During a year of steady but not spectacular progress, the Rim country has become the new home of a variety of businesses. Among the newcomers are a Mexican food restaurant, a Chinese buffet, FM radio station, Pine's first saloon, Starbucks coffee, 4x4 repair and accessories shop and a new veterinarian.
Several other local establishments have expanded their business to better meet the growing needs of Rim country shoppers. Among those who have expanded are a day spa, art gallery, FM radio station, health club, cycle shop and a dentist office.
The new sound in the airways is the easy listening music that was first broadcast Nov. 20, 2003 from 98.5 FM KCMA LP.
Owners Chris and Tom Spencer, along with Cindy and Andy Kofile, call the 24-hour public radio station "A Cool Mountain Alternative." The music is from the '60s, '70s and '80s, plus some contemporary offerings are in the mix.
The broadcasts are currently automated but future plans are to have prerecorded local programs including educational information, news and town announcements.
KMCA is a nonprofit, listener-supported radio station that, owners say, will continue to be community-minded.
Longtime Rim residents watched for months as the former La Casa Pequeña restaurant, which was later called The Mill, was almost completely gutted and renovated to become the Fiesta Mexicana.
The new family restaurant, where the servers refer to all customers as "amigo," is highlighted by vibrant colors and authentic Guadalajaran decor.
The building stands in sharp contrast to the dimly lighted La Casa and The Mill bar and grill it once was.
"It has completely changed," building owner Monica Sohn said.
The only structures that remain of the former building are the four walls. Among the improvements are a raised roof, new carpeting, restored plumbing and electricity and completely new furnishings. In addition to serving more than 80 different menu items, including steak and shrimp fajitas, the Fiesta Mexicana has a complete bar that serves several types of tequila and Mexican cervezas.
Because most of the staff are natives of Mexico, the restaurant has a definite air of authenticity.
In Pine, the Sidewinders Saloon -- located at the corner of Hardscrabble and Highway 87 --s the community's first full-fledged tavern.
Passersby will be quick to notice that the usually full parking lot in the afternoon hours probably means the waterin' hole has become a hot spot among locals.
Owners Cindy and Bob Mack and Terry Leiting said in opening Sidewinders, it was their goal to provide a spot where locals could meet and socialize.
In addition to Sidewinders being a conversation spot, it doubles as a sports bar complete with a projection television and two big screens. Owners plans to add video games, a pool table, dart boards and a shuffleboard. They also plan to add food service, a micobrewery and possibly a coffee bar.
The Great China Buffet Restaurant, located at the corner of Highways 87 and 260, held its grand opening Jan. 9, 2004.
The new restaurant has a sister establishment in Glendale. The menu features about 50 items on the buffet and a salad bar.
Manager Yi-hsin Chen says the Great China's goal is to serve hot food in very clean surroundings and provide the best service they can. The new restaurant employs 12 people, both full- and part-time.
When Mark Frantzke opened Outlaw 4X4 and Accessories less than a year ago, he says it was because of his interest in four-wheel-drives and because "people kept telling me we need a business like this up here."
Off-road enthusiasts can find at Outlaw a complete inventory of four-wheel drive components including suspension lifts, specialty rims and tires, bed liners, window tinting, bumpers, lights, light guards and other accessories.
Frantzke also will expertly install equipment and accessories. He's also on hand to help solve problems for do-it-yourselfers hoping to install their own accessories.
In addition to 4x4 products, Outlaw has accessories for quads and other ATVs.
When Payson's first Starbucks opened last fall in the Safeway supermarket at 401 E. Highway 260, the event was another page in the company's storybook climb to success. The first Starbucks opened in 1971 as a single location in Seattle's Pike Place Market. Starbucks now boasts more than 6,000 locations that include Israel, Qatar and Australia.
Since opening, the Payson Starbucks has become a popular stop for townspeople looking for a daily fix of caffeine.
In 1999, Jacque Rosholm retired from her Phoenix veterinary business and moved to the Rim country. Once in Payson she remained retired for several years before noticing a need for a different type of veterinary service.
"There was a need for high-quality care at a low cost for residents on fixed incomes," she said.
Rosholm decided to come out of retirement and open a shop at the Main Street Animal Clinic located at 411 W. Main.
In addition to providing low-cost care, Rosholm will take care of exotics like ferrets, reptiles and other animals.
Since the business opened, Rosholm has attracted what she estimates is a couple hundred clients.
At her shop, she has a staff of five assistants and a group of disabled adults who volunteer their time to help out. The clinic is 3,000 square feet and has three exam rooms, a surgical suite and lobby.
The clinic is fully computerized and has a website, www.mainstreetanimalclinic.com.
Among the Rim country businesses that have undergone extensive recent expansion are: A Touch from Heaven Therapeutic Massage and Mini Day Spa, High Desert Dentistry, Manzanita Cyclery, Club USA, KRIM-FM 98.3 and the Wild Brush Art Gallery.
In October of 2003, A Touch from Heaven opened in Pine's Bishop Park five days a week. Previously the spa was open only weekends.
Massages available include LaStone therapy, salt glow, Swedish and special treatments for pregnant women and the elderly.
High Desert Dentistry opened at its new offices at 409 W. Main Street in December.
The first floor of the building has about 1,000 square feet of space for the dental offices. The second floor of the building has two apartments that can be used by visiting dentists or possibly rented out.
Since moving, High Desert has increased its patient load between 20 to 30 percent, Dr. Jason Ballou, one of three dentists at High Desert, said.
Manzanita Cyclery moved to a larger location near Famous Sam's, and owner Devin Wala changed the name to Manzanita Adventure Sports.
Owner Devin Wala also expects to expand his inventory and include supplies and equipment for hiking, climbing, back packing, swimming and more.
After Club USA expanded the square footage of its gym located in the Sawmill Crossing, it also added more high-tech weight and cardio equipment, weight management programs, aerobics classes and tanning facilities.
The growth at KRIM includes adding two mountain-top translators that, combined with the station's main translator, enables the station to be heard all around the Rim country.
The coverage area includes Payson, Star Valley, Tonto Basin, Rye, Gisela, Young, Round Valley, Christopher Creek, Washington Park, Pine, Strawberry and other outlying areas. KRIM can also be heard in Camp Verde, Cottonwood, parts of Sedona and Prescott Valley.
When Wild Brush Art Gallery owners Lynne and Terry Winans needed a larger location and more customer-friendly parking, the pair found the site they were looking for at 405 S. Beeline Highway, Suite E.
The work of about 20 Rim country artists and 10 others from around the state can be found there.
Among the media on sale are glass works, pottery, jewelry and paints. At the back of the shop, there is a framing center.
The Winans also do frame restoration, custom shadow boxes, faux finishes, needlepoint and cross-stitch and nonglare glass replacements.