A new kind of court - Tucson Local Media: Features

A new kind of court

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Posted: Friday, August 3, 2012 1:45 pm | Updated: 2:13 pm, Thu Sep 6, 2012.

The average visitor to Monterey Court will likely take notice of the newly renovated café and bar, its 12 diverse artisan shops and galleries, its live music and events, and its menu of tasty American food.

What some may not be aware of is the extensive history of Monterey Court that led it to what it currently is under new owners and married couple, Greg Haver and Kelly McLear.

In 1938, Monterey Court opened as one of the first motels along what is now Miracle Mile Road under owners Mike and Marge Opel. The motel thrived as the area grew into a tourism area then, and was compared to by some as a miniature Las Vegas.

But as the highway system of Interstate 10 came to Tucson, the area of Miracle Mile fell into decline as prostitution and drugs found their way onto what was then known as Casa Grande Highway.

The decline tarnished the area so much that a portion of the Miracle Mile strip was renamed to Oracle Road to allow businesses to veer from the unsavory reputation that had plagued the area.  

The Opels sold the business in the 1980s, and Monterey Court was resold nine times after that until January 2011, when Haver and McLear bought the business with a new vision.

In the last year and a half, the former motel lobby has been transformed into the café/bar, and the former motel rooms have been renovated into 12 small art businesses.  

“I needed a project, and I’m always interested in historical buildings, and now, here we are,” said Haver, a contractor by trade. “When I purchased it, I didn’t really have this vision in mind. I let it stew for a while, and about two months after I purchased it, I came up with this idea.

For Haver and McLear, business has been steadily increasing as their business serves as one of many to restore the area’s reputation.

“Unfortunately the reputation remains even though the area is not like it used to be,” said Haver. “The area has had quite a transformation. Everything from the police station going in at the end of the block along with the crime lab, to the Ghost Ranch being fully remodeled, to Wayward Winds being remodeled, and the bowling alley has gotten a million-dollar upgrade. Things have been happening, and we no longer have the drugs and prostitution that created that reputation. We’re glad we are part of that transformation.”

As word has reached the public ear, Monterey Court is becoming an increasingly popular place for dining, live music, and shopping. McLear said Monterey Court is unlike most businesses because of the number of services it offers in one location.

“Not only can people come in and listen to music, shop, and eat, but they can host events as well,” said McLear. “We have a number of private events that take place in the courtyard and the café, so we are able to cater, and we have a private dining area as well. We have a place for group meetings as well, and we really are trying to utilize the outdoor space for community events.”

In addition to the 12 artisan shops and galleries, day traders often rent space at Monterey Court to offer an even wider array of goods for shoppers. From jewelry to clothing to artwork, the area is a haven for the craft-lover, who could certainly browse for hours without running into the same thing twice.

“They really have everything you could think of,” said McLear.

Every evening between Wednesday and Saturday, guests are able to listen to a variety of live music as they shop; anything from bluegrass to classical to jazz.

The bar features an extensive wine selection, as well as eight microbrews on tap, and the café features a wide variety appetizers, salads, sandwiches, entrees, and sides.

Despite its modern business approach, Monterey Court still clings to its historical roots, with original photographs to be found throughout the café, along with much of its original structure and original 1938 “Monterey Court” neon sign in front of the building.

“This isn’t something a lot of people know about Monterey Court,” said McLear. “We’re happy to be a part of that history.”

The café/bar is open daily except for Monday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

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