Where were you when I needed you? Hmmm?
Back in the early ’70s, I lived in the small mining town of Silver Bell, 40 miles from nowhere at the end of the Avra Valley Road. No shops, no restaurants and, not long after we arrived, no convenience store or gas station.
If you ran out of milk or bread, you were out of luck. Same for gas. One year, we had made plans to celebrate our anniversary in Tucson. The car wouldn’t start. No problem, we’ll hop in the pickup truck. Oops, it’s almost out of gas, and the gas station (soon to permanently close) won’t reopen until Monday morning.
Hot dogs and beans turned out to be the house special that evening. Sigh.
The closest restaurant was Li’l Abner’s, so remote at the time that diners still arrived by horseback, tying their steeds up on the hitching posts out front.
The closest hospital was St. Mary’s, more than 40 miles away. When our toddler son jumped off his bed, connecting his forehead to a dollhouse down below, St. Mary’s is where I had to rush him for stitches.
The closest library was more than 30 miles away. Once a month, the good ol’ Bookmobile rumbled up the road to Silver Bell, helping keep me sane – and connected. There were no e-books, no Internet. Even outgoing telephone calls were long-distance.
The closet supermarket was on West Grant Road, a mile or two east of the interstate. Every week, I would make the trek, kids and shopping list in tow. If I forgot something on the list, we went without for another week.
And now comes word of not one but two outlet megacenters planning to open somewhat in the old neighborhood — one at Interstate 10 and Twin Peaks Road, the other at the southwest corner of I-10 and Avra Valley Road.
Well I remember that corner, 23 miles from our house. At the time it was little more than a railroad spur and desert scrub. I can’t even envision what’s to come: more than 100 stores that, say developers, might spur even more development.
Then again, if it trots out the same stores hosted by its nearest competitor at the Twin Peaks location, it could be curtains for both. Why would I need, say, two Old Navys out in the middle of the desert?
For a worst-case scenario, all you have to do is look west and north to some of the outlet enterprises in the Casa Grande area, some little more than shells.
On the other hand, there’s a chance both recently proposed outlet locations closer to Tucson could not only survive but thrive with a mix of novel and needed services.
Will Nordstrom ever rise up at the end of the Avra Valley Road? Doubt it, though I said the same thing about the Ritz-Carlton in Marana.
Based on prior experience, here’s what I would recommend:
- An urgent-care center. No more 40-mile treks to the emergency room.
- A gas station and full-service auto repair and maintenance shop. No more blown anniversaries.
- A full-fledged library, with lots of computers.
- A modern supermarket.
- Plenty of restaurants – with or without the hitching post.
I’ll be eager to see what transpires in the next few months. So, I am sure, will be the folks who live in that neck of the woods — some still miles and miles from nowhere.