Full-service Grocery Store to Open Downtown in December

April 18, 2014

Grocery-3

This rendering depicts what the space will look like, incorporating design elements from the Rincon Market while keeping the historic façade, very much in step with the overall mindset of Downtown Tucson development.

 by James J. Jefferies

There are certain necessities one simply must have for a place to truly be a thriving area in which to live, not the least of which is access to fresh food. In the middle of Downtown Tucson’s explosive renaissance the last five years, while new restaurants, specialty retail, galleries, and brew pubs have bloomed, there had remained one critical missing piece, a two-word phrase resting on the lips of everyone who either lives in an adjoining neighborhood, or spends a lot of time thinking about the prospects for success here.

“Grocery store.”

It will have been more than 42 years since the last full-blown grocery store closed its doors in the Downtown area, an event which ultimately proved to be a brutal foreshadowing of the difficulties ahead, as massive department stores and small retailers of every kind would follow suit over the course of the next generation. That era, it can be safely said, is now over.

A brand new chapter in Downtown Tucson's rebirth will begin this December.

A brand new chapter in Downtown Tucson’s rebirth will begin this December.

Thursday marked the formal announcement of Johnny Gibson’s Downtown Market, slated to open this coming December in the former Beowulf Alley Theatre, 11 S. 6th Ave, making it the first bona fide grocery store in the area since Richard Milhous Nixon occupied the White House.

At an upbeat press event, Downtown Tucson Partnership CEO Michael Keith, along with Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, City Manager Richard Miranda, and Ward 6 City Councilman Steve Kozachik, all extolled the historic nature of the coming market and development of Gibson Court as both a major need and a longtime local dream finally fulfilled.

“Today is a great day for Tucson. I want to welcome the right tenants, in the right building, with the right service, which is a long-awaited full-service grocery store in Downtown,” said Rothschild, referring to the Gibson family, who have owned the building for generations, along with the new tenants, Paul Cisek and Ron Abbott, who together have more than 75 years of grocery retail experience as former and current owners of another iconic Tucson space, the Rincon Market, along with other ventures. “If I had to imagine a right combination of factors, I don’t think I could come up with better ingredients for success than the ones we have here,” said Rothschild.

Photos from a lifetime of Gibson's athletic achievements lined the entry to the space where he cut several generations of Tucson hair. The new market will both bear his name and honor his legacy to the community.

Photos from a lifetime of Gibson’s athletic achievements lined the entry to the space. The new market will both bear his name and honor his legacy to the community in the interior.

“We have to recognize the efforts of the Downtown Tucson Partnership, their entire team – and the way Michael Keith has been a champion for the City of Tucson,” said Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik. Kozachik went on to highlight the last four years of increased growth and visible development in the area as having all laid the foundation for today’s announcement.

“Having known Johnny Gibson, having sat in his barber chair, it really bring memories back,” offered City Manager Richard Miranda. “Being born and raised in Tucson, and remembering what it was like way back then, with people on the street, and the enthusiasm for our community, it’s definitely coming back.”

Paul Cisek was equally magnanimous, emphasizing the underlying theme of this being a community and family affair. “It’s a Mom-and-Pop store. I’m Pop, and that’s Mom,” said Cisek, pointing at his wife, Christi. “It’s gonna have a cafe, it’s gonna have fresh fish, it’s gonna have produce, it’s gonna have gourmet groceries, it’s gonna have it all,” said Cisek.

Downtown Tucson Partnership CEO Michael Keith and City Manager Richard Miranda, left, and Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, flanked by Ron Abbott, along with Paul and Christy Cisek, right, watch as Steve Gibson speaks about what the space meant to his late brother Johnny, and what the plan means for his family.

Downtown Tucson Partnership CEO Michael Keith and City Manager Richard Miranda, left, and Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, flanked by Ron Abbott, along with Paul and Christi Cisek, right, watch as Steve Gibson speaks about what the community meant to his late father Johnny, and what the plan means for his family.

“You forgot the salad bar,” said Christi Cisek, drawing laughter as she took the mic from her husband. “The city has been amazing, Michael Keith and his staff, I don’t know where we’d be without you guys,” said a visibly emotional Cisek. Ron Abbott was similarly enthusiastic about the entire arrangement, simply saying, “This was the right time for this to happen.”

“The Gibson family couldn’t be more thrilled to be in this position,” said Steve Gibson, Johnny’s son. “My father built businesses hawking haircuts and barbells, for more than 60 years Downtown, and he did it by creating goodwill with his patrons.” Gibson cited both the Abbott and Cisek families as being natural torch-carriers for that very legacy to the community.

Of course, this will be a developing story, and as more details emerge and construction begins, you can look forward to updates right here.

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