Glendale businesses await mayor, city council elections
As Glendale voters prepare to elect a new mayor for the first time in nearly two decades, and new city council members, the city is dealing with several major issues: the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes and payments to run the city-owned arena, and a controversial sales tax increase to name just a few. But, as KJZZ’s Mark Brodie reports, some business owners still seem upbeat about the city’s future.
MARK BRODIE: LuLu Rodriguez is the kind of person who refers to a reporter she’s met, oh, about five seconds ago, as “honey.” She’s owned Bitz-ee Mama’s, a downtown Glendale restaurant, since 2009.
LULU RODRIGUEZ: Business, so far, so good. Everybody thought we were crazy for buying it during a recession, but we’re doing really good with it.
BRODIE: Rodriguez worked at the restaurant for four years before buying it -- it’s been downtown for around 40 years. But, Rodriguez worries about her city’s future. She says her costs will go up with the sales tax increase, and she hears customers talking about taking their business - and businesses elsewhere.
RODRIGUEZ: Everybody had a dream down here that Glendale was great. Everybody’s on the bandwagon when all the sports were going in. Nobody ever looked at further, and said, ‘How about if this happens, haw about if that happens?’
BRODIE: About two miles from Bitz-ee Mama’s, Wayne Lawson says his printers are still humming. He’s owned Sign-A-Rama on 51st Avenue for close to 11 years, and says he’s lucky to have a good customer base that keeps coming back. Lawson says he can get a sense of the Valley’s business climate by looking at the orders coming in.
WAYNE LAWSON: There was a time that we couldn’t keep banners in stock that said “Now Hiring.” And then, one day, it was like a switch went off, and we didn’t sell one after that. Likewise, “Grand Opening” kind of banners, if you will, were just going out of here like nobody’s business a few years ago, and then stopped.
BRODIE: Lawson says he’s seen those new business kinds of orders picking up again over the past two years. But, he worries about where Glendale might be going. He doesn’t like the increased sales tax, and thinks the city, and its residents, may be paying too much to keep the Coyotes in town.
LAWSON: I like the stuff we’ve got, I really do. I just wish there hadn’t been such a big price tag for them.
BRODIE: Overall, the business owners with whom we spoke were generally upbeat about Glendale, and how their businesses will fare. Don Rinehart is equally optimistic. The President and CEO of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce acknowledges the sunny outlook is part of his job, but doesn’t think his city’s economy is in any worse shape than any other in the Valley.
DON RINEHART: I think there’s particular things that are going on in Glendale that impact our economy greatly, some of the sports and entertainment things, but I think generally, the business outlook appears to be getting better and are looking forward to better times.
BRODIE: The smell of sugar is a bit overwhelming inside Cerreta Candy Company. VP Joe Cerreta says the company’s been in downtown Glendale for 20 years. He, too, follows what’s going on in his city, but isn’t concerned about the problems it’s facing. He says Westgate has been a boon to Glendale, and the state.
JOE CERRETA: What was there before? A chicken ranch, a cotton farm and desert. Well, we turned those assets into real assets.
BRODIE: How those assets are used over the next several years will likely be up to Glendale’s new mayor and council. Andrea Shobe, who owns Mancave Mantiques in downtown Glendale, is looking forward to the new leadership.
ANDREA SHOBE: I think we need some new blood and fresh blood. I’m new to the area, there’s a lot of new business owners, and we’re excited to get some new things. And, I’ve heard not the most positive comments about, you know, ‘city hall, blah, blah, blah.’ Maybe this will be a good change.
BRODIE: Back at Bitz-ee Mama’s, owner LuLu Rodriguez says Glendale’s new leaders, whoever they are, will have a difficult time cleaning up the mess in which she says Glendale finds itself. And, she’s concerned that if businesses suffer, empty storefronts would lead to empty tables and booths.
RODRIGUEZ: Bitz-ee’s has been alive because of our locals. If our locals leave, Bitz-ee’s will die. Easy as that.