The Desert Leaf December 2014 : Page 52

Right Wrong Turn Kerstin Block is president of Buff alo Exchange, a Tucson-based company with retail stores nationwide that buy, sell and trade vintage and used clothing. Kerstin Block We Often Have More Abilities Than We Realize by Kerstin Block as told to Alan M. Petrillo; Photography by Balfour Walker couldn’t convince me, he would ignore me and do what he wanted anyway. In 2001, we bought the property, against my wishes, and started renovating its buildings: a restaurant, a group of little shops, and a large building in the back of the property that had been the mo-torcycle bar. This is what we bought, but we still had to run our retail resale business, the Buff alo Exchange, which we had opened in Tucson in 1974. The west-side property had been split in half, and we fi rst bought the front commercial section. There was a part in the back that was more resi-dential. That became available, about two and a half acres, and Spencer said, “Let’s buy that, too.” So, in 2004 we did. We had no idea what we were going to do with it. But there was a trailer on the property and it caught on fi re one day, so we got an insurance settlement on that. Shortly after we bought the second parcel, Spencer was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. On the commercial property, we renovated everything except the res-taurant—Coyote Pause Café—and be-fore long, people had moved into the shops and started running businesses. I even put in a big consignment store. Spencer wanted us to build a B&B on the back property. I gave in and said okay, and we began that project, too. Spencer was functional for quite a long time, but it was harder for him as the cancer progressed. We still ran Buf-falo Exchange together and were very involved, but he began spending more time out on the property, which was very good for him because it was near where we lived and he didn’t have to drive into town every day. The project work kept him going. But in 2009, Spen-cer died. So, here I was with this property teeming with activity and all kinds of development but not making much money. I had to get it organized and deal with it, which became a good thing for me. I cleaned up the restaurant, fi red the manager and got the place in pretty good shape. All the other stores were rented out to good tenants, and the big consignment store in the back was do-ing well. I set the consignment store up as kind of a Buff alo Exchange for older people, with more mature and West-F orty-fi ve years ago, my husband Spencer got a job as a librarian for the Tohono O’odham high school in Sells. So he wouldn’t have to drive far to get to work, we bought a house on fi ve acres near Kinney and Ajo roads, in a very rural area, and moved to the far west side, outside Tucson. Then, Spencer got fi red from his job. We continued living on the west side of town even though it was kind of a rough area; there were people liv-ing in shacks and chicken coops. Even-tually other not-so-savory elements moved into the area, especially motor-cycle gangs that frequented a bar that became a front for their less-than-legal activities. The bar didn’t have a license so it was shut down, and the owners had to sell the property, which was di-agonally across from ours. Spencer, who was the consummate entrepreneur, said to me, “Let’s buy the property so we can decide what to do with it.” I wasn’t wild about the idea. Ac-tually, I was dead set against buying the property. But Spencer could con-vince me of almost anything, and if he 52 DesertLeaf l December 2014

Right Wrong Turn

Kerstin Block

Kerstin Block We Often Have More Abilities Than We Realize

Forty-five years ago, my husband Spencer got a job as a librarian for the Tohono O’odham high school in Sells. So he wouldn’t have to drive far to get to work, we bought a house on five acres near Kinney and Ajo roads, in a very rural area, and moved to the far west side, outside Tucson.

Then, Spencer got fired from his job.

We continued living on the west side of town even though it was kind of a rough area; there were people living in shacks and chicken coops. Eventually other not-so-savory elements moved into the area, especially motorcycle gangs that frequented a bar that became a front for their less-than-legal activities. The bar didn’t have a license so it was shut down, and the owners had to sell the property, which was diagonally across from ours.

Spencer, who was the consummate entrepreneur, said to me, “Let’s buy the property so we can decide what to do with it.”

I wasn’t wild about the idea. Actually, I was dead set against buying the property. But Spencer could convince me of almost anything, and if he couldn’t convince me, he would ignore me and do what he wanted anyway. In 2001, we bought the property, against my wishes, and started renovating its buildings: a restaurant, a group of little shops, and a large building in the back of the property that had been the motorcycle bar. This is what we bought, but we still had to run our retail resale business, the Buffalo Exchange, which we had opened in Tucson in 1974.

The west-side property had been split in half, and we first bought the front commercial section. There was a part in the back that was more residential. That became available, about two and a half acres, and Spencer said, “Let’s buy that, too.” So, in 2004 we did. We had no idea what we were going to do with it. But there was a trailer on the property and it caught on fire one day, so we got an insurance settlement on that.

Shortly after we bought the second parcel, Spencer was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

On the commercial property, we renovated everything except the restaurant— Coyote Pause Café—and before long, people had moved into the shops and started running businesses. I even put in a big consignment store. Spencer wanted us to build a B&B on the back property. I gave in and said okay, and we began that project, too.

Spencer was functional for quite a long time, but it was harder for him as the cancer progressed. We still ran Buffalo Exchange together and were very involved, but he began spending more time out on the property, which was very good for him because it was near where we lived and he didn’t have to drive into town every day. The project work kept him going. But in 2009, Spencer died.

So, here I was with this property teeming with activity and all kinds of development but not making much money. I had to get it organized and deal with it, which became a good thing for me.

I cleaned up the restaurant, fired the manager and got the place in pretty good shape. All the other stores were rented out to good tenants, and the big consignment store in the back was doing well. I set the consignment store up as kind of a Buffalo Exchange for older people, with more mature and West ern clothing, some Mexican imports, like Talavera, and collectibles, like Bakelite and cookware. I called it Buffalo Trading Post to tie it in with Buffalo Exchange. I opened it in February 2014 and the place got to be popular.

The B&B Spencer and I built on the back property opened in 2010. It is an eco-friendly place that Spencer started, but I had to finish. I had never built anything from scratch, except a cabin on Mount Lemmon after mine burned down. The B&B made me work with architects, designers and contractors, and I had to figure out how to do it and put it all together. Of all the businesses I have at Cat Mountain Station, the Cat Mountain Lodge is the best. It even has a small observatory to view the stars. It has five rooms, and people keep returning. It sells out for the season.

When we bought the west-side property, I thought it was a mistake. The first lesson I learned from this project is that I have more abilities than I thought. Spencer and I were the kind of people who buy something, fix it up and take care of it ourselves. On this project, I learned how to delegate better and work through others to get things done.

I’ve been lucky in pretty much everything I’ve done, and Cat Mountain Station turned out how I wanted. But the purchase was something thrown at me from a completely different angle. I really didn’t want to do it because I thought it would be a real drag. However, it turned out to be something really nice for the neighborhood, and people are glad we turned it around.

The second lesson I learned from this project is that you should get involved with things you really want to do, not have to do, but if you’re thrust into a have to situation, figure out a way to deal with it.

Alan Petrillo is a local freelance writer. Comments for publication should be addressed to letters@desertleaf.com.

Read the full article at http://trendmag2.trendoffset.com/article/Right+Wrong+Turn/1865352/234934/article.html.

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