Truly, one of Safford’s best

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: SDA member Hal Herbert presents the plaque of Bill and Gwen Lewis which will hang in the Safford Theatre. A longtime proponent of restoring the theatre, Lewis passed recently, just prior to the restoration being fulfilled.

Safford Downtown Association presents its annual Best of Safford Awards

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – A decades-long dream is on the precipice of completion, and a man who helped spearhead the movement will forever adorn its walls. 

The Safford Theatre was the backdrop, again, for the Safford Downtown Association’s annual Best of Safford Awards on Wednesday. While they don’t have a category for individuals, Bill Lewis certainly fits the bill. 

Lewis died recently, just prior to seeing his beloved Safford Theatre fully restored. However, the memory of Bill will live on in the theatre, as a plaque adorned by himself and his wife, Gwen, will hang on its walls. 

Longtime friend Hal Herbert presented the plaque to those in attendance and read the inscription which called them Safford pioneers of the highest order.  

“For 30 years, Bill worked on getting the theatre restored,” Herbert said. “We hoped to get it restored in time for him to see it, but unfortunately we missed it by a few months.” 

The Safford Theatre represents all that is the Best of Safford, as it serves as an economic driver to Downtown and, according to Association President Danny Smith, will help revitalize the area. Smith hosted the event and gave an update on the theatre. 

“Its purpose is for this theatre to be an economic engine here on this street, to rent and sell the building next door and rent and sell the building next door here because people are spending time Downtown,” Smith said.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: SDA President Danny Smith, right, receives the Bill and Gwen Lewis plaque from Association member Hal Herbert.

The group hopes to have the theatre open by October, however, the entire back portion has yet to be constructed while restoration of the interior is ongoing. 

After a lunch catered by Randy Hawkins and Ginaveve’s Market Place, a variety of Association members presented this year’s seven award categories. During lunch and afterward, attendees washed down the food with delectable selections from a root beer bar by Thomas Family Traditions. 

Best Dining Experience: Casa Mañana

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Casa Mañana co-owner Adam Hoopes, left, receives his award from Taylor Banks.

Taking the award, again, for Best Dining Experience, Casa Mañana was represented by co-owner Adam Hoopes, who graciously accepted the award. 

“Great employees and great customers, that’s what makes it happen,” Hoopes said. 

Best Customer Service: ACE Hardware/Safford Builders Supply

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Doug Sanders, left, accepts the award on behalf of Safford Builders from Jo Hancock.

Another repeat winner, ACE Hardware/Safford Builders Supply was represented by Doug Sanders, who thanked those in attendance. The company has won the Best Customer Service Award multiple times.  

Best Business Remodel: Copper Steer Steakhouse

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Jeff Zweiacher accepts the award for Copper Steer Steakhouse from John Howard.

After being featured on the “Restaurant: Impossible” makeover show in 2019, the Copper Steer Steakhouse went through more changes with an ownership shakeup and having to deal with the pandemic. Accepting the award for the restaurant on Wednesday was Jeff Zweiacher.  

Best Newcomer: Brotein Shakes

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: From left, Dave and Matt Palmer accept the award for Brotein Shakes from Hal Herbert.

Opening a new food business during the pandemic wasn’t easy, but Dave and son, Matt Palmer, made it look so. Long lines are seen coming out of Brotein Shakes as it sits parked along U.S. Highway 70 in Thatcher. The spot serves protein shakes and bowls in a variety of fruit-based offerings.

 “I’m grateful for everyone who supports us,” Matt Palmer said.

Best Business Excellence, Service: Palmer & Johnson Family Dental 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Dr. Mark Palmer accepts the award for Palmer & Johnson Family Dentistry from David Bell.

Hardly anyone is happy about having to visit the dentist, but the friendly professionals at Palmer & Johnson Family Dental make the necessary experience a good one. Another multi-year award winner, Dr. Mark Palmer accepted the award with grace and humility.

“We’re just happy to have people who think we’re good and take good care of us just like we take care of them,” he said. “We’re grateful for all the repeat business, and we’re grateful for the honors. Obviously, you just treat them (customers) all just like our family. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”

Best Business Excellence, Retail: Enchanted Boutique

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: From left, Randy Hawkins and Danny Smith bring in the barbecue beef and ranch potatoes for lunch.

The owner of the Enchanted Boutique didn’t have anyone to cover for her so she was at work and didn’t make the luncheon. However, Smith encouraged the attendees to experience the shop if they haven’t already. 

“Go see her,” he said. “If you haven’t been in her new store, it’s really beautiful. It’s amazing.”

Best Business, Community Service: Ginaveve’s Market Place

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Jenny Howard accepts the award for Ginaveve’s Market Place from Cheryl Wilson.

Yet another repeat winner, Ginaveve’s Market Place exemplifies the spirit of a small business in Downtown Safford. 

True to its winning category, during her acceptance, co-owner Jenny Howard advised that the giving tree with wish tags that was at the new House of Hope Prevention & Resource Center for its ribbon cutting will be moving to Ginaveve’s and anyone who would like to help out the sober living facility with donated items it could use can still do so through there. 

Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald

“There’s tags on there, so if anybody wants to give that hasn’t given to the House of Hope yet but would like to give something there’s itemized items on the tags,” she said. “You can pick up the tag like you do at Christmas and just bring the thing back to Ginaveve’s.”

The Safford Downtown Association continues to work restoring the theatre and other projects designed to bring people Downtown, including new signage on U.S. Highway 70 to help entice travelers to stop and take a look, get a bite, find a keepsake or a new wardrobe item, or another service during their visit.