Sawmill Crossing Shopping Center

Historic corner comes alive as new retail center

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During the past 50 years, Payson residents have been able to monitor their town's progress by checking out the activity on the corner of Highway 87 and Main Street.

Originally the site of the old sawmill the primary industry in Payson during that era the historical corner is now home to Sawmill Crossing.

Keeping up with the times meant change and growth for family-operated Kaibab Industries, Vice President Gordon Whiting said.

In 1952, the sawmill first opened and supported local families and business until its closing in 1993. The Whiting Brothers bought the mill during the '60s, Whiting said. Whiting's grandfather and his great uncles entered the forest products and gasoline businesses.

As the forest products industry began to run dry, Kaibab had to grow with the times.

"When we had to close the mill, we ended up with a sizable piece of property," Whiting said. "We were out of the forest products business and we like Payson."

The company's job as he saw it was to find a way to put the land to work to benefit the community and make a profit for the company.

This task produced yet more challenges. Kaibab faced environmental and drainage issues and those concerns turned away prospective purchasers.

The property was not seen as usable and that made it hard to market, Whiting said. So he and the company took on the task of bringing the property up to current standards.

"When it got to the developable point, we decided we believed in it and it would fit in the Main Street redevelopment plan," he said.

Seven years into the project, Payson finally saw the first fruits of all this labor, as the cineplex movie theater doors swung open in November of 2000. Since that time, the strip mall complex has taken on retail shops, a bank, and specialty shops. In the past year, Marble Slab Creamery, Quizno's Classic Subs, Cookie and Coffee Cafe and the Apothecary Shop have all opened. There are only two vacancies in the current building.

In the coming year, Whiting plans a new section to the plaza a second building parallel to Main Street.

"We had hoped to start construction on this building in March. Realistically it may be May before we get going," he said.

The new building should be done in October and will house mainly retail shops.

"We are negotiating with a number of people and working on leases at this time, including a nationally recognized restaurant chain," he said. "We are looking for retail tenants that specialize in clothes, shoes, art, and jewelry.

"With the recession we have just been through, people are hesitant to start a new business and sign a lease. We just have to patient," Whiting said.

In an attempt to retain a bit of the Payson nostalgia, the original whistle that used to signal the start and end of the workday at the sawmill will once again sound out from the roof of Sawmill Crossing.

Payson resident Jimmy Connolly salvaged the whistle from the old mill as it was being torn down and it is now in the hands of Kaibab Industries.

"We are putting it up on the building," Whiting said.

It used to sound four times each workday, Whiting said, once at 7 a.m. to start the day, again at noon to break for lunch, again at 1 p.m. to signal the resumption of work, and finally at 4 p.m. to send the crew home.

"We have not yet decided how often to sound the whistle," he said.

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