Editor’s note: This is part of a recurring series that looks at Tucson’s unique shopping spots.
Burbling fountains, brick arches and breezy alleyways might not spring to mind at the thought of the intersection at Ina and Oracle roads.
Framed on two sides by bustling traffic, Casas Adobes Plaza on the southwest corner of the intersection is about 100,000 square feet of high-end shopping and dining.
“People tell us all the time that it gives off an Old World charm,” says Richard Shenkarow, a managing partner of the property and president of Shenkarow Realty Advisors.
The original 1947 section of the plaza designed by Gordon Luepke, a protege of architect Josias Joesler, has grown to host a medley of chain and local businesses.
A Whole Foods, closed for renovations since January 2013, is set to open late summer or early fall.
The remodeled store will offer shoppers a cornucopia of dining bars — sandwiches, salads, ramen, coffee, juice and smoothies — and a full-service restaurant with 24 beers on tap, says Sara Putnam, the associate marketing coordinator for Whole Foods Southern Pacific region.
As a gateway connecting midtown Tucson, the Catalina Foothills and Oro Valley, the plaza beckons visitors to slow down, wander and indulge.
Bluefin Seafood Bistro, bluefintucson.com, 531-8500. Tucked back in the central courtyard of the plaza, this restaurant dishes up fish in a setting that feels more seaside than Sonoran. The outdoor patio and mezzanine sitting area overlook a fountain and shop windows. Outside, a brick staircase curls between stories.
“The plaza takes you there,” says owner and chef Jim Murphy. “It’s not seafood in the desert. You’re not looking on to cactus.”
Fox Restaurant Concepts, foxrc.com, 219-4230 for Wildflower American Cuisine, 297-8575 for Sauce Pizza & Wine. The first Fox Restaurant, Wildflower American Cuisine, settled into the shopping center in 1998, serving comfort dishes in an elegant dining room. Sauce Pizza & Wine, the company’s first quick Italian food spot, followed.
“(The restaurants) share a lot of the same guests,” says Regan Jasper, one of the company’s founding partners who also runs the beverage program. “Wildflower is a date night or where people take out-of-town guests or for special occasions. Sauce is where you go when you’re hungry or need to feed the kids or just take it to go.”
Frost, A Gelato Shoppe, frostgelato.com, 797-0188. Since the first Frost location opened at the plaza in 2005, gelato has added to the shopping center’s European flavor.
Every month, the shop cycles through new and seasonal flavors. In March, expect flavors such as cantaloupe and Baileys, Guinness and Bellini in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, says Jeffrey Kaiserman, co-owner with Stephen Ochoa.
Shoppers can also dine at chain restaurants Starbucks, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Pei Wei Asian Diner.
Loop Jean Co., loopjeancompany.com, 219-9785. This denim-focused boutique houses some of the best brands for jeans in one place, says Ted Greve, who has co-owned the store with his wife, Tamara, for about six years.
Made from premium denim, their jeans for men and women cost $129 to $395. The store also sells a small selection of tops, accessories and shoes. It recently added its menswear Robert Graham Shop.
Maya Palace, mayapalacetucson.com, 575-8028. The women’s clothing boutique overflows with color, racks stuffed with bright gowns, blouses and skirts.
In the bridal section, white dresses swathed in lace and tulle range from about $900 to $2,500, says John Kopplin, who, with his wife, Susana, co-owns the boutique and its larger Plaza Palomino sibling.
J Brulee Home, jbrulee.com, 219-1515. The store, which specializes in home decor and gifts, sells upscale bedding and towels stamped with designer names and European labels. A set of Egyptian cotton sheets starts around $250.
“It runs the gamut of mid to really upscale,” owner Jay Gunter says of the store’s inventory. “Some are the best in the world for sheets and duvet covers and towels.”
Whimsy, whimsyclothing.com, 797-9855. The women’s clothing store mixes basics — camis, skirts, leggings — with pieces that are just, well, whimsical. Cowgirl boots and jewelry fill the shelves. Prices stay under $100 for the most part, with exceptions for specialty items such as boots.
“We are trying to sell a good product without charging a fortune in price,” says Ryan Steele, who co-owns Whimsy with his wife, Sheri.
Other shopping options at the plaza include:
Bryn Walker, brynwalker.com, 219-3383.
J Gilbert Footwear, jgilbertfootwear.com, 531-8385.
Fresh Produce, freshproduceclothes.com, 742-2000.
Jos. A. Bank, josbank.com, 498-6465.
Chico’s, chicos.com, 797-1200.