Anyone who is, or was, a fan of Zachary’s on 6th Street–right across from UA–knows that they closed yesterday. To some it wasn’t a surprise–a down economy means less dining out, and the move from the north side of 6th to the south provided unique challenges–carpeted floors, a rickety backyard, limited parking. That’s part of what I love about Tucson though–things don’t have to be perfect to be good.
I have a soft spot for Zachary’s, as I worked there for many years. My Zachary’s tips paid for a decent portion of my graduate school, and I made so many friends there–both colleagues and customers alike. To this day, I can list all the people I met working there: Tim, Bryn, Melissa, Jocelyn, Vince, The Other Julie (co-workers)–and customers like Jeanne and her family, The Dans and their entourage (Karen, Peter, others), and too many more to name. UA professors, families, grad students all loved that place. Even though I was there 4-5 days a week, when it was time for my birthday dinner, I always insisted on Zachary’s. It was a sort of home, not only to me but to many of us who worked there.
Here’s Melissa and me last month. We worked together fifteen years ago.
When I started working there, in 1995 or 96, it was in part so I could be closer to my favorite beer, Paulaner hefeweizen, which at the time–and perhaps still–was not on tap anywhere else.
I remember a little girl on roller skates helping us set tables, unobtrusively helping her mom, Erinn, and me prep for the evening crowd. She was about the age my son is now–maybe 6. We never lost touch over the years, and I watched her grow into a teen soccer star, an all around brilliant student–she graduated with a degree in accounting from UA–and she’s in her second year of UA law school. Oh, and she’s the daughter of the owner. Who’s name is not Zachary, but we’ll get to that later.
Yes, it was messy. Yes, there was a long wait for pizza. Yes, the service was sometimes slow or confusing.
I have a lot of insight to all these “issues”. As for the latter, Zachary’s is the only place I’ve worked where one person seated customers (there was nearly always a waiting list to maintain as well), took their orders, poured and served drinks (including beer) served food, and bussed. On a busy night, two or three people could barely keep up.
Messy–well, yeah. There wasn’t much money for repairs, and certainly not enough to hire outside help. As far as the wait for pizza–those things took a lot of time to bake, and were made to order, and that’s that
I’m sure there was room for improvement–isn’t there always? Many of the employees suggested that the owner raise the prices on the pizza and beer. We thought he undercharged. The pizzas were huge and they could be made smaller. As a waitress, it was difficult to convince a group of 3 or 4 that a small was likely enough food–most people can eat only one slice, maybe two. A six-slice small pizza would rarely be finished by a small group.
More about the owner, who’s name is in fact Dave (his adult son is named Zachary). He is hardworking, stubborn, highly intelligent, frustrating at times, and possesses great integrity. He and I fought quite a bit over the years I was there, but I still have much respect for him. By all accounts he has always been an amazing father to Jessica. I remember him leaving to take her to soccer practice, returning to work, leaving again to pick her up. He was her primary caretaker, and did a fabulous job.
Here he is last week, in typical Dave attire, hacksaw in hand. No idea what he was trying to fix, but there was always something.
And now for more faces from Zachary’s, taken over the last couple of weeks.
Elisa, a waitress, UA student, and Jessica’s best friend:
Christy, who was already a seasoned Zachary’s waitress when I started and worked there till the very end–yesterday. Her son was also kindergarten age when I started there, and he’s now a man. Christy is loyal, hardworking, and is an iconic face of Zachary’s:
And The Other Julie, smart and beautiful and generally fabulous and the mother of three little kids:
This is the table in the back where David Hileman would sit after his shift, drinking a beer and smoking. David died tragically last year, and there was a small, homespun memorial inside Zachary’s, with a PowerPoint of David’s artwork. Most of the attendees knew him from work, reminding me once again that Zachary’s served as a family for many of us at different times.
And it’s always hard to say goodbye to family.