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Why A Fry's Grocery Store Is A Big Deal To Downtown Phoenix

STEVE GOLDSTEIN: Downtown Phoenix officially has a grocery store. That might not sound like a big deal, but it is the first one put in the area in at least 60 years. Now, after four years of planning and building, a brand new Fry's grocery store is open, and it's being welcomed as a sign of downtown's continued growth and ability to grow while also addressing the area's longstanding status as a food desert. Here to tell us more about the impact the new store will have on downtown is Dan Klocke, executive director of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, a business development group in the district. Dan, good morning.

DAN KLOCKE: Good morning, Steve.

GOLDSTEIN: So let's figure out at this point why this is such a big deal and why it's taken so long.

KLOCKE: So, It may sound a little bit like hyperbole to get so excited about a grocery store, but in an urban neighborhood, the grocery store really has a different role. And I've lived in a lot of urban neighborhoods. A grocery store has a different role. It's truly part of that community fabric, that community infrastructure, if you will. And it tends to bring people together in a way that other suburban grocery stores don't. And I know that sounds a little odd, but it's a different kind of neighborhood.

GOLDSTEIN: How do you see it really impacting downtown itself, both in terms of what it feels like, but also on a practical level?

KLOCKE: So on a practical level, I walk 200 feet from the front door of Fry's grocery store, so I know I will be there constantly. On broader, more sort of economic development perspective, if you look at a lot of the research out there, when grocery stores are opened in downtown neighborhoods, it dramatically impacts the residential units that are built. And so since Fry's grocery store has been built, I went back and looked at all the numbers. Since it was announced, we've had 7,200 units completed, under construction or in pre-development since that announcement was made. It's a sign. It's a symbol. And like I said, I know it sounds like hyperbole, but it truly is a game changer for an urban neighborhood.

GOLDSTEIN: Now, if I think about the proximity of things in that area, there is a Safeway not that far away on McDowell. Why is this going to have an impact that maybe the Safeway wasn't having? Does a mile and a half feel like a lot for folks who are not necessarily always in their cars?

KLOCKE: It's a huge difference. It truly is. And and this Safeway is is a wonderful story. It's done great things for that area. I don't live too far away from that. But when you have a store that you can walk to, literally for tens of thousands of people, it truly is a a game changer for the community.

GOLDSTEIN: Anything specific about why it's Fry's? I know certainly Fry's is a growing chain. But years ago that were supposed to be a Basha's downtown that ran into some difficulties.

KLOCKE: Yeah, there was. And the recession hit. So 2008 was not a good year for a lot of people. But the Fry's is really kind of an a community embedded grocery store. And so their way of approaching downtown, I've been incredibly impressed by their team and how they come to look at this place. And they've embraced it in a way I think that is reflective of, like I said earlier, how a grocery store becomes part of a neighborhood in an urban setting.

GOLDSTEIN: Is there anything unique or special about this Fry's in particular because of the location?

KLOCKE: So they've had top secret, sort of been hiding everything that's there. But I think it's going to have a tremendous amount of prepared food. Obviously, all these folks, 65,000 people working within a one mile radius of the site. A lot of people will be coming in for lunch. There's a coffee bar. There's a wine bar. There's all sorts of fun aspects to it. But so it'll be one of those gathering places in downtown.

GOLDSTEIN: And it's intended to serve everyone low income up to high income.

KLOCKE: It is. And they have been adamant that this is a community store, and they want folks not only in downtown, but people south of downtown, north of downtown, all to be shopping there. And so they've been working really hard to make it a welcoming place.

GOLDSTEIN: So grand opening this morning. You let us know before we turn the mics on that you were down there. What did it look like?

KLOCKE: Just a sea of people. There's probably 600, 700 people down there. And so I couldn't even get in because I had to go run out here to talk with you all. So I can't wait to get in there and see it. But there was an excitement level that you just don't normally see. And so just having Red Development, who did the development has done an incredible job. The Suns were out there promoting it and just having fun. So it was just a different kind of atmosphere.

GOLDSTEIN:So finally, as we go forward, you mentioned the number of units that have been built and what it's brought, you expect more positivity. Are there any potential pitfalls that you just want to be aware of just in case? Recession, who knows if that's on the horizon?

KLOCKE: You know, I think we can talk ourselves into a recession sometimes. But, you know, I think the key thing for downtown is it has all of those economic drivers in place. We've got an employment base. We have an education base. We now have this incredible residential base. And so, yeah, there's gonna be good times and bad times economically. But we have sustainability now that's built in place that wasn't there even five to seven years ago.

GOLDSTEIN: That is Dan Klocke, he's executive director of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership. Head back to Fry's, Dan. Thanks for being here.

KLOCKE: Thanks.

Kaely Monahan joined KJZZ Original Productions as a producer in December 2016.Monahan is a native, and growing up in the East Valley gave her an intimate familiarity with the Valley of the Sun. Eager to experience a new city, she left Phoenix for Tucson to earn her degree in classical studies from the University of Arizona with an emphasis in mythology. Several years later, her focus transitioned from history to history-in-the-making and news. Monahan went on to earn her master’s degree in international journalism from City University of London.In London, Monahan worked with CBS News and The Times covering international news. On her return to Arizona, Monahan was the art and entertainment editor for the East Valley Tribune, before moving into broadcasting, where she worked in commercial radio as an anchor and reporter.Outside of work, Monahan spends her time reading historical novels, exploring new restaurants in the Valley, and watching movies. Her love of film led her to create a movie review podcast and website. Monahan is also the vice president of the Phoenix Critics Circle.