Local reboots family's Farmington burger stand
FARMINGTON — George Hazen grew up in Farmington in the 1950s and said he has a fondness for its earlier days, when as a boy he helped his grandfather and father run the family burger stand on Main Street where Atomic Signs is today.
Last month, Hazen, who moved back to the area after working in the oil and gas industry as a "crude-oil relocation specialist" for 30 years, decided to celebrate his greasy spoon past and relaunch his family's drive-in eatery, Geo & John's, out of a food truck parked in a childhood friend's auto sales lot on Harper Hill.
Hazen said he decided to bring the burger stand on wheels to save money. He said he wants to deliver the kind of food experience that existed long before the invasion of fast food franchises and big box stores changed the gastronomic landscape of San Juan County. Last month, Hazen began flipping quarter- and half-pound chile cheese burgers dressed with all kinds of added ingredients like avocado, fried egg, bacon, jalapenos or ham.
Many of his customers Hazen knew as a boy at Farmington High School and making them lunch is part food enterprise and part high school reunion.
"Grandpa had a big garden, at least an acre, out back the original location on Main Street," Hazen said. "We'd raise tomatoes and green chiles in a garden out back, That wouild end up on burgers. Pulled right out of the dirt.that's what it was like back in those days."
Anthony Maestas came by last week for a bacon green chile cheese burger with extra avocado. He and his family were regular patrons at Geo & John's as a kid. He said he found out Hazen had relaunched the eatery on Facebook and came by, partly in disbelief it was true.
"Everybody who lived here back then knows George and John's," he said. "If you weren't going to a sit-down place to eat, this was it."
Hazen said his hamburgers are made from locally raised beef, potatoes grown nearby at NAPI, or Navajo Agricultural Products Industry, and hand-cut when ordered. Everything is and everything prepared to order,.
Hazen said the curious name has its roots in frugality.
"There's a long history, almost 60 years of the name," he said. "The name is for my grandfather, also named George, and his brother, John, who went by 'Uncle Jack.' So my grandfather went a got a box of used neon letters for the first place and the box only had enough letters to spell out John and the first three letters in George. My grandfather wasn't going to spend any more money (on sign letters) so that's why it ended up spelled the way it was."
Terry Everett said he has known Hazen since they met as students at Tibbetts Middle School. Everett now lives in Albuquerque but comes up to San Juan County on business.
Last week he came by to reconnect with his childhood friend and the hamburgers of his childhood, he said.
"This is the original greasy big hamburgers, the good ones," Everett said.
On Fridays, Hazen said he will resurrect his grandfather's Greasy Brown Bag special — six quarter-pound hamburgers and three orders of french fries in a big brown sack, $27 without cheese and $29 with cheese.
"People talk about how greasy it was back then but they loved it," Hazen said. "Farmington was a great place to grow up. I don't know, you either loved this place or you hated it. I was gone for many years. This won't go over with the Weight Watchers or vegan crowd. But I'm glad to be back and I'm hoping a bunch of people will feel the same."
Hazen said that ever since he started up the food truck eatery, most customers tell him that they have fond memories over Geo & John's.
"It's been like everybody who's come by makes it a little like a high school reunion," he said. "A guy in a recent obituary said one of his favorite things to do was go to George and John's, get a sack of burgers and fries and take his kids to the drive-in. That's says it a lot about that time. I'm happy now because I get to share this with people and I'm happy to be home."
He kept the name, down to the missing letters in the name and said he hopes to expand his menu with sandwiches customers create. Winners will be added to the menu and Hazen said he'll make a t-shirt to commemorate the addition.
Bloomfield electrician Sam Andrew said Hazen's family's drive-in — which at one point was moved across Main Street by Hazen's father and later moved again to 20th Street — was The Place to go to enjoy American food with a New Mexican flare if dining in a more formal restaurant wasn't part of the plan.
Hazen said he offers all law enforcement, fire fighters and EMTs half-price on everything. Active duty military, he said, eat for free.
"I grew up in San Juan County. George and John's, a 100 years ago, if you wanted a burger, that's where you went," Andrew said. "Only reason I'm here, It's worth it. It's worth the trip."
James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.
What: Geo & John's
Where: Look for Hazen's food truck in the Four Corners Auto Sales parking lot, 4410 W. Main St., Farmington
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
More info: Call 505-278-4527 or search for Geo & Johns Food Truck on Facebook