Tortilla Flat: Local History, Local Vendors

by Jamie Killin

Tortilla Flat, a Western town approximately an hour outside of Phoenix in the Tonto National Forest, has served as a family-friendly destination for generations, providing Arizonans a look at the state’s timeless history. The town itself dates back more than 100 years, established as a stop along the Apache Trail and as a settlement for workers who hand-built the Roosevelt Dam. Over the years, it has withstood fires and floods, and welcomed several notable guests such as President Theodore Roosevelt, Clark Gable, John Wayne and Barbara Streisand.

Today, the town is owned by Katie Ellering and a team of partners who are dedicated to preserving the property and maintaining the town’s Old West feel for another 100 years. The town has already enjoyed several positive changes in the year since Ellering took over as operator, including public-facing updates — such as a revamped saloon menu and fun, photo-worthy design elements to make the property even more popular on social media. However, in her role as caretaker, Ellering has also made less noticeable but equally important upgrades, like installing a new walkway along the town strip and a completely renovating the kitchen. 

Another critical aspect of preparing Tortilla Flat’s future is incorporating more local vendors and art into the property’s mercantile and within the buildings’ design. 

As part of this process, the team has brought in Andrea King as the town’s art curator. King is known for her expertise in finding order in chaos as well as her work as a creative designer and photographer. Her work at Tortilla Flat so far has included repainting worn signs and rearranging the mercantile, with more aesthetic changes planned for the months ahead. 

Local vendors featured in the mercantile include wire-wrapped and clay jewelry by Sam Art, photography by Joanne West, rustic hidden drawer boxes by Things Western as well as lotions and soaps from Organic Crown — to name a few. Many of the mercantile’s new products also put a focus on environmentally conscious products, like the Beekeeper Candles made in antique jars and using unique, reused items.

Photo courtesy of Tortilla Flat

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