Vintage Phoenix Q&A: Monica Heizenrader of MacAlpine's
MacAlpine's is it: the last of the vintage soda shops. First opened in 1928, the former Birch's Pharmacy became MacAlpine's Rexall Drugs 10 years later -- a popular pharmacy with a lunch counter and soda fountain. In 1991, Monica Heizenrader bought it and has been running it, with her two daughters and son-in-law, as a diner and antiques shop ever since. Monica stopped slinging vintage hash one recent weekday, just long enough to talk about ghosts, and victory rolls, and the chewing gum of Wayne Newton.
Monica Heizenrader (center) with her two daughters at MacAlpine's.
Robrt Pela: Way back when, lots of famous people hung out at MacAlpine's.
Monica Heizenrader: Oh, yes. Back in the old days, it was a real Who's Who of customers around here. Frank Lloyd Wright used to drive downtown just to eat here. Barry Goldwater was here for lunch a lot. And Wayne Newton.
RP: Not Wayne Newton.
MH: Yes. I heard he was discovered here. I've been told he used to sit at the counter and sing along to the jukebox with his brother. We think his DNA is in the bubblegum stuck under the counter.
RP: Is that why you bought the place? Are you planning to clone Wayne Newton? Because one Wayne Newton appears to be enough.
MH: No! I knew the man who owned MacAlpine's, and I knew it was struggling. Before I had children, I had owned and operated restaurants and really enjoyed that. I came down here and fell in love with the place. I knew they were going to close it, and the plan was they were going to auction off the entire contents on eBay. I couldn't let that happen.
RP: So you bought MacAlpine's to save it. But who eats here now? I mean, do local celebrities still come in for a Chili Size?
MH: No. We do have a lot of attorneys, I suppose because we're downtown and this is where they work. When we first reopened, there would be days where literally every table was seated with lawyers. Now we've got a more diverse customer base -- lots of people from the neighborhood and from all over.
RP: All over where?
MH: Europe! We've had people come in from however many miles away Europe is -- maybe 8,000? -- because one of their friends told them they just had to eat here, or because they saw us on the Internet and made this a stop on their trip to America. Sometimes, people are shopping at our antique store next door and they wander in and discover our diner that way.