SHOW LOW — Four businesses housed in one location, The House Yard Bar & Eatery prides itself in being the place where all the locals can feel at home, both indoor and outdoor.
The House has been a busy place for 7½ years of being a restaurant, catering enterprise, ice cream shop and delivery service.
The Yard morphs into lawn games, swings sway, while others relax in an old ski lift chair and a few feet away people strike up interesting conversations with strangers and friends alike. The freshly updated outdoor kitchen jumps alive with the work of satisfying guests’ grumbling tummies and live bands often fill the air with lively music.
Impressive, to say the least, and yet there is so much more in the works, since the city of Show Low recently approved the restaurant’s community plan to expand outdoor bistro-styled dining up to the sidewalk so as to create not only more dining space but also more opportunity to blend the House into the downtown streets and beyond.
Success doesn’t just happen; it takes great relationships, hard work, inspiration and determination and owners Matthew McGowen and Chris Corbin have it in spades.
Corbin grew up in the White Mountains, moved away, joined the Navy, built a culinary career yet found himself drawn back home. Once settled, he and his wife found there was really no place the locals could gather to casually hang out with family and friends as he had always imagined.
McGowen, on the other hand, is originally from Nebraska and lived and worked all over the country, met his wife, got married and one day she fatefully decided on a trip to the White Mountains, and that was all it took.
They both brighten as they describe how much they enjoyed working together several years ago in the Valley, but life happened and the two eventually drifted their separate ways. They happened to meet again at Sunrise Resort several years later, where Corbin was working and McGowen was vacationing. The two began chatting and an idea was born.
They put their decades of combined experience to work to create a place where people want to be. “Our whole culture and philosophy here is that everyone here needs to focus on each other and focus on the needs of your teammates and the end result is a happy guest,” said McGowen.
“We’ve all walked into a nameless restaurant and have gotten that fake service smile, and we don’t want that to ever happen here,” said Corbin. “We hear all the time, ‘Oh, your staff is so friendly,’ but it is not us. It is them — they are genuinely happy while they are here. We hire based on attitude. We can teach the skills, but we cannot teach a great attitude.”
It is all about relationships, not the dollars. Take care of the relationships and the dollars will take care of themselves, they said.
Corbin and McGowen are especially grateful to the entire community for going above and beyond to support them during last year’s shutdown and the subsequent recovery process.
“We are beyond blessed, I think, compared to anyone in Arizona to have the loyal customers and the consistent core staff we do,” said Corbin. “Most of our staff has been here five years or more and we are a tight-knit family.”
One reason they are so close is likely because of the above-and-beyond support they give their staff, such as providing scholarships to attend Northland Pioneer College. Also, they ask staff what hours they want to work and schedule accordingly.
“Call us selfish, but we want our staff to be happy and we want them to stay on the mountain, so we do this,” said McGowen.
“One thing most people don’t know is we are always open because the staff wants it that way. We are only closed three days a year, ever,” said Corbin, referring to Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
“That requires a huge support team you can count on, from electrical to plumbing, to suppliers, to family, to staff. We are amazingly blessed with local support. We couldn’t have done it without it, and the city of Show Low has been equally amazing through the years, but especially the last year and a half,” said McGowen.
When something they have planned cannot be done, city officials always offer a plausible alternative.
“We pour everything into this and it pays off in blessings,” said Corbin. “All of this is about family. All of it.”
Speaking of family, both spoke of each other’s family as proudly as if they were their own. It is all about building relationships at the House.
The House is located just off of White Mountain Road in downtown Show Low at 1191 E. Hall St.