From most outward appearances it would seem the Pine and Strawberry area remains the sleepy back reaches of the Rim Country.
Appearances are often deceiving, and that is the case with the communities north of Payson.
Kris Lovetro, owner of one of Pine's thriving multi-dealer antique and collectible shops, Moose Mountain Gifts and Antiques, recently talked about the growing business community in northern-most Gila County.
Along Highway 87
"In the center of Pine, Barry Hoff has built Pine Creek Cabins," she said. At least one of the new units is handicap accessible."
Hoff is also behind the plans to construct a new building for the Nifty Fifties Diner next to the Bondurant House in the center of Pine.
L.B. Patterson, owner of the building which formerly housed the diner, is renovating in order to open another restaurant, to be called "L.B.'s," Lovetro said.
Another antique shop is opening across from the Payson Concrete site. Owned by Karen Eftang and Dave Prechtel, the new business will be called "Pine Station Antiques."
Cori Richman's Blue's Gallery, at 4069 N. Hwy. 87, has expanded its inventory, Lovetro said. In addition to the art work, gifts and candles are now available.
"I think people will be surprised to see everything she has in there now," Lovetro said.
The building housing Myra's Gallery is undergoing some remodeling. The gallery will remain in place, but behind it, two apartments are being prepared, as well as a storage unit.
Pine Country Antiques and Vintage changed hands in 2005. The shop was bought by Maureen Garlausky and Lorna Pietrantonio.
On Hardscrabble Mesa Road
Lovetro's business neighbor Larry Baker has added new dealers at his Tymeless Antiques multi-vendor shop. Lovetro also has new dealers, including Wesley Schleef from Eagle Mountain in Payson and Sherry Gray, who formerly operated The Cottage in Payson.
Another Hardscrabble neighbor, Pine Deli, was opened in late 2004 by Mike and Debbie Kroll. Pine Deli is both sleek and sentimental. Meats, cheeses and salads are displayed behind gleaming glass and chrome. Along
with the music of Dean Martin, the smell of home-roasted meats and homemade soups fills the air.
"It's the best thing to ever hit Pine," Lovetro said, "You can get dinner to go every night, except Monday."
While the Rimside Grill has been around a few years, the restaurant, owned and operated by Tamara Logsdon and Steve Morken, has expanded its offerings.
"It picked up a lot of breakfast business when Nifty Fifties closed," Lovetro said. "They have a breakfast to die for and their fish fry on Friday is unlike anything else around here. You can have it fried or baked or a combination. They also have good wines and drinks."
Jim Richey made plans to expand the Pine Verde Mexican Restaurant to include an outside dining patio and is redoing the old Black Bear Restaurant, which will become the Mogollon Steak House, Lovetro said.
In Strawberry the Cabins on Strawberry Hill have new owners and have been upgraded, Lovetro said.
On the downside, the Strawberry Market closed. Lovetro and many others in the two communities hope someone will buy the building and open a new market.
Lovetro is especially proud of the accomplishments of the community organizations in Pine and Strawberry.
"The Take Pride group has done so well that it was able to donate $10,000 to the forest fuels reduction program," she said.
As one of its big fund-raising projects, the group hosted the "Chair-ish" in July. It featured an auction of chairs decorated by local artists.
The quilt group, the Strawberry Patchers, had so much success in 2005, it gave $4,000 to charities in Pine, Strawberry and Payson. The funds were primarily raised through the group's quilt show and a raffle for an "Opportunity Quilt," Lovetro said.
The area's food bank continues to provide support, and more families need assistance, Lovetro said.
There was not much new activity with the Pine-Strawberry Archaeological and Historical Society, she said. The group continues to operate the museum at the Pine Community Center and the Strawberry Schoolhouse, it also presents regular movies from the KAET (PBS) collection.
"Its membership is down, so they would like everyone in the area to join," Lovetro said. "You don't have to volunteer for anything, but volunteers are needed."
The Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library is another outstanding organization in the community, Lovetro said. The staff found a grant to help keep the school's library open for the students.
Lovetro and her husband, Gary, have owned property in the Pine-Strawberry area since 1992 and were able to become full-time residents in 1998.
"There's no place I'd rather be," she said.