Writer Shannon Severson

Photography by Bryan Black and Lance Headlee

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ince 2009, an eye-catching vintage red truck has enticed Cave Creek’s visitors and locals to turn in and browse Red Truck Trading Company’s broad selection of new and consignment home furnishings and decor.

In 2011, the charming Grotto Café was added to bring even more to the table at this family-owned and operated endeavor.

“Consignment is always fun,” says Louann Robertson, owner of Red Truck Trading Company. “You can always find new pieces. We really try to be different and work hard to create vignettes so people can visualize how the items will look in their homes. We only take things in excellent condition. Both our buyers and sellers are high-end clientele.”

Robertson prides herself on presenting all of her products in organized and attractive ways. There are always new items coming in.

At the time of this writing, there were Zapotec wool rugs, a carved mesquite dining table, a one-of-a-kind midcentury Norwegian desk of solid walnut and a pale gray linen couch that appeared brand new. Many pieces are from vacation homes and are only lightly used.

Red Truck Trading Company’s general manager Antonio Peirce is always accepting new deliveries and re-arranging the store’s treasures.

“We have a lot of international items because of corporate relocations,” Peirce says. “I’ve had teak from Thailand, Antique Persian rugs from Iran. We have options for every room in the house.”

While the business’s 10,000 square feet has always featured about 90% consignment items, Robertson and her son, Curtis Arny, are in escrow to purchase the entire complex, which is also home to Tame Studio Salon and Boutique and Sergio Ladron Art Gallery. At the center of it all, Robertson and Arny are adding an exciting new element: New West Gallery.

“New West is our high-end, contemporary Western look,” Robertson says. “It’s a custom line of furniture and will feature the art of Lance Headlee. It’s going to be a great fit for people who want new furniture and then they can add in items from our consignment collection. The furniture is high quality, the manufacturer’s customer service is first class and the price point is good. You don’t want to be married to a couch.”

Step inside New West Gallery to black walls, copper industrial accents and a 16-foot-wide glass wall that opens up to the outdoors where a paved patio will connect to the restaurant’s outdoor eating area.

The American-made furniture at New West Gallery features contemporary shapes with traditional Western-style accents. For example, track armed sofas are covered in ochre leather with nailhead trim. A pair of Zebra-upholstered swivel chairs are arranged in front of a Headlee painting entitled, “Animal Protection,” with a boldly depicted Bonnie and Clyde pair in a safari setting. The vibe is fun and unexpected.

“Hopefully it will go over well,” Robertson says. “Lance Headlee’s art is a fresh take on Western. His paintings look great in the gallery space. I love how his version of ‘Bonnie’ is a girl wearing chaps and a hat but holding an iPhone and a vintage Louis Vuitton bag. My own home’s style is straight out of Italy, but his pieces fit right in, as they do with any decor.”

Robertson envisions utilizing the space for special events. With the new connected outdoor space and a planned bar area, it will also expand the event capabilities of the popular Grotto Café, which is operated by and co-owned with Arny.

The cafe is part of a pair of buildings originally constructed by the hands of a ceramicist.

Its cement building blocks are inset with sea glass, quartz and accent rocks. The lower consignment area, which once held kilns, has a ceiling of wood batten and columns lined with sculpted ceramic forms. In the cafe itself, windows light the rooms and afford views of the beautifully maintained desert gardens that flow throughout the property.

It feels like a storybook discovery—one that just happens to have really delicious food, drinks, and fun rock-and-roll decor. Robertson’s husband, Mike Seitts is an avid music fan who created the fun vibe that has become the café’s trademark.

“We have developed our menu over time, but I’ve always been passionate about consistency and guest service,” says Arny, whose extensive background with a prominent Southern California restaurant group got him his start in the business.

“We make our own pastries, bake our scones and muffins from scratch and we have a dedicated customer base. I’m really proud of our great reviews and it’s exciting to see how much we have grown over the years.”

The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch, from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days per week.

While it is a popular spot for visiting snowbirds who are known to enjoy a mid-morning Bloody Mary or Mimosa—yes, they have a liquor license—the endearingly mismatched tables and chairs fill up quickly in the hottest days of summer, too. The rough-hewn stone walls just feel cool and refreshing when the day is blisteringly hot outside.

Arny strives to continue the feeling of family with his staff of 23. He has been able to take his background in large restaurant operating systems and successfully apply it on a smaller scale at Grotto Café.

He has hosted some very special events, including the 90th birthday of famed Hollywood and Broadway choreographer Dee Dee Wood—whose credits include “The Sound of Music,” “Mary Poppins” and Michael Jackson’s Super Bowl halftime show.

“Dee Dee was even on the cover of Time Magazine,” Arny says. “She comes in often. Being a part of her celebration was really an honor for us.”

Robertson has a track record of positive community relationships and running successful businesses. She has always landed on her feet, even if it means taking a few calculated risks. She owned her own software development company for 12 years and worked with major corporations all over the country.

When Robertson decided to sell the business and stay closer to home in the Cave Creek/Carefree area, she obtained her real estate license and routinely remodeled, staged and sold homes.

“2009 came and it wasn’t a good time to be a real estate agent,” she says. “I needed to re-invent myself once again. I’m kind of the queen of doing that. Everyone except my dad thought I was crazy to open Red Truck Trading, but I did it anyway.”

Taking that chance has led to great success. The iconic red truck that Robertson bought as a birthday present for Seitts continues to bring in customers new and old, and the future remains bright for this industrious hometown family business. 

Red Truck Trading Company, New West Gallery and The Grotto Café

6501 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek