Sunday, January 21, 2007

Firehouse Farewell

Today (Sunday, January 21, 2997) is the Firehouse Restaurant’s last day of doing business in Mountainair. Nancy asked me to put out the word and, on her and Rick’s behalf, to thank all the Firehouse patrons for having shared the experience with them For anyone either newly arrived, extremely forgetful, reading this from elsewhere, or who might have been living under a rock, here are a few words memorializing the Firehouse.

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Firehouse, pre-facelift

The Firehouse, owned by Rick and Nancy Townson and run by Rick (although one often saw Nancy at work in the kitchen after wrapping up a long hair day at Hair Enchantment) is the most recent in a handful of eateries at the same location next to Hair Enchantment behind the Laundrymat, both Mountainair institutions and Townson businesses. The restaurant has been popular with long term locals, newcomers, and visitors. Between Shaffer restaurants, it picked up hotel business. The menu offered more variety than other local restaurants. Rick and Nancy are, without a doubt, the most welcoming and congenial of restaurant hosts.

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Nancy in the Firehouse kitchen

Most recently the restaurant received a most remarkable series of facelifts. First came Wray and Shirley Simmon’s mural (sponsored by MMAC), which will ever be associated with the Townsons and their Broadway / Ripley complex. The mural did not include the Firehouse but did run right up to the restaurant, tying it in thematically and incorporating the restaurant into the “bigger picture.”

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Then the restaurant itself took on a much brighter aspect when Ruth Ballen took it as her annual beautification project and, with the help of Jan and Cindy, transformed the longstanding natural wood color to, what else, “fire engine red.”

All in all, the Firehouse’s success and continuation seemed assured.

Such was not to be. After thoughtful consideration and weighing all factors, Rick and Nancy made the hard decision to close the Firehouse. It and their memorable tour as restauranteurs will be sorely missed.

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Firehouse Dining Room

Before the Firehouse was the Brickhouse, serving pizza and a limited selection of other Italian, in the same location, same kitchen arrangement, but with décor mildly evocative of more eastern motifs – drums, belly dancing sessions (lessons offered during slow periods). Before that, there was another pizza place, accounting for the special oven. Does another pizzeria slink towards Mountainair waiting to be born?

The Firehouse closing is not unique in town annals and reminds us that running a restaurant is more work for less return than most realize. Elves do not come in the night to clean and do prep for the next day. To succeed, restaurants must open nights, on week-ends, even for holidays, although such is rarely the case in Mountainair. The fate of one restaurant belongs to larger patterns in Mountainair dining, the comings and goings of restaurants as part of the town gestalt.

More about that another time - I never thought I'd be doing a Mountainair food column ...

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Nancy and Rick at the Firehouse

Until then farewell Firehouse... fare thee well Rick and Nancy... you'll still be here but we'll surely miss visiting with you over lunch or dinner at the Firehouse


  1. My husband and i are considering moving to Mountainair. We visited in November and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the Firehouse and a lovely night at the Schaffer. Places like Mountainair and its home-grown businesses are exactly what we're looking for in a new home. Best of luck to the Firehouse owners...

  2. joanbacabiloxi@aol.com2/09/2007 1:53 PM

    I am Nancy and Rick's Aunt who lives in Biloxi, Ms. I too hate to see the restaurant closing before I could ever get out there to see it. They both are wonderful people who has a great family behind whatever endeavor they undertake. Both have wonderful spirit and generous hearts so whatever life has in store for them will be great I am sure. Love ya'll Joan Clegg-Baca


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