[Source: Denise Meridith, Phoenix Business Insight Examiner]
Phoenicians have had several disappointments related to planned developments, with big chains, such as Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom’s abandoning expansion plans in Arizona. It may actually be up to small businesses to rescue Phoenix’ economy. One such business—Designer District—celebrated the grand opening of its third Arizona store with a fashion show at CityScape in downtown Phoenix on Friday night, October 1, 2010.
A backdrop at the show said, “Designer District is less about fashion than achieving a strong sense of personal style.” A sense of style has been missing in downtown Phoenix since drugs, crime, homelessness, gang activity, scandals, and the flight of stores to suburban shopping centers in the 1970’s and 1980’s tarnished the image of the city’s center. In the 2000’s, the population boom, construction of the baseball park, opening of an ASU campus and plans for new office buildings and condos promised to restore a vibrant downtown. But the real estate crash and recent political controversies threatened to put an end to the hope.
“I wanted to show people that there is a place to shop downtown again,” said Kurt Blaydorn, the founder of Designer District, “to create a destination to give people hope,” when asked why he chose to open a store downtown now.
On Friday night, Blaydorn was not the only one expressing optimism about the new CityScape center and downtown Phoenix. Jeffrey Evans, a long-time participant in the New York City fashion industry, who narrated the fashion show, moved from New York, then Scottsdale to downtown Phoenix. He and his wife, Brandi, love the excitement and promise of their new neighborhood.
Joanna deShay, who will have her own Black Russian fashion line on display at thePhoenix Fashion Fair next week, came to the show because she is “excited about what fashion can become in Phoenix…it’s no longer just about tee shirts and jeans.”
Kerry Dunne and Reed Glick will have a hand in making sure this is just the start of fun events downtown. Their R Entertainment has a full schedule (including a Friday night concert series) planned for downtown. “It will be amazing,” said Glick.
What will also be amazing is if, in the end, it is not national companies that create the Phoenix Renaissance, but a collaboration of small, dedicated and passionate local businesses.