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A border wall could dry up profits for two border town bars

Deborah Grider rings up a customer at her general store in Sasabe. The small bar sits to the left of the counter. (Photograph by Marielle Carrera/Arizona Sonora News Service).

In two quirky border town bars 160 miles apart, the concerns are the same. Will Donald Trump building a wall on the Mexican border hurt their towns? First in Sasabe…

“Cinco pesos?” says Deborah Grider, as she rings up customers in her general store, which lies less than a mile from the Mexican port of entry. Though many travelers come for the general store, there is a hidden gem stashed between the various aisles of laundry detergent and canned foods.

A tiny bar with a small blue and purple door sticks out from the back. A green Christmas wreath adorns the door. “Hill Top Bar” is written on the small sign above the door. It only opens on Saturdays from 1 to 6 p.m. and serves beer for $3 dollars and cocktails for five.

“I have a list of people who tell me to call them when I open the bar,” says Grider, “some drive all the way from Tucson just because they love this bar.”

Grider’s grandfather built many of the houses in and around Sasabe. In 1960, he sold Sasabe TO WHOM? for $500,000 where Grider and her mother, Alice Kaggne, worked in the general store. Grider is a 4th generation of Sasabe. The small town feel and ability to know and be friends with all the town’s residents is ideal for Grider.

The front door of the Hill Top Bar in Sasabe, Ariz. The bar is hidden inside the general store and is open only on Saturday’s. (Photograph by Marielle Carrera/Arizona Sonora News Service).

Mainly hunters come to the bar as they rent cabins around Sasabe and want a drink after a long day in the Arizona heat. Drunk patrons have the optio to rent out a bunker for $25 a night until they are sober to drive.

“I made a cuss jar,” Grider says, laughing, “if someone cusses they have to put a dollar in the jar.” Once enough money is in the jar, it gets donated to charity.

The attempt to build a wall in the middle could slow travel into Mexico or halt it all together. The border crossing in Sasabe is the least traveled upon in Arizona and in the past has been used to traffic drugs or sex slaves.

Grider is not a fan of the wall as it would bring less people to her small store. “The wall is unnecessary, everyone I’ve met has been kind,” says Grider. She is not a fan of the wall as it would bring less people to her small store. “The wall is unnecessary, everyone I’ve met has been kind,” says Grider.

Miles away from small town Sasabe sits the smallest bar in Arizona which is tucked away in Silver King Hotel in Bisbee.

Bisbee is much larger in size compared to Sasabe but the bar serves fewer clientele. This bar offers a variety of liquors but does not serve beer.  The 25-step staircase is not the easiest to get up to.

“Some guys come in and ask if we have beer on tap and I just laugh” said Esther Markko, the manager of the hotel. “How do they expect us to bring a keg up these stairs?”

Esther Markko speaks to a customer in the bar she runs in Bisbee, Ariz. Markko is close with most of the customers that come to the bar. (Photograph by Marielle Carrera/Arizona Sonora News Service).

A set of Christmas lights light up the bar and the most popular drink of the bar turns out to be $2 Jello shots. “There’s always a reason to drink in Bisbee” she says.

Bisbee, though bigger than Sasabe, could also have problems due to the wall. All immigrants are welcome at this bar, but the manager faces the same scare Grider does. “We’d have less of a clientele for sure,” says Markko.

Two other business owners in the town share the concerns.

Kathy Sowden, owner of Finders Keepers in Bisbee, says “the wall won’t happen, I’m not worried.”

Sowden’s optimism is not mirrored in Sasabe by Linda Arzoumanian, the local superintendent. “The San Fernando School is for children from all over, a wall really isn’t necessary,” she said.

Marielle Carrera is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at mariellecarrera@email.arizona.edu

Click here for high-resolution photos.

One Comment

  1. Very nice article. Still supporting Président Trump. Remember, there will be beautiful doors to let the legal immigrants come through, enough of illegal immigration. I may go check out these bars. Go Trump!!!