Parrot Head Finds Paradise Among Pines

PAYSON PEOPLE

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Aside from the lingering smells of cigarette smoke and stale beer from the night before, the sounds of Jimmy Buffet's tropical ditty, "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitude," unbefitting the sleet falling outside, and the chatter of Kevin Mystrom on the phone, the Landmark Restaurant & Saloon is empty.

It's mid-morning at the Landmark, and already Mystrom's cordless phone is ringing off the hook. He cradles it between his head and shoulder as he signs for beer deliveries.

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For the past four years, Kevin Mystrom has hosted a Jimmy Buffet tribute party, Parrots in the Pines, every summer on his nautical-themed bar patio.

Thirty-nine-year-old Mystrom, owner and manager of the Landmark, is probably the busiest guy in Christopher Creek.

"We're only closed for five hours a day," said Mystrom. "And I do most of the cooking myself."

He works 100 hours a week to keep his hot spot a favorite destination for Rim country locals and visitors.

Mystrom, like many Christopher Creek residents, started out as a part-timer. His mother owned a cabin, and brought her children up from the Valley, and away from the big-city bustle, to the quaint mountain hamlet during weekends and summers.

"I fell in love with Christopher Creek when I was a child," said Mystrom. "I decided I wanted to do my own thing in the summer of 2001 so I came up here."

Mystrom bought the Landmark in December of that same year. He and his two brothers and sister pooled their money and took out a Small Business Administration loan.

"We bought the land, license, everything," said Mystrom.

With a background in food and beverage management, Mystrom said his siblings voted him to run their new venture.

"They all live in the Valley. It was my idea so they volunteered me," said Mystrom, a former employee of the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale and The Phoenician.

Mystrom then set out to modernize the Landmark.

He updated the menu, redecorated the interior of the building, took out tables, added booths in the restaurant, and expanded the patio overlooking Christopher Creek.

What was once a few tables and an umbrella, is now a full-blown outdoor beach party.

There's the barbecue where they grill beer-can chickens, there's the outside bar adorned with a grass skirt, and there's the faux beach, complete with sand, where they host their annual Jimmy Buffet tribute bonanza, Parrots in the Pines.

A self-described Parrot Head, Mystrom can't wait for summer to roll around again. Last year, Parrots in the Pines drew in a hefty crowd, about 2,000. With the Rim country drenched in rain, Mystrom hopes the fires and drought, which have closed roads and hindered business for the past few years, are behind him.

"If there are no fires or road closures, it should be a great year," said Mystrom. "Now that the drought is over, we expect a banner summer."

Mystrom also believes in helping where help is needed; he sponsors several charitable events throughout the year.

"Any community need that comes up, we help out," said Mystrom. "There wasn't much going on up here in the community and I thought I'd use my restaurant as a vehicle to raise money."

He recently sat on top of the Landmark for 100 hours to collect funds for resident Shelly Hansen's liver cancer treatment. Mystrom raised about $7,000.

He also holds an annual duck race in late March. This year, the event will take place March 26. Rubber ducks are set free to race in Christopher Creek at 2 p.m. Food, music and drinks will accompany the race. All proceeds are donated to the Christopher-Kohl's Fire Department.

"I am very impressed with how the community comes together to help out their own," said Mystrom.

The Landmark Restaurant & Saloon is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week; the bar is open until 2 a.m.

For more information, contact the Landmark at (928) 478-4472.

Profile

Name: Kevin J. Mystrom

Occupation: Owner/ Managing Partner, Landmark Restaurant & Saloon

Age: 39

Birthplace: Scottsdale, Ariz.

Family: Daughter, Megan Ashley Mystrom, 10.

Personal Motto: Live every day as one, and live one every day

Inspiration: Jimmy Buffet

Greatest Feat: Owning the Landmark Restaurant & Saloon, Preserving Christopher Creek history

Favorite Hobby: Motorcycles in the dirt

Three words that describe me best are: Concentrated, Concerted, Contented

I don't want to brag but ... my daughter made the Principal's List

The person in history I would most like to meet is: Albert Einstein

Luxury defined: High rollers suite at Mandalay Bay

Dream vacation spot: Diving off the coast of Belize

Why Payson? Family history in the area.

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