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6:48 AM Fri, Sept. 21st

Mayer business block takes on new life

Jan MacKell Collins/For PNI<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Musician and artist Deb Gessner shows some of her art projects in the former Mayer Mercantile.

Jan MacKell Collins/For PNI<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Musician and artist Deb Gessner shows some of her art projects in the former Mayer Mercantile.

Joe Mayer would be proud. The downtown business block Mayer built in his namesake town along Central Avenue in 1902 has recently taken on some new tenants, including a new business and even a new museum.

Mayer, who founded the town back in 1882, was an important figure in its development. A post office opened in 1884, and Mayer constructed numerous business buildings over time. His grandest project was a four-building brick business block which was originally home to a saloon, dance hall, market and barbershop. The latter business came complete with a bathhouse for weary travelers disembarking from the Prescott and Eastern Railroad trains running through town.

Mayer died in 1909, but his family continued running or leasing various businesses in the buildings for generations. During the early 1980's the entire block, along with the Mayer Apartments across the street and an original red brick schoolhouse on Main Street, were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. When Mike Connors purchased the property from Mayer's descendants in 1989, he too continued renting space and running businesses in the buildings.

Most recently, the business block was home to the Bradshaw Mountain Wildlife Thrift Store, the Highway 69 Chamber of Commerce which moved into the old barbershop in 2014, and the Big Bug Bakery. The recent relocation of the thrift store to a former hardware store on Highway 69, near St. Vincent de Paul thrift store, left two of the buildings vacant. Also Jack Arnerson, who ran the bakery beginning in 2011, recently decided to retire.

Enter professional baker Igal Blumstein, his wife Kim and their two sons who have taken over where Arneson left off. Under their ownership, the bakery has a new name: the Flour Stone Bakery & Cafe. "It's a play on words," Blumstein explains. "Our family name actually translates to 'Flower Stone'. We changed the spelling from 'flower' to 'flour.'" The Blumsteins have also come up with a snappy new logo for their new business, which currently adorns a banner above the door.

"History is what drew me here," says Blumstein, who lives in Humboldt and adds that he plans to keep the Big Bug Bakery's old menu. The goodies still include a build-your-own sandwich as well as a delicious breakfast sandwich with ham, egg and cheese on a warm croissant. Blumstein has added a pastry case for fresh-baked pastries and muffins. A new favorite item is San Pellegrino sodas, which come in a variety of flavors. Arneson and his crew are helping the family ease into the new business.

Hours at the bakery for now are 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day but Monday. Blumstein is quick to note, however, that he often arrives at work as early as 4 a.m. to begin baking, so "whenever I get here, that's when we open." Otherwise, very little has changed within the bakery itself. The beautiful pressed tin ceiling is still there, as are vintage signs from businesses of the past. History still fairly spills off the walls, which contain photos of the Mayer family and other historic ephemera. Framed news articles about Mayer include one from the 1960's, when celebrated Arizona historian and writer Don Dedera purchased and moved the Mayer Depot to Phoenix.

In fact, the only real change is the absence of a stage which sat for many years just inside the door of the bakery. The stage, which is currently in storage, was originally built by Mayer residents Deb Gessner and Don Charles. In musical circles the couple is better known as the popular guitar and harp duo, D-Squared. And, the couple also has a vested interest in the business block: they have just rented the former Mayer Mercantile, a quaint yet large storefront which until recently housed part of the thrift store.

For Gessner, who is also an accomplished artist, acquiring the building was a dream come true. "I'm thrilled to have the 'Merc' as my studio," she says. "I've always been drawn to the space since Mike Connors was living there, with his mercantile in the front." There is enough room in the spacious building not only for Gessner's studio, but also a practice area for D-Squared. The back of the building also provides a large and unique living area, providing the couple with a place to stay while they remodel their home on the other side of town. For now, Gessner will use the front of the building to work on her art and hopes to open to the public at some point "when I have something for folks to look at." Both she and Charles also plan to eventually host musical gatherings in the rehearsal area.

Perhaps the most exciting change coming to the block is the newly formed Mayer Area Historical Society, which plans to open a museum in the old tavern. Logan Roberts, General Manager at Harley Davidson Mayer, has been appointed president. "I personally believe I/we need to be involved in the community and give back as much as possible," says Roberts. Although the museum is in the very early planning stages, those wishing to contact the society can do so at mayerareahistoricalsociety@gmail.com.

The entire block is currently for sale, but that doesn't seem to bother any of the new tenants, who are eager to wake up downtown Mayer once again. In fact, the Historical Society will be hosting a formal public meeting on October 7 at 6 p.m. at the Mayer Recreation Center. The Flour Stone Bakery & Cafe will stage an official grand opening on October 9. For more information, call 928-277-8197. To reach Deb Gessner and Don Charles, simply access their website at http://www.dsquaredmusic.com.