At the peak of the gold rush, the west was alive with people looking to get rich quick. A La Fonda came to be known as a little place that looks like a restaurant. In Spanish “En una fonda chiquita que parecer restaurante.” these fonditas became more than just restaurants. They were places to find rest and company during lonely times. The services were often paid with gold nuggets newly acquired by these gold seekers. The hospitality offered by these warm refuge dwellings became the inspiration for the place you eat at today.
In 1957, a tired and frustrated Sylvester Garcia approached his brothers about opening a business to become their own bosses. The three brothers, Sylvester, Frank Sr. and Albert borrowed against all their possessions including their furniture and Sylvester’s beloved piano. With the six thousand raised, the first La Fonda was built by the brothers and their father Erminio on Center St. in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Flagstaff, Arizona. Originally built as a house for Frank Sr., the Center St. restaurant held 30 guests.
In 1958, La Fonda became the premiere location in Sunnyside. With the need to expand, a warehouse was chosen on the corner of 2nd St. and 2nd Ave. in Sunnyside. More funding was needed and Sylvester put up his truck and his remaining furniture to secure a loan. This location proved to be ideal, grew quickly and is still in operation today.
The one room warehouse outgrew itself. The brothers’ wives would cook the much needed tamales, tortillas and enchiladas at the Center St. house, then send their children Anita and Julian running to the restaurant for a speedy delivery. In 1969, an expansion was needed and the was upgraded to it’s current size. Shortly after the building’s expansion, other locations were opened. Frank Sr. expanded and opened Kachina Restaurant in Flagstaff. Albert opened Alberto’s in Mesa, Arizona. Sylvester opened another La Fonda in Camp Verde, and Marty (Sylvester’s son) opened La Fonda in Kingman.
In 1985, Sylvester and Marty returned to Flagstaff. The Garcia family’s second generation resumed the family tradition. Julian Garcia opened Ricardo’s in Flagstaff, and Rita Garcia opened El Canario in Tempe. In 1987, Camp Verde La Fonda was bought by Anita (Sylvester’s oldest daughter) and her husband, Rodrigo Martinez. Marty began to operate Flagstaff’s location.
Today the Garcia family traditions of great food, reasonable prices, and family atmosphere are carried on by three branches of family through six separate restaurants. La Casita is owned and operated by Phillip and Anita Garcia in Sierra Vista, Arizona. Kachina Downtown is owned and operated by Frank Garcia Jr., Mark Garica and Barbaraand Randy King.
The Garcia Family third generation continues the tradition to this day. Grandchildren Angie, Mary, Steve, Stephanie, Ruben, Dominic and Brandon are all part of the management team that is carrying on their grandfather’s hard working habits. The Garcia family continues to offer the type of hospitality that has become our La Fonda legacy.