Since the 1940’s there has been a presence of some type of general store in the Summerhaven area. The current location of the Mt. Lemmon General Store & Gift Shop has been in operation since May of 1988. Prior to that, there was a very small general store located in The Vine, later to be called the Alpine Lodge. In 1988 Roy Julian and Susan Garcia opened and operated the Kimball Springs Gift Shop which had a general store and gift shop included within the building.
On January 17, 2000 Phil & Carol Mack purchased the property and began renovations to the building. The opening of the Mt. Lemmon General Store & Gift Shop was on April 1, 2000 at 10AM. Phil & Carol quickly learned that fudge and gifts were going to be a big part of the store’s success.
The very first customer through the door asked for fudge and the second was looking for the gift shop. Within 7 days both of these categories were operating within the walls of the new establishment and continue to be a big draw today. Things went pretty smoothly until June 19, 2003 when the Aspen Fire devoured Summerhaven and the store. By this time Phil had the contract to transport the US Mail up and down the mountain daily. Jack Samples was a driver that had been hired to drive the US Mail up the mountain and work in the gift shop while he waited for 3 PM to transport the mail back down to the Cherrybelle Post Office.
Phil & Carol Mack made an appointment to see an architect and began drawing plans as quickly as possible. The Mt. Lemmon General Store & Gift Shop re-opened one year to the day after burning down. The old and new store look nothing alike. The rebuild has a log cabin look and feel. 60 foot trusses were brought in from Montana and the construction crew, Cozzetti Construction, worked 6 days a week to get the store completed and re-opened with the year time frame they had been given. June 19, 2004, re-opening day, was a festive occasion. There was a very large crowd waiting at 10 AM to patronize the General Store & Gift Shop, seems most people were waiting to get fudge. We thought we had made enough fudge for almost a week. As it turned out, we barely had enough for the day. We were the first of 3 businesses to rebuild & reopen.
The store has been going strong since 2004. In 2018, Phil and Carol, decided to retire and handed the keys over to Grey and Teri Carpenter. The Carpenters have embraced all the things the make the store a fixture on Mt. Lemmon – and they made sure to keep Leanne Mack on the team.
The General Store has always had a large following of fudge lovers but it seems to grow every year. In 2009 we were named the Best Fudge in Tucson by Tucson Magazine. In 2006 Arizona Highways Television did a story about our fudge and this show brought may visitors up the mountain to check out this 9,157 foot destination and to try the fudge.
It is amazing how many people in the Phoenix area have never heard of Mt. Lemmon. Many can even get here quicker than they can get to the White Mountains. The local shops and restaurants are open year round. Anytime after Halloween we can expect snow and it may continue to snow into April. If your planning a trip to Mt. Lemmon, please call and check the Road Condition Hotline at 520-351-3351 before you come.
In 2003 Carol Mack had been training with the Mt Lemmon Fire District to become a volunteer firefighter since only a year earlier, the Bullock Fire threatened the village of Summerhaven. At 3:01 PM on June 17, 003 the fire tones went out with a report of a fire just off of the Aspen Trail near Marshall Peak. By approximately 6 PM that day, an order to evacuate the village and mountain was given. A door to door sweep was made in Summerhaven and everyone was told to take what they could and leave the area within 2 hours. 2 days later the village of Summerhaven had burnt to the ground. All that remained the town was the Mt. Lemmon Café, adjoining US Post Office and Mt. Lemmon Realty. The flames of the Aspen Fire had consumed 330 cabins out of about 500 on the mountain.
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