ECONOMY

Downtown Gilbert focuses on small business, area thrives

Aug 27, 2013, 12:00 PM | Updated: 2:28 pm

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.”

Economy

(City of Mesa Photo)...

SuElen Rivera

City of Mesa announces path-to-recovery plan for homeless community

The city of Mesa released details Wednesday of its latest plan to assist its homeless community through a housing path to recovery plan.

3 years ago

(Pexels Photo)...

KTAR.com

Projection of 500,000 new Arizona jobs could be on low side, analyst says

A state report projected that Arizona jobs would increase by more than half a million by 2026. That projection could be low, according to a Valley economic analyst.

6 years ago

An investor places her leg on a bench near an electronic board displaying stock prices at a brokera...

Jim Cross

Valley economist: Stock market drop will be short-lived

A Phoenix-area economist said people shouldn't overreact to the American stock market taking a plunge Monday after Chinese stocks did the same.

9 years ago

Carter Nacke

Barclays bank to cut 1,700 jobs in Britain

LONDON (AP) – Barclays bank plans to cut 1,700 jobs from its network of British branches, about 5 percent of the total workforce. Britain’s second-largest bank says it is seeking to make the cuts through voluntary buy-outs. It currently employs 33,600 people at 1,577 branches in Britain. Barclays said “the way in which our customers […]

11 years ago

Mac & Gaydos

Group encourages Arizonans to support local businesses

Arizona's economy has the potential to flourish if consumers decide to spend more of their money in locally owned businesses, according to Erica Pederson, communications coordinator for Local First Arizona.

11 years ago

...

Rob & Karie

Colangelo: For Phoenix to continue to grow, ‘someone else needs to take the reins’ with a vision

When Jerry Colangelo came to the Valley in 1968, he saw an opportunity for both physical and cultural growth.

11 years ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

Downtown Gilbert focuses on small business, area thrives