Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: From left, Cathie Hawkins and her uncle, Russ Norton stand in front of the bakery section of Meg’s Place, a new cafe/bakery/convenience store in Fort Thomas. Cathie and Russ own and run the store with their respective spouses, McCoy Hawkins and Jani Norton, along with the Russ and Jani’s daughter, Megan Norton.
New cafe/bakery/convenience store in Fort Thomas to open November 1
“It’s always been a thriving business and the town needs it,”Russ Norton
By Jon Johnson
FORT THOMAS – Like the legendary Phoenix rising from its ashes, Meg’s Place in Fort Thomas is rising from a complete interior renovation of the former Keen’s Fort Thomas Store at 15560 W. U.S. Highway 70 with the help of reclaimed building supplies and the hands of many family members.
The whole business is a family affair with co-owners Cathie and McCoy Hawkins and Cathie’s uncle and aunt, Russ and Jani Norton.
The two families bought the building and the rest of the 6-acre property together and began renovating the interior in about mid-July. With the renovation nearly complete and the menu for the cafe just about set, the plan is to open its doors to the public on Friday, Nov. 1 and will be in operation Mondays – Saturdays, from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
The business is named after Russ and Jani’s youngest daughter, Megan, 30, who has Down Syndrome. During the Gila Herald’s visit, Megan expressed her joy at how the renovation has gone and said she can’t wait for it to open.
“She is a people person and she is so excited to have her own place,” Cathie said.
“Everyone knows her and everyone loves her, and it’s been great,” Russ said. “She told Cathie, ‘You know I’m going to be your boss – you just have to teach me how.’”
The 5,400-square-foot building houses a cafe, bakery with fresh goods baked daily by Cathie, and a convenience store run by Russ. Additionally, starting in early 2020, the site will also have gas pumps with diesel and pumps and parking designated for semi-trucks to serve the highway traffic, especially the trucks traveling from Miami to Safford every day.
The families salvaged green, oak wood from the bell tower of a former Baptist church that was built in 1929, tin from an old barn, and wood from the roof of an old house; all of which were on the property. The countertop they built to showcase the bakery’s fresh goods and house a cash register area is adorned with the church wood and barn tin, along with a wall custom built to house a large cabinet which also will hold items from the bakery. Even the lights to illuminate the countertop are unique as they utilized old glass bottles and jars, including two that were owned by Cathie’s grandmother.
A walk-in “Beer Barn” cooler on the convenience side is adorned with the wood from the house and it is used in the cafe area as well.
“Everything has been repurposed from this property,” Russ said. “We just tried to reuse as much as we could.”
They didn’t stop with just the materials found on the other buildings on the property, however, and the new, much longer 14-foot kitchen hood was also repurposed from a different restaurant but at least one of the grills from the Keen’s store is still in use.
“It’s (the hood) a little dented and worn, but it works,” Cathie said.
They also added ADA-compliant restrooms, tore up the carpet and stained and sealed the concrete flooring, put in a new metal ceiling, installed spray-foam insulation and new air conditioning, built their own tables for the cafe out of reclaimed wood from the property, and salvaged an old “McEuen” sign from a former store. They even built a charging station counter, where students and others can sit and look out and enjoy the store’s offerings while their devices are charged at the multiple outlets.
Cathie said setting up the store has been a collaborative effort.
“It’s all kind of just fallen into place,” she said.
Meg’s Menu for the cafe will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is a combination of American and Mexican fare, including burgers, burros, chicken sandwich, rice bowl, hot dogs, fried zucchini or cauliflower, biscuits and gravy, breakfast burros, chips and salsa, and more. The cafe also sports delicacies from the nearby San Carlos Apache Reservation, including an Apache Burger made with Fry Bread. The Fry Bread is also available by itself in a variety of ways and is made by a San Carlos Apache Tribal member.
A test-run that utilized 100 family members helped pare the menu down but it still includes a variety of other entrees, sides, and drinks. Fountain drinks with nugget ice are available and come with free refills, with your choice of Coke or Pepsi products. Russ said they will also stock “Mexican” Coke in the bottle.
The convenience store has all the snacks and goodies you find at other chain locations and is stocked with a “Beer Barn” that holds ice-cold cases of beer. The store will also be stocked with a variety of other alcoholic beverages, including liquor products.
A variety of other drinks are also available, including single-serve drinks, coffee, hot cocoa, tea, soft drinks, and fountain drinks, and the store will bag its own regular ice for sale as well.
Look for gas pumps and semi-truck gas pumps and parking in early 2020.
The bakery will offer fresh-baked goods on a daily basis and will begin with mostly deserts, according to Cathie. The bakery will eventually also offer fresh specialty bread.
The business looks to cater to the school population located right next door and took into consideration their wants and needs.
What: Meg’s Place
Where: 15560 W. U.S. Highway 70
When: Opening Friday, Nov. 1
Hours: Mondays – Saturdays, from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.