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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Watch “The Avenue” to generate support, money for its namesake

    Press Photo

    Scaling a fence to grab that coveted craft beer from the Shanty, a mac ‘n cheese burger from Lindy’s or giant mug of chai from Epic Cafe seemed like a small price to pay last spring, but now, as the Sun Link Tucson Modern Streetcar construction moves into its fifth month, two Tucson residents are urging others to come out in support of local businesses along the proposed route.

    Defying the barriers that have lingered upon Tucson’s most eclectic business district has become a nuisance rather than a novelty, and hardly posed a challenge for Karen Greene, co-founder of local group Mind Our Own Businesses.

    “I was on my way to the spelling bee [at Sky Bar] and I realized, ‘Oh, I can’t bike across, ‘cause there’s a fence, and that’s a pain in the neck,’” said Greene, a Tucson resident who frequents many of the local businesses affected by streetcar construction. “This was happening back in April, May, and that’s the slow time for business anyway. So I was just very concerned that unless something was done, some of the business would go out.”

    Fearing for the longevity of Main Gate Square, downtown and Fourth Avenue led Greene to reach out to friends equally invested in local business for ideas to support shops through the construction. After a brainstorming session and the creation of an official Facebook page, Mind Our Own Businesses was born, and immediately began organizing events to get people out of their homes and into local shops.

    Attendance varies and the events are often impromptu, but Greene said they’re making a positive impact on the morale of business owners.

    “Anywhere between five to 15 people come to an event, which seems like a small amount,” Greene said. “But every single person that comes is prepared to spend money.”

    Publishing the events on Facebook also helps encourage people to go out on their own, Greene added, because they prompt conversation and interest in the mentioned businesses.

    While Greene was happy people were beginning to talk about Fourth Avenue again, she wanted to introduce another voice to the discussion. A recent local film titled “The Avenue,” seemed like the perfect fit for their next event. The documentary reflects the irreplaceable role Fourth Avenue plays in Tucson as it rejects the intrusion of corporations.

    “I saw ‘The Avenue’ when it played at the [Arizona International Film Festival] a couple years ago, and it just … it was constantly in the back of my head,” said Greene, who contacted the film’s writer and director, Alan Williams, to propose screening the film.

    Williams, a UA alumnus and figurehead in Tucson’s local independent film industry, was enthusiastic about the screening from the get-go.

    “I really respected what they were doing, and I agreed with her that the film would play well to their theme,” Williams said.

    Williams began working on “The Avenue,” after Phoenix filmmaker Nicholas Holthaus, director of “Mill Ave, Inc.” proposed Williams make a film that contrasted the former “sister streets” and the polarizing way they’ve confronted the presence of big business.

    “The Avenue,” Williams’ first documentary, went on to win Best in Show at the Arizona International Film Festival. Williams said the award was both “humbling and honoring” for him and his crew, because shooting the film was far from easy.

    “I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into, to be perfectly honest,” Williams said. “So I spent about a year on Fourth Avenue with my camera, just interviewing people, and documenting and sort of investigating, ‘What is Fourth Avenue all about?’”

    The answer, while surprising, wasn’t as shocking as expected: many business owners were wary to speak with Williams at first, he said, and the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association barred him from interviewing their employees altogether. But as time went on, Williams said people began to “let their guard down” once they realized the goal of the film.

    What stood out to Williams the most, he said, was the unwavering support businesses owners and frequent customers of Fourth Avenue have for each other, acting as “a communal support group” in times of fragility.

    “If you open up a business down there, everybody gets behind you,” Williams said. “It’s a ‘If you’re successful, we’re successful’ attitude.”

    While “The Avenue” explores the vibrant world of Fourth Avenue before the construction, Williams said many business owners were no stranger to the idea that some kind of conflict was imminent.

    “There’s always been this feeling that something is coming,” Williams said. “Something is around the corner and at some point Fourth Avenue is going to have to accept change.”

    “With the bringing in of that new era of technology, also hopefully will bring with it that new era of prosperity,” he added.

    Greene is also hoping that once the streetcar is up and running, it will bring an unprecedented wave of new residents and young people interested in the concept of buying locally.

    “We want [Fourth Avenue] to continue to be in its glory once the construction stops,” Green said. “The point is to make sure that people realize, ‘Hey, this is a vibrant place, and we want it to thrive, and you need to take part if you want it to survive.’ You have a stake in this too.”

    If You Go:
    “The Avenue” Screening
    Saturday, September 15th
    7:30 p.m. at the Screening Room, 127 E. Congress
    Tickets $4 at the door

    Follow us on Twitter @wildcatarts and follow Kate @katenewton18.

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