By Lincoln Shea —
There was a time when 32nd Street and Shea Boulevard in Phoenix was a crossroads of sorts. It was a gateway to the Dreamy Draw leading to Downtown Phoenix. Retail stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues benefitted from the robust traffic. It all ended when the 51 gave commuters a faster route north and south.
32nd Street and Shea, like Radiator Springs from the movie “Cars”, fell into disrepair as traffic vanished and businesses closed.
Enter Rebecca Golden. After graduating college in New Mexico she moved to the area and later opened 32 Shea in 2011, in the middle of a strip mall that had seen better days. The location had been a PhotoMat and then an unsuccessful coffee shop.
She expanded the menu, started serving wine and spirits and the place took off. But that momentum also started a movement, the revitalization of the 32nd Street Corridor.
Golden said, “The government didn’t have the money to revitalize at that time but what ended up happening a couple of years into it is that the economy started to recover.” Golden added, “I knew there was money there but people were afraid to put businesses there because of the traffic flow situation.”
Several other businesses followed Golden’s lead. Then Phoenix Councilman Bill Gates took notice, reached out to the community and the revitalization took off. Other businesses started using “32” in their branding.
Golden leveraged the popularity of 32 Shea to promote neighboring businesses and community events. “I am friends with a lot of business owners because I think we understand the struggles and there is a camaraderie. Also it’s just neighborly, we need to show people that local businesses can have can have co-relationships because it’s not like you can go knock on the door of Starbucks and the owner is going to be cool with you.”
In fact, the vast majority of chains left when the freeway bypassed the area, opening the way for locally owned businesses.
Golden would later sell 32 Shea. She now owns Lovecraft at 32nd and Cactus which specializes in craft beer and a unique blend of BBQ and Mexican food which harkens back to her roots in New Mexico. The official description is Ale House. Bottle Shop. Smoke Kitchen.
Like 32nd Street and Shea, her new location a few streets north is primed for a comeback. “I am an opportunist at heart. I can’t help but see opportunity in places.”
She believes the transformation she helped launch at 32nd Street and Shea can happen at her new location, even in a COVID and post-COVID economy.
She says the key is being able to adapt and continued community support, “I have never seen so much support just in a community for local businesses like we have right now.”