Signs of life are returning to one of Ahwatukee Foothills' prime commercial areas, at 48th Street and Chandler Boulevard, after a spate of business closures over the last few months.
In a space at the intersection's northeast corner vacated by Hooters about six months ago, former ski resort managers Shay Deverse and Ted Schroder hope to open a new restaurant called The Dugout Sports Grill.
"We want to be open before the Super Bowl, and have a big Super Bowl party in here," said Deverse, 31, who left a position as food and beverage director at the Sunrise Park Resort in Greer, Ariz., to open his own business. "It's just the opportunity. Being in business is the draw, I guess."
That intersection and the one just north on 48th Street near Ray Road have the two highest traffic counts in Ahwatukee Foothills, officials with the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce have said. As the economic recession persists, more and more area businesses, particularly restaurants, have closed down.
The northeast corner of 48th Street and Chandler Boulevard alone has lost a Quizno's sandwich shop, The CoffeeBuzz café, the Grill Wrap Café, and two large franchises belonging to Chili's and Hooters. At least four other commercial suites at that corner remain dark, as well. The situation is similar on the south side of Chandler Boulevard, where there are at least 10 vacancies, leaving some buildings half-empty.
Randy Parlova, an agent with Abrams Realty, which manages some of the properties, said there has been some interest in The CoffeeBuzz and Grill Wrap Café locations.
"We've had some calls. They just think our price is too high," Parlova said. "We're at market, but people want below market and they're shopping around."
To the east, in a former Chili's, renovations continue on what will be a new Spinato's Pizza restaurant, the company's fifth location.
Lonnie Johnson, a relief manager at the Waffle House just next door to the future Dugout Sports Grill, said he believes having the new tenants will be good for other businesses in the area.
"We will pick up business," Johnson said. "They go to watch the football games and to eat and drink a little bit, and then stop by here to eat a little bit too before they go home."
The Waffle House had suffered a dip in visitors after Hooter's closed down, he said.
Schroder, 41, the former hotel manager at Sunrise Park Resort, said he and Deverse looked all over the Valley for spaces before settling on Ahwatukee, which is a quality area.
"That's actually a huge decision because the Kyrene School District is here," said Schroder, who has three children.
It's a challenge to open a new business in a recession, he said.
"It's always a worry," Schroder noted.
Deverse said the space they chose for the Dugout is a good location with high traffic.
"Ahwatukee is a solid area," he said.
Deverse said the sports grill will have about 24 large screens, high definition televisions for patrons to watch games, a bar and a restaurant with food on a level above pub grub.
"We want to have something different than your typical bar food," Deverse said. "We do want to emphasize great food."