On nearly any weekend morning, seating is at a premium at the bustling 5 Points Market and Restaurant. It is proof that Tucsonans are buying what owners Brian Haskins and Jasper Ludwig are selling – a focus on foods and ingredients sourced from local farmers. The restaurant and small grocery, which is named for the intersection on which it sits, has been an important part of the economic and physical revitalization of the Five Points area just south of Downtown Tucson. While there may be some debate as to the exact moment the neighborhood began to rally, the renaissance has been almost a decade in the making now. The opening of 5 Points Market & Restaurant in 2014, a breakfast and lunch hot spot for those looking for a more neighborhood vibe than Tucson’s downtown revitalization offers, has been another important step to putting the Five Points area proverbially back on the map.
5 Points Market & Restaurant has the distinction of being mentioned by New York Times travel writer, Guy Trebay, as his “favorite hipster brunch spot” and being dubbed by Tucson Weekly reviewers as “what a modern neighborhood joint should be.” That’s high praise and proof that Brian and Jasper’s instincts about what Tucson wanted and needed from a local eatery were right. Reasonably priced breakfast fare that includes huevos rancheros and a large “Make Your Own Breakfast” section at the bottom of the menu with umpteen choices of fresh, locally sourced food, has people literally lining up to eat there. But things haven’t always been easy.
The duo got their start in the restaurant business after some struggles during the recent recession. Brian and Jasper moved from Olympia, Washington and settled in Tucson in 2010 but job opportunities were sparse for both at the time. They had worked with at-risk youth in the northwest, but Brian and Jasper turned to their experience working in restaurants in high school and college when they couldn’t find jobs in the nonprofit sector. He and Jasper had an existing and growing interest in food politics and “food paths” (how and how far foods travel from the places they are produced to the people who eat them). Now, they have leveraged their interest and knowledge about the food distribution networks into a successful business that is working to become a model for what can be done within vibrant partnerships between restaurants and local growers. Along the way, these dynamic entrepreneurs have received some help, including some recent financing that allowed Brian and Jasper to buy out a silent partner. “It’s important that we own the business ourselves because of the direction we want to go,” Brian said. “That’s the best part – it’s ours.” He emphasizes the last two words as his face breaks into a smile.
With a loan from local nonprofit lender, Community Investment Corporation, Brian and Jasper were able to secure full ownership of the business, as well as make kitchen floor repairs and to purchase a commercial food processor in preparation to expand the restaurant’s hours and serve a third meal, dinner.
Brian describes how banks, despite the restaurant’s early success, weren’t willing to loan to them and how alternative lenders who might have been interested in their business were charging interest rates far beyond what they could afford. Additionally, because of some contractual obligations, Brian and Jasper needed their loan on a short timeline that other lenders couldn’t meet. “Most importantly, Community Investment Corporation was willing to make the loan,” Brian said. “They also offered a lower interest rate in a timeframe that other SBA (Small Business Administration) lenders couldn’t meet and honestly, their staff was nice and helpful.”
For CIC Executive Director, Danny Knee, the loan was a no-brainer. “Brian and Jasper are perfect examples of why we never underestimate the dreams of our borrowers or the economic impact of their efforts,” says Knee echoing the organization’s vision statement. “They are having a bigger impact on our local economy than just running a successful business. They are impacting the way food travels from farm to table and they are keeping money in the region.” In fact, all of their beef and pork comes from local ranches including the University of Arizona’s, their eggs come from Wilcox, and over 50% of their produce comes from local farmers.
There are a lot of local efforts around food paths including Farm to Table programs. Entrepreneurs like Brian and Jasper are the unsung heroes of our local economies. Their drive to source food locally has benefits well beyond their own bottom line. The direct economic impact on regional economies from spending on locally sourced food is well researched. For example, in one study it was estimated that if North Carolina residents spent just 10% of their food dollars (roughly $1.05/day), approximately $3.5 billion would be available in the local economy every year. Whether or not you believe the exactitude of the much ballyhooed (and occasionally debated) statistic that produce travels an average of somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 miles from farm to plate, there is little doubt that locally sourcing food for restaurants and markets benefits local farmers, local economies, local consumers, and the environment.
“We focus on where our food comes from and we pride ourselves on the care we take in preparing it,” says Brian. “And providing steady income to local farmers is one of the most important things I can think of.” Brian and Jasper also support their community by paying their employees well and promoting from within, practices which have led to low staff turnover.
Future plans include obtaining a liquor license so they can sell alcohol with meals and packaged beer and wine from their grocery. As always, they’ll be looking for the local angle and trying to stock beers from local breweries.
Success had bred growth and expansion including opening a farmers market at Cesar Chavez Park, a small pocket park next to the bricks and mortar of their restaurant and small grocery. This has allowed farmers to deliver produce to the restaurant and sell to the public in one stop. It has also provided patrons with something to do while they wait for a table, something that happens often during their peak season from November to March. The farmers market is now open every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
5 Points Market & Restaurant is located at 756 S. Stone Ave and is open everyday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.