Sometimes, a place is more than just a place when its character is showcased. With a booming history and timeless quirks, the Hackberry General Store of Hackberry, Ariz., keeps the spirit of Route 66 alive and well and just up the road from Lake Havasu City.
To reach this desert treasure, head to north on State Route 95 to Interstate 40. Follow the signs to Route 66, and hit the dusty trail for about 20 minutes; the store will be on the left. Park the car out front and make the hardest decision of the trip: Where to start?
Since opening in 1935, the property has morphed from gas station to local grocery store, railroad stop, bus stop, and even a place to grab a drink and play some pool. Through multiple owners and three expansions, the Hackberry General Store is now part- store, part-living Route 66 history.
Around 1980, the store closed to locals only when the Interstate 40 was thriving and folks were not traveling on the scenic route.
In the early ‘90s, Bob Waldmire, grassroots artist, came to the ghost town of Hackberry and relished in the hidden glory of the General Store. He brought his vision to the store and got the Hackberry back on its feet.
Waldmire’s VW bus may or may not have been a prototype for a “hippie” bus in a particular kids’ movie about “cars” in the same area.
Waldmire eventually sold his beloved store to John and Kerry Pritchard in the late ‘90s. Visitors were greeted with Rudy the rescue dog, a couple of friendly donkeys, and John Pritchard’s smoking red 1957 Corvette. In 2006, the Pritchards were ready for a new chapter and handed over the storefront to then-employee, now-owner Amy Franklin.
“I asked him if he would sell and he replied, ‘Absolutely’ and we shook hands that day.” remembers Franklin, “Losing the store would be like taking the Golden Gate Bridge out of San Francisco.”
Now, the Hackberry is thriving with International visitors who relish in the teeming quirks the Hackberry offers.
The area surrounding the store is scattered with vintage cars, historic structures and hidden gems in every nook and cranny. View a car garage with some permanent employees, a music hall with flag display, a stone hut, and remnants of buildings old as Route 66 itself. Visitors can find the famed Burma Shave signs hiding around the Hackberry area.
“Folks can come and discover the beautiful desert and history of Route 66,” explains current owner, Amy Franklin.
Head inside to be surrounded by ceilings covered in license plates, shelves of trinkets and pictures that give a glimpse to the immense collection of memorabilia of the good people and places when Route 66 was alive and well.
The Pritchards brought their lifetime collection of ‘66 memorabilia to remain eternal in the store. Visitors are encouraged to sign a lucky dollar and hang it on the wall of traveling currency and mark with a pin on the world map to show the Hackberry some worldwide love. When homeward bound, make sure to grab an ice cold “Route” Beer for the road.
The Hackberry General Store is only one hour and 30 minutes from Lake Havasu City, and well worth the trip. The eclectic collection of memorabilia, cars and structures of the golden years, and the smiling faces keep the spirit of Route 66 eternal.
This historic icon is one that should not be missed. Happy Trails!
Feature Photo: Owner Amy Franklin holds a Route 66 sign in the Hackberry General Store.
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