Robin Sewell

This mini-neighborhood in Gilbert is one of many sprouting up in busier cities around the country.

I believe neighborhoods are the cornerstone of every city, authentic and full of local flavor. They are where people come to gather, a place of comfort, familiarity and chock full of character and charisma. This is why my favorite thing to do when I travel on and off Arizona’s highways is get to know a neighborhood. 

When I walked through the doors at Barnone at Agritopia in Gilbert, I got just that.

I could feel the overwhelming spirit of community. It was like walking into a small town where not only do you know all your neighbors, but each one brings something unique and special to the table. It’s a more sophisticated version of the “butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker.” 

Barnone was actually once an old family barn in Gilbert, but instead of housing farm equipment, it is now home to skilled craftsman, wood workers, wine makers and artisan pizza creators. In fact, these artisan marketplaces are popping up all over the country almost like mini-neighborhoods where people like to hang out. 

They are a combination of local vendors, craftspeople, boutique businesses and a lot of farm-to-table restaurants all housed under one roof. Some of the more well-known are Chelsea’s Market in New York City, The Ferry Building in San Francisco, Seattle’s Melrose Market and Citizen’s Supply in Atlanta. 

Barnone offers 12 one-of-a-kind businesses. At Fire and Brimstone, they make their own sourdough pizza dough then serve up pizza with homegrown ingredients straight from the organic farm next door. Uprooted is a vegan restaurant that will have even a true-blue carnivore fall in love with the flavors. 

Chef owners Erin and Chad Romonoff taught me how to make vegan sushi with cashews and other organic ingredients. I’ve been dreaming of that dish ever since. There is the retired fireman who opened a farm winery called Garage East. The owners of 12 West brewery make beer out of blood oranges picked from the trees at Agritopia. 

At Barnone, you are encouraged to stand out, meaning no two vendors are alike and yet somehow, they all mesh together. A florist next to a gunsmith has the makings for a 21st century guns and roses. There is also a paper goods maker, a machinist and a wood artisan who all labor away hand creating uncommon designs. 

They are turning what was once regarded as old-fashioned into hip, new and refreshing. Add to the mix a hairstylist whose work is a combination labor of love and art and a farmers market taking us back to the roots of where it all began. 

One of the owners told me what he loves about Barnone is the coming together to share craft and skill that has blossomed into family, friendship and love. 

With everything moving at break neck speeds these days, the joy of sitting down and sharing a cup of coffee and conversation seems lost in the digital, deadline-driven universe. In a world overgrown with mega strip malls, big box and dot com retailers, Barnone stands apart as a community. 

— Robin Sewell is the host and executive producer of the Emmy Award winning Arizona Highways Television.