Life Along the Streetcar with Tom Heath from The Heath Team Nova Home Loans

Downtown Tucson’s Retail Revolution: The Rise of The Proper Shops with Krystal Popov

This week on Life Along The Streetcar, we’re diving into the heart of Downtown Tucson’s retail metamorphosis with our latest episode featuring the innovative Krystal Popov and The Proper Shops. A beacon of entrepreneurial spirit on Congress Street, The Proper Shops represents a new era in retail, combining the energy of local businesses with the flair of online retailers. 🛍️

Join us as Krystal Popov, the brainchild behind this unique retail concept, takes us on a journey through the challenges and triumphs of establishing The Proper Shops. Discover how this pioneering venture is not only changing the face of retail in Tucson but also strengthening our community’s bonds. 🏙️

Highlights from the Conversation:

  1. The Evolution of The Proper Shops: Krystal Popov discusses how The Proper Shops originated from the necessity for online retailers to have a physical presence post-COVID, offering an innovative brick-and-mortar experience in downtown Tucson.
  2. Community-Centric Retail Concept: The discussion highlights the unique community-centric approach of The Proper Shops, emphasizing the importance of physical retail spaces for local businesses and shoppers, particularly in the post-pandemic era.
  3. Philosophy Behind The Proper Shops: Krystal delves into the philosophy of The Proper Shops, focusing on supporting local businesses, reviving community interaction, and fostering local entrepreneurship.
  4. The Proper Shops as a Testing Ground for Retailers: The episode explores how The Proper Shops provide a low-risk opportunity for businesses to test the downtown Tucson market, with flexible leasing options and support from Rio Nuevo for initial setup costs.
  5. Creating a Retail Destination in Tucson: Krystal Popov and Tom Heath discuss how The Proper Shops is not just a shopping location but a destination offering a unique experience with a combination of shopping, wine tasting, live music, and community events.
  6. Impact on Downtown Tucson’s Landscape: The conversation reflects on the impact of The Proper Shops on Congress Street’s retail landscape, contributing to the area’s vibrancy and economic growth.
  7. Support and Expansion of Local Art and Culture: The discussion includes the Tucson Gallery initiative within The Proper Shops, aimed at promoting local artists and providing a platform for their exposure and growth.
  8. Future Plans and Vision for The Proper Shops: Krystal shares insights into the future direction and expansion plans for The Proper Shops, emphasizing its role in reshaping downtown Tucson’s retail and cultural scene.

Got questions about this episode or ideas for future topics? Reach out to Tom Heath at [email address/phone number/contact form] and share your thoughts! We’re always eager to explore new stories and ideas that resonate with the vibrant Tucson community. 📢

Don’t miss out on any updates from Life Along The Streetcar! Follow us on Facebook and SoundCloud to get notifications for every new episode. Dive into the rich tapestry of Tucson’s culture, stories, and people with us. 🎧

Join the conversation and be a part of Tucson’s ongoing story. We’re just a message away for any inquiries, suggestions, or stories you’d like to share about our beloved city. 🌵

Transcript (Unedited)

Good morning, it’s a beautiful Sunday in the Old Pueblo and you’re listening to KTDT Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your brunch hour with us on your downtown Tucson community sponsored all volunteer powered rock and roll radio station. This week we’re going to take a look at the last 12 months of growth on a small section of Congress and we’re going to revisit an interview we did about a year ago with Krystal Popov the driving force behind the proper shops, which just celebrated a big milestone this weekend. Today is December 3rd, my name is Tom Heath, and you’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar, where each and every Sunday I focus on social, cultural, and economic impacts in Tucson’s urban core, and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the University of Arizona and all stops in between, you get the inside track right here on 99 .1 FM streaming on downtownradio .org, also available on your iPhone or Android by using our very own Downtown

Radio Tucson app. If you want to interact with us here on the show, we recommend you do that through Instagram and Facebook. And if you want more information about us, our books, some past episodes, or to find that contact button, you can head over to our website, which is lifealongthestreetcar .org. and of course we invite you to listen to the podcast that follows the show. It’s on all types of platforms like Spotify and iTunes and iHeartRadio and many others out there. So last week on Small Business Saturday, which follows Black Friday, we had two businesses open downtown on Congress, right there near Congress in 5th. One is the Rialto’s Merchandise Store. They’re gonna be open limited hours for now, mainly when there are shows and concerts at the Rialto Theater, but you can buy Rialto merchandise. And we also had the French bakery La Macron Macaroon. I’m not sure how to say that, I’m sorry. But they serve delicious macaroons, and it’s another business that just recently opened. And it

got me kind of thinking about how much has happened in that space in the last year. So about this time a year ago, we’d interviewed Krystal Popov, who was opening the proper shops right down the corner of Congress and 5th and as many of you know there is a Tucson gallery in there which is my venture with a couple business partners and that’s open. We had since then we’ve had Jaime’s Pizza has opened, Juniper the gin focused bar opened and we featured them a few months ago here on the show. Across the street is the Tucson Gear which is another retail outlet, and then there’s Bruja, which opened up next door to that, which again has more retail, and we know that the Century Room was recently opened, not in the last year, but fairly recently. So all of a sudden, we have these businesses that have just really popped up in this small stretch of Congress Street, and we thought, hey, that’s a good launching point for our show. So what we did is we pulled our interview we did with Krystal Popov,

Again, about a year ago, November of 2022, and we’re going to replay that for you, talking about the concept of the proper shops, which has played out primarily the way she had described, and not saying that this concept led to the creation of these other businesses on Congress, but certainly it was at the beginning of a new retail surge on Congress, and we’re starting to see that play out. So this is, again, from 2022 with Krystal Popov.

So we’re here again with Krystal Popov. It’s been about a year since we talked, which means there’s gotta be at least one or two new businesses in your life because that seems to be your trend. But welcome back to Life Along the Streetcar. Thank you, I’m really excited to be here with you today. Wow, look at that, so much enthusiasm. This is gonna be a great, great interview already. So just to catch everyone up, you and I spoke, I looked it up, it was in December of 2021. So almost a year ago. And we had talked about this crazy concept where you’d open a coworking space in the middle of COVID called L, the L offices. So now all of a sudden we’ve got another series of events that have led you to this next project, which I’m kind of excited to share with the world. And you know, for full disclosure, I have a place in your new retail shops. And we’ll talk about that later. But, you know, I’m not coming in here as a disinterested third party. I’m very excited about what, what you’re doing in there. But But tell us first of all, the concept and, and, you know, the location, let’s kind of get into the basics of it. And then I want to talk about your philosophy.

Okay, yeah. Well, the concept is that retailers, a lot of retailers during COVID went online. It was the only thing to do, right? So if you have a product, how do we bring it to the masses when everyone’s at home? And that is a big online presence. So during that time, everyone dove into Facebook ads, Instagram ads, how do I create Facebook groups and invite people to the group? And it kind of got flooded so much that if you’re starting a retail business today, To get it in front of people, to get it really visible across social media, it is tens of thousands of dollars of ads. And most people don’t have the resources to do that up front. So we needed a place where retailers who had these online brands could also be in a kind of brick and mortar, feel the merchandise, see the merchandise, try on the merchandise setting.

And people were craving that, I think coming out of the pandemic, and retailers and shoppers. And so I knew there was a need. People kept coming into the Elle offices saying, you know, I have a t -shirt shopper, I have a jewelry shop. We had a little boutique in there at one point, the Elle Boutique run by Annette, but we’re on the second floor of the Chicago Music Store. so that traffic wasn’t getting upstairs. So I knew there was a need, and I believe we found the perfect building for this. We’re right across from Hotel Congress, adjacent to the playground in the old proper restaurant. So we’re calling it the proper shops. We have about 20 slots within this building, different sizes, different pricing for retailers to really go in and build out their own little boutique where we can activate and drive people to shop at these local retailers.

This, as I understand, this came out somewhat organically, as the owners of the building, they think it’s gonna be a restaurant again in the future, but we’re not gonna activate it for a while. Is that kind of a fair statement?

Yeah, I mean, Scott Steitler, Rudy Dabdoub, and like the other Love Block Partnership, they are working on other projects. They reopened the playground. They’ve got the old Corbett building that’s getting opened into a pickleball court, which is a really cool project if you have a chance to interview someone from that crew, but They’ve got a lot going on. And so yes his ideas We have a restaurant concept that we think would do well here, but we’re probably about five or seven years out and the Listing agent and buzz Isaacson reached out and said Krystal connect with Scott Krystal has ideas Scott has a space. Let’s see how we can make this work. And And so I brought him a wellness concept and a retail concept and I was leaning towards retail and he said, I like it. And so that’s where we are at.

I’ve met some of the people that are coming in. Many of them, like you said, were online with no physical presence, but a handful of them have a physical presence in a different part of town, but they’re trying to get into the downtown market. There’s a lot of great boutiques in Tucson, really great boutiques, you know, St. Phelps Plaza on the east side on Tanco Verde. And to get into downtown at a retail location in downtown can be very expensive. So downtown, the prices for downtown is some of the highest for commercial in all of Tucson. So a retailer to go and sign a large commercial lease in downtown Tucson is a very risky move if you don’t know if the clientele downtown is even going to like your project. So this fills that gap that allows retailers to actually test drive downtown as a possible future boutique location. So they get a spot within proper shops, launch a boutique, see how their, how their, how their merchandise does downtown, and then it gives them the idea of how to expand or if to expand into the downtown area. The concept that if you’re going to be, I don’t say transient, but you

have people that may be in your shop for a period of time and then expand, which would be kind of an ideal scenario for everyone. But that means you’re without a tenant. So how do your leases work? Yeah, our leases are very low risk. So similar to our flex office space, we do everything month to month. So we just require a one month security deposit up front, and a 30 day notice if they’re going to move out of the shop. So this is truly very, very low risk to the retailers that are moving into to the proper shops and the nice thing also is we were supported by Rio Nuevo or these boutique owners are being supported by Rio Nuevo. Rio Nuevo has actually given funds to the initial retailers that are going into the shop for their build out. So here you have someone that either has a curtain shop like Desert Mariposa, it’s on the east side or the Bra Spa on the east side, both of them are coming downtown. So they want to expand to a new location. They come into the proper shops, they pick out

their designated shop area. And now Rio Nuevo is funding 80 % of the build out of their new shop. So you have these types of shops that are opening and then you have a lot of new shops that are opening. So kind of like the Tucson Gallery, which we’ll get into, but Reap & Sew closed down their wellness line line in Orange County in California and close it down during COVID, they move to Tucson and they get to relaunch their boutique inside of Proper Shops. We have Flirte Beauty, which is clean vegan lipstick with a great kind of a cool concept that the lipstick color matches the woman’s nipple color. Tom and you have talked about this, but this concept, when you hear and see how she believes your natural skin tone should be what you should be wearing on your lips with all vegan lip lipstick and lip gloss, it’s a really cool concept. So Flirtay Beauty is one of the shops going in. Willow’s Bazaar Boutique is one of the ones that is a big online brand and they wanted to open a boutique, but

really, again, wanted to do it with no risk. So these month -to -month leases make it super easy for retailers to kind of test drive this concept. So the thing that attracted me was not only the short -term leases, but this sense of community because your slogan is, it’s shop, sip, shop, mingle, or some combination of there. Like it’s not just a place to go shop, it’s an experience for a consumer to go and really enjoy community. This here, if I was a retailer, this is why I would hands down be opening in proper shops is marketing is a niche that sometimes when you’re opening a business, I learned this when I opened the L is tough to figure out if you’ve never done it. And here we are opening a space that we’re going to be driving consumers to the retailers and you have synergy between these retailers. So we have artists in there, we have jewelry, We have clothing, we have a mix of retailers that are in the space that all are marketing for proper shops. We also have a wine bar in there

where we’re going to bring in vineyards to do wine tasting and have some local breweries on tap. We have a huge patio that we’re going to activate with live music. So you’re exactly right. Consumers are going there for the experience. They get to shop around all these different retail shops. They get to, you know, do some wine tasting, grab a drink, they can go out on the patio, listen to live music, grab a bite to eat from Little Love Burger, who we share a patio with. So it is an experience. This is a place, this is a destination shopping place that we have not seen yet in downtown Tucson. And I think we are going to crush it. We’ll be back to that interview with Krystal Popov. It was recorded in November of 2022. This was just before the proper shops opened, and they celebrated their one -year anniversary last Friday on December 1st. Quite the big party. And a couple of references she made to a Love Burger, which had been a couple doors down. That is now Jaime’s Pizza. So the concept

is the same, but the type of food, the ownership has changed on that. We’ll be back to the second half of that interview you did with Krystal in just a moment. But first, I want to remind you that you’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar and Downtown Radio 99 .1 FM and streaming at DowntownRadio .org.

All right, well as Paleo Dave just let you know Tucson Gallery is one of the supporters of Downtown Radio. They’re also a member of The Proper Shops and we are interviewing or in the middle of our interview with Krystal Popov from 2022 as they were just getting ready to open The Proper Shops. They celebrated their one -year anniversary on December 1st and if you’re just joining us we’re kind of featuring this because there’s been an explosion of small businesses along this stretch from like the Rialto Theater down to about Arizona Avenue. So we thought it’d be appropriate to re -air this interview we did with Krystal Popov and let’s get into the second half of it right now. Yeah, and I really enjoy this concept of bringing people out to our local vendors because we spend so much time, and I know with COVID, even more time in isolation, clicking links on national websites sites, to have things shipped to our home. And that really, that kind of changed how marketing and advertising were

done and how items were purchased. And you’re sort of reverting that. You’re like, you know what? I’m standing up for local and we’re bringing people back. You know that Tucson has this really rich history of having the grocery stores and the markets with inside of our neighborhoods and they were community gathering places.


And we have that with a few of those that are out there, but not on a retail level. And so I’m excited by this philosophical shift of let’s stop clicking in the dark in isolation and getting stuff shipped to our house. Let’s get out and be a part of our community and share in the growth of these businesses as well as the products that they offer. So philosophically, I think you really hit onto something unique. Yeah, and Tucson especially. I mean, the Tucson people support local business and the masses, I mean, you see it all over. And I think downtown especially, we want to, we create relationships that we wanna support them, again, other than clicking on a big box store. And we get that, we get that right inside Proper Shops. Yeah, and we’ve teased it a little bit, but I am going in with some partners and we’re opening something called the Tucson Gallery inside of the Proper Shops. And just very briefly, because I don’t wanna take too much time away from your project, just because we

brought it up. Our focus is to really help some of our local artists get a place to show their work, an opportunity to kind of interact with their patrons and really kind of build their own artistic business with the idea that if they can spend less time trying to figure out how to run a business or make money and more time on their art, it’s gonna make Tucson a better place. So we’ve got six artists going in on the outset there are more permanent collections, so to speak. And then we’ll have artists coming in from all kinds of different genres. And, you know, with our, our goal really is to kind of export them to the world versus bringing in the world’s art to Tucson. We want to take Tucson’s artists and bring them out. We’re very fortunate to have some of the most prolific muralists, you know, Ignacio Garcia and Joe Patrick and, you know, Jessica Gonzalez. They’re, they’re kind of part of those six that are anchoring that spot. And we’ve got people doing texture art photography. Sean

Parkers is a phenomenal photographer in Tucson and he’s agreed to be a part of this initial gallery. All of them with this intent of let’s get more art into the hands of Tucsonans and tourists, as well as providing a space for that up and coming artist. So that’s kind of the concept behind the Tucson Gallery. I’m going to stop talking because it’s more than I normally talk in any interview and want to get back to the proper shop. So tell us the details. Like how do we find out more? When are you opening? What’s the what’s the skinny and all that stuff? Yeah, and I’ll tell you that in a second. But I know you just you just threw out the names. But let’s just realize what you and your partners have done with this Tucson gallery is pull together not only the famous muralists that you see all over downtown Tucson, and the surrounding areas, but these are award winning muralists. They’ve been featured in Sports Illustrated, they’ve gotten awards all over the world. And So we get to go in. We

get to meet with them. You’re pulling them in. We get to ask the artists, Ignacio’s, maybe have wine with Ignacio, you know? And we get to see them paint live. We get to see them filming podcasts. So there’s so much that people are not gonna, they’re not gonna realize how incredible it is to step inside Proper Shops and really create a connection with these people until we open. But it’s just amazing what you’ve done, Tom. and we’re so excited to have you within The Proper Shops. But we are opening, we’re launching, we will have our soft openings on December 1st and 2nd, and then open to the public on December 3rd. Perfect time for shopping for Christmas and to really come out and support these local artists. We’ll have some bands, let me, Touch of Grey, Little House of Funk will be playing that weekend. And so on our patio, we’ll have live music, we’ll have food in the area and come down, support these local artists, support these local merchants and really support downtown Tucson. And

then on an ongoing basis, I know there’s some limited hours. So can you kind of talk about the thought behind that? Yeah, we are only initially gonna be open Thursday evening, Friday evening, Saturday, most of the day and then Sunday. So Thursday and Friday, 4 p .m. till 8 p .m. And then Saturday will open 11 to 8 p .m. And Sunday will be 12 to 5. Now the reason for these shorter hours is a boutique owner also has a lot of expenses in staffing. And we just know the nature of downtown Tucson. Right now it is hustling, it’s vibing mostly in the evenings and on the weekends. So right now we don’t want retailers to have these extra expenses of staffing it through the day when we don’t have shoppers coming in. So it’s really gonna be geared to that nighttime traffic that’s coming in and the weekend traffic coming into downtown Tucson. How do we find out more? Is there a website? I’m sure you’re on social media. What’s the avenue to get the details? Yeah, first thing you wanna do is go to Instagram

at Proper Shops and it’s actually at Proper Shops Tucson and connect with us on Instagram. Our website is propershopstucson .com and our Facebook is Proper Shops. So, find us on social, go to the website, sign up for the newsletter so you can get all of the information. We will even be launching something on our social in the next couple days that you could be invited to our VIP event gala. It’s going to be a lot of fun with a lot of influencers in downtown Tucson. So we’re launching a contest there. So jump on. Well, Krystal, your excitement is contagious. I’m excited by extension. And I’m also, I’m already thinking about next year, when I interview you, what the next project is that you’re gonna be working on, so. Sounds good, we’re excited. We’ll get one project at a time, Tom, one project. But this one’s a really exciting one.

That was Krystal Popov, that was from an interview we did in 2022, just as she was getting ready to open her concept called The Proper Shops. The one year anniversary just passed and there was a big party on Friday to celebrate, to celebrate that. And it does seem like we interview Krystal every year. And this year, it’s not a new interview, although we could have because she has taken her L office concept and has expanded it all over Tucson and now has multiple locations. So we talked a little bit more about that in our interview, the full interview from 2022, which you can find on our website, lifealongstreetcar .org, you just put in Krystal, K -R -Y -S -T -A -L, and it’ll bring up the different interviews we’ve done with her. And today’s was more focused on the proper shops. Also highlighting some of the retail that’s been happening in downtown with Tucson Gear, Bruja, the Rialto Theater, the French Bakery, the Proper Shops, and of course we’ve got Juniper Bar in there as well and in

the Century Room. So it’s quite a different look on Congress in this little short stretch than it was just 18 months ago. Well, my name is Tom Heath. You are listening to Life Along the Streetcar and Downtown Radio, 99 .1 FM and streaming on downtownradio .org. You’re listening to KTDT Tucson, Arizona 99 .1 FM downtown radio I’m brother mock host of a show called radio club crawl that airs every Tuesday at 3 p .m We try to focus on most of the bands that are coming through Tucson And we give you a tasty taste of their music you want to check out what’s happening around Tucson Check out radio club crawl Tuesdays 3 p .m. Right here on KTDT Tucson, Arizona 99 .1 FM downtown radio. Thank you very much. Enjoy your evening. Bye bye. Well that’s been episode 275 for us here as we roll into December. We took a sneak peek back at, a look back I guess you would call it, with Krystal Popov who opened up the proper shops on Congress and 5th. We’re celebrating not just their one -year anniversary but

also the growth of retail on Congress with several different outlets and it’s kind of fun kind of fun to see that but stick around here in just a few minutes we’ve got Ted Przelski his words and work will follow us here at the bottom of the hour and then it’s Ty Logan at noon that will bring us back to speaker box X and some more music throughout the day head over to our website for the station downtown radio dot org if you have a moment and kind of check out all the programs that are there. We’ve got rock and roll throughout the week and then there’s fun programming on Sundays and can’t can’t tell you enough about how wonderful the volunteers are that make this station happen. And I say all that because we just passed a big event on Tuesday called Giving Tuesday where everyone was out trying to support local nonprofits and we benefited some from that as well and want to thank you for that support. Know it’s ongoing. Because we’re volunteer -driven, we don’t have a huge overhead when it

comes to salary and personnel. It’s all the money goes back into the station, equipment, you know, things that we need, rent and licensing and all that stuff. So I really encourage you to head over to the website downtownradio .org, check out the schedule, find some of your favorite DJs, maybe pick a show that’s not something you’ve listened to and enjoy that. And while you’re there, hit the donate button. Set up maybe a recurring donation. That’d be fantastic. But a one -time donation, we will take that as well. And coming up next week on Life Along the Streetcar, we’ve got Rob Paulus. He’s an architect and a designer that has really been involved with a ton of projects in the urban core. It’s big stuff, little stuff. He’s helped design buildings and gazebos, little eateries. He’s also put together residential and commercial. So his his fingerprints are all over this urban core and we’ll kind of talk with him about what that experience has been like. And of course, if you’ve got anything

for the show, anything you want us to chat about, just give us a holler on our Facebook or Instagram page, you know, by tagging us and we’ll respond and share some of these hidden gems with the rest of the world.

We want to say thank you to some of our newest businesses, the Rialto Retail Shop, which is going to be open during the Showtimes at the Rialto, and we also have La Macaroon. Macaroon? Macaroon? I’ll learn how to say that, I’m sure. It’s the French Bakery that has just recently opened as well on Congress, and in honor of that, we’ve got some music from what I think was a one -act play called Oddjobs back in 2022. The artist is Anna Vozzoli, and this song is called the French Bakery. As always, I want to thank Ryan Hood for the privilege of using their intro music at the beginning of the show. We leave you at the French Bakery and I want to remind you that hope you have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more Life Along the Streetcar.