Streetcar construction downtown is done.
Its restaurant scene is hopping.
And, get this, there’s good shopping, too.
No doubt about it, downtown Tucson is happening.
“We’ve seen the same uptick on the retail side” as with restaurants, says Michael Keith, CEO of the Downtown Tucson Partnership, a nonprofit charged with revitalizing the area. “It’s been really exciting to watch the blend of different retailers come in here. We’ve got clothing retailers and jewelers and art retailers. It’s happened all very organically, all locally owned businesses. It’s given downtown a flavor it couldn’t have any other way.”
In the past five years, 30 private retailers have opened and remained in business downtown, according to the partnership.
“The bars and restaurants are great, but what’s going to keep people downtown is your events, retail,” says Jodi Henderson, who opened her women’s boutique, Inner Tie, in July after being online only for about a year. “It keeps people here.”
Henderson’s East Pennington Street store is above Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink.
“I knew I wanted to be downtown,” says Henderson, but admits that at the same time, “You have to have guts to come down here.”
Longtime Tucsonan Eleonor Leon considered no other location when she decided to open her dream store, La Fashionista, on South Sixth Avenue, earlier this year.
“I’m just happy to be here,” says Leon, who opened last summer.
Once upon a time, Tucsonans had no other choice but to come downtown to buy everything. Then, suburban malls came along and the stores went away.
But with the influx of student housing and the potential to be connected to thousands more University of Arizona students on campus when the streetcar is running next year, downtown retailers could gain a new, younger demographic to go along with the weekday working stiffs.
Keith said property downtown is shown on an almost weekly basis. Prospective businesses are excited about being downtown, he says.
“This is where they want to be, where the people are, where the new restaurants are,” he says. “The streetcar is kind of the cherry on the sundae. There’s a promise there, a promise about new customers coming.”
The best part about trekking downtown this holiday season is that it’s possible to shop, grab a bite and get some exercise all at the same time. As an added bonus: An annual decorating contest for downtown merchants means store windows will be super-festive.
“We have all these businesses that are offering unique items,” says Caitlin Jensen, the Downtown Tucson Partnership’s marketing and PR coordinator. “You can find things for a kid, a grandma, in this very walkable setting that’s like a winter wonderland.”
What’s new in town
We know you know the old-timers — the Tucson Museum of Art gift shop, Old Town Artisans, The Chicago Store — so allow us to introduce you to some of the newcomers. A tip: Call first to check hours. Many downtown stores open later and aren’t open every day, and many have holiday hours.
1. VII Grand, 178 E. Broadway, 623-2003, viigrand.com. Most of the downtown boutiques cater to women, this one — co-owned by former UA basketball player and now NBA player Derrick Williams — is for the guys. It offers men’s apparel, sneakers along with backpacks, wallets and belts.
2. La Fashionista, 45 S. Sixth Ave., 551-8382. This newcomer specializes in one-of-a-kind finds from vintage clothing and accessories to original designs.
3. Revolutio, 43 S. Sixth Ave., 829-1033, revolutioboutique.com. Along with owner Heather Lindquist’s clothing line, Tonatiuh, this shop offers home accents, sparkly hair accessories and even snuggly stuffed animals for the kiddos.
4. ForsShop, 245 E. Congress St., Suite 135, 795-9888. Carved out of the front of local architecture and design business FORS Architecture + Interiors, this little store features eclectic and, no surprise, very design-oriented trinkets.
5. A Perfect Pantry, 21 E. Congress St., 884-3454, www.aperfectpantry.com. While you’ll find plenty of kitchen gizmos, this store bursts with a little bit of everything.
6. Inner Tie, 101 E. Pennington St., Suite 201, 1-888-978-5091, www.innertie.com. This chic women’s boutique has everything from fun, inexpensive jewelry to bags and clothing — including party dresses — from independent designers.
7. CandyStrike, 197 E. Toole Ave., 288-8124, www.candy-strike.com. After just a year, local designer Elizabeth Denneau, who specializes in plus-size designs, is reopening her redone store Saturday. People can place custom orders, pick up online orders or shop the boutique that offers jewelry, art and clothing that runs from small to plus-sized.