A Butcher, a Bistro, and a Building with a Story
Back in the day, before the convenience of freezers and sumptuously stocked grocery stores, folks would flock to the sale barn to purchase cattle and pigs that they’d take home to raise for Sunday dinners. Beyond practicality, sale barns provided a social outlet, a gathering space for ranchers and farmers to gather, talk shop, and share food. In Durango, these stockyards and auction blocks sat near the present-day Home Depot location, above the Animas River, below the purple cliffs.
Though the odiferous whiffs are a thing of the past, the spirit of those bygone days lives on at the Purple Cliffs at Escalante, a 43,000-square-foot multi-use conglomeration of condominiums, doctor’s offices, a yoga studio, and the Sunnyside Farms Market. With a foundation rooted in the soils of yesteryear’s ag history, this modern-day building complex is owned and operated by the Zink family, a fifth-generation, Four Corners-based, farm-and-ranch dynasty.
With a lineage of cattlemen and sheep growers, the Zinks are no longer in the livestock business, but their homesteads thrive as Centennial Farms bookending the Animas Valley, with Waterfall Ranch spanning County Road 203 to the north and Sunnyside Farms settled south of Durango on County Road 216.
Renowned for their work ethic, the Zinks have their sleeves rolled up in a variety of La Plata County endeavors, from wetland conservation and cycling legacies to healthcare and waterblast tools. As one of the fifth-generation daughters, Holly Zink grew up watching her elders’ stick-to-itiveness and commitment to the community. She has fond memories of running amuck in the fields and can recall managing the gut bucket during her first lamb slaughter when she was six years old.
After graduating from Durango High School, Zink moved to Boulder for college and worked in the meat and seafood department of a grocery store. She loved the work, so continued her studies at Colorado State University, in the meat sciences program, while seeking out volunteer jobs on the kill floors of family-owned packing houses to learn all she could about sustainable, humane practices in the industry.
A female working on the kill floor was a rare sight indeed, but Holly was confident in the role. In 2002, she moved back to Durango and joined forces with her dad, Jerry, to open Sunnyside Farms Meats (the only USDA-inspected meat-packing business in Durango) and Sunnyside Farms Market. Eighteen years later, Zink not only runs the packing business and market but also a bistro and mercantile-style grocery store, featuring take-and-bake items, dry goods, dairy products, and hard-to-find treats like truffle salt and vanilla bean paste.
“I was 25 when I opened the fledgling version of what we’re doing now,” says Zink. “I wasn’t even sophisticated enough to envision something like a full-service, one-stop shop at that point.”
As the ground-floor fixture of the Purple Cliffs complex, Sunnyside collaborates with neighboring nutritionists and medical practitioners. When clients need to make a health change or have a specific diet request, doctors and alternative therapists can write up a shopping list of items that can be procured from downstairs. If Sunnyside doesn’t carry it yet, they’ll find it.
“It’s the kind of place where you can get a bag of flour, a bamboo sushi mat, and a steak,” laughs Zink.
To support more healthy eating habits, the bistro welcomes diners to indulge in fresh, creative dishes inspired by the weather and the season, using only the highest quality ingredients sourced from Colorado farms and ranches. Sunnyside’s talented chefs tout résumés from some of the region’s most iconic restaurants, including the Ore House, Dunton Hot Springs, and Seasons Rotisserie & Grill. One of their specialties is figuring out ways to use as much of the animal as possible.
“We’ve constantly got chicken, pork, beef, lamb, or pork bones and trimmings going in our steam kettles, producing these silky, gorgeous, nutritious broths we use in our cooking,” says Zink. “We also sell the stocks and broths in the store, so people can make their own soups and sauces.”
Alongside local meats, greens, and baked goods, diners will find cosmopolitan fare, like French onion, Swiss cheese, and Dijon mustard accompanying the mouthwatering selection of sandwiches and salads. House-made sauces, like Thousand Island, er, Many Island Aioli, can be enjoyed on Sunnyside’s famous Reuben. While the restaurant seats up to 30 people with more space outside, curbside pickup and to-go orders are also available.
“The most fun thing about all this is developing deep relationships with the people we’ve served for so many years and building new relationships with people who we didn’t know existed,” says Zink. “Like the sale barns from generations ago, it’s really designed to be a community gathering place for food, commerce, and agriculture.”
Sunnyside Farms Market is located at 1305 Escalante Drive, Suite 101 and is open Monday through Saturday 8-7 and Sunday 10-6. The Deli and Bistro are open Monday through Saturday 10-6 and Sunday 11-5. For to-go orders, please call (970) 375-6400.