold-holding problem with its walk-in refrigerator, with cream cheese, rolls, dumplings and tofu cheese stored at 47 degrees, resulting in an embargo. At Denny’s, a small prep unit had lettuce, tomatoes and liquid eggs at 45 degrees, and a walk-in cooler had hash browns at 45 degrees. Both situations were remedied during inspection.

EXCELLENT [No violations found]
99 Cents Only
Bashas’ – AFC Sushi
Bashas’ – Bakery
Bashas’ – Deli
Bashas’ – Starbucks
Circle K (east)
Circle K (east) Made to Go
Copa Craze
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
Francisco’s Mexican Food
Fry’s Marketplace
Fry’s Marketplace – Bakery
Fry’s Marketplace – Deli
Fry’s Marketplace – Starbucks
Fry’s Marketplace – Sushi
Good Donuts
Jack in the Box
Jersey Mike’s Subs
Native Grill & Wings
Plaza Bonita
Panda Express
Tacos ‘N’ More
Walmart – Bakery
Walmart – Deli
Yogurt Jungle

SATISFACTORY [Violations corrected during inspection]
Say Sushi

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT [Critical items noted during inspection cannot be corrected immediately requiring follow-up inspection]
True Grit Tavern

UNACCEPTABLE [Gross, unsanitary conditions necessitating the discontinuation of service]


The former Carl's Jr. is transforming into a Wendy's. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson


Wendy’s received the go-ahead for commercial tenant improvements to the former Carl’s Jr. at 21000 N. John Wayne Parkway. That project was valued at $100,000. The building is being redone by Andrews Design Group with construction carried out by Burke Construction.

Abbott+Taylor LLC is making tenant improvements for a new ASUI medical office at 21300 N. John Wayne Parkway, a 1,991-square-foot office in Maricopa Professional Village in Cobblestone Fiesta.

Edison Family Dental Care, 44555 N. John Wayne Parkway, opened its doors in Suite A of the new building with two dentists on staff.

Volkswagen is adding an electric-vehicle charging station in its parking lot at 20053 N. Murphy Road.

Anderson-Palmisano Farms entered a development agreement with the City of Maricopa to create a planned area development on its acres bound by Hartman, Bowlin, Murphy and Farrell roads in east Maricopa.

The City of Maricopa received a commercial permit for its new administration building for the Maricopa Fire/Medical Department, 45695 W. Edison Road. It is valued at $1.8 million. MFMD will also add a $1 million fire-apparatus storage bay to the maintenance facility. Willmeng Construction is the contractor.

Maricopa Unified School District received commercial permits for eight factory-built buildings that will temporarily house 16 classes at Maricopa High School, which is over capacity. MUSD also received a permit for a modular restroom. Each was valued at $88,900.

Secate Pellet Mill, 38743 W. Cowtown Road, is installing a sprinkler system for fire suppression in its new warehouse/office building.

Sunshine Family Healthcare Center received its final inspection as a new tenant at 19756 N. John Wayne Parkway in the Duke Plaza.

Maricopa Family Dentistry, 44480 W. Honeycutt Road, received a permit for commercial alterations to the 2,244-square-foot space to add two suites. The contractor is WeBuildIt Construction.

Trend Salon & Spa, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road, had its grand opening June 21. Brakes Plus had a grand opening and ribbon-cutting July 18.

K Hovnanian opened a model home sales office at 17819 N. Miller Way in Maricopa Meadows. It received a permit for a 50-foot flagpole as well.

Lennar Homes is opening sales/construction offices at 44767 W. Rhea Road and 44781 W. Rhea Road in Alterra South. Meritage Homes placed a construction office a 21226 N. Jubilee Place in Province.

This item appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

Lennar Homes has a sales office and construction office in Alterra.

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Photos by Kyle Norby

More than 50 employers met with potential employees Wednesday morning at the annual Maricopa Job Fair at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino’s new ballroom. Businesses from Maricopa, Pinal County and beyond touted their open positions to a crowd of job-seekers.

Photo by Kyle Norby

By Jim Headley

When Jiffy Lube opened its doors this year, it brought eight jobs to Maricopa.

“This location was ideal due to population growth and the need for our services,” company spokesperson Jodi Stiles said. “This Jiffy Lube is a multicare location, which allows them to perform all the normal maintenance in addition to mechanical repairs, with the exception of transmission and engine replacement.”

Stiles said the Maricopa shop, which is 2,900 square feet, also offers tires.

The new location’s eight employees include manager Patrick Hance.

“He has been with us over nine years and comes with great experience. He is also a resident of Maricopa and takes great pride in assisting guests to help maintain their vehicles in his community,” said Stiles.

Maricopa’s Jiffy Lube location is on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, just west of Walmart.

“Our goal is to provide a service for our guests at a fair and honest price as we help them maintain their vehicles,” she said.

Jiffy Lube has been in Arizona 27 years and has 52 locations in the state.


Jiffy Lube
Where: 42100 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy.
Hours: M-F 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Sa-Su 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Phone: 520-635-6257

Hailee, Corinne Lee Myers, Kandice Pyper, Briana Brennan and Sophie Del Cotto. Photo by Kyle Norby

By Fran Lyons

Celebrating their May 25 grand opening, Earthwise Pet Supply of Maricopa launched its Nutrition Center & Wellness Spa for dogs and cats, aka fur babies.

This new business located in The Shops at Maricopa Fiesta is a one-of-a-kind place offering an array of services and products.

Two full-time, professional groomers are available in the Spa to pamper and style pets (cats included). A unique self-bathing station, fully equipped with everything you need to wash and dry your pet, is in-store for your convenience. The staff will even clean up the mess.

“Our team genuinely cares about animals. We all love to engage with our furry friends,” said team member Sophie Del Cotto. “We’re here for your pet, and you, the pet parent.”

A coalition of locally owned and operated stores, Earthwise Pet Supply’s first store was established in California in 1977. It is a company committed to excellence. Their mission is to better the lives of pets and their owners through proper education, exceptional customer service, all-natural products and green business practices.

“Earthwise Pet Supply of Maricopa is a family business that shares the love of our fur families and the joy they bring to our lives,” said Kandice Pyper, the “hands-on” store owner.

Trained by an Earthwise Pet Supply representative, each team member at the shop takes a weeklong food course and is very knowledgeable about the specific brands and products offered.

“Our goal is to provide our customers with an exceptional, informative and beneficial experience,” Pyper said. “We’ll guide you through the process of selecting a diet program specifically for your pet. We do our best to assure that our animal companions are healthy, happy pets. After all, they’re part of the family.”

All the nutritional products available at the store have been selected from a handful of suppliers, including longstanding family companies passed down from generation to generation. There are special discounts for military members and seniors.

“The products we offer are all natural and sourced in the USA,” Pyper said. “We like to support other small businesses just as Maricopa is supporting us. You don’t have to worry where our food comes from. Earthwise Pet Supply does the research for you and adheres to the highest standards. You can now confidently shop locally for the best nutritional pet products available.”

Originally from Canada, Pyper has years of experience with animals. She worked at a pet resort for 10 years and for the SPCA handling animal adoptions and surrenders. New to Maricopa, Pyper loves the warm weather in Maricopa and the opportunity to provide a valuable service based on her love and empathy for animals.

“My team and I are thrilled to be a part of the growing and thriving community of Maricopa. We’re open seven days a week and welcome you to stop by and check us out,” she said. “While you’re here, pick up a free sample of pet food.”

20924 N. John Wayne Parkway


It’s not the first Maricopa subdivision to try to get out of an agreement with Orbitel Communications, but now Desert Passage Community Association is facing a lawsuit from the communications company.

Attorney Mark Holmgren called the evergreen clause “procedurally and substantively unconscionable.”

Orbitel attorneys filed a breach-of-contract complaint in Superior Court in May. They claim Desert Passage violated an agreement when it elected to terminate its cable service as of Dec. 21, 2018.

The suit seeks nearly $1 million in damages. The HOA’s attorneys, however, are challenging a common contract clause that has been a point of contention in community associations across the country.

Desert Passage (Smith Farms) is one of 11 homeowners associations in Maricopa that are “basic cable bulk-billed communities” through Orbitel. That agreement was for an initial seven years, starting in 2004, and renewed in 2011. Containing an “evergreen” clause, it renews automatically unless the HOA membership votes to terminate with a 60-day notice.

In an Oct. 18 letter notifying Orbitel of its pending termination of the agreement, Community Manager Debbie King stated, “The Board of Directors and the community per the contract have made this decision.”

King did not respond to a request for comment.

The details of the HOA decision were not defined until April, after letters were exchanged between Orbitel and Desert Passage and their respective attorneys. Desert Passage attorneys informed Orbitel a “duly noticed meeting” was held on an unspecified date prior to the Oct. 18 letter and the board obtained the required 67 percent vote against renewal.

In that April letter, attorney Mark Holmgren of Goodman Holmgren Law Group, representing the HOA, called the evergreen clause “procedurally and substantively unconscionable.”

Evergreen clauses are accepted in Arizona, but a handful of other states like California and Illinois have placed requirements of “conspicuousness” and renewal notification in their legislation. Courts have usually upheld the automatic-renewal clauses unless the language is ambiguous.

Orbitel received the initial notification of termination Oct. 18, more than 60 days before renewal was due to occur.

But the company wasn’t having it. The agreement with the HOA states the contract cannot be terminated until 67 percent of the homeowners in the association vote not to renew or extend the service. Orbitel claims there is no documentation to prove that happened.

“Orbitel responded with information indicating that, contrary to the terms in the agreement, the homeowners association had failed to obtain the approval of the Desert Passage residents for the cancellation of the agreement,” said John Schurz, president and general manager of Orbitel.

The company requested proof the HOA had taken a membership vote and met the required percentage to terminate. Claiming it received no response from Desert Passage, Orbitel then had its attorneys send another letter to the HOA in November. That letter also requested an updated count of “certificated residences” in the HOA.

Attorney Christopher Callahan of Fennemore Craig wrote that Orbitel’s billings for years had been based on 347 residences. “Orbitel has recently come to understand that there are presently more than 500 certified residences in Desert Passage, with more homes under construction,” he wrote to the HOA, meaning the HOA had been underbilled for years.

He also said the number of residences “is a matter within the exclusive knowledge of the Association,” which was why Orbitel was requesting the information.

However, in a March letter Holmgren stated the contract placed the burden of tracking the number of homes served and maintaining those records on Orbitel. Callahan said Orbitel did maintain the records of the 347 homes that it was billing but received no information on certificates of occupancy.

However, he said, Orbitel decided to do some calculations of its own. Those numbers showed 610 certificated residences, 22 homes under construction, eight lots being prepped for construction and 50 vacant lots.

Based on those numbers, he said, future monthly invoices would be for $11,840 instead of the $6,735 that had been billed.

It is not known what number of residences the HOA used for its calculation of 67 percent. In his sharply worded April letter to Callahan, Holmgren said “Orbitel has no right to review the ballots.”

While Holmgren said there is no longer a contract between Desert Passage and Orbitel, the HOA continued to pay Orbitel in January and February, and Orbitel continues to provide service.

The suit is seeking $6,735 for March, $11,840 each for April and May and then continued damages at that rate through what would have been the end of a renewed seven-year contract in 2025, plus attorneys’ fees. That comes to “at least” $970,888.

Holmgren laid out his dispute of Orbitel’s argument in the April letter. He claimed the language of the agreement indicated only one seven-year renewal, “not continued renewals,” and even cited KB Home as agreeing with his assessment.

“KB Home says the intent of the [agreement] was to allow Orbitel to recoup its investment in original infrastructure, and that the original term would have been sufficient,” Holmgren wrote.

He said any ambiguity in the contract was the fault of Orbitel.

And, Holmgren said, even if the agreement allowed for automatic renewals and even if the terms were not ambiguous, Desert Passage followed the correct procedures to terminate the contract.

Orbitel is part of the City of Maricopa’s origin story. The company was called in by developers in 2001 to help establish communication infrastructure ahead of thousands of homes. The company received a cable TV franchise in 2004, with those early contracts requiring Orbitel to have cable service in place before homes were built.

Later adding telephone and high-speed internet service, the company was acquired by MCG Capital Corporation in 2007. Schurz Communications acquired Orbitel in 2012.

Schurz, the general manager, speaks of Orbitel’s relationship with Desert Passage in the present tense.

“We are hopeful we can reach a speedy resolution to the matters at issue in the complaint,” Schurz said, “and we are committed to fulfilling our service obligations to the community residents and will continue to do so.”

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This year was not the first time Maricopa Ace Hardware has taken home the Chamber's top prize. Photo by Jim Headley

By Jim Headley

Maricopa Ace Hardware was honored as the Large Business of the Year by the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce April 27.

Owner Mike Richey said he is honored his business was chosen again for this prestigious award.

“This is the third time that we’ve been honored by the Chamber of Commerce for the Business of the Year,” Richey said. “It is the second time that we were honored as the Waz Business of the Year.”

The Waz is presented in memory of Bill Wasowicz, a Realtor in Maricopa.

“He was very active in the community, the Chamber of Commerce and in his church. His wife, Patty Wasowicz, is still a Realtor and operates the Wizards of Waz agency. Bill passed away and there was a push to honor Waz in some way,” Richey said.

Richey said the chamber decided to choose large and small businesses of the year from among its membership, with the Waz as the large business award.

“Having known Bill and having known his activity and community involvement, this means even more to us,” Richey said.

“Receiving an award for this is great because of our view on customer service, our view on community involvement and that is our big focus on things. It is a big thrill to win the Waz award from the Chamber of Commerce.”

“It is an honor,” said William Gonzales, assistant manager. “I am glad to represent Maricopa Ace and the community here. We focus on the community. We focus on the people and the other small businesses. We support them also. We try to shop local ourselves.”

Gonzales said while the award is important, it is the recognition their company received for all the hard work that is welcomed.

“It is what we do for the community and what the community does for us. We work as a team. It just shows that we have the right people in the right place in the store. Customer service is our number one priority,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales has worked at Ace for the past five years. That dedication to customer service isn’t just inside the walls of Ace Hardware, he said; it’s also outside in the community every day.

“Maricopa has supported Maricopa Ace Hardware, Jacquie and myself in amazing ways,” Richey said. “This is part of the reason why we give back. The store mantra is to be part of the community – it is one of our core values to be involved in the community. It is a responsibility we have as a local business and something we take seriously.”

This story appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

Michelle Cruz opened Compassionate Nature Studios in Stage Stop. Photo by Jim Headley

Compassionate Nature Studios opened May 6 in the Stage Stop Marketplace, 44301 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy.

The new yoga studio is in a fully remodeled space and very “zen,” according to owner Michelle Cruz.

“This is a brand-new business,” Cruz said. “The response so far has been really good.”

The studio opened May 6. Cruz said the new space has a strong feeling of relaxation. She has been a practicing Yoga Nidra instructor less than one year.

“We have another instructor, and she does a huge variety of classes,” Cruz said. “She’s been doing this for years. We bring a little of what I teach and a little of what she teaches into the whole experience.”

The other instructor is Chamica Dennis, who has been a yoga instructor for the past two years and she specializes in Hatha unity-based yoga.

“I absolutely adore the studio,” said Dennis. “It is a great place for women to come. It is a great place for everyone, but we are focusing on women. It’s mostly about relaxing and relaxation.”

Dennis said the new studio came out beautifully with calm and relaxing colors.

“There will be a lot of workshops in the future,” she said. “I do reiki as well and some therapies. There will be some stress related workshops. There are a lot of different things that will be coming up. The new workshops will be centered on healing and meditation.”

She added that smoking secession workshops might also be offered if there is a need for them.

Compassionate Nature Studios offers classes in Yoga Nidra, Yoga 101, restorative yoga, Hatha flow, meditation and aroma therapy, Vinyasa flow and Shakti Vinyasa flow.

Yoga Nidra is deep sleep meditation, potentially helping with many challenges like insomnia, anxiety, depression, PTSD, fatigue, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, trauma, addictions and stress.

Classes are offered as early as 7 a.m. and as late as 7:30 p.m. in the day.

The studio has a “drop-in rate,” but there is also an opening special of eight classes for $49.

“We want people to come in and see what yoga style works best for them,” Cruz said. “I wanted a business that caters more towards women, so they have a safe and tranquil spot to come and just let go. This space is created to invest in yourself and take that time to slow down. You can’t give back to others if you are depleted. In the midst of chaos, you need a little more calm.”

For more information, you can call Cruz at (520) 840-0667.

The story appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.