By Patty Talahongva
Stepping into the courtyard of The Orchard PHX is like being in the best backyard you can imagine, super sized and super stocked. You have three choices of places to eat, plenty of patios to eat outdoors, a splash pad for the kids and an exclusive patio for the dogs.
The two-acre property at 7100 N. 12th St. was an old citrus farm in the early 1900s; more than a year ago, it was purchased by Ken and Lucia Schnitzer and their partner, Jerry Mansoor. The Schnitzers also own and operate Luci’s Healthy Marketplace at 16th Street and Bethany Home Road.
Mansoor’s family was the founder of Campbell’s Market, which used to be where the current La Grande Orange is located. He also worked as a manager at Marley’s Sports Bar in downtown Phoenix and as an operating partner at Pei Wei Asian Diner before hooking up with the Schnitzers. He now serves as the director of operations and partner of Luci’s Urban Concepts, which encompasses both businesses.
The trio has renovated the site with the aid of local development company Venue Projects but has kept true to the old citrus farm feeling by planting 80 citrus trees on the property. A 30-foot faux wooden water tower marks the site.
Pomelo, which opened on May 5, is the main restaurant and seats 179 people. It offers several small patios for dining al fresco. The menu features contemporary American food, which is also available for catering. In the bar area a few stained glass pieces include red glass ramekins once owned by Lucia’s great grandmother.
The kitchen has a pizza oven imported from Italy. And don’t be afraid to try to the “sharing table.” Who came up with the idea? “I did,” says Lucia. Once they decided to create a community space she started looking into farms, “As I was doing research I came across these farmers who would have someone cater a community table dinner and I thought it was brilliant! You’re sharing a dinner with friends and with strangers, making those connections.”
Parents also can stay connected to their kids as they eat and play outside of Splurge, an ice cream shop that was scheduled to open in early June. Tucked in the west end of the yard, it features a small splash pad where the adults can relax as the kids cool off.
“There really aren’t too many places in central Phoenix to take your kids in the summertime,” says Lucia, adding that kids who get messy can go wash off in the splash pad!
While Spluge will feature ice cream, candy and cookies for the kids, adults 21 and older will have their own shakes and popsicles flavored with liquor. “We wanted to have something special for the adults too,” Lucia points out.
Luci’s at The Orchard, a sister site to Luci’s Healthy Marketplace, is in a 1949 building that was part of the ranch home on the property. Also scheduled to open in early June, it will feature unique gifts, specialty food items and will offer sandwiches, coffee, baked breads.
There’s also a place called “The Filling Station” inside Luci’s. “It is a full-service bar where people can get wine, drinks, cheese and meat boards and a growler station for beer,” explains Lucia. Customers also can get a blanket for a picnic by leaving their ID or credit card with the cashier.
During the cooler months there will be chimeneas spread throughout and people can buy s’mores kits to toast their marshmallows.
An special feature will be the pick-up window on the north side. Order online or phone in an order and it will be ready for you to swing by and pick up without getting out of your car.
If you bring your dog, you’ll have exclusive use of the east patio where pets will be welcomed.
“We want people to linger,” says Lucia. “It’s the whole experience. We are building a place people want to stay a while.”
Ken adds, “We deeply believe in community, family, small businesses and doing business locally. I like making people happy and seeing them enjoy life. The smiles, the family and friends together makes this a satisfying job.”
For the couple who has called North Central Phoenix home for 15 years, this site is the perfect spot for their dream.
“The Orchard PHX is a place for everybody,” Lucia says. “An oasis in the desert. For Ken, Jerry and me, our businesses are built in urban places and always with the community in mind.”
The community also can reserve The Barn, which is a space perfect for private parties that opens up to the courtyard. There won’t be a charge for the space but there will be a food and beverage minimum and a 50-percent deposit.
Mansoor says customers can check each website (Pomelo’s, Luci’s at The Orchard and Spluge) for menus and features and also follow them on Facebook at theorchardphx. “We also plan on having an app to help with the process” of ordering from Luci’s for curbside pickup.”
For more information, visit www.theorchardphx.com.