Who are the Nackards of Flagstaff Arizona?
By Dan R. Frazier
Posted June 26, 2004

Much like the Babbitt family, the Nackard family had an important place in Flagstaff’s early history, and continues to be an important player in Flagstaff today. At least 10 Nackard family members contributed a combined total of more than $23,500 in an effort to influence the May, 2004 election. See campaign finance info. Though the Nackard name has lately been mired in scandal and controversy, it was not always so. Over the years, the Nackards have made important contributions to the community. Undoubtedly, an interesting book could be written about the eventful history of the Nackard family. Here are just a few of the highlights, gleaned mostly from "Mountain Town," Platt Cline’s definitive history of Flagstaff.

Khatter Joseph Nackard (K.J.) was born in 1875 in a tiny village in the mountains near Beirut, Lebanon. At age 13, he quit school to learn the shoemaker’s trade. At 25, after struggling and saving while working in various places in the Middle East and Europe, he crossed the ocean in search of better opportunities. He became a pushcart peddler in New York. Gradually, he moved west in search of greener pastures. He ended up in Salt Lake City in 1905, where he became a citizen. Soon afterward, he returned to his tiny village in Lebanon, where he married Marie Michael. The couple set out on a 10,000-mile journey, settling briefly in various places. Finally, in 1912, they settled down in Flagstaff. They were members of Nativity Church. Khatter was active in the Chamber of Commerce, the Elks, Knights of Pythias and Moose.

In his 1994 book, "Mountain Town," Platt Cline wrote of the early Nackard family: "At home the parents spoke a mixture of English and Arabic but did not teach the latter to the children. Fred, the elder son, born in 1907, recalled that his parents never complained, met the world with smiles, had sharp eyes for opportunity, made the best of every experience, and accumulated considerable wealth. In later years they lived in Phoenix, where Joseph farmed and sold real estate. Marie died at age 62 in 1941, and K.J. in 1954 at 73."

One of the first businesses established by Khatter Nackard was The New York Store. The store sold mainly clothing. It was located on the north-east corner of Route 66 and San Francisco Street. See photo. The business later moved to 13-15 N. San Francisco Street. This property later became Flagstaff’s fourth post office. Today the property is the site of a sporting goods store. The building is owned today by George Nackard’s Consolidated Investment Company. (Nackard has no direct ties to the sporting goods store.)

In the 30s, when slot machines had been outlawed by Arizona voters, Khatter and a partner operated one of the two largest slot machine operations in Flagstaff. At its peak, the venture involved about 125 machines, including several in the bar of the Monte Vista Hotel and other public places. Times were tough, and local officials decided not to crack down on the slot machine operators because of the revenue generated for local businesses. A cut of the proceeds routinely went to the Chamber of Commerce, the Pow-Wow, and other causes valued by the community.

From the beginning, the Nackard family has been involved in local politics. Interestingly, one of the earliest Nackard political skirmishes had some parallels to the recent election. In 1922, the city council voted to put a bond issue on the ballot. If approved by voters, the bond would raise $60,000 for the purchase of the Clark Ranch. The Clark Ranch was a 137-acre property near Thorpe Park. The city proposed to sell a portion of the ranch to the school board to build a new school. The rest of the property was to become a park. Also, some of the money raised through the bond, along with some of the money raised by the sale of property to the school board, was earmarked for park improvements.

Khatter Nackard was one of the most vocal opponents of the proposed purchase of Clark Ranch. Like many other residents, he felt that the town had enough parks. If the school board needed land for a school, bond opponents argued it could buy the land directly from Elizabeth Clark, who owned the ranch. Nackard ran advertisements opposing the bond measure. The ads also promoted the new merchandise at Nackard’s store.

Despite Nackard’s efforts, the bond passed by a vote of 173 to 153. The bond allowed the city to purchase property that would eventually become ball fields near Thorpe Park. In addition, some of this land became Clark Homes, a housing complex for low-income residents. The city sold 23-acres of the ranch to the school board. Today, Marshall Elementary School, Flagstaff Middle School and Flagstaff High School are located on this property. With the money raised from the bond and the sale to the school board, the city also built a small dam, creating a pond between the ball fields and the middle school.

Cline writes, "While Nackard opposed purchase of the Clark Ranch, a view shared by nearly half of his fellow citizens, he supported most community endeavors, and his acumen and frankness won him election to the council for two terms beginning in 1926.

One of K.J. Nackard’s sons, Fred, also served on the city council, beginning in 1948. However, he resigned the next year, possibly frustrated by his inability to convince downtown merchants to support a shopping mall he had envisioned for East Aspen Avenue. Historian Platt Cline recalled, "Fred was just some years ahead of the merchants." Fred’s 1984 obituary said, "He was an early advocate of steps to preserve the historic downtown area as a viable, working business center." See a photo of Fred.

In 1933, when Prohibition was repealed, Fred applied for a wholesale spirituous liquor license. Thus was born the Fred Nackard Wholesale Liquor Company. According to a story published in Mountain Living magazine in October of 1994, the company’s liquor license is one of the two oldest continuously held family liquor licenses in Arizona. The company got off to a rough start. Fred’s wife, Monica, sold her car so that the couple could buy a delivery truck. They had hoped to use the money to make a down-payment on a house. Instead, they slept in their beverage warehouse while their business struggled to get off the ground. The warehouse was located on South San Francisco Street.

According to his obituary, Fred "was widely known for a volatile, generous nature. …Although Mr. Nackard devoted most of his life to business pursuits, he also was an avid reader, particularly interested in historical matters. As a result of extensive reading, he was self-taught and fluent in a wide variety of subjects ranging from current events to esoteric philosophy. He remained active in business until near the end of his life. He died in Tucson on Dec. 30, 1984, following an illness. He was 77.

Today, the liquor company Fred founded is headquartered on Railhead Avenue and headed by Patrick M. Nackard, Fred and Monica’s only son. In 1994, the company operated in 12 of Arizona’s 15 counties. It had six branches located in Flagstaff, Globe, Kingman, Prescott, Safford and Show Low, with about 200 employees. Patrick also heads Hi-Line Snack & Vending, the Nackard Land Company, as well as the Pepsi bottling franchise in Flagstaff. In recent years Pepsi has been the corporate sponsor of Flagstaff’s popular Fourth of July parade.

George Nackard, Patrick’s uncle, does not appear to be involved in Patrick’s businesses. George of course is the Nackard who has been the focus of so much controversy lately. George has his own business, Consolidated Investment Company, Inc. Though the company has an office in Flagstaff, George apparently lives in Paradise Valley, or at least has a home there. George’s company has been charged with cutting trees in violation of the land development code. (See Arizona Daily Sun, June 3, 2004.) George is also the owner of the Varsity Gasser, a gas station on Milton Road that made national news in September of 2003 when a scantily clad female model stood in front of the station holding a sign advertising low gas prices. The city considered charging Nackard for the stunt but the case was later dropped.

Platt Cline wrote about the four brothers, Fred, Philip, Victor and George. They "participated in many Flagstaff ventures, individually and in partnership, including wholesale liquor, soft drinks, restaurants and bars, real estate, motels, transportation and communications. Fred, Phillip and Victor served in World War II."

At one time, Phillip was president of the Flagstaff Community Hospital. He was also active in the Chamber of Commerce. In the 30s he operated the Nackard’s Lady Store on North San Francisco Street with his wife. He later managed the soft-drink bottling plant for a time. In the 50’s he started working with his brother Fred at his wholesale liquor company. Phillip remained with the liquor company until he died of a heart attack on Dec. 23, 1977. He was 64.

Victor N. Nackard died just recently, on June 19, 2004. He was born Nov. 21, 1919. He is credited with starting the local Pepsi-Cola bottling plant, as well as a trucking company called Victor Transit, and the local NAPA auto parts business.

In addition to the four brothers, the Nackard family had three sisters, Najla, Selma and Adma. Only Adma (Colson) is alive today. In the early 90s, Adma was living in Sun City.

Selma M. Nackard passed away Dec. 21, 2003, at age 81. She spent much of her life in Phoenix, where she worked for a bank and later managed Top of Central, a popular restaurant. She also was the family caretaker, caring for her parents in their later years.

Najla and her husband T.J. Engstrom managed the Nackard Inn in downtown Flagstaff. Later it became the Downtowner Motel, easily spotted thanks to the large radio-type tower and sign on the property. Today the Inn has been converted into apartments with no connection to the Nackards. Najla (Tore) Engstrom died in 1987. 

It appears possible that at least one of George Nackard's children may have also been involved in the hotel business. One of George Nackard's children is said to have been named Nyla Womack. A historic Flagstaff hotel was called Andy Womack's Flamingo Motor Hotel. Like the Downtowner Motel, it had a radio tower on or very near the property. The hotel fell into disrepair and was eventually torn down. A Barnes and Noble store now stands on the site. 
1964 photo showing hotel and radio tower.  
1989 photo showing hotel before it closed.
Photo from 1990s showing hotel in disrepair.

According to Platt Cline, "In 1991 there were 11 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren."

See also the Nackard family tree created by Dan R. Frazier.

Visit an interesting site showing postcards of old hotels in Flagstaff, including a few with connections to the Nackards, such as the Nackard Inn, and hotels with connections to Andy Womack.

Read Bill Buell's recollections about Flagstaff's motel situation in the 1970s, including a few comments about the Nackards.

Excerpts from "Mountain Town, Flagstaff's First Century" by the late Platt Cline used with permission of Northland Publishing. This book is currently out of print.

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