Stroll into Latitude Eight Thai Grill for lunch in downtown Chandler, and you'll likely be greeted by the owner.

The same is true if you go down the street to di Sciacca Glass.

In fact, many of the restaurants and businesses in historic downtown Chandler are locally, family-owned businesses, unique and keeping tax dollars in the community.

"It is a conscious effort by both our property owners and our downtown team, but not a formal policy," said Teri Killgore, who leads the Chandler Downtown Redevelopment team.

Property owners get to choose who they lease building space to, as long as code allows, Killgore said. But they have also made an effort to "keep it local."

"Our property owners have gone out of their way to lease to independent businesses. That's not to say they are not open to chains, but they have been very selective in who they will lease to with an eye to helping create a fun and unique place and keeping a balance between chains and independents," Killgore said.

That "fun and unique" aspect is useful to the companies themselves, said Inspirador owner Dilia Wood. Her site hosts weddings, rehearsal dinners, seminars, fundraisers and more. Not only is there a good mix of "green space" and "brick and mortar," but there's a diversity of businesses.

"I think that's most exciting," she said. "You don't have to go to a big box location to have all of your needs met. And it's a nice walking district. We can just stroll down the street and accomplish so many different things. It's fantastic."

Being a wedding venue, it's easy for her customers to find a bridal gown stop, photographer, restaurant for rehearsal dinner and a hotel conveniently located nearby.

"For our clients, it's tremendous," she said. "It adds to the total charm of our location that we're accessible to other great boutique types of businesses that can service everyone's needs in one destination.

Peter Sciacca, owner of diSciacca Glass, moved his business to downtown about six years ago. His family purchased and renovated a 100-year-old movie theater to house the company, which designs and sells mostly imported glassware.

"We really care about Chandler and being where we are and being a part of the community and keeping as many dollars in Arizona," he said. His store also sells glass designs created by local artists.

According to Local First AZ, a nonprofit group that promotes the idea of buying locally, 73 cents of every dollar spent in a locally owned establishment stays in Arizona versus 43 cents at nonlocal businesses.

"I don't know that it's this call to action that we're going to buy local and stay local. It's more that downtown Chandler has this quaint, hip ability to fill a dream to be self employed," he said. "I try, after work when it's happy hour, to go to a local establishment: San Tan Brewing, Murphy's Law, Latitude Eight. They buy glass from me."

Sciacca enjoys downtown Chandler so much that he's planning to open a coffee and wine bar in about six months near his glass shop.

Bryan Saba, along with his dad and uncle, all own properties in downtown Chandler. The cornerstone is Saba's Western Wear, which was started by Bryan's grandfather in the 1920s.

Bryan grew up in Chandler and attended Chandler High School. His properties now house locally owned businesses like In Pockets Bakery and Catering and Sibley's, the Chandler and Arizona Gift Shop.

"I think if you talk to any of the property owners downtown, it's always important to have the downtown distinctive," he said, noting how big malls look the same from city to city. But downtown Chandler has "always been somewhat unique."

"I know our family has always been committed to trying to help foster that. Having some unique businesses, but also locally owned businesses. I think it draws people to downtown because it's not like every other shopping space. It doesn't look like every other place you go to shop."


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