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DOWNTOWN PHOENIX INC SEEKS LOCAL ARTIST TO DESIGN DOWNTOWN DIRECTORY COVER
Artists are asked to submit a proposal for the brochure-sized cover capturing the spirit of Downtown Phoenix’s diversity and vibrancy while paying tribute to the urban landscape. The deadline for submissions is April 30.
The call continues the recent trend of artist-designed covers for Downtown publications, including artists Christina Mesiti on the 2012-2013 Downtown Dining Guide, Meghan Mitchell on the 2012 Annual Report, Jesa Townsend on the 2013-2014 Dining Guide, Jon Arvizu on the 2014 January-June Downtown Business Directory and Barry Goldstein on the 2013 Annual Report.
The Directory will be distributed to businesses, restaurants and major event locations inside and outside of Downtown and through the Downtown Ambassador team.
For more information on how to submit, please visit http://www.downtownphoenix.com/blog/2014/04/design-our-directory-and-dining-guide-cover/
Image courtesy of Downtown Phoenix, Inc., featuring cover art by Jon Arvizu.
Following Ken Cook’s purchase last year of the DeSoto Building in downtown Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row, the community’s curiosity soared. What what would be done with the historic 1928 building on the prominent corner of Roosevelt Street and Central Avenue?
The question has now been answered. The classic structure that originally housed a car dealership will now be known as the DeSoto Central Market. Part indoor market, part café and eatery, the market will draw on the model embodied by famous markets from around the world, such as the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco, Eataly in New York and Chicago, or, in some respects, the Union in Phoenix’s Biltmore Fashion Park.
“We want to keep that traditional market feel that you can find in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles,” said new tenant Shawn Connelly, who will also manage the market. “Everybody I’ve spoken to about the concept has been excited. I truly feel that something like this will be a catalyst for other growth around this area,” he said.
While maintaining the history and integrity of the building, the interior space will be modeled to feature multiple vendor spaces, a bar and lounge area, and a mezzanine for offices and multi-purpose space.
The market will encompass many functions, but most notably will serve as an incubation hub for “food-preneurs” as Connelly puts it. A portion of the vendor sections will be built as ‘mini-kitchens,’ with everything required to run a restaurant, allowing burgeoning restaurateurs to become completely operational, while avoiding the startup fees of a traditional stand-alone restaurant.
“What we’re trying to model it after is almost like a food truck kitchen,” Connelly said.
The market portion will feature staples such as fresh fruits and vegetables, and will hopefully have a few artisanal purveyors, Connelly said, such as a baker, or dedicated cheese vendor or meat butcher.
The micro-restaurants will serve walk-up customers inside the market, and through outdoor take-out windows along the north wall. The parking lot will be transformed into an eating and lounging area for the cooler months. The nearby light rail stop and urban neighborhoods will hopefully make it an ideal destination in downtown, Connelly said.
“The best use of the space is to make it a great outdoor area,” Connelly added.
“What we envision using it as is a multi-purpose space. Maybe during First Fridays we can bring in other temporary tenants, or during the fall have a pumpkin patch festival…different types of things to where we really try to highlight what’s going on during that particular season.”
If all goes well within the market, the hope is that the owners of these smaller restaurants will one day be able to take the next step by moving out of the space and opening a restaurant of their own.
“What we’re trying to do is really embrace the entrepreneur, people who are passionate about the food industry. We want them to do well and then graduate…and hopefully open up another location. The hope is to expand beyond our walls and make a name for themselves,” Connelly said.
This is the first entrepreneurial outing for Connelly, who began cooking at 17 and continued throughout college, where he majored in logistics management and marketing. After a variety of roles within the the food industry, from kitchen to corporate management, he decided to take a chance on his love for markets.
“I’ve always had a passion for development, food, and markets in general.”
Maintaining a historic building while infusing new activity into the area seems to be the recipe for success in downtown Phoenix. Connelly plans to finalize the interior design soon, and is hoping to open the market by the end of 2014.
“I love Phoenix and I want to be here. I like what’s going on downtown, and I want to be part of the revitalization.”
For tenant inquiries and market info, please email DeSotoCentralMKT@gmail.com.
Renderings by Motley Design Group
Editor’s Note: This story has been edited for clarity since publication.
As an independent chronicler of all things downtown, DPJ takes a comprehensive approach to covering the urban living movement in Phoenix and, with this Conversation series, spotlighting the people who make it move.
“We’ve had some opportunities come along and we’ve capitalized on them.”
Donald Brandt is Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of Pinnacle West and Arizona Public Service (APS), one of the largest employers in the state and the largest in downtown Phoenix. APS has about 1800 employees in their downtown office on 5th Street, and another 200 or so just south of downtown. Brandt moved from his hometown of St. Louis to Phoenix in 2002. He got involved in downtown in 2007, when Jack Davis, (also of APS), invited him to join the Downtown Phoenix Partnership board. Last October, Brandt then transitioned to Board Chair for the new umbrella organization, Downtown Phoenix, Inc.
We asked him to describe his first impressions of downtown in 2002 and how much has changed since the mid-2000′s. “I didn’t even know there was much of a downtown. I walked around and kind of expected to see a tumbleweed. So much has been developed in the last ten years….You look around and it’s a dramatically different city. I don’t think anyone’s going to expect to see a tumbleweed down here today.”
“So much has been developed in the last ten years….You look around and it’s a dramatically different city. I don’t think anyone’s going to expect to see a tumbleweed down here today.”
How did this change come about? “The business community, the Phoenix city government and other agencies have always had a good working relationship” said Brandt. “We’ve had some opportunities come along and we’ve capitalized on them.” From his perspective, the history of good relationships among these entities has been key. “The ASU campus downtown, no one dreamed of that 10 years ago; the restaurants, the Science Center, the light rail,” he continued. “I think it was a lot of coordination with the city, which had been a great partner all along…cooperation and coordination are important, and capitalizing on opportunities.”
Brandt was part of a team of people including Mayor Greg Stanton, Mike Ebert of RED Development, David Krietor and others, who spent the better part of a year visiting other cities to see what kind of structures they had; to understand what worked and what didn’t; and what was possible in Phoenix and what wasn’t. The cities explored included Brandt’s hometown of St. Louis, Denver and Seattle. Out of this research, “we saw an opportunity (with the creation of Downtown Phoenix Inc.), to acknowledge a broader sense of downtown and bring things together under one umbrella to coordinate and deliver a message,” said Brandt.
Brandt believes that the Downtown Phoenix, Inc. structure will expand relationships among business, government, education entities, community groups, and residents. One of the biggest benefits of this structure is that “DPI will coordinate different entities downtown…political leaders, business leaders and community leaders – just a year into it we’re beginning to speak with one voice. We set the priorities and tackle them, and, frankly, are able to bring more resources to bring to bear.”
He points out that the broadened membership component of DPI is a key part of getting everyone’s voice at the table. “PCA (Phoenix Community Alliance) was mostly the businesses and developer community. In cities that are successful with this umbrella structure, such as Denver, St. Louis, Seattle, the residents and small businesses also have membership for a modest fee and get value from it.” As an affiliate and the membership arm of Downtown Phoenix, Inc., PCA will provide that value.
“…we saw an opportunity (with the creation of Downtown Phoenix Inc.), to acknowledge a broader sense of downtown and bring things together under one umbrella to coordinate and deliver a message.”
Another thrust for DPI will be supporting and coordinating events. Brandt mentioned the success that Denver has had with their events. “Denver’s got more than 10 years on us, but we’re starting. They have one event after another and generate a net profit of about $10 million from their events. We have a few events in downtown now, but hey,” he smiles, “we have a few more months of good outdoor weather than Denver.”
So how do he and his family like to spend their free time downtown? “We come down for all kinds of sports and to eat. There’s plenty of variety down here, even just here in Arizona Center, for example. Particularly after work, we meet friends for dinner and a drink and walk over to a ball game.”
Additionally, APS often has visitors and guests from out of town and Brandt is clearly proud of what downtown has to offer visitors, including great hotels and the world-class Phoenix Convention Center.
We finished by asking Brandt his thoughts looking forward to the Super Bowl activities that will be in downtown next year. “Their (the NFL) downtown presence is going to be huge. There’s plenty of opportunity for businesses downtown to participate and support that.” He went on, “It will be a blast down here. In New York last year, 70-80,000 people went to the game, plus probably 300,000 others came in for the experience. In New York, you didn’t notice 400,000 extra people,” he laughed, “but I think we’ll feel it in downtown Phoenix.”
Chef Robert McGrath is known for his creative approach to regional cuisine. The James Beard Foundation award-winning chef has helmed the kitchen at such fine dining establishments as the Four Seasons Hotel, the Phoenician Resort, Roaring Fork and Renegade Canteen. Since then, throughout the restaurant industry, McGrath describes a transition of “restaurants becoming more comfortable, more approachable, with not so much high-end dining.”
McGrath’s own career has also taken a turn, now serving as TV host for Eight’s Check, Please! Arizona. In this role, McGrath is garnering new acclaim, putting a face to the food that many have dined on for over two decades.
Currently in its fourth season, the two-time Emmy winning show has generated what McGrath estimates will be over 150 restaurant reviews by the end of the season, all by locals who dine at the chosen establishments. These conversations are all moderated with the safe guidance of McGrath’s quick wit.
The relationship between the restaurants and host is what helped launch Eight’s Check, Please! Arizona Festival at CityScape. The second annual event takes place this Sunday, March 30. Attendees are invited to taste the food of over 30 participating restaurants, view local artwork with Artlink Inc.’s Feast Your Eyes group art exhibition, and hear from a James Beard Award-winning panel discussion featuring chefs McGrath, Christopher Gross, and Nobuo Fukuda. These, and additional chefs, will also be cooking throughout the day on three stages.
Last year’s first Check, Please! Arizona Festival took place the last weekend in April, and McGrath says that in this second year, “the dynamic is going to be a little bit more active, a little more lively, a little more zip because it won’t be so darn hot.” With the exception of Chef Chris Bianco, who had family commitments this year, all of last year’s participating chefs are returning, a testament to the fun they all had last year.
“We all know each other very well,” McGrath says of his fellow chefs. “It’s a really nice discussion, a chance for the public to ask us about our careers and our opinions, our thoughts and ideals.”
McGrath’s transition to hosting, while seamless, was not something the chef sought out. McGrath recalls, “When they first approached me, I thought it was for a donation, a benefit to help the station. So I kept blowing them off.” It was, as he describes, his “irreverent self” that ultimately won him the spot. “It seemed so abstract. I didn’t put on an act to make it.” Of the show he didn’t know he was auditioning for, “I’ve had nothing but fun with it. It’s just been a great, great experience.”
This weekend’s event will offer festivalgoers the chance to try out for their spot as a critic on season five. While McGrath will likely be busy with his cooking demos and talks, leaving the initial audition process to the producers, he sees such a fun opportunity here, differentiating this event from the myriad of other food festivals that proliferate the Valley each weekend.
“How fun is this? You go down to the festival, you eat, drink and have a ball, the weather is great, and audition for a television program.”
Describing the ideal candidate as someone who is “comfortable in your own skin, having passion, and knowing what you’re talking about,” he may as well be describing his own unlikely audition a few years ago.
As the festival takes place in CityScape, McGrath would be remiss not to detail the changes to the downtown dining scene. “I think downtown is certainly getting more vibrant and getting a lot more variety in the dining down there.” He credits the variety of people moving downtown into the apartments and condos, as well as the draw of the historic districts, which has encouraged business—and thus restaurant—growth.
The diversity of the offerings downtown can be summed up in his go-to spots. “For me to pick a favorite restaurant is like trying to pick a favorite child. My favorite restaurant is whatever strikes the mood at that particular time.”
With that said, he singles out a few of his fellow panelists. “I love Chris’s [Bianco] pizza, and I love Nobu’s [Nobuo at Teeter House] food. If I was doing it on a pretty regular basis, I think it’d be Mrs. White’s [Golden Rule Café], I just love her food. You just can’t tell my cardiologist that. And they’re doing some neat things at Blue Hound at the Palomar right there at CityScape.”
Whenever McGrath does make it back to the kitchen, he keeps a local goal in mind. “I’m looking for the best possible ingredients. Typically that applies to ingredients that are closer to the kitchen, closer to the restaurant.” He cites it as a chef’s “responsibility” to “support local growers and farmers.”
Between featuring local restaurants on Check, Please! Arizona, leading a food festival in the heart of downtown, and relying on local food sources, McGrath practices what he preaches.
“I think keeping our money amongst our community here, in terms of agriculture and restaurants, it’s healthy. We’re all supporting each other, all promoting each other. It’s synergy.”
If You Go
When: Sunday, March 30th, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tickets: Visit www.azpbs.org/checkplease/festival
Photos courtesy of Eight, Arizona PBS
Julie Meeker loves math, science and beer. So, naturally, she’s opening a brewery.
“From the time I was legally allowed to drink, I’ve always been interested in local, craft beer. Which, back in the ’80s, there weren’t a lot of choices.”
In an effort to add a few more locally brewed choices to downtown Phoenix, Julie and her husband Jimmie McBride are in the process of creating Mother Bunch Brewing, a brew house and restaurant planned to inhabit the historic J.B. Bayless building on 7th Street and Garfield.
Julie hopes to feature not only her own original beers, but an array of locally made beer from around the state, in addition to wine and what she calls “interesting cocktails.”
“We’re going to have a total of 20 handles, with up to 8 Mother Bunch beers at any time,” she said.
While working toward a June opening, Julie is focusing on transforming a space originally intended for retail into a full-service restaurant and brewery while respecting the history and original exterior of the building.
The interior is designed with the bar and kitchen in the center, in a rustic—but not too-rustic—fashion. She is also hoping to incorporate an outdoor patio, but will wait a few months because the outdoor dining permit process is a little more involved.
Julie’s goal for the bar is “traditional items presented in a contemporary manner.” And in an effort to make business luncheons less painful, she is also installing a large meeting area to accommodate televised presentations, for groups who want to enjoy a drink while working.
Luckily, Julie is no stranger to the unique challenges of construction, after having spent the last 25 years in general contracting, and even working as one of the engineers on the Cardinals stadium.
This is her first small business venture though, and she hopes it will fill a need in the downtown area. As for the interesting name, she took a cue from the history of home brewing.
“Part of being a nerd is that you also like the history of stuff too. I was researching alewives—back in the 1500s and 1600s, women were actually the brewers. It was part of your household duties, like doing the laundry or baking bread,” she said, and the term ‘Mother Bunch’ came from a book on the practice.
As Julie describes, making beer has always been her hobby, and turning the thing you love into your moneymaker is the ultimate goal of every business owner.
“It’s everybody’s dream. Hopefully, it won’t turn into a nightmare!”
Julie’s liquor license is going before the Phoenix City Council on April 16 and, along with a few additional licenses, a positive vote should lead to a new brew house opening this summer in downtown Phoenix.
To find out the official launch date for this festive new brew house and additional updates on the space, check out Mother Bunch Brewing’s progress on their Facebook page!