GILBERT, Ariz. —
As Arizona cities figure out new paths to economic success, downtowns look at reinvention.
One model could be downtown Gilbert and its focus on small business. The city may be an example of how one man can make a difference.
The Liberty Market has been a fixture along Gilbert Road in downtown Gilbert since 1935. It was a grocery store until seven years ago, when Joe Johnston bought it and changed it to a restaurant.
Johnston has owned the popular Joe’s Barbecue across the street for 15 years, and is credited with turning around the town.
“Before Joe came to town, it was almost a ghost town downtown, quite frankly,” said Kathy Tilque, president and CEO of the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce. “We had a very few small businesses left over from the 1960s and ’70’s when this was the business community in Gilbert. There was one small restaurant. It definitely not a destination point at that point.”
Then Johnston arrived. “He turned the market around,” said Tilque. “He had a vision.”
Johnston grew up in Gilbert in the 1960s-’70s, when the population was about 5,000. (Over 250,000 people now call Gilbert home.) He owned the Coffee Plantation in Phoenix, but sold it. He opened his barbeque place after being attracted by downtown Gilbert’s charm.
“If you think about some of the better retail streets in the country, including the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, they’re always short, basically three to four blocks long.
“Basically the Heritage District in downtown Glendale is three blocks long, so it’s a walkable scale and a defined area” said Johnston. “The nice thing is that it’s been preserved pretty much intact since day one.”
The success of Joe’s Barbeque and Liberty Market caused other restaurant owners to set up shop nearby. Among them are Postino and Romeo’s Euro Café. Downtown Gilbert will soon be home to St. Xavier University and its 600 students.
Tilque said downtown Gilbert’s future is bright.
“We’ve got some great projects coming downtown, and I think it’s going to offer new density opportunities, said Tilque. “Why that’s important is because now you’re going to have a place where people can live, work, and play. I think that’s very attractive.”
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
- Affordable small home makeover ideas
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Overlooked water tips to save you money
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food
- 5 spring cleaning spots everyone forgets
- 5 reasons to look forward to watching the D-backs this season
- Common virus attributed to spike in head and neck cancers
- 5 signs it’s time to end your timeshare ownership
- 3 most overlooked ways to keep your home healthy
- 6 ways the air in your home could be making you sick
- CrossFit dangers: 5 common injuries and how to deal with them
- Today's radiation treatments offer better success, fewer side effects
- Tips to make watching TV on the patio even better
- What really happens when you donate to a community college?
- Sun and skin cancer: Separating fact from fiction
- 5 critical lifestyle changes for a healthy colon