With Scottsdale’s annual Downtown Week set to begin Tuesday, business owners are beginning the fall season with high hopes for a return to full stores and restaurants.
While downtown businesses slowed this summer, as in summers past, owners are optimistic that the spotlight of Downtown Week and the end of hot weather will mark a turning point in the short and long terms. Residents are returning for the cooler weather, students are back in school and a slew of attention-grabbing events is planned for the next few months.
The week will include a business showcase, a breakfast with business author Debbie Allen, guided trolley tours of the downtown district and an arts walk. Registration is required for some events.
Business owners say the attention can’t come soon enough.
"The summer has just killed me," said Leanne Simonson, owner of Fiesta Southwest Gifts. "I made more money after 9/11 than I have recently."
In part, she said, the city added to her troubles when it disbanded the Downtown Scottsdale Partnership, a nonprofit group that ran advertising for downtown businesses, earlier this year because of public criticism of its ad campaigns. The Enhanced Municipal Services District Commission was created in its place.
"I feel like they let us down," she said.
Still, she said, she doesn’t want to sound overly negative.
"We still have the city listening to what’s going on," she said. "I can’t say we’re bellyup just because the partnership dissolved. If we can survive the construction of the Waterfront projects, it’ll be so nice downtown."
The Scottsdale Waterfront is a $250 million luxury condominium tower scheduled to include retail and office space. Construction has already begun on the project at the northern bank of the Arizona Canal at Scottsdale and Camelback roads.
Sandy Daiza, owner of Sewell’s Indian Arts & Crafts at 7087 E. Fifth Ave., said although it’s been a bad year for him, he’s pleased with the commission’s work, especially its increase of area grants for each of the five distinct business areas in the downtown district.
"The economy is bad, and we just have to hang in there," he said.
Sahler Hornbeck, downtown liaison with the Scottsdale Downtown Team, said city officials are aware of how hard summers are on businesses and that downtown hasn’t been forgotten.
"We’ve got about $500 million of public and private investments and projects planned over the next four to five years," he said. "We’re working a lot harder to partner with businesses, match money, waive some fees. From the city’s perspective, we think we’ve really turned the corner."
Still, he said, that doesn’t change the nature of business: Owners have to offer what customers want.
"There are some very progressive businesses downtown and some who rely on what’s worked for the past 25 to 30 years," he said.
Barbara Bartlett, owner of Picknicken Garden Cafe & Bakery at 7051 E. Fifth Ave., has been in business in the downtown area for 22 years and has had to make some changes during that time.
"The last time we moved locations, a lot of people said they thought we’d gone out of business," she said with a laugh.
"Then they find us again. What does that tell you about how often people come downtown? "
What: A series of business-related events in the downtown Scottsdale area
Tuesday: "Business-to-business showcase" 4 to 7 p.m. at the Chaparral Suites Resort, 5001 N. Scottsdale Road. Free admission with business card. Registration required.
Wednesday: Business breakfast 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the James Hotel, 7353 E. Indian School Road, featuring Debbie Allen, a retail and merchandising expert, former Scottsdale business owner and author of "Confessions of Shameless Self-Promoters." $30 for Chamber of Commerce members, $40 for nonmembers. Registration required.
Thursday: Trolley tour through downtown area, starting at the Chaparral Suites, 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. with guides Ed Gawf, deputy city manager, and John Little, executive director of The Downtown Group; also, an art walk 7 to 9 p.m. Free.
Friday:Trolley tour through downtown area, starting at the Chaparral Suites, 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. with Gawf and Little. Free.
Registration: (480) 949-6299 or
Information: (480) 312-2394