AJ landmark sold to long-time employee; no changes are expected
One of the Apache Trail’s oldest watering holes, Dirtwater Springs, has recently come under new management, but don’t expect any surprises.
“We are not going to make any big changes,” said Manager Brenda Rozel. “Brenda Barnum, the new owner, has been here as long as I have—14 years or so—and we like it the way it is.”
Dick Parks sold the restaurant and bar to Ms. Barnum last month, passing the torch to someone he knew would keep it burning.
Along with his wife Elaine, Dick decided to retire after 35 years of running Dirtwater, sell his home in Gold Canyon and move closer to their family in the Florence area.
“Dick says he is enjoying the time off, walking more and spending time with family,” said Ms. Rozel. “We just want to let people know that we are going to continue doing things the way Dick would have—he contributed a lot to Apache Junction and gave a lot of people in this town jobs.”
“I think he has employed half the kids in this town at one time or another,” said former server Trish Hoagland. “Everyone I knew worked for Dirtwater and Dick would hire me back every time I needed a job.”
The restaurant stands on the site of the former Apache Junction Inn, which was the scene of a tragic murder in December 1947. Some say the spirit of the victim, Mrs. Fairy Thompson, still haunts the restaurant.
The apparition never seemed to bother Dick Parks. “He’d say: ‘I’m more afraid of some of the regulars,’” recalled Ms. Rozel.
Dirtwater will continue serving locals and visitors from near and far—in this dimension and the next—at 586 Apache Trail. The business hours are 11:00 a.m. to 9 p.m., 7 days a week. Watch for an “under new management” event in the spring.
Top photo: Posing with a photo of previous Dirtwater Springs owners Dick and Elaine Parks, the new team of managers Brenda Rozel, server Cammie Lovaido and owner Brenda Barnum will welcome guests with their familiar faces.