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

On this week’s show, we’re going to talk with Monique Vallery, the Chief Operations Officer of the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association. With over a hundred years behind them, the Historic Fourth Avenue gears up for a post-pandemic recovery and looks at some new economic development.

Today is July 25th, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”.

Each and every Sunday our focus is 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 U of A and all stops in between. You get the inside track- right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on DowntownRadio.org– we’re also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown Radio app.

Reach us by email contact@lifealongthestreetcar.org — interact with us on Facebook @Life Along the Streetcar and follow us on Twitter @StreetcarLife

Our intro music is by Ryanhood and we exit with music from the John Jay Coinman, “Old Town.”

Transcript

Tom Heath
Good morning. It’s a beautiful sunny in the Old Pueblo. You are listening to KTDT Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your brunch are with us on your downtown Tucson Community sponsored a rock and roll radio station.

Tom Heath
On this week’s show, we’re going to talk with Monique Valerie, the Chief Operations Officer of the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association. With over a hundred years behind them, the Historic Fourth Avenue gears up for a post-pandemic recovery and looks at some new economic development.

Tom Heath
Today is July 23rd. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to Life along the streetcar. Each and every Sunday. Our focus is on social cultural and economic impacts and Tucson’s Urban core. And we shed light on hidden gems. Everyone should know about from a mountain to you Arizona and all stops in between. You get the inside track right here on 99.1 FM. Streaming on Downtown Radio dot org. Also available on your iPhone or Android by going to your respective App Store and downloading Downtown Radio Tucson. You could take us wherever you go.

Tom Heath
If you want to get a hold of us on the show, we have an email address contact at Life along the streetcar dot-org. You can interact with us on Facebook, where on Instagram, we have all of our past episodes wherever you, listen to podcast. You can also find them on our website, Life below the streetcar dot org, or simply ask your smart speaker to play Life along the streetcar podcast, try to make it easy for you to find us.

Tom Heath
We’re going to start today a free trip to some fun events. Through December of 2021, the streetcar is free. This was a response to the COVID pandemic last year and not too long ago, the City of Tucson announced that they will keep ridership for free on the street car. That does they do want you to wear masks on the public transportation, but the ride itself is of no cost and as a reminder, that can get you all the way from the Mercado, downtown, Fourth Avenue over thorugh University and Main Gate Square. I can even take you on to the University of Arizona campus, just north of Speedway and head on back down town.

Tom Heath
For a show called life along A Streetcar, we don’t talk about the streetcar very much because we’re really more about the Life along the streetcar, not just the ride along those tracks. But I think it’s a good idea to take a ride and explore your Urban core, maybe make a day of it. And as we get into the fall, check out those calendars. Last week., we talked about Friday Night Jazz over and Main Gate. There’s concerts happening now in several places in the Tucson core and the big Arenas, like the Rialto and Fox Theater are gearing up for some late summer concerts and events. I think you’re going to start seeing activity in those buildings in just a few weeks and some big names coming back to Tucson in September and October. So, hitch a ride on the streetcar. Grab a little food, do a little shopping, see some shows and almost pretend like life is a little bit normal.

Tom Heath
Well, some place where life is getting back to normal is on the historic Fourth Avenue and we have on our show today an interview we recorded just a couple days ago with Monique Vallery, she’s the chief operations officer of the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association. They do a lot to maintain the cleanliness and safety of Fourth Avenue. They’re also the organization behind the fabulous spring and winter street fairs and I know everyone’s got some questions about whether that’s going to happen and we put that question to Monique and you’re going to hear her answer in just a few minutes as we dig into the last hundred years of Fourth Avenue. And what we can expect here in the near future.

Monique Vallery
Monique Valerie, and I am the COO and Creative Director for the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association.

Tom Heath
How long have you been in this role?

Monique Vallery
I’ve been with FAMA for five years going on. So it’s changed a little bit. My role has changed a little bit over the five years, started out as the event director and main responsibility was pretty much over seeing at that point close to twenty two events a year. The two, biggest being both the winter and spring street fair. And then over this last year, and a half throught the pandemeic, the role has changed a little bit. We went from six full-time staff down to two staff. So, we’ve combined some roles.

Tom Heath
Can you talk a little bit about the history and why it is the Historic Fourth Avenue?

Monique Vallery
Fourth Avenue, as a locally owned business district, two and a half years ago we actually received our historic designation for an actual business district. And we have over a hundred and forty locally owned businesses and restaurants on the Avenue and the district itself is tucked in between downtown and Main Gate. And again, I think what one of the things that makes it so special is it is locally owned. These are Mom and Pop stores, these aren’t huge franchises. These are truly our neighbors and our best friends who are running and managing these businesses and restaurants down here. In this definitely very unique Atmosphere for sure.

Tom Heath
You’re in your tucked away, not talked away but your you’ve got neighborhoods that surround you. So you seem to have you know, if you look at like downtown there’s although it’s a growing population, there’s less actual residents maybe than right around you on Fourth Avenue. I think that makes it a little bit more frequented by the the local population.

Monique Vallery
Yeah, we have three main historic neighborhoods that really Encompass The Avenue in the district itself. We’ve got the iron or Iron Horse neighborhood association, West University neighborhood association, and Pie Alan, and I think, what’s really cool about these neighborhoods is most of them are historic houses themselves. And I think it’s really cool to know that, you know, there’s three really active neighborhood associations as well. The neighbors Pride themselves on being in this really unique business district in the heart of Tucson, and this is where they literally live and play. But their architecture down here is is historic. I know both Iron Horse and Luna, the West University, we’re working on some, some opportunities with them, where they’ll be like a walking historic house tour. So I think they really Pride themselves in or a big part of the district itself and / 4th Avenue Merchants Association. We partner with our neighborhood, associations, for the street fairs as well as other things because we know it’s vital, I mean, they are the intricate part of who we are as a district and who is surrounding us.

Tom Heath
Well, I do want to talk about the street fair. That’s a question. A lot of folks have, but before we get to that a little bit more on the history because this this District, it’s what a hundred and five hundred and ten years old. At this point was in the early. Nineteen hundreds that it was really came into being as a shopping district?

Monique Vallery
Yeah, are actually our office. We sit right off the Avenue. On third, our office is a little haunted house that was built in the 1890s and we’ve gotten a lot of cool history about it. But yeah, the district itself and some of the buildings, you know, have either or are denoted assistant, historic or collaborative, you know? And and so I think the district itself has seen seen a lot of changes but you haven’t seen him much. Many changes with the building’s themselves. Also being historic. It’s a Challenge to get any new architectural done because you don’t want to disturb anything that’s historic. The Merchants Association ourselves have been around since the early 80s where the business is down. On the Avenue came together and the local business owners actually were the ones as volunteers that started yhe Business Association FAMA to help support them, which also kicked off some of the first street fairs. More than 50, 50 shows ago. 50 years ago.

Tom Heath
Some of these businesses who’s been there the longest?

Monique Vallery
Yes. So Bill from The Shanty, The Shanty has one of the longest liquor license around. So the shanties been in business for over 80 years. Caruso’s Italian is right up there as well. So do both of those businesses have been probably two of the most you know, long-standing Ending and there are over 80 years both of them on the Avenue. Everybody has a connection to something down here. Yet your favorite restaurant or or often times especially when we see, you know, you know, the the homecoming weekends on campus or you see parents bringing their kids back to back to school, you see folks, walking down here and they remember the bars that they used to frequent when they were here or some of their favorite restaurants and to tried-and-true. So I think The Avenue itself, just has that connection. And I think the other thing is, there are too many restaurants or stores on the Avenue that you could move somewhere else, right? That they fit on the Avenue, just the feel and and the connection and the staff, it makes sense down here.

Tom Heath
Yeah. Remember when the the controversy of Chocolate Iguana getting moved from that corner but they stayed on fourth…

Monique Vallery
Part of that, which I don’t think a lot of people know that another business owner and Merchants instead of where Chocolate iguana as a local coffee shop and a really eclectic candy store. If you will, they would have gone away. But another business that was separate from them, made it work and it was able to put them in a different location. I think you see that a lot down here with with the merchants in the business a lot of these folks have been around for 10, 15, 30 40 50 years. So you know our Merchants always want to try to rally and help each other even though they’re all trying to run their independent. Businesses. They know it’s all for the greater good down here.

Tom Heath
So you’ve got you’ve got this historical perspective and I think that’s what Fourth Avenue is known for that. Very specific Vibe but now you start to see a little bit of growth in the area. You’ve had some student housing not too far away, and now the big project just nearing completion. The Union on the right there on the corner. How is that fitting in? Or what are your thoughts on that? I know they were With historic Coalition on some nice improvements. What are your general thoughts about that? If you can share…

Monique Vallery
At first it was challenging. It was hard because it was just it you know how is this going to fit truly in the heart of the Avenue? I mean you can’t be more in the heart of the Avenue then at 4th and 6th and also you have this huge building going up. But again I give I give a lot of credit to both the building company and the property managers that they’ve really tried to honor and and took into account, you know, the Avenue stakeholders and and even with some of the Design Concepts and and some of those others. So you know and here and it’s a beautiful building. So hopefully folks who decide to live in it will be goodod residents of the Avenue.

Tom Heath
We haven’t had a chance to speak with the development team there yet. But I would imagine the fact that they came into a helpful and and environment and an organized environment. So that they weren’t having multiple conversations with a variety of groups that that the neighbors the merchants the business owners, sort of Came together through the another entity, not the, not, the Merchants Association, but the historical group to to provide Consolidated input. I would imagine from a developer standpoint that made it a lot easier for them to navigate this and want to be a part of that process.

Monique Vallery
Yeah. And actually the, the original negation negotiations, started with the Merchants Association, and then we went ahead and wanted to step aside, an HVAC came in and I think to your point what’s important As you know, there are different different groups down here, there’s different neighborhood associations, we all may have different, you know, missions, but the ultimate goal is the same. Everybody wants what’s best for the Avenue itself and we may have different again, different missions and different needs to fulfill. But the bottom line is, the goal is the same. Everybody wants the businesses and the residents that are down and around the eye. Avenue to to be successful and to be safe and to thrive. So you know, we may take different roads to get there but the ultimate end result is the same. We all want we all want to see 4th Avenue be healthy and successful and we want our guests rather. You know there are local who comes down here every week or tar out of town guests. We want them to have a great experience while they are Here.

Tom Heath
Well, I have had a great experience whileon 4th Avenue, hope you have as well. And we’ll be back to finish up our interview with the Chief Operating Officer of the Fourth Avenue, Merchants Association movement, Monique, Valerie in just a moment. And I first want to remind you that you are listening to Life along the streetcar on downtown radio, 98.1 FM and streaming and Downtown Radio dot org.

Tom Heath
Hope you get a chance to tune in tomorrow morning to Paleo Dave, we’re going to get back to our interview with Monique Vallery from the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association, and find out the big question on everyone’s mind, are we going to have a Winter Fourth Avenue Street Fair?

Tom Heath
You know, the universal challenge that that hit the hit, the entrepreneur world with covid. How do you see that playing out at this point? Are we in a recovery mode or do we have a long way to go? It’s, what’s your thoughts on that?

Monique Vallery
Yeah, I mean it is rough. It was rough for everyone. And I think, you know, I think we’ve started over this past year and a half, we solve a lot of our businesses do what they’ve always done, which is adapt. Nobody Exchange. But when we were forced into such a dramatic change, with our businesses, figure out how to do that, we have a handful of businesses that will really, really already social media and tech savvy. And so they had a little bit of a head start on adapting and adjusting their business model, especially early on and for our other businesses, you know, it took a little time. But we’re able to maybe now you know figure out how to have a better social media presence and how did use and incorporate their websites and that was really more for retail. Our bars and restaurants are bars, were especially hit hard because there really was no no options for them. Very very limited options. Our restaurants, you know, adapted to try to do, take out for a while.

Monique Vallery
So I think what we saw over the last year and a half was was all of our businesses too. In to adapt to what fit best for them. And, and overall, I think it was successful in what it could be, you know, they’ve had honestly, just a hell of a time and I think, you know, we’ve had moments where we’re starting, you know, we’re hoping to start to kind of turn that corner to it to see if we start coming up on the other side and hopefully that corner will still keep turning. It is a little scary. Now seeing some of these other these other variances and is this going to happen again. So that’s kind of grumble right now like, you know, people finally thought, okay, we kind of have our feet back down on the ground but now it’s the fear is creeping back in. You know, we’ve had any given year, we have five to six businesses, you know, turnover wise. So during covid, we had we had 7 Businesses closed. But we had six open. And so it would be hard to say that those seven closed just because of COVID. I mean, it might have been a final straw. It might have been, you know, lots of different reasons. But that’s that’s kind of normal can be normal turnover for us, you know. So it’s hard to say but I think the the businesses have tried to try to be as resilient as they could. But I don’t think, Body feels like, man, were, you know, we’re out of it and we’re back on Solid ground. But I think they’re, you know, they’re slowly slowly trying to get their feet back underneath them.

Tom Heath
Well, this is airing on July 25th, last Sunday of July, and I’m going to fast forward to the winter and, you know, given all the uncertainty, the hope that you just shared it. But also that the, the uncertainty and some of the concerns, tell us a little bit about the, the Winter Street Fair. I know, that’s one on everyone’s mind is If we’re going to be seeing that and what that might look like, if it does come back, when it does come back.

Monique Vallery
We are, we are moving forward and and fully optimistic and hopeful. But we’ve been that way for a year and a half. So are we are moving forward as if the street fair will be happening, December 10th 11th and 12th, we’ve got, you know, we’ve got 300 artists. You are raring to go our food vendors. So ultimately like anything it will come down to the city and the county giving final approvals. But again we are planning and working towards the street fair in December at which point it will be our 51st Winter Street Fair. And it would be actually, ultimately, what becomes the 100th show overall.

Monique Vallery
So, You know, I think that also says something about the community to love of the show, the fact that we could have 99 of these in the past, you know, it’s the oldest event in Tucson, the street fairs older than rodeo and in some of the other, what I would call kind of Legacy events and I think the fact that we can still get, you know, artist traveling in from all over the world pre-pandemic at least, you know, we had artists coming in from all over over the world. We have you know guests who want to come out to the show and the fact that again, we could have 99 prior to this, you know, I think really shows the community the community just love of it. And so we are, we are optimistically moving forward. Again, ultimately it will come down to the city and County’s final approval process but you know, I guess it’s that’s what we’re moving. In core to, and I think, I think the community as a whole wants to get back to, you know, some semblance of normalcy, whatever that may look like.

Monique Vallery
I don’t think we’re ever going to go back to whatever normal was before, and that’s okay. But I think people want to get back to doing things and seeing old friends and, you know, we have people who, you know, we have artists who’ve done this show, we have a family, we have a family, that’s a multi-generational family, and, you know, He the glaciers Brian’s now in his 50s and he used to do the show with his dad, and now he’s bringing his kid, you know, and these are vendors who have been in the show for, you know, we’ve got vendors who have been in, you know, 30, 40 shows. And so I think people are excited to have a backward excited to have it back and we need it to be quite honest at the Avenue needs it. It’s it is for the Merchants Association ninety-nine percent of our Revenue comes from street fairs. So it’s been hard, it’s been a hard year and a half for us as well. And and and ultimately the services, some of the services were able to provide our businesses have been dramatically impacted by us. Not being able to have the street. First I partner with 16 different nonprofits to also help one the nonprofit. Which I don’t think people totally realize as well but Like our mission with famine is not just about the Avenue. So our partnership with like to put on the street fair and having 16 nonprofit organizations help support us. They bring as volunteers and in turn we make a contribution back to their mission. So we’re also trying to help the community at large as well.

Tom Heath
Well, here is to all of those good thoughts in the planning. That’s happening at many levels to keep it active, and to keep it and keep it safe, Monique, Valerie Chief Operating. Officer for the Fourth Avenue. Merchants Association. I appreciate all that you’ve been doing over the last five years and especially last year and a half to keep that District in any, a very positive forward moving Direction and I look forward to catching up and not talking to you about the street fair. As we get closer to December.

Monique Vallery
Great, we appreciate it. And again, we’re ready to welcome our community back down to our beloved Avenue.

Tom Heath
Back down to the Beloved 4th Avenue, Lots going on. And I think just as with the rest of the urban core, very bright future and excited to hear of Monique’s enthusiasm. As she Shepherds that organization into the next iteration of the Fourth Avenue experience, my name is Tom Heath and you were listening to Life along the streetcar on Downtown Radio 99.1 FM and streaming on Downtown Radio dot-org.

Tom Heath
Yeah, my swag on, I got my downtown a radio coffee mug and some other cool things from the website there. And while you’re on the website, don’t forget to check out our fabulous lineup of DJ’s. Sure. You’ve known since the end of June, the studio has been open again and with many safety precautions in place, the volunteer DJ’s are flooding back to the studios and some of those shows that we had to put on Hiatus during the covid panda. Because some for many reasons, we’re not able to broadcast remotely, we excited to have them back some faces and names that just haven’t seen in awhile. So check out that line up on Downtown Radio dot org. And for those of you that were expecting a little different show today, we had last week indicated that we were going to have members of the Shish show, which is a group of individuals that support downtown in the urban core through a scooter voyages where they spend a little money and I have a little fun, something came up with that interview and we weren’t able to schedule it but we will get them back on the books because it’s an interesting story and folks finding very fun ways to support our Urban core.

Tom Heath
And speaking of topics what do you want to hear? What do you want to know what’s going on out there? What are we missing? We need your input. Hit us up on our Facebook page. Share something that you like on our page. Maybe share something we’re doing to someone else. Hit us up on our email, address contact at Life along the streetcar dot-org. It doesn’t really matter how you get a hold of us. Just continue to tell us the stories that you want us to share. And we would be glad to do. So if you’re doing something great in our community, again tag us in your posts and we’ll make sure that we share that information out there with you as well. We’re going to leave you a little music today from a gentleman named John Jay coin minute, he’s actually out of New Mexico. But I heard this song If I may this is a perfect Wrap Up For Today Show. It’s not quite Fourth Avenue, but it’s a, it’s going to be a song about the buffet and Empire Market down there on ninth ninth ninth Street. So, it’s from a 1998 album, called a man called someone, the song is Old Town, have a great week into next Sunday for more Life along the streetcar.

Tom Heath
It’s open every night open every day. There’s a sign out front and a mural on the window

Tom Heath
making margaritas in the morning, the hot dogs and beer at night. There’s a pool table in the corner, with the fake, Tiffany light, if you call Kids know where it is

Tom Heath
down in my neighborhood where nobody goes.

Tom Heath
And the Empire Market is just down the street. They got wooden floors and coolers from 1893 in the ceiling fan running all summer

Tom Heath
but if you’re looking for tortillas man they got the best little Sonoran Peppers. Burn a hole right through you. they don’t mind if you got a pocket full of pennies

Tom Heath
down in the where nobody goes,

Tom Heath
Keep bringing the bumps some just like to live that way summer, I’m around.

Tom Heath
From you and me,

Tom Heath
he sleeping the early over the sand. In the stones, most don’t ask for anything except be left alone,

This page provided by The Heath Team at Nova Home Loans®

Tom Heath - Senior Loan Officer with Nova Home Loans
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