Bodeda Pierce Winery and vineyard

Tell me a little bit about Bodega Pierce and how you got started.

Barbara: Dan and our son Michael acquired their viticulture and enology degrees from Washington State University. They gained experience working for other wineries and vineyards in the US and around the world. We began our wine journey in 2011 on the Willcox bench

What drew you to Willcox?/What makes Willcox a unique location for wine growing/tasting?

Barbara: Bodega Pierce highlights wines made exclusively from the 18 varieties of grapes grown at our family's 80-acre estate vineyard in Willcox, AZ. The wines are designed to express the high desert terroir of the Willcox Bench that we have found to be unsurpassed in producing spectacular world class wines. We aim to provide other Arizona wine drinkers with a consistent product that over-delivers on quality.

What is your favorite thing about wine/wine making?

Barbara: Dan loves working the vineyard, watching the vines and grapes grow and mature. We celebrate with bottling delicious award winning wines

What are you most proud as it relates to your business?

Barbara: We are proud of being a family business. We also are proud of being awarded 2020 Arizona Wine Competition winner for Best White Wine for our 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Double Gold winner of 2017 Graciano, 2018 Petite Sirah and 2019 Sauvignon Blanc

Why should people go wine tasting at Bodega Pierce in Willcox?

Barbara: Bodega Pierce highlights wines made exclusively from the 18 varieties of grapes grown at our family's 80-acre estate vineyard in Willcox, AZ. The wines are designed to express the high desert terroir of the Willcox Bench that we have found to be unsurpassed in producing spectacular world class wines. We aim to provide other Arizona wine drinkers with a consistent product that over-delivers on quality.

(602) 320-1722

Lee's Pecans 

What inspired you to start Lee's Pecans?

Paul: We wanted a pretty place to live, and we decided to plant some trees for our retirement hobby.

Jackie: We started talking about this shortly after we met. We talked about different types of production - whether it would be fruits, nuts, or something else and we just decided that pecans would be the least demanding to produce. They're more forgiving when it comes to the weather and we don't have to catch the nuts when we shake; we shake them to the ground. Other nut trees have to be protected from freezing, but our trees can hold up pretty well during the extreme weather conditions.

 Three or four months after meeting each other, we planted the first trees. I was living in San Diego county and Paul invited me to Willcox a couple of months before we got married - I think to see if I could work in the dirt! We spent the weekend planting trees. He took a city girl and thought maybe she might make it on the farm . . . I must have passed the test, that was 39 years ago.

The first four trees we named Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. As the trees grew and needed more sunlight, we thinned the orchard and transplanted them - Mathew and Luke are still there. After starting with 500 trees, we now have a total of only 220. We had acquired the adjacent property and we relocated some of the trees to there. Other trees were transplanted to many locations for miles around where they are flourishing today.


Why did you choose Willcox for pecan growing?

Paul: The weather and soil makes Willcox unique for pecan growing as well as the market for pecans. I moved here about 56 years ago before I started the orchard. I had farm supply stores and just really loved the area, such nice people. I wouldn't leave here - not even for the end of the world. Willcox for life!

Jackie: And Paul always did a little farming on the side - even when he had the business, so he was a natural. When he retired, he said I definitely want to have something to keep me busy. His love for farming went in the direction of pecan farming and we never looked back.


So why do you think people should love pecans?

Jackie: People should love pecans because they have very good nutrition. People rave about their health benefits; they're high in antioxidants and contains the great oils that we should have, all of the pluses are there for your health. There are no negatives about them - other than you might become addicted to pecans! And the taste is wonderful.

Paul: The big reward is people having fresh pecans and to see how they express that they didn't care for pecans until they tasted ours. Everyone raves about the freshness and the great taste of our pecans.


What are you most proud of as relating to your business?

Paul: We are proud of so many things. Everything. We are living our dream. I mean, what else could we want? And farming just keeps me healthy and fit.

Jackie: My favorite part is being able to meet the people who come and visit our farm. We have met people from all over the world and the reward is what they share about their lives. When they want to ask questions and learn about the pecans it’s a big reward. It keeps us both very busy and very healthy. We're not sitting around wondering what to do. We don't post hours on our website because we never know when people are going to want to come by. I always encourage people to text or call to let me know when they are coming so that we can be available. I'd hate to have people come down from Phoenix or when they are passing through, and they start looking online to locate us and we’re not here. We are happy to have a wonderful, healthy place to live that just puts off good feelings. People will come here and comment on the peacefulness of being in the orchard.

We are recognized by the Chamber of Commerce and the people of Willcox and that's all the recognition we need. I want to thank all of the friends and wonderful acquaintances that we have made from all over that have continued to praise our pecans and that have shared them with others to promote Lee’s Pecan Farm. They have helped us to grow into the terrific business that we are today!


Why should people visit Lee's Pecans?

Jackie: Visiting Lee's Pecans give people the opportunity to obtain the most wonderful tasting and nourishing pecans. Everyone enjoys learning about the process that’s involved with creating and producing them. Information and a tour are available when you visit. Folks tell us that it’s a beautiful and peaceful place for everyone to experience.

(520) 404-3335

Encore Dance Academy

What inspired the creation of Encore Dance Academy?

Amy: In 1966, the studio was started by Betty Worley and then in 1980 her daughter Dina Ellis took over. She was my dance teacher. Then Dina sold it to Katie Hill in 2003 and I was her instructor from then until I bought the business in 2017. Betty was from California; she was a professional dancer. She came here in 1966 and owned a chain of dance studios, one here, one in Morenci, and maybe 3 or 4 others elsewhere. Her and her family had a farm out in Kansas Settlement and she travelled to each dance studio and taught there. So, when people ask me why dance – because I was just 3 years old when I started - I asked my mom, "what made you want to put me in dance?" And she said, "well ever since you were walking you liked it." And I’d go with my grandparents to get my older cousin from her dance class and I couldn’t sit still, and I kept asking "when is it my turn? So that’s how I got started in dance.

Why did you come to Willcox and stayed through the years?

Amy: Willcox is my hometown, I was born and raised here and my family has deep roots. My great grandfathers were some of the first foreman on the Sierra Bonita Ranch. So we have a long history on my side of the family. I married my high school sweetheart. So it's been a place of opportunity for us. We moved away just for a short while and then we came back because we missed the simplicity and quiet atmosphere. We're raising our we've had great opportunities here.

Can you speak to the relationship between the simplicity of a quiet town and the business?

Amy: What makes its nice is in the city a lot of students wouldn't be able to do dance based on the economy. Dancing in the city costs a lot of money, so it's nice because out here we have something that gives everyone the opportunity to take classes. Though it's hard because we're a recreational studio and most of the time in the city it's not recreational, you have only your serious dancers that take 8 hours of dance a week. But it's nice that we’re able to do that here.


What kinds of services are you offering right now?

Amy: We have classes for kids as young as 2 and a half. There's tumbling classes for the kids who are about 3 years old and we do it based on primary, intermediate, advanced levels. We also have an adult tap class right now. We provide a class for the dancers that would like to experience more and be a little more serious about dance life. We have our Encore Elite Dance Company. They are the one's that can go to competitions and they'll have to take more than one hour of class a week. With COVID, we do have a Google Meets service for students to attend classes virtually. We just set it up while the class is going that way they are interacting with the other kids.


What are you most proud of as it relates to your business?

Amy: I am proud of the growth that we've experienced. The first year is hard because you’re switching the baton and you're either going have those that really don’t like change and those that are excited to continue. So it's kind of risky but we had experienced the greatest growth last year. Everything was going really well, then COVID hit. But it was a great accomplishment that we had since I became owner. So, it says a lot about the staff we have and the atmosphere that we've created. We had great students and families that came back when we were able to open and worked with us as things changed. My husband and I worked very hard at rebranding the studio. That's part of the great accomplishment and growth. It takes a lot of work to change something that has been here for over 50 years. We kept the good parts and revamped all the others. I think our greatest accomplishment is that we've been able to establish this as our own and make the kids feel like they are a part of something great.

Why should people register for classes/services with EDA?

Amy: Well, they always say you learn how to dance before you walk. When young children learn how to dance it increases their knowledge of spatial awareness, physical, and sensory learning. It helps develop literacy and strengthens physical development. It helps develop cognitive learning, emotional maturity, and social awareness. For example, a mom put her little girl into dance 2 years ago because she had a speech impediment and has noticed that her speech had improved by being in dance from socializing and singing while dancing. The National Organization of Dance says that dance is the basis for educational learning. The boys that we've had in dance showed improved coordination. They come in and have 2 left feet but within 3 months their coordination is great. So I always try to tell parents that boys need to take dance to help them in football and basketball because that pas de bourree is the same thing you’re doing on the football field. I tell my boys if you were in tap you would know how to balance your weight on the football field and you wouldn't be so clumsy. I think a lot of parents might worry that their son is going to dance like girl, but boys dance masculine and girls dance feminine so when they come to dance, we will continue to teach them like a boy. But I recommend starting with ballet because it is the foundation to anything.

In what direction do you see the Academy going in? Do you have a vision for the future?

Amy: After seeing the needs in the area, we want to create a non-profit. We have already kind of started it, it’s the Bar Up Foundation. This would allow us to give more to our students because as minimum wages increase, our costs increase and we're not a strong enough business to keep up with that. So if we have some extra help as a non-profit we can make sure to have on-hands staff that we need for the kids; the equipment, supplies for competitions, to maintain our gymnastics program and to keep tuition at a flat rate. As far as events, we're hoping that we can have our Spring Recital which we do every last weekend in May or the first weekend in June. Also our gymnastics program has their showcase usually in May. We weren't able to do that last year because everything had shut down at that point. So, we're hoping that this year we can do it if not, than at least we can do it outdoors.


Facebook: @encoredanceacademywillcox

Maid Rite Feeds

What inspired you to start Maid Rite Feeds?

Cheryl: I started with Maid Rite Feeds in 1984. I was 22 years old. I worked for Arizona Pork Producers until they moved to Phoenix. I then had the opportunity to do bookkeeping for Maid Rite Feeds. It was a new company that a few local hog farms started. They were buying there hog feed out of Texas, so they thought, why not make it here in Willcox. That was 37 years ago.

What challenges did you overcome during the process of starting your business?

What challenges did you overcome during the process of starting your business?

Cheryl: My cousin, Billy Thompson, started here in 1986. With us both working here at a young age, we fell in love with it and we grew with the business. It was an easy transition and we knew nothing else.

How does Maid Rite contribute to Willcox's growth?

Cheryl: Maid Rite employs 19 people that are paid with full benefits. We have a rail spur that allows surrounding dairy’s/feedlots to bring in commodities that are not available in this state. We buy local grain from the farmers and then turn it around a make feed for local ranchers.


What are you most proud of when it comes to your business?

Cheryl: In 2005, Maid Rite Feeds became a family owned business. Billy (Shelley), David (Tina), (they are my cousins), and myself was offered to buy the business. With Billy & I working here most of our lives, we took this business and made it what it is today. We have grown from 6 employees to 19 employees and a few more headaches, but we wouldn’t change it for anything.


Who should people shop at Maid Rite?

Cheryl: Maid Rite manufactures its own fresh feed. We have a retail store that we sell it through. We not only provide feed, but almost anything for your pets. We have amazing customer service too.


©2019 by Willcox Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture. Proudly created with Photography by Kendel Lyn Photography. Business networking and business development for Willcox, Arizona.