The place to begin the story of Jasper Ludwig and Brian Haskins, and the serial serendipities that lead to their thriving 5 Points Market & Restaurant, is probably with the dog.
“We wanted to adopt this dog that my friend found in a dumpster on 22nd Street,” Ludwig begins. “So,” Haskins says, “we couldn’t have a dog in our apartment in Barrio Presidio, so we decided to buy a house.”
Looking at houses took weeks because the couple rarely had the same time available. Both had demanding management jobs in restaurants—Ludwig was at Fourth Avenue’s Café Passe; Haskins was around the corner at Time Market.
Eventually, the perfect home was found. A cottage on a 7,000-square-foot lot was ideal for living small and one day growing food, a passion the couple shared from their years in the Pacific Northwest, where they met working in an after-school program. Haskins, 37, was the director; Ludwig, 28, signed on as the at-risk youth coordinator.
“There was a food movement,” Haskins said. “We had a really great co-op. And food became interesting, and food politics became interesting to me, and cooking good, healthy food was interesting to both of us.”
They shared those passions with their charges. “I would teach the kids how to cook food from scratch using food from farms,” Haskins says. “And we’d go visit farms and we’d work on farms.” Haskins adds, “We had them raise a garden, like a tiny one, that failed.” Ultimately, Ludwig says, “The politics of it weren’t working in our favor. Some of the people in charge weren’t appreciative of my efforts to connect people to their food. They wanted sports or laser tag.”
One day, in 2006, as Haskins and a friend were having breakfast at a neighborhood place they frequented, “Sage, the owner, came out and said, ‘I need someone dynamic to work for me. Will you work for me?’ I was like, ‘I’m not that dynamic but I know somebody who is.” He suggested that Ludwig apply, and she got the job.
“I was managing the floor, but also spending a lot of time with my boss,” Ludwig says. “It was pretty much just she and I running the show. She was great. I worked for her for two years and that was kind of my background in the business.”
Meanwhile, Ludwig had gone back to college to pursue a double major in feminist theory and film photography. While running the photography lab, she became friends with Julia DeConcini, and the two hatched a dream to start a nonprofit community darkroom together. The idea died for a time, but came back to life in both of them almost simultaneously. DeConcini had settled in Tucson and, Ludwig says that by the time she finished school in 2010, “I was so sick of the rain. I took [Brian] down here on a road trip … and he was down to move here with me.” Haskins says, “I moved here basically to eat tacos and get warm.”
The darkroom project worked for a while, but “We didn’t make any money and it became too much,” said Ludwig. She had been managing Café Passé for more than a year when DeConcini found the dog in the dumpster. DeConcini suggested naming it Rue for the character in The Hunger Games. Ludwig named it Rue for the powerful herb, in tribute to her survival skills.
To find a suitable home for the dog, the couple worked with real estate agent Beth Jones. As it happened, Jones’ sister, Brooke Moeller of Café Desta, was looking for someone to open a restaurant and market next door. Knowing the couple’s work and work ethic, Jones set up a meeting; everyone clicked. On Jan. 6, 2014, their fantasy of owning a restaurant one day came, in a rush, to be true.
Staffing came easily. “Everyone here is someone we knew, or someone who’d worked with someone we knew,” says Haskins. What’s more, Ludwig had been accumulating her brunch menu ideas for more than a decade.
The 5 Points location put everything into place. Haskins says, “It’s a gateway to downtown. It’s on the verge of all these awesome neighborhoods—Armory Park, Barrio Viejo, Santa Rosa. And it’s an underserved community.”
These days 5 Points has the unmistakable feel of a small-town community coffee shop, albeit with qualitative and stylistic differences. Ludwig says, “There are a lot of artists and musicians that live in these ‘hoods that are here all the time.” Regulars include Howe Gelb, Tom Walbank, and Gabriel Sullivan, but also Corky Poster, Steve Leal, and the owners of M.A.S.T. and Bon boutiques.
Haskins enjoys the “social hour” aspect of hanging out talking to the clientele, but Ludwig’s community-mindedness may be more native. “I grew up in rural Maine and there was a Grange Hall. There were a lot of people growing food, but everything about it was community. We had baked bean suppers.”
How to create a Grange Hall Feel in an urban neighborhood? “I think our service is casual and friendly. It’s not formal or rehearsed,” Ludwig says. “I think the ambiance is also really casual. The food is made from scratch, but it’s not expensive. People don’t have to feel uncomfortable or that they’re in a part of culture that they don’t know how to behave in.”
Sourcing takes Ludwig and Haskins back to the most formative time of their relationship. Affection mixes with admiration in Ludwig’s voice when she talks about buying produce from Taylor Moore, a local grower with plots in several community gardens. Here is her own after-school dream fulfilled. “This wonderful man brings in these kids who learn how to grow and tend the garden, clean and then present their produce, and they also get to keep money from the sales.
“They come and spread out their produce on a front table every Sunday. I’ll get Eric or Conor in the kitchen to come out and choose what the special is. They’ll buy what we use on the menu. We get as much arugula as we can and a lot of staples—beets, carrots, Swiss chard, kale, bok choy.”
The produce needed for the kitchen also goes into the market so there’s no waste. What waste is generated from the restaurant goes to the Pio Decimo Community Garden around the corner where, Ludwig says, it’s turned into “black gold” compost.
Ludwig and Haskins source as much as they can locally, including beef and pork. Their coffee is roasted at Café Aqui, six blocks away. Organic local citrus comes from Patagonia Orchards, but Haskins still likes to get Washington apples. Many 5 Points dishes use conventionally raised eggs to help keep prices down. (Ludwig says the rising expense of organic feed has made the cost of organic eggs prohibitive.)
For pricing, “We use the same formula every restaurant uses,” Ludwig says. But they tinker with ingredients to keep prices affordable. For example, she says, “We put the Eggleston on the menu. We call it a breakfast sandwich. You can add proteins if you want and make it more decadent, but we added that knowing that there are people who might want something under nine bucks. Chia pudding, likewise. It’s $5 and super filling. And I think presentation is a big part.”
The restaurant’s market is a work in progress. Ludwig and Haskins expect it to expand and take on a different character once they begin serving beer and wine on tap and to go, and expand their menu to include dinner. Those developments are imminent, pending city approval.
Meanwhile, Haskins feels he’s still learning what people want to find there. “I see our spot as being like a conscious convenience store. The things that you need are going to be here, but not much else. And they’re going to be good versions of those things.” Your mac and cheese, for instance, will be organic pasta shells and real white cheddar cheese. Your bread will be from Small Planet Bakery.
The story almost begs a movie. You may laugh, you may cry, but there’s a good chance you’ll cheer as a close-knit community surrounds the charming couple and their valiant pup with camaraderie while the credits roll.
But Ludwig keeps it real with a reflection on how her romance with Haskins began—in community service, around growing food. “I think when you meet somebody in that capacity, you really see them at their best, you know? Like doing their best and being really selfless, being energetic and engaging.” Like the kind of person anyone would want to visit with over one of her blueberry scones. ✜
5 Points Market & Restaurant. 756 S. Stone Ave. 520.623.3888. 5PointsTucson.com.
Linda Ray has written for the Tucson Weekly, the Chicago Tribune, and the Chicago Reader. She and her valiant pup, Gozo, live in an unmanageable landscape in Central Tucson.