Tuuvi Café burns, along with Tuba City-Mungapi history

What started off as a routine Monday business day, Oct. 2, erupted into a fire at the Tuuvi Café which is owned and operated by the Upper Village of Mungapi, located right next to Tuba City proper.

Manager Adrian Sumatskuku, said that the fire started with a bag of cleaning rags that had been freshly washed, but were not given enough time to properly cool down before storing them in a large plastic bag. The rags were then placed in an adjacent unventilated storage closet next to several bottles of cleaning solvents.

It only took the heat from the freshly washed rags in the sealed plastic bag, to start a combustible reaction to the cleaning agents. The cleaning agents got a happenstance gust of air when Sumatskuku opened the closet because the staff members working that morning said they could "smell something funny, like something was smoldering."

While turning the door handle on the broom closet, Sumatskuku said he noticed the closet door handle was hot and as soon as he barely touched it, a large whoosh hit the door - the fire's flames quickly and heatedly running up the café walls.

Since the café was already open for business, safety for its staff and clients was the utmost concern. As a result, they immediately evacuated, called for help and tried to salvage what they could from the back kitchen and food storage areas.

Though the Tuuvi Café was already preset for complete demolition on Oct. 16, the management had hoped for a final last heavy weekend of business during the Western Navajo Nation Fair on the final weekend of Oct. 14-16.

The Moencopi Development Corporation has plans to take down this historic café to make way for a new "travel center" which would feature several, multi-choice gas pumps, two fast food establishments, a mini-mart with counter snack food items and two curio shop areas for local Native arts and crafts.

Formal ground breaking for this new travel center will be on Saturday, immediately after the Western Navajo Fair parade.

The Tuuvi Café has gone through many changes over the past 55 years of varied ownership.

It was first known as the Chix Fry, then the Nava-Hopi Kitchen, then the Tuba City Truck Stop and finally the Tuuvi Café.

Through all these management and name changes, it maintained one consistent food item throughout that time.

It's what is called a Navajo taco or Hopi taco or even the JUA or Indian Taco.

It's good ol' Indian fry bread at the bottom, layered with chili beans, topped by lettuce, tomatoes and cheese, and you can add your own onions and salsa.

So the Tuuvi Café is moving into the next century with a modernized new travel center, which will employ more than its current 19 staff members. For more information about the café stop into the Upper Moencopi Community Center.

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