We had the good fortune of connecting with Dana Suorsa and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dana, how do you think about risk?
Is there a difference between taking a risk and taking a calculated risk? My wife would say I take risks. I feel like I calculate my risks. Just as a stunt man doesn’t just jump off a building without research, planning, plenty of safeguards, knowledge and experience, I try to do the same with my business decisions. Willcox, AZ. was a town in need of a gathering place for locals and passers through. The question was asked time and again on Facebook “what does Willcox need?”. Resounding answers back were “a coffeehouse”. I had already the building. Situations in our real estate business from Covid-19 made us have to make decisions that pushed us in unexpected directions. We thought one day to look into what it would take to open a coffeehouse in the historic Saxon House. I, being an environmental designer and licensed contractor, my wife a wonderful baker, decorator, and businesswoman, and my brother a graphic artist, came together to combine our talents for a fraction of the cost it would normally take to start the process. You see a calculated risk. Lower startup costs would reduce overhead, reduce risk. We visited many coffeehouses and spoke to the owners. Not knowing what we needed to ask but asked anyway. Tom and Sara at Talking Irons Coffee Saloon in Sunsights AZ were amazing. They were genuine and authentic and helped me any way they could. Their help along with many others was invaluable. Although you can only foresee so much and there will always be the unforeseen. That’s where you take your first steps toward your goal and start moving with confidence and understanding. Knowing you will come across obstacles in your path. Not to give up but to work out ways around and keep moving toward your goal.
We will always be learning, improving, changing, and hopefully growing. We are still very ignorant to many aspects of owning and running a coffeehouse though we strive to continue on this journey and realize our destination one step at a time.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I really appreciate most art forms like architecture, sculpture, painting, music, poetry, literature, film, graphics, comedy, and especially food. I was fortunate to receive my degree in environmental design from the Pasadena Art Center. This is where my artistic creativity was nourished. I was most interested in residential design but grew to love the creative process in many other disciplines which helped my admiration for those who excel in their respective fields grow. During my time in the field was rewarding and even exciting. Right out of school my new boss gave me many opportunities as a young designer. I was able to design multi-floor layouts, lobbies, facades, and signage. I successfully took on many of our biggest clients. It was weird at the time to have a client entrust hundreds of thousands of dollars on my designs. I felt like I was able to give them well-thought-out and unique designs that even helped them be more efficient. From there I went out on my own and earned my contractor’s license so I could work the field I loved most, and I’ve been in residential design ever since. The coffeehouse was the result of a historic property, one that I felt I could revive, that called out to me wanting to entertain once again. Growing up in the Pasadena area, I was very familiar with Craftsman Homes. I grew up in a 1909 two-story Craftsman in Alhambra. I was fairly sure I could bring this house back to its original grandeur. It is so gratifying to see this property being used once again as a place of gathering and escape from outside stresses for locals and passers-by.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Where to start? I would put them up in the Arizona Sunset Inn. We would start the day at Source of Coffee, of course, with a delicious espresso drink and pastry. Hanging out with the locals playing chess and discussing things not to be discussed on the outside. Maybe head to Apple Annies Orchard to pick some pears, apples, and peaches right off the trees. Grab some fresh sweet corn and veggies at the you-pick farm for our picnic lunch later that day. Grab some smoked wings and brisket from Big Tex to add to our picnic on our way to the Chiricahua National Monument. Take the 45minute scenic drive to the ranger station to see the video about the Chiricahuas narrated by Rex Allen. Then head to the top for a short hike and picnic always watching for the elusive coatimundi along with other curious wildlife. On the way back if we were driving a 4×4 we would take Pioneer Canyon Rd. all the way through to the backside of Portel Hit the Portal Peak Lodge and Cafe for a drink. After a short rest, we would check out Fort Bowie. Walk around the ruins keeping an eye out for critters and stickers like the Box Turtle, tarantulas, hawks, eagles, dear, bobcats, foxes, javelina, and wild horses. Just before arriving back to Willcox, we would take a short detour to do a little bird watching at the Crane observatory and maybe 9 holes at the Twin Lakes golf course as the sun goes down. The next day already having made reservations months earlier, we head toward Kartchner Caverns State Park once voted the best caves in the USA. But first, stop by Talking Iron Coffee Saloon in Sunsites for breakfast and great coffee. If time permits, just up the hill from there is the Cochise Stronghold Coronado National Forest named after an Apache warrior. You will need a 4×4 to go up that road. Then to the Amerind Museum in Texas Canyon to see countless aboriginal artifacts. Swing by to check out the Texas Canyon Pioneer Cemetery to see the resting place of some of the earliest pioneer settlers and their descendants. Before making it to the caverns swing by Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant in Benson and grab something to go for a picnic lunch at Kartchner. Now it is time to see the best preserved living caverns I have ever seen. They have taken great pains in preserving these caverns, also making them wheelchair accessible. After the tour, enjoy your lunch at the picnic tables outside. Don’t forget to check out the gardens outside the building while you’re there. On the way back stop by the Golden Rule Vineyards for a wine tasting. Last time I was there I saw a family of javelina walking through the pecan orchard. Wind down the day with dinner and drinks at La Unica Restaurant and Tortilleria or Isabel’s South of the Border for authentic Mexican cuisine.
The following day let’s stay close to town. Have a wonderful breakfast at the KOA. The Roadrunner Kafe has fresh ingredients and great staff. Expect a little wait because they make everything fresh to order. Tell Spiro and Aly “Dana says “Hi”‘ for me. Take the kids to Keiller Park to play on the swings or throw the ball around to work off breakfast. Enjoy the soon-to-be renovated city pool and splash pad, or play at the skate park, or play sand volleyball, or basketball, or baseball, or tennis. Now that you are ready for lunch just around the corner is Double S Steakhouse. Burger and a Beer, or a salad and a steak. It’s all good. After lunch head to Railroad Park where the Rex Allen Museum, boutiques, theater, and many fantastic wine tasting rooms reside. Check out the remodeled old bank where Keeling Schaefer Vineyards are located. Visit a historic building called the Commercial where Geronimo allegedly bought sugar. There are three wineries in the Commercial building, Strive, Copper Horse, and the in-town Golden Rule tasting room. The opposite corner is Birds and Barrels in-town room. Across the train tracks are Aridus and Carlson Creek vineyards. You can pay your respects to Rex Allen and his horse Koko both of whose ashes were scattered at the park. For you train lovers out there, trains pass by frequently throughout the day. Then to end the day try Coronado Vineyard just north of town for a light dinner and to watch the sunset. My favorite thing to eat there is the jalapeno bacon-wrapped quail with raspberry balsamic reduction and a pinenut, feta, and mixed greens salad with vinaigrette and a glass of wine. After dinner, to grab a nightcap head to Mack’s bar or Rix’s Tavern, or the CattleRest Saloon.
The following day let us really see the wild west. After a coffee at Source, we would take the 45-minute drive to Tombstone. Grab breakfast at the O K Cafe Tombstone for a big omelet or stack of pancakes. Park the car and walk the dusty streets along E. Allen Street. Go see where the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place. Check out The Bird Cage Theater built in 1881 that once housed a gambling hall and brothel. It is really touristy but a must see destination. People in old western wear reenact gunfights and you can take a tour around the old town on a stagecoach. Pick up some souvenirs for your friends back home in many of the themed shops, or grab a beer or shot of whisky in a real western saloon. Hop back in the car, just 45minuts south of Tombstone is an old mining town called Bisbee. Reserve tickets for the Queen Mine Tour. It’s well worth it. A very authentic experience. Suite up with a coat and hardhat then hop on this small train that takes you into the tunnels just as the miners did for decades. Beautifully lit rooms that were carved into the hillside. Make sure to ask about the Crystal cave. After the tour check out the many galleries, restaurants, and shops in old town. Definitely plan to have dinner at one of the best restaurants in Arizona, Cafe Roka, open only on the weekends at the moment.
There is way more to do and see in and around Willcox AZ. I have not seen it or done it all myself yet. I also have probably said too much as it is. As you can see I love this town.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My wife is my anchor and tries her best to keep me grounded. My three kids have been my reason to work towards my goals and not give up no matter how tired I may feel. I couldn’t do this without them and countless friends and family who lend support and encouragement when I start to loose faith in myself.
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