Businesses report success through summer, despite regular drop in traffic due to heat

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(Austin Miller/DD)
Businesses along Roosevelt Row and Grand Avenue, including those on Fifth Street just south of Roosevelt Street, have the advantage of customer loyalty and popularity to keep them thriving. (Austin Miller/DD)

Arizona’s sweltering summers have the potential to make life miserable for businesses downtown, but almost every one pulled through with moderate success this past season, business owners said.

The local businesses of Roosevelt Row and Grand Avenue have continued to grow in popularity; however, the population of downtown Phoenix drops during the summer months due in part to college students returning home and in part to fewer people willing to walk around in the heat.

Downtown Phoenix has survived the summer in spite of these challenges. Dan Klocke, vice president of economic development for the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, said this summer was on par with, if not better than, previous years.

“Certainly summertime is always the tougher time of the year, especially for a place like downtown Phoenix, which is somewhat dependent on conventions and tourism and so forth, but this summer has been decent,” he said. “We’ve seen a few more restaurants open up and a couple more coming, and we see hotels’ occupancy levels climbing in the first six months of the year compared to last year, so I think that’s good.”

The message of moderate success appears to be the same on the individual business level.

Coffeehouses in downtown Phoenix often have the advantage of a loyal following, and many businesses on Roosevelt Row and Grand Avenue are urban niche spots. Klocke acknowledged this customer loyalty and popularity of niche restaurants.

“There’s restaurants on Roosevelt Row that are probably making more money than some of those in downtown Phoenix,” he said.

Short Leash co-owner Brad Moore said that while the summer is harder, downtown businesses generally pull through. He said both the food truck and the brick-and-mortar location Sit…Stay saw steady business through the summer.

“We have eight months of great weather and those couple months of really hot weather, but Phoenicians for the most part are pretty resilient when it comes to the heat,” he said.

The mobile hot-dog eatery exemplifies one of the best techniques for downtown Phoenix businesses in the quest for customers, Moore said.

“I think what (the food truck) does is it gives us the flexibility to do some catering jobs and private parties and things of that sort, which really do help offset any sort of shortcomings the restaurant might have,” Moore said. “For most restaurants here in the Phoenix area, especially during the summer, so much of what we do is outdoor dining and outdoor spaces and so during those summer months it really cuts your seating in half and makes it a little bit trickier.”

Grand Avenue Pizza Company also used unique offerings to maintain business. It opens at 4 p.m. and closes at 4 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The restaurant features a special pizza of the day that is topped with anything from cheeseburger ingredients to stir-fry.

Though the store opened just three months ago, night-shift manager Travis Balestrieri said business has been steadily growing based mostly on word-of-mouth.

The summer heat is less detrimental for them because most of their clientele eats after the sun sets.

“The majority of our business is in the evening when it’s cooler,” he said. “Our business is pretty much 90 percent restricted to nighttime people between 7 o’clock and midnight, some delivery and then our bar crowd after the bars close. So I don’t think by that time they really care about what the weather’s like.”

For the most part, summer sales have not dropped significantly for the businesses of Roosevelt Row and Grand Avenue, but there are exceptions.

Bragg’s Factory Diner just created a page on GoFundMe.com, asking the public to donate to keep the restaurant alive after a particularly hard summer.

“Keeping our doors open hasn’t been as easy as we let on — in fact, we’ve hit a rough patch in our journey,” the website stated. “After a string of hard luck and a whole lot of bad timing, we’ve found ourselves on the verge of closing our doors.”

Within four hours, Bragg’s Factory Diner had received $1,585 on the fundraiser website.

“Especially downtown, it’s such a great community,” Moore said. “People tend to build a lot of collaborative stuff and are willing to work together and be supportive of each other, so that goes a long ways.”

Contact the reporter at miranda.reddy@asu.edu

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