One of Ahwatukee Foothills' prime commercial areas, the intersection of 48th Street and Chandler Boulevard, has seen numerous businesses go under this year, but those who remain say things are beginning to look up.
Area restaurants make up the lion's share of the closures. The northeast corner 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 on 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.
That intersection and the one just north on 48th Street at Ray Road have the two highest traffic counts in Ahwatukee, said Terri Kimble, Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce president.
"It's a prime location," she said.
Kimble said many local businesses have been having trouble with out-of-state landlords who have refused to budge on rent, even though the market has taken a dip.
"Ahwatukee leasing prices are still high. They have not come in line with the rest of the Valley," she said. "It's all in landlord negotiations. Businesses are struggling with that."
Trent Rustan, a sales and leasing agent with the Tempe-based Commercial Properties, Inc., which manages some of the area's commercial properties, said his company has been willing to lower rates to retain businesses.
"Some owners are working with tenants to meet the challenges of the market," he said.
Rustan said there is a high level of interest among businesses hoping to relocate to Ahwatukee.
"Ahwatukee has always been a desirable market," he said. "Obviously, there are some businesses that could not survive the downturn, but I'm consistently getting calls from other businesses wanting to move into the area."
Mike Uvaydov, owner of Quality Barbershop, at 15425 S. 48th St., Suite 108, said business was off about 30 percent because of the economic downturn, and the local closures have led to a drop in foot traffic.
"It's bad, of course. It's gone down with the Great Depression," he said.
Nevertheless, things seem to have stabilized, he said.
"I'm not planning to close, myself," Uvaydov said. "I'm a good barber and this is a quality store."
Lonnie Johnson, a relief manager at the Waffle House, 4824 E. Chandler Blvd., said the restaurant benefited from having Hooters just across the parking lot. People often would go to Hooters to drink and watch sports, and then come to the Waffle House to eat afterward, he said.
An all-you-can-eat offer has brought business at the Waffle House back up to the level it was before the neighboring business closed, he said.
"We've been doing alright. It has had its concerns," Johnson said.
He said he's heard a sports bar may be opening in place of Hooters.
"It's good to have a bar around because they like to come in and eat," Johnson said.
Just to the east, the former Chili's site is under renovations to become the fifth location of Spinato's Pizza. It's expected to open in March, said John Magdziarz, the chain's IT director.
"We think it's a good location. We know it's a good market," he said. "We've been increasing year after year."
Nearby at The Pawz Spa, 15425 S. 48th St., Suite 104, employee Nosh Kruglich said business has been improving lately.
"Right now, we're getting super busy," he said. "We're doing a lot more business than we've usually been doing."