With Tucson’s continually rising reputation as a food and craft beer hub, some business owners are looking beyond the city and seeking out locations in Oro Valley to start or expand their businesses.
Fini’s Landing, Seis Kitchen, Tucson Tamale, Tap & Bottle, Guadalajara Grill and Street Taco are several Tucson-based businesses that expanded to the Oro Valley area over the past few years. Now, there are fresh players in the field hoping to add some spice in Oro Valley.
“We had more single-family permits last fiscal year than in any time in the last 15 years,” said Dave Perry, president and CEO of the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce. “It’s easier to do business in the winter because there are more people. The hard thing is to do business in the summer. If we increase that year-round residential population, that helps business go a little bit better in the slow times. That is a factor—I can promise you—in [businesses] deciding to locate here.”
Hector and Marnel Martinez are spouses and the co-owners of The Hoppy Vine, a craft beer and wine taproom and bottle shop coming to the Oro Valley Marketplace in May. Hector previously owned Old Pueblo Brew Tours where he would guide groups to various breweries around Tucson. Forced to close the business due to the pandemic, they searched for a vessel in which to start a new business revolving around their enthusiasm for craft beer and wine.
As residents of Oro Valley, Hector and Marnel felt there was a lack of bottle shops in the northern area. After checking out a location available in the Oro Valley Marketplace, they decided it would be the perfect location for a new bottle shop. Thus, The Hoppy Vine was born.
“The point is to produce and have a space where community members from all walks of life can come in to celebrate, unwind or just simply connect with other people,” Hector said.
Marnel currently works as a realtor, and Hector works in outside sales for ADP. Both feel they have flexible enough schedules to balance their work obligations with those of the new taproom.
The Hoppy Vine will have 20 beers and eight wines on tap with non-alcoholic selections available, as well. There will be temperature-controlled coolers for to-go beverages, keeping beer and red and white wines at optimal temperatures. The drinks on tap will be a mix of local, regional, national, and international varieties. They will also offer light snacks and charcuterie boards, but patrons are welcome to bring or order food to the taproom to enjoy a meal there.
“I think the first time we look around and see people drinking and having fun will be the best moment ever,” Marnel said. “This has been one of the riskiest and most stressful things we have ever done. I’m not a big crier, but when we went and saw the ground-breaking and could see the actual work being done, I completely cried. Now that it’s all happening, we just can’t wait for it to be done.”
Josh Bishop is the general manager at The Keg Steakhouse and Bar. He has worked in that position for 10 years but has been with the company for 15 years overall.
In July 2019, Bishop started his own enterprise by opening the Fork & Fire food truck with his brother Jason and their friend Brent. The food truck serves barbecue classics, from pulled pork sandwiches and chili cheese dogs to loaded mac and cheese and smoked beef sausages.
Although they had gained popularity for their barbecue, the Fork & Fire owners noticed a need in Oro Valley for something different from what they were serving. After being approached by an investor, Wildfire Wing Company on Oracle Road got its start this January.
“It grew relatively quickly,” Bishop said. “What started off as a small side project became a full-fledged business as it became more in demand and people started to really enjoy it. We were recently approached by the owner of the building in Oro Valley Marketplace and asked if we’d like to expand our brand and open up a barbecue restaurant.”
The tentative name for Bishop’s second brick-and-mortar location is Fork & Fire Smokehouse and Taproom and will occupy the space previously housing Salted Pig. They’re aiming for their location to combine a smokehouse atmosphere with a backyard barbecue and will open in the middle of March. Sausages, briskets, ribs, pulled pork, burnt ends and chicken will all be smoked in-house and served up on a plate with sides or in a sandwich.
“When you cook, you put your heart, your soul, your effort, and your mind into creating something good,” Bishop said. “When someone appreciates that, I have to imagine it’s something like being an artist when someone loves your art. It’s a really cool, very fulfilling thing to do and, at the same time, you get to nourish people and help people have good times and enjoy themselves. It’s a passion project more than anything else.”
As passion continues to develop in business owners and restaurateurs, Oro Valley has become a growing consideration for them to open new locations. Through assistance by the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce, new business owners like Hector and Marnel Martinez and Josh Bishop feel poised to bring their new concepts to market.
“We try to create an opportunity for people to do business,” Perry said. “If the community is thriving, and we’ve done our small part, restaurants and other businesses will see opportunities here.”