After a year in real estate limbo, the Heritage House is opening its doors to another chapter in its history.
Set to reopen in mid-July as the Mogollon Grill at Heritage House, the property has been purchased by Mogollon Grill L.L.C., an Arizona limited liability company owned by six Valley-based partners with extensive restaurant remodeling and management experience.
The lunch-and-dinner restaurant's new name, managing partner Scott Hopman said, "is reflective, and holds on to the facility's history. While we're definitely trying to seek a new identity, and want to create a place everyone up here can take a lot of pride in. We don't want to forget it's an historical place on an historical street."
The history of the Heritage House began in the fall of 1926, when it was built by Julian Journigan, father of the late Rim country historian Jack Journigan, who lived in the home for many years.
At the time of its construction, the house was considered to be on the outskirts of town the epicenter being the area now occupied by the Ox Bow Saloon three or four blocks away.
In 1985, the house was purchased by Mel and Jan Laumb, who built an addition onto the rear of the house adding about 4,700 square feet, to its original 1,300 square feet and turned it into a restaurant called the Heritage House.
In that first incarnation as an eatery, it was a soup-salad-sandwich "tea room" and gift shop with a country motif, said the Laumbs' son-in-law, Randy Roberson.
When Mr. Laumb died two years ago, his wife retired and passed the business on to their daughter, Diane, and her husband, Roberson, who expanded the business into a full-service restaurant with steak, seafood and hamburgers. They chose to close the business a year ago, however, and it remained vacant until earlier this month, when Hopman and his partners arrived to start their remodeling efforts.
"It's obviously a wonderful landmark facility, and what we're doing is in some ways taking it back to its original appearance, and sort of adding a mountain character and ambiance to it," Hopman said.
"We're doing a pretty substantial remodeling, but we're maintaining the integrity of the original footprint of the house and the original integrity of the interior, along with the portions that have been added on, and bringing them all together."
The exterior is undergoing a facelift, with Hopman and his crew "opening it up, redoing the outside patios, repainting." The tentative color scheme is a deep, rich yellow with teal trim.
Directly within the main entrance on the east side of the house there will be a newly added fireplace embedded in a wall of river rock, as well as a history wall showcasing antique art and photographs of Payson.
Beyond that will be the main dining room and what Hopman describes as a "pretty substantial bar" and lounge with booths, full seating and its own outdoor patio with gas-and-wood firepit.
Two large, brand new bathrooms will be installed.
"The women's room will be more like a resort restroom than a typical commercial restroom," Hopman said. "It will be very comfortable."
The original building's kitchen, now located at the center of Heritage House, will be decorated "like a real country kitchen, where you actually sit down in here and eat," Hopman said. "We're keeping all the old wood floors, the old wallpaper, the old colors and ceilings all of it. This room will accommodate groups of six to eight who want to be off by themselves."
The large room at the front of the house, which also connects to an outdoor patio area, will be used as an open dining area for groups or special events.
"We'll probably only open it on Friday and Saturday nights, unless we get really busy, at which point we'll open it up more." Hopman said.
The working kitchen was remodeled and re-equipped only a year and a half ago by Roberson.
"We will be the beneficiary of that," Hopman said. "There's not much we have to do in there beyond replacing, adding and improving some pieces of equipment."
As for the menu, Hopman said it is still in the refinement stage, but that it will feature "a really good value-price point and some really good, basic cuisine. But we're twisting some things. We're going to have a little bit of Southwestern with a little touch of Asia in it and yet still have chicken, fish, prime rib and specialty dishes. I think it will be really unique."
The chef in charge of preparing those dishes has already been hired: David Young, who has been the chef at Chaparral Pines for the past two years, and who is now the menu's primary brainstormer.
But at the moment, everything except the remodeling is still in the contemplation stages, Hopman stressed including the opening date, and what will be available on that date.
"Initially, we will probably be open for dinner only. But after one or two weeks, we may start opening for lunch, too," he said. "Only time will tell."
Hopman's experience as a restaurateur began in 1982, on Tempe's Mill Avenue, where he designed and managed "a whole bunch of those restaurants the Paradise Bar and Grill, Mill Landing, the Balboa Cafe, the Coffee Plantation and the Depot Cantina, which is now Macayo's."
He also developed the Ore House steakhouse chain, and his partnership currently owns the large Tempe sports bar McDuffy's. For the past 10 years, Hopman has been working as a vice president with Habitat, an architectural design company that he said designs and fabricates building projects all over the country.
But the Mogollon Grill at the Heritage House is Hopman's first Arizona restaurant venture outside of the Valley. What drew him to Payson, he said, was one of his partners, Payson resident Larry McIntyre.
"Being up here, doing business and living here for the last year or two, Larry recognized there was both a need and an opportunity," Hopman said. "So we started talking about it, started looking for sites, and one thing led to another. When the opportunity came up that we could purchase the Heritage House, it was not something we could ignore."