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10:59 AM Mon, Sept. 24th

Legendary Pine Cone Inn changes hands<BR>

Still, he admits that he will miss what he calls "the best job in Prescott," even if it was seven days a week and required enough hours to wear a man out.

"Over the years, this place has seen a lot of people and a lot of changes," Twig said, adding that the one thing he will miss the most about the Pine Cone is its customers.

"The customers are like my extended family," he said. "And there are so many memories … it's sad, but it's just something I have to do."

In its heyday, from the 1940s through the 1970s, the Pine Cone was "the place to be," where high-school couples ate their prom-night dinners and hometown sweethearts often married.

"Back then, Prescott was just a little cow town," explained Virginia Baker, a Scottsdale resident who was The Prescott Evening Courier's society editor in the 1960s.

"Most people went to the Pine Cone because it was a nice place to go – and people could dance."

Back in the old days, the Pine Cone was one of only three restaurants in town, along with the Bronze Saddle, on East Gurley Street, and the Green Frog on Whiskey Row.

"The whole community was like a big family," Twig said. "There were no stoplights when I was a kid."

And it also has seen its fair share of famous people, including President Ronald Reagan, Sen. Barry Goldwater, actress Amanda Blake, and Twig's personal favorite, actor James Coburn.

"People have been eating here longer than I am old," Twig said, adding that he can't pick out a single favorite memory.

"It's a compilation of people's lives," he said. "Kids have worked for me, who now have kids, who have kids … and I've seen all of them.

"The town of Prescott has been good to us, and I think this little restaurant has been very good to Prescott … this place has watched Prescott grow from a baby to a full adult that's still growing."

Laura Hamilton, who will now serve as manager and head chef of the Pine Cone, said that she plans to build on what the Branches have cultivated, rather than trying to re-invent the wheel.

Among other minor changes, she plans to expand its dancing to include late-night jazz, as well as install an oval bar, provide outside creek-side dining, and expand on its menu of food and drinks.

In addition to retaining most of the Pine Cone's existing employees, several of whom have worked there for more than 25 years, Hamilton also said that she hopes to leave the restaurant's long-time customer charge accounts intact (pending approval from the State Liquor Board).

Hamilton, who co-owns Moctezuma's Bar on Whiskey Row with her husband, Lars, said that owning her own restaurant has been a dream of hers since she was a little girl.

"I like to make people's bellies happy," she said.

Local Realtor Joie Ebarb represented the buyers on the deal, whose terms were undisclosed, and Jack Fowler, of Realty Executives, represented the sellers.

Contact Chad Simpson at csimpson@prescottaz.com

or 445-8179, ext. 2041.