Above: The lumberjack stands just south of Central Avenue on Louisiana Boulevard atop the May Cafe. Photograph by Kate Russell.
An ax-holding lumberjack looms atop the May Cafe, near the intersection of Central Avenue and Louisiana Boulevard in Albuquerque. The restaurant serves Vietnamese food, which makes his placement even odder than his 27-foot-tall stature on top of a 20-foot-tall platform. But owner Liem Nguyen kept him on after buying the former Shofner Lumber Co. in 1992. The first Paul Bunyan to grace the building was lost in a seventies-era fire. “Broke my dad’s heart,” says Diane Monk, whose father, Frank Shofner, owned the original joint. He searched the country for another one in vain. All he could find was a giant chef. He put a crew to work removing the fiberglass-encased apron and toque, had a seamstress create axman wear, added appropriate facial hair, re-fiberglassed it, and hoisted it. A few years ago, a windstorm took out the ax and both hands. Nguyen chose to restore the fellow as a lumberjack (with steel reinforcements), rather than the chef he could have been. That cheers Monk on visits from her home in Dallas. “I’m a little amazed at how beloved that statue is. He’s in books about Route 66. He’s an icon.”