Downtowners rejoiced when news broke that Angels Trumpet Ale House would bring craft beer downtown. When the ale house opens early in 2012 near Roosevelt Row it will be helping to fill in some of the missing gaps in our urban fabric. So what else does downtown still need? What other pieces of the urban puzzle are missing? This list is by no means exhaustive; these ideas are just a few of the possibilities that would continue to make downtown more vibrant and enjoyable.
1) A downtown bookstore
Contrary to popular belief, bookstores are not going extinct. Borders Books closed because it was a big-box chain unable to compete. Overpriced merchandise and huge overhead costs didn’t help. Mom and pop bookstores remain a community asset, a gathering place to discuss ideas, meet authors, participate in workshops, and chat with booksellers/neighbors/friends about the books you’ve read. Could the Downtown Phoenix community sustain and benefit from such a business? Absolutely.
2) A downtown dessert restaurant
If you’re like most Phoenicians you’ve probably been to San Diego at least once this year and chances are you’ve been to Extraordinary Desserts. But where can Phoenicians go for the same quality and selection of tasty treats? Our own Tammie Coe Cakes bakes some sweet pastries and other goodies, but the Roosevelt location has only a small café with limited seating while the Arcadia location has none. Downtown needs a dessert restaurant, they make for a fine first date, or any reason really. Who doesn’t like dessert?
3) A downtown dog park
Yup, we still need one. The city formed an 80+ member Ad Hoc Dog Park Committee earlier this year. (Honestly, what other committee has that many members?) The Dog Park Committee made a recommendation for a downtown location that was ignored. Instead, the downtown dog park will be in Hance Park, a location the nearby neighbors objected to, which still leaves the downtown residents who are south of Hance Park without any off-leash green space for their four-legged companions.
4) A downtown vegetarian restaurant
Don’t let the word “vegetarian” send you running for a T-bone steak. Green New American Vegetarian in Tempe prepares food with lots of fresh vegetables and organic ingredients to create pizzas, salads, sandwiches, and noodle bowls all of which can be enjoyed by non-vegetarians.
5) A Whiskey Bar
There is no shortage of fantastic bars downtown with the word “bar” in the name, Rum Bar, Bar Smith, Side Bar, FilmBar, Bliss/reBar, but we are lacking a bar dedicated to one of the West’s most beloved spirits- a whiskey bar. Denver, Colorado has one. And while we’re at it, why not a dedicated tequila bar for the West’s other favorite spirit! Word on the street is the Rasputin Vodka Bar is still slated for CityScape. At least we are on the right track.
A new space is opening up on Roosevelt Row during the September 2 First Friday that will be a combination of a retail store, design studio, office space and gallery.
Perez has decided to pursue other opportunities, so Gonzales has teamed up with Robles and management consultant Dave “Bully” Bjorn to create a new collaborative space.
Gonzales will continue to use the space to display and sell his clothing, Robles will use it as her studio and gallery, and Bjorn will use it as an office for his consulting firm.
While the three will continue with their individual work, they also plan to collaborate on projects.
Robles says she is going to help Gonzales with photography and he may help her put some of her artwork onto T-shirts. She is also interested in learning about his metal work and possibly integrating it with her own artwork, she says.
Robles taught herself to sketch when she was young, but she immersed herself in advanced math classes in high school. It wasn’t until around 10 years ago when she was studying at the University of Arizona that she became more serious about art.
“That’s when I really got into it and that’s when I started developing my own style,” she says. “From there I just really enjoyed it and it’s what I wanted to do.”
Robles started with painting, then branched out into graphic design, which she obtained her degree in, and photography.
Now she does mixed media artwork, combining various art forms, and her creations have been displayed at Produce Gallery, Paper Art Gallery, Kitchen Sink Studios and other galleries throughout the Valley.
Until now, Robles has worked out of her home. The Lab will be her first real art studio.
“I’m just very excited about this whole thing,” she says. “It’s a new chapter. It’s what I’ve been wanting to do for such a long time.”
Robles, who is originally from Yuma, lived in Scottsdale for a while after she graduated but spent most of her time in Downtown Phoenix because she liked the atmosphere and the crowd.
“The culture and the people down here are just amazing, and there is so much creativity,” she says. “I just fell in love with downtown and that’s why I worked my hardest to kind of migrate my way down here.”
She moved downtown about one month ago and joined up with Gonzales and Bjorn to open the collaborative space, explaining that “everything panned out perfectly.”
Robles won’t be the only artist displaying her work throughout the space. She plans to rotate artists as part of The Lab’s mission to get the community involved and has already been reaching out to some.
Robles says she wants other artists to have a place where they feel comfortable showing their work because when she first started, she didn’t know where to begin displaying her projects.
”I’m just excited to be more involved with the community … and just have a space to actually work with other creative people.”
(Ripped straight from our inbox, from Melissa Rein)As the summer comes to a close, Oakville Grocery in downtown Phoenix is offering its last Monsoon Meal Deal of the season and this one’s a doozy.
For just $5 (+tax), Oakville Grocery is offering a “Monsoon” of a deal!
Monday, August 29, enjoy an family favorite–Chicken Cacciatore! This piping hot plate will be piled high with shredded chicken, pork sausage, garbanzo beans, green olives, and peppers with red wine tomato sauce on top of fresh pasta! Deal includes: Chicken Cacciatore, Garlic Bread, Can of Pepsi or Diet Pepsi, Iced Tea, or Red or White Wine for only $5 (+tax).
The deal is available from 4pm to 7pm on Monday, August 29th only. One $5 meal per person permitted for dine in only. More weekly dinner deals will be announced soon.
For more information about the $5 “Monsoon” Monday meal deal visit Oakville Grocery or call 602-252-7600.
As Fairmont Pharmacy closes in on its first year in business next month, co-owner Greg Roller believes they’ve found the prescription for success: Get to know all your customers by name; make sure you have what they need, when they need it; and embed yourself in the community you serve.
“This is a hip neighborhood and people really want to support local businesses,” said Roller, speaking of the Uptown Phoenix location, on Central Ave., nestled next to Practical Art. “And there are people who have been here forever.”
At a time when local stores are enjoying a surge of popular support, Fairmont, a member of the Leader independent pharmacies network, still has its work cut out for it. It is the David to the Goliaths of the likes of Walgreen’s and CVS, which clearly dominate the market.
The perception is that the chains can get better pricing, but Roller insists that is not the case.
“It is very, very easy to compete price-wise with them and, in some cases, we’re almost too low,” he told the Downtown Phoenix Journal. “With prescription drugs, the co-pays are the same.”
Part of the problem, he said, is that the big insurance companies have policies that tend to favor the chains. “We’re getting together as independents and fighting back more and more,” he said.
Roller knows all too well what it’s like on both sides of the aisle: he earned his stripes as a CVS employee and was involved with another independent pharmacy in Phoenix that eventually was sold to CVS. But he has found, time and time again, that the independent route is the most alluring for him.
“A pharmacist does not just dispense a pill,” he said emphatically. “It’s about developing relationships and getting to know customers holistically.”
That relationship is what has convinced Lindsey Bair, a vocal teacher who lives near the store’s Medlock Place neighborhood, to switch to Fairmont.
“This place changed my life,” said Bair, shaking her head, blue highlights accenting her dark tresses. “I had been complaining about going to the ‘Big Man’–it was horrible– and was told about this place by a nurse practitioner I had worked with. They always have my stuff, they are super friendly—and they know my name,” she said.
Another customer, a nurse who asked to be identified only as Sandy S. because she works in the area, noted, “It’s lovely in here—really different. It reminds me of what drug stores would have looked like back in the day.”
At first blush, the product offerings look familiar to the larger chains as a visitor wanders through the store: teeth- whitening strips, allergy medicines, contact lens solutions. But there is also a pet section with unique items like biodegradable dog bags, and a wide selection of liquid herbal extracts and homeopathic remedies. There is also an extensive selection of home health care products, from wheelchairs to lumbar back cushions and bathtub safety rails.
Roller, who own the business along with three partners, said that almost all their advertising to date has been word of mouth. While over the winter business was increasing by 30-40% month over month, not unexpectedly, things have slowed down quite a bit over the summer. He’s hoping that back-to-school business will rev things up again.
In the meantime, he is looking forward to continuing his relationships with health-care related businesses, such as the neighboring Phoenix Skin, and expanding the customer base by offering quarterly educational seminars on health-related topics. And as for birthday celebrations, Roller is thinking fairly low-key: maybe a birthday cake and, of course, an invite to all the neighbors.
One day in late 2008, Ruben Gonzales decided to buy a silk screen T-shirt printing set-up.
Shortly after, the Downtown Phoenix resident and former cell-phone company employee started his own business, 11th Monk3y Apparel and Designs.
He named it after his affinity for collecting stuffed monkeys throughout his lifetime and because the number 11 stuck out to him. He liked that the name sounded catchy but also that it was unique, which was exactly what he wanted his label to be.
“I think I’m pretty out of the norm at times so I wanted my clothing to be like that,” Gonzales says. “The meaning behind it was to be different, stand out, own your individuality and make whatever it is you wear unique to yourself.”
Before launching 11th Monk3y, Gonzales was part of the local breakdancing scene for about 19 years, and one of the reasons he wanted to start his business was to provide inexpensive clothing to other b-boys.
Gonzales says he tries to keep his shirts priced between $10 and $20 and his jackets and sweatshirts between $25 and $35.
“I wanted (my clothes) to be affordable, and I wanted these kids to have cool gear and feel comfortable with what they’re rocking.”
In addition to designing clothes, Gonzales also builds bicycles and creates metal furnishings and artwork and anything else he can think of.
“Whatever I can imagine, I try to create just to see what it’s going to look like and if people like it, then I’ll usually make more and put them up for sale.”
Rising on Roosevelt
Gonzales says that about 90 percent of his designs he creates himself, and that the other 10 percent are collaborative projects.
But Gonzales has been teaming up with people in Downtown Phoenix to create more than just clothing.
Less than two months ago, he and local artist Joseph “Sentrock” Perez went to a Roosevelt Row meeting at monOrchid to get to know other artists and downtown locals.
The two men, who had already talked about how great it would be to someday open a shop together, were offered a place on Roosevelt Row that night.
They chose to call their store The Rise Project, which was the name of Perez’s after-school program for students in the urban school district. The goal of the program was to teach students breakdancing, MC’ing, DJ’ing and graffiti art, and how to practice these elements of hip-hop with respect, Gonzales says.
Gonzales says the name fit their new shop because they were “rising from nothing.”
The original Rise Project had lost its funding but Perez was eager to continue it, so they decided to donate some of the proceeds from the shop to continue the program throughout the summer.
Perez has decided to leave the shop to pursue other opportunities and Gonzales has joined forces with management consultant Dave “Bully” Bjorn and local artist Monica Robles to create a new project in the same building.
Gonzales will continue using the space for 11th Monk3y, Bjorn will use it for his consulting firm and other projects, and Robles will use it as a studio for her artwork.
While the three will use the space for their individual work, they also plan to collaborate on projects.
Gonzales says he is interested in photography and that Robles has agreed to teach him more about it so that he can pursue it further. In return, he will be helping her put her artwork on T-shirts.
Bjorn is going to help them with the business aspect of the space such as connecting with the right people, Gonzales says.
Gonzales hopes the three of them will evolve their skills through the collaborative projects and hopes they will be able to create projects that give back to the community in some way. He also hopes the space itself will make people feel welcome, encourage community involvement and inspire people do something of their own.
“Our goal is to try to bring the community a little bit more to life … make it feel like it’s a city where you can come, park your car and enjoy half your day.”
The Rise Project Pop-Up Shop closed its doors Monday and will reopen September 1 for a soft opening. Gonzales anticipates that by Third Friday, the entire space, which has not yet been named, will be functional and ready for a grand opening.