About Us

Babbitts Backcountry has a long history with the Flagstaff community. In 1886, the Babbitt Brothers arrived from Cincinnati, Ohio and established the C.O. Bar cattle ranch on lands between Flagstaff and the grand Canyon. The historic C.O. Bar is one of the largest cattle ranches in the southwest and continues in operation to this day.

In 1888, David Babbitt, one of the five brothers decided to turn his lumberyard into a general store and all his brothers eventually joined him in the enterprise. He built a long mercantile along Aspen Ave using red Moenkopi sandstone that was locally quarried, as his main building material. The Babbitts could see the potential of the arrival of the Atlantic and Pacific’s railroad ability to bring manufactured goods to the region. The trading post sold items like oil lamps, caned food, hardware, blankets and saddles.

Fun fact that during this time a system of underground tunnels, rumored to have been built by Chinese immigrants, snaked their way form Northern Arizona University up through downtown Flagstaff. A few of the business like Babbitts Backcountry and the Monte Vista still have access to these basement tunnels. It was rumored that the immigrants used them to avoid being harassed by locals after the huge fire of the early 1900s. At the time, many people blamed the immigrants for the fire due their cooking practices,

The current building on the corner of Aspen Ave and San Fransisco Street is the same structure that was there in 1888, just a bit smaller. Over the years, part of the building was the Coconino County Courthouse and eventually became the largest department store in Arizona. Since its construction, the building has also remained within the Babbitt family. In the mid 50s there was a modernizing campaign to change the look of downtown Flagstaff and stucco was added to the outside of the building. It was later removed to bring the building back to its original form and restoring its appearance. When the mall arrived in Flagstaff the department store left the downtown area and moved to the east side of town. Less than 10 years later, Jim Babbitt brought an outdoor gear shop into the space where it remains to this day.

If you are downtown and have a chance, pop into the shop to see the original brickwork outside, original tin ceiling and sales counter inside.

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