Merchants on both sides of Broadway between Campbell and Country Club are hoping to give their piece of Tucson a sense of identity by taking on its former name, "The Sunshine Mile."
Monica Hay Cook, owner of Deco Art for Living Boutique at 2612 E. Broadway, thought it was time to put the midtown shopping district back on the map by making it a destination - like Tucson's bohemian North Fourth Avenue, but retro, Modernist and upscale.
"Fourth Avenue has an identity. People know the area by name, and I felt like we needed a name," Hay Cook said.
She did her research, and found out the Broadway shopping district was called "The Sunshine Mile" in 1953 as the result of a naming contest sponsored by the East Broadway Improvement Association.
"That's exactly what we need," Hay Cook said. "And the fact that it's historic makes it cool, too."
There were more than 5,000 entries to name the corridor back in the day, with the winner receiving $700, said Demion Clinco, leader of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation. The winning name was used throughout the 1950s.
Hirsh's Shoes, 2934 E. Broadway, has been on the strip since 1954.
Sid Hirsh, the store's co-owner, said the idea for the area was to make it like Los Angeles' Wilshire Boulevard, known as Los Angeles' "grand concourse" and lined with historic 20th century architecture.
The Tucson boulevard, similarly, "was very upscale. Broadway Village was really first rate," Hirsh said, pointing to the 1939 architectural gem at Broadway and Country Club well-known for its red-brick Spanish Colonial Revival-style design. "It was a destination area."
The benefits of relaunching the historic name are twofold.
"It's good for Tucson to honor its past, and it's good for merchants on this strip to have an identity," said Kevin Pawlak, co-owner of Arte de la Vida at 37 N. Tucson Blvd.
"The corridor features some of Tucson's most significant mid-century modern buildings," Clinco said. "Relaunching the name is a wonderful way to connect to that Modernist era."
Hirsh's store, among others, is considered an example of Modernist architecture, which was defined by clean, simple lines and a casual informality.
Hay Cook set things in motion. She got other merchants on board, and created a trifold brochure, highlighting the location of participating shops.
There are currently 34 stores listed - all of them locally owned.
Her husband, Jude Cook, who is known for his restoration work on Tucson's iconic neon signs such as downtown's "diving girl," painted a Sunshine Mile mural to act as a landmark for the district.
The mural, which depicts a Sunshine Mile sign, mirrors the retro architecture of the area.
Hay Cook said other merchants are helping out as well, by adding their expertise in different areas.
For example, she said the people at Art Hair created the Sunshine Mile's sunshinemile.com website, and Patricia Katchur, owner of Yikes Toys, is doing the Facebook page.
Merchants have already found value in the collaboration.
"What I find most beneficial has been the sense of community that has been created," Pawlak said. "We meet for breakfast once a month and talk about ideas on how to get people in our stores. It's been wonderful."
Charlotte Lasselsberger, owner of Little Bird Nesting Company, 2924 E. Broadway, welcomes the common goal. "Monica's idea was really great," she said.
Hay Cook said people are even calling each other now to inquire about specific items customers are looking for.
The merchants will hold an official unveiling of the mural and a Sunshine Mile festival next Saturday, with store deals, music, refreshments and the launch of a month-long scavenger hunt.
"Hopefully it will make it a shopping destination like a lot of other areas," said Lasselsberger.
If You Go
What: A festival to celebrate the return of the Sunshine Mile.
There will be an unveiling of the mural, live music, refreshments, demonstrations and store discounts. Attendees can also pick up the Sunshine Mile's Shopping, Dining and Services Guide as well as the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation's guide, "Broadway: Born Modern."
The festival also kicks off a monthlong scavenger hunt, where customers can win prizes from select stores.
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 2.
Where: 2610 E. Broadway.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Modernist buildings on East Broadway between North Campbell Avenue and North Country Club Road - the Sunshine Mile - were feted last year in Tucson's first Modernism Week, a celebration of the city's embrace of midcentury modern design after World War II.
At the time, Demion Clinco, president of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, noted that the serious growth and boom in Tucson happened after the war, with Modernism playing a significant role. "It was this new identity that expressed optimism and exuberance," he said.
Modernism architecture is hot these days, Clinco said, especially with younger fans, who are mad for Mod.
Source: Star archives
Contact reporter Angela Pittenger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4137.