John Otis and his partner, Michael Stainken, are hoping they have an offer that local business owners can’t refuse: a chance to grow and expand their businesses in Snowflake.

The pair are looking to turn seven of the twenty-seven-and-a-quarter acres of land they own in Snowflake into a mixed use property consisting of commercial and retail space — and they are looking for local retailers and business owners who’d like to set up shop there.

“We got with city management and they were very helpful,” Otis said. “They have a solid plan for what Snowflake needs to be a vibrant and full-service community. To generate the monies to provide those services, they have a solid idea for what we need, what should be there. And they’re real keen to see more retail.”

The property in question, known to locals as Bellybutton, is located on Main Street, directly across the highway from Our Lady of the Snow Catholic Church in Snowflake.

“We purchased the property 14 years ago with the plan to do a Walmart or a Costco in there,” Otis said. “We were unsuccessful over the last 14 years to lure a big box there, or a Fry’s, or a Safeway. The story we got was that we didn’t have a sufficient number of people collecting mail seven days a week in the area to support another venue like Walmart.”

So the pair began looking at other uses for the property, and realized that a shopping center would go handily with the vision Snowflake planning and zoning authorities have for growing the city.

“It became clear to us that we shouldn’t go after just the commercial industries — engineering firms, law firms, etc. — because they don’t generate tax revenue for the city,” Otis said. “It’s the retail industry. And we’re going to exhaust our energies on the retail industry.”

A resident of Shumway, Otis moved to the area in September 1996, the same month and year that Stainken moved to Linden.

A developer and real estate entitlement administrator, Otis has a lot of experience developing shopping centers. He’s done that successfully for 25 years. Stainken is a real estate broker, and the two have known each other for many years.

“I did a few shopping centers in Maricopa County,” Otis said, “and have developed shopping centers in other places as well. Our retail industries serve the conveniences of a lot of people who don’t even live in town, so we decided to take about seven acres of frontage off the property and reach out to local merchants. We decided that the best thing we can do is help local retailers grow.”

In addition to the retail/commercial plans they have for the property — which they are calling Bellybutton Center, LLC “because locals know where that is” — Otis and Stainken hope to use the other twenty-some acres to develop a park for recreational vehicles.

“The RV industry is exploding for obvious reasons,” Otis said. “There are some 15,000 RV parks from east to west (in the United States), but only about 1,000 to 1,200 can really accommodate a Class-A RV. You have to have a big park for that type of vehicle. People do not want a tree branch on their motorhome when they pull in. They don’t want to have to back it up. They want to be able to pull in and pull out.”

For that reason, Otis and Stainken are looking to develop an 81-space “pull-in and pull-out” RV park plan, with a clubhouse that will feature private showers, a laundry center, and a facility where people will be able to get a continental breakfast “something like a Holiday Inn Express,” he said, adding that he didn’t want to “drop names, but we’re going to get a top dog coffee shop in there as well.”

Otis said he thinks the RV park will drive the seven acres of retail/commercial “with a clientele poised to go out and embrace those things.”

Snowflake is a good “stop spot” for people who are traveling, he said, and a great location for people looking to take day trips to see some of the sights in northern Arizona, including Meteor Crater, Walnut Canyon, Flagstaff — even the Grand Canyon.

“I’ve made those three-stop day trips with family, “ Otis said, “and you can be back in Snowflake by dinner time.”

Otis said he and Stainken want to hear from local businesses — commercial and retail — who would be interested in learning more about the opportunities the development at Bellybutton Center could provide for them.

“If they have a reasonable business plan and a reasonable background in their industry so we know they have a reasonable chance of being successful, we want to talk to them,” he said.

The duo are working with Doug Brimhall as their civil engineer, and Elena Smith as the site design planner.

“We can build to suit; we have no debt on any property,” Otis said. “The money has been set aside in a special account, so it’s there to write checks on right now. If everything goes the way I’m hoping, we’re looking to launch this next year.”

The two go back to the Snowflake planning commission on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, to get the go-ahead to proceed with the project.

Interested businesspeople and retailers who would like to discuss options they might have in Bellybutton Center can email John Otis at, or phone him at 480-800-7258. Michael Stainken can be reached at 602-361-1427.

“We believe there’s something there,” Otis said. “It’s an ‘If you build it, they will come’ kind of thing. I have a strong feeling about the land, and approach it the same way you’d treat your favorite dog. This is what we want to do with the land, and it will be good for the land.”

Becky Knapp is a lifelong journalist who has worked at newspapers in Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Florida. Reach the reporter at

(4) comments

Bob Smith

Why is this good news? The last vestige of our farming and ranching heritage should remain exactly what it is today: a beautiful meadow grazed by horses and cattle providing a break in the congestion and non-stop stucco strip malls that make up our community. Once it's gone we can never get it back!


Then you should buy it from them and pay the taxes year after year with no return on your investment.


Unlike the City of Show Low whom purchased the Meadow along Hy 260 to Pinetop. I am glad that the city manager back in the 90s had the foresight to do this. So today Show Low has the open meadow, community fishing area, hiking trail as well. Better go and take photos of Belly Button before is gets built.


Developers take your money and your citified ideas elsewhere!!! If we wanted to live in a city we would be. We love the country life and hate the thought of you changing it!!! GO AWAY!!!

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