Posts Tagged ‘Phoenix’

Have you Been to the Shemer Art Center Lately?

The Shemer Art Center is a small arts venue focused on showcasing local artists and offering arts education to the local community. It’s a special place housed in one of the oldest homes in the historic Arcadia neighborhood in Phoenix. The center serves as an arts resource for the community, offering a full slate of unique and intimate exhibitions, a fantastic sculpture garden, classes for adults and children and is home to the popular MicroDwell exhibit every spring.

A Brief History

The Shemer Art Center wasn’t always an arts venue. It started as a small lonely house as part of a housing development project on 640 acres called Arcadia in 1919. The house was built for the workman in charge of construction and was the first house in Arcadia. This initial development venture failed because wells were expensive to drill and people weren’t willing to move that far away from town.

In 1925, a banker from Kansas obtained the land that the house sat on and he added a kitchen, a living room, and two bedrooms to the house and called it Casa de Wanda. The banker divided the land into 40 acre home sites.

In 1927, the 40 acres that contained the house were sold to the Suhr family who embarked on an another expansion of the residence. They enlarged the garage into a studio space, they added two more bedrooms and a bathroom, enclosed the porch, enlarged the kitchen and stuccoed the outside of the house. This work resulted in the building we see today.

In 1984, the Suhr family put the house up for sale. A long-time Phoenix resident, Martha Shemer, got wind of this and thought the house was such a special part of Phoenix history, it should be preserved and open to the public to enjoy. She bought the property and donated it to the City of Phoenix with the stipulation that the city operate it and maintain it. In October of that year, the Shemer Art Center was born.

A year later, in 1985, the Shemer Art Center and Museum Association was formed to provide support and input into the operation of the center. In 2010, when the City of Phoenix could no longer support the administration of programs, a 501c3 nonprofit was formed and took over operations, staffing and programming of the Shemer Art Center.  Meanwhile, the city still owns the property and maintains the grounds under the Parks and Recreation Department.  It’s a public private partnership that has lead to the resurgence of this vital local asset. Jocelyn Hanson, a well-respected arts veteran previously from the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, leads the Shemer as Executive Director.

Educational Programs

Education is a cornerstone of the Shemer, and many Phoenix and Arcadia residents have had great experiences with the center’s hands-on class offerings. One of Martha Shemer’s dream for the facility was for it to provide the citizens of Phoenix with an arts education facility. And so the Shemer is a location for various adult and children’s art classes and workshops. Adult class offerings include open studio drawing and painting, pottery, watercolor, appraisal and tips on selling art classes. Children’s offerings include summer art camps and various open art studios. The center also offers workshops on photography, drawing and painting. You can find a full schedule of adult classes here. Information on youth classes can be found here. And find out more about the various workshops offered at Shemer here.


With a focus on Arizona artists, and a wide variety of traditional and new media, the art center holds exhibits that are both local and unique.  Student works are also heavily featured. Since 2012, the Shemer has been hosting the extremely popular exhibit on its grounds modeled after the  MicroDwell movement, started by Rocket FAB founder Patrick McCue, which calls for creative solutions for compact housing. The exhibit showcases owner-built modular micro-dwellings, their varied uses and alternative construction techniques. The exhibit includes interactive workshops about construction and assembly techniques, and presentations about related products such as solar ovens. With a new exhibit on 3D printing, the first of its kind, launching in October, the Shemer is once again breaking new ground as an art center. And make sure to visit the New Sculpture Garden at the museum. The facility’s ample and beautiful grounds provide a great backdrop for the works of some of Arizona’s best sculptors.

30th Anniversary Events

This year and next, the Shemer is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Upcoming exhibits and events this year include:

Exhibit: Shemer Student & Faculty Exhibit
July 31 – August 28, 2014
Opening Reception: July 31, 2014 (Tonight!)

Exhibit: Pushing Paper
September 4 – October 9, 2014
Opening Reception: September 4, 2014

Exhibit: Materialize: 3D Printing & Rapid Prototyping
October 16 – November 27, 2014
Opening Reception: October 16, 2014

Shemer Outdoor Sculpture Competition and Exhibit
November 1, 2014 – November 1, 2016

Sunday@Shemer Art Festival & Silent Auction
November 2, 2014

Exhibit: Layers: Collage & Assemblage
December 4 – January 1, 2015 (4 weeks)
Opening Reception: December 4, 2014

Click here for a full schedule of upcoming exhibitions and events and to keep up with updates.

Find Out if Metro Light Rail is Coming Near You!

With the outstanding success of the Metro Light Rail, light rail extensions in the Valley of the Sun can’t be built fast enough. The ridership has consistently exceeded expectations in its 5 years in operation and now that Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa have experienced the huge benefits of this amenity, other parts of the Valley are wanting it in their areas as well. There are currently several light rail extensions underway. Find out if Metro Light Rail is coming near you!

Here is an update on the six extensions that are in the works:

Central Mesa Extension – est. date of completion 2015:

Central Mesa Light Rail Extension

Valley Metro received local and regional approval in 2009 to move forward with a 3.1-mile light rail extension in central Mesa.  It would extend light rail on Main Street from Sycamore to Mesa Drive and include four station locations and a park-and-ride facility. – See more at:
Valley Metro received local and regional approval in 2009 to move forward with a 3.1-mile light rail extension in central Mesa.  It would extend light rail on Main Street from Sycamore to Mesa Drive and include four station locations and a park-and-ride facility. – See more at:

The 3.1-mile Central Mesa project extends light rail east from the current end-of-line through downtown Mesa to Mesa Drive. It consists of four stations and a park-and-ride on the northeast corner of Main Street and Mesa Drive. The extension will add approximately 5,000 new riders. Construction is well underway and the extension is expected to open late next year.

Northwest Phase I Extension to Dunlap Avenue – est. date of completion 2016:


The 3.2-mile Northwest Phase I project extends light rail north from the current end-of-line to Dunlap Avenue. It consists of three stations and a park-and-ride on the southwest corner of 19th and Dunlap avenues. The extension will add approximately 5,000 new riders. The project is currently under construction and is expected to open in late 2016.

Tempe Streetcar – est. date of completion 2018:

Tempe Streetcar

The three-mile recommended route of the Tempe Streetcar is Rio Salado Parkway from approximately the Marina Heights development west to Mill Avenue, downtown loop on Mill and Ash avenues and south to Apache Boulevard, then east to Dorsey . The recommended route is a combination of the two options studied over the past year by Valley Metro and the City of Tempe. The project is still in the planning stages and is expected to enter into construction in 2015.

The three-mile recommended route is Rio Salado Parkway from approximately the Marina Heights development west to Mill Avenue, downtown loop on Mill and Ash avenues and south to Apache Boulevard, then east to Dorsey (see map). The recommendation is a combination of the two route options studied over the past year by Valley Metro and the City of Tempe. – See more at: route was just approved by the Tempe City Council in June. The project is still in the planning phase with the route still not officially approved by Valley Metro. It is expected to enter construction in 2015.

Gilbert Road Extension – est. date of completion 2018:

Gilbert Road Extension

The 1.9-mile Gilbert Road project will extend light rail beyond the Central Mesa extension on Main Street to Gilbert Road in Mesa by 2018. It consists of two stations and a park-and-ride on the west side of Gilbert Road. At Gilbert Road, there are significant transit connections and the ability to draw more riders from the East Valley. The project is currently in the design phase and will enter construction in 2015.

Capitol/I-10 West Extension – est. date of completion 2023:

Capitol:I-10 West Route Map

The 11-mile Capitol/I-10 West project will extend light rail from downtown Phoenix through the State Capitol area to 79th Ave. and the I-10 freeway by 2023. It will consist of several freeway and neighborhood stations and enhancements to the existing 79th Ave./I-10 park-and-ride facility. The project is currently still in the planning phase and it won’t enter construction until 2018.

Northwest Phase II Extension to Metro Center – est. date of completion 2026:

Northwest Phase II Extension

The 2-mile Northwest Phase II project will extend light rail from the intersection of 19th and Dunlap avenues west towards I-17. A project definition study is underway to look at the feasibility of a connection across I-17 to Metrocenter Mall. The study will include further definition of key project elements, including station locations, traffic configuration, park-and-ride size/location and new pedestrian/bicycle access points. The planning phase of this extension won’t begin until 2020 and construction is slated to begin in 2023.

For more information on the Light Rail extensions and ongoing updates visit Valley Metro’s website.

Photo Credit: Lead photo from HDR. Extension route maps from Valley Metro.

Phoenix Spokes People Heralds a New Age for Bicycling in Phoenix

Phoenix Spokes People (PSP) is a grassroots organization in Phoenix, AZ that was formed in November 2012 by a group of passionate bicyclists who wanted to make their favorite form of transportation a regular part of the Phoenix landscape. In the less than two years that the group has been in existence, the PSP has had a huge impact on the bicycling scene in Phoenix. Not only are they making bicycling culture more pervasive in the city through bicycle fun events, they have also successfully lobbied for more spending on bicycle infrastructure. For example, the group was instrumental in bringing about the $1.5 million included in the latest city budget dedicated to four new bicycling projects around town.

I talked to Lisa Parks, a founding member of the group about everything from what the group wants to see for bicycling in Phoenix to any tips she can share for bicycling during the scorching hot summer.

Below is our interview:

Firefly Living: What is the PSP? What is your mission?

Lisa Parks: The mission of Phoenix Spokes People is to make bicycling an easily accessible form of transportation for people of all ages, incomes and abilities.

Firefly Living: What are some of the advocacy efforts you’re working on right now?

Lisa Parks: One of our goals is to get more people on bikes in order to plant the seed for more infrastructure, so we’ve been busy organizing monthly rides and events. We’d also like to do more women-specific events. We’ve got a great community of ladies in Phoenix that ride bikes and we can inspire even more to hop on two wheels. All of our events are planned with beginner bicyclists in mind so you don’t have to worry if you’re just getting acquainted with riding a bike in Phoenix. Please feel free to come and ask us questions and join in on the fun. We’ve also got something really exciting planned for bicyclists for the month of October, so stayed tuned for details. Also in the works is a PSP-branded bike rack program so that more businesses can accommodate bikes. We expect this to be a good fund raising project for us so that we can move forward with our advocacy.

Firefly Living: What do you want to see in Phoenix bicycling infrastructure in the next 5 to 10 years.

Lisa Parks: The City of Phoenix Bike/Ped Ad Hoc Task Force is currently working on the draft of the Bicycle Master Plan and some of the PSP group on that committee. There’s also a Complete Streets draft in the works. On top of that, bike share will be launching in the fall. All of these plans will help move the city toward better bike infrastructure. In the next 5-10 years, I’d love to see the canals become a great way to get around by bike. They’re one of our greatest opportunities, but they need more connectivity and safety. Protected bike lanes are also on the rise, and we need to start implementing them in order to create safer streets and inspire more people to ride a bike.

Firefly Living: What are some of the things people can expect when riding their bikes in Phoenix these days?

Lisa Parks: We’re starting to see more people using bikes for transportation every day. We now have green lanes on lower Grand Avenue and on Fillmore in the downtown area. Fifth Avenue recently got bike lane improvements from McDowell to Van Buren. And more and more businesses are realizing how important it is to be bicycle friendly. We’ve seen a lot of popularity in installing bike corrals.

Firefly Living: What are some of your favorite bicycling improvements that you’ve seen in Phoenix recently?

Lisa Parks: The Grand Avenue green lane is a huge improvement. We definitely need more like it. Bicyclists are drawn to it, it’s teaching motorists to watch for bikes and new businesses are starting to open. It’s a great example! I’m also super excited for bike share. It’s definitely going to get a lot more people on bikes, which is going to lead to more infrastructure improvements. We need that catalyst.

Firefly Living: Do you have any tips for people who want to ride their bikes throughout the Phoenix summer?

Lisa Parks: It can be done! You’ll find that riding a bike is much better than walking in the heat because you get to your destination faster and you create your own breeze. For longer trips, try combining bicycling with the light rail or bus. Plan your rides for earlier in the morning and in the evening. Make sure you have lots of water (I like to have two water bottles with me and I freeze one of them). Carry some supplies for freshening up such as baby wipes or no rinse body bath (great for work) and a small spray bottle of water to mist yourself –  which is even better when mixed with a few drops of peppermint oil, by the way. And don’t forget to wear sunscreen. We’re planning some fun summer rides as part of our Blazing Saddles series. Let’s just say you should think about getting a squirt gun for at least one of them.

Firefly Living: What is the one most important thing that needs to happen in Phoenix for biking to become more mainstream?

Lisa Parks: We need better infrastructure. Hands down. We have beautiful, sunny weather nearly every day for 8 months straight and we have flat streets. It’s a perfect combination! If people were able to hop on a bike and safely and easily get to their destination without having to give it much thought, our city would be filled with people on bikes. Our goal is to help make that happen!

Tips on How to Shop Local in Phoenix this Holiday Season

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During this lovely holiday season, when you are trying to find the perfect unique gift, supporting local might very well be the best option out there. Not only are you boosting your local economy, you are also boosting your awesomeness in the gift giving department.

Many people, including myself, have varying definitions for what it means to support local. Whether that means it has been locally sourced and locally made OR it simply means buying from local vendors, supporting local is something I encourage all to dabble in.

Local Holiday Shopping Hayfa Aboukier 5

One organization, Local First Arizona, “empowers individuals to build the life they want in their local community.”  Recently, Local First Arizona introduced their new membership option that goes beyond business membership, it is becoming a “Localist”. Through the Localist membership you get discounts and freebies affiliated with local businesses around the state of Arizona in addition to other perks. Not a bad deal!

Even just days away, I have to be honest with myself (you might too) that procrastination might have to be another New Year’s resolution. Don’t worry, there is plenty of time and lots of wonderful things you can purchase locally that will make you look like the next best thing since Santa Claus.

As you find yourself in these last minute throws of holiday prep, here are a few ideas to nudge you in the direction of locally grown gifts.


Phoestivus is a fun evening set in Downtown Phoenix focused on the opportunity to purchase gifts from 100+ local vendors. Tomorrow, Wednesday, December 18 from 4:00pm-8:00pm, you can come out to the Downtown Public Market, eat dinner from one of the many food carts, and shop for all your holiday gifts. Follow the link here for a full list of the vendors.

Local Vendors

There are far too many local vendors to outline here, but I did catch a few that recently caught my attention.

Boothill Bronze Works

Photo from Boothill Bronze Works.

Boothill Bronze Works:  Douglas Covert, a mentee to Paolo Soleri, owns a fine art bronze foundry where all art pieces are cast in the ancient art of “lost wax bronze casting”. You can find him at the Downtown Public Market showcasing some of my favorite pieces, the wind bells. This is the perfect gift for the outdoor lover. Who doesn’t love a little music in the air?

Local Holiday Shopping Hayfa Aboukier 3

H2E Design: Nicholas Cappele, founder and principal of H2E Design, focuses his work around creating essential oil blends, soy-based candles and bath products specifically devoted to health and wellness in addition to his interior design work devoted to creating sacred spaces using basic feng shui principles. Sometimes a little pampering is all someone wants or needs around this time of year.

Refresh Glass

Photo from Refresh Glass.

Refresh Glass: Refresh Glass, founded by Ray DelMuro, diverts thousands of wine bottles from going to the landfill, and instead turns them into functional pieces including drinking glasses, candle votives, the self watering planter (my favorite), and much more. This product epitomizes local and sustainable as a result of its locally sourced wine bottle collection, waste diversion, and repurposing.

Make your gift using local materials

Nothing says love like slaving away and handcrafting your holiday gift. The great thing about homemade gifts is that it looks a lot harder than it actually is AND it impresses all recipients and bystanders.

Local Holiday Shopping Hayfa Aboukier 1

Infused Syrup Gift Jars using locally harvested honey from Absolutely Delightful Honey. You can always throw in a few additional local honey based goodies from their shop to make a themed holiday gift!

Local Holiday Shopping Hayfa Aboukier 4

Homemade preserves using local fruits found at the farmers market. Currently, citrus is hitting peak season so a marmalade or chutney is the most cost effective and local option.

Bake something delicious such as holiday cookies or truffles and package them up all pretty.

Learn to knit and make a scarf. You can buy yarn from the market, which is made from local sheep fur.

Whether you shopped at the market, hit up local vendors, or made your gift at home using local materials, enjoy this holiday season and spread the cheer with your badass gifts.

Photo Credit: All photos by the author unless noted otherwise. Lead image by mattbuck (category) (Own work by mattbuck.) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Firefly Hot Spot: Lindsey Magee Opens Ollie Vaughn’s in Phoenix’s Historic Coronado Neighborhood

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When you walk in Ollie Vaughn’s you are immediately greeted with their pastry case full of homemade granola bars, pre-fixed salads, freshly made apple pies, and delicious Mexican tea cookies. To the right is a photo and college degree belonging to on the owner’s Great Grandmother, Ollie Vaughn, and as you make your way towards the back of the restaurant there is a small collection of unique cook books. With these touches, their seasonal menu, and friendly staff you feel at home right away.


Who are the owners?

Lindsey Magee is a Phoenix native. Her love for the kitchen started when she would cook and bake for her little brother at the young age of 7. Her passion continued to blossom from there. She tells me how she’s wanted to have her own restaurant since she was 13. Only the business she dreamed of having then would be a nightclub that during the day would function as a deli. Needless to say since then her ideas for her dream business have progressed. After years of working in a variety of locally owned restaurants Lindsey strengthened her craft both in the kitchen and with hospitality and service. She worked as a baker at Lux Central, and gained front of house experience at St. Francis Restaurant.  But surprisingly, what Lindsey feels has prepped her for owning her own restaurant the most is her experience in the film industry. She worked as a location manager in New York City and explains to me how this has been a tremendous help with the stresses involved in opening and running her own business. Lindsey also tells me when the dust settled after all the planning, building and expanding was finished she got to experiment in her own kitchen in her own restaurant. This was one of her happiest moments.


How did it start?

Lindsey has known for years that she wanted to either open a diner or café. When she originally purchased the space where Ollie Vaughn’s resides she was really pushing for a diner. After working out details and thinking it over for quite some time she decided against the diner and went ahead with the café. She tells me that once she decided on the café everything fell in to place so easily. To top it off operating a café allows her to run her business in addition to having time in the kitchen. It feels as though she has found the perfect way to do everything she wants.


Lindsey has always wanted a place where she could pick up a light and fresh lunch. Since it was an area she felt was lacking in Phoenix she decided to base her menu around that. The menu at Ollie Vaughn’s consists of seasonal salads, sandwiches, snacks and treats. Their menu will grow and change with the seasons.  Lindsey has grown citrus trees behind Ollie Vaughn’s as well as her own herb and vegetable garden. In addition to the produce she is growing herself she works directly with McClendon’s Farm, Crooked Sky Farms and the Farm at Agritopia to get the best ingredients possible. Some of Lindsey’s personal favorites on the fall menu are The Watercress Salad consisting of watermelon radish, apple, goat cheese and black sesame seeds on watercress, The Steak Sandwich consisting of steak, avocado, watermelon radish, caramelized onion and goat cheese, The Butternut Squash Soup and their Pumpkin and Apple Pies. In addition to these delicious, homemade items Lindsey has plans to begin baking their own bread in house in the near future.

Ollie Vaughn’s is located on McDowell Road near 16th Street, just two blocks from Lindsey’s home.  She loves the Coronado historic neighborhood and wanted to work to improve the area she calls home. There was no water, electric or plumbing when Lindsey bought the space nearly two years ago. She kept the original 1940’s wood roofing, the nearly floor to ceiling windows that face the street, as well as the concrete flooring intact, and she designed the space herself. With the help of her contractor, architect and fiancé she was able to execute her perfect place.


Why we love it!

We love seeing young entrepreneurs pour their hearts in to doing something they love while building their community. Lindsey is doing this by growing her own citrus, herbs and vegetables, working with local vendors, and by contributing to revitalizing her neighborhood. We highly recommend stopping by Ollie Vaughn’s for a light lunch or an afternoon snack!


Hours and Location

Ollie Vaughn’s is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 3pm. They are located at 1526 E. McDowell Rd. in Phoenix.

What else is in the neighborhood?

A few of Lindsey’s local favorite restaurants are Tortas El Guero right around the corner from Ollie Vaughn’s, Cibo Pizzeria on 5th Avenue and Fillmore, Lola Coffee on 3rd Avenue and Roosevelt and La Santisima on 16th Street.

What’s coming up for Ollie Vaughn’s?

Ollie Vaughn’s has plans to start making their own bread in house and may be opening up earlier for breakfast. Stay tuned!

Photos by author.


A Tale of Two Cities: How Two Cities are (or aren’t) Preparing for Climate Change

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For the first time in human history over half of the world population lives in an urban place. This means that more people rely on a complicated network of electricity grids, sewer systems, and transportation networks. When disaster shocks this system, be it climate change related super storms or rolling black outs, the cities with the best resilient urban design will take care of their citizens better than the cities that remained too complacent to plan and design for these events.

Nearly six months ago I moved from Phoenix to New York City. I want to be very clear that this isn’t a PHX vs NYC comparison. They are of course incredibly different places. However, since they are both home to several million residents they both have the responsibility to make good policy decisions that protect the health and human safety of people who live there.


A place that has had a 122 degree day, has a vulnerable water supply and has selected to carve up the fragile Sonoran Desert to build freeways and subdivisions. A place that also has incredible mountain preserves, breathtaking sunsets, and the saguaro cactus. Phoenix is certainly at a unique crossroads to determine its future.

TRANSIT The 2008 ribbon cutting of the 20 mile light rail starter is one of the most important sustainability events to happen in Phoenix. In a place that boasts over 1,500 miles of freeways, a 20 mile light rail seems insignificant. However, the Metro Light Rail has sparked incredible ancillary sustainability spin offs, including Transit Oriented Development (TOD) policies, bike share, and an ability for some Phoenecians to shed the car altogether. From a carbon emissions perspective, Metro Light Rail reduces more than 12 tons each day compared to emissions associated with the same amount of passengers in cars. It has truly been a game changing public works sustainability project.

WATER | ENERGY Phoenix has a water availability complex. An already over allocated Colorado River, which no longer reaches the Sea of Cortez, supplies the Phoenix metro valley with 1.8 million acre feet of water per year. When the snow pack continues to decline in the Colorado River watershed not only will Phoenix have a water supply issue, it will have a energy production issue. Phoenix uses effluent to cool the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, and several other large natural gas fired power plants in the west valley. The water and energy nexus is dangerously multiplied in the summer because this is when the crippling heat creates more of an energy cooling need from thirsty power plants.


The largest city in the United States at over 8 million residents, NYC is truly an exceptional place. However, it didn’t just assume that its geographic location is going to ensure its greatness. A dizzying history of human will has made NYC the sustainability leader that it is today.

LEADERSHIP The sustainability leadership in NYC is incredible – from the Bloomberg administration that created PLANYC back in 2007, to the tallest LEED Gold building in the North America, to the longest subway system in the world. NYC has cared about its ability to remain an incredible place for a long time. It’s a place that does not sit on its hands when it comes to sustainability decisions.

SANDY The subways flooded, lower Manhattan went dark, and the dense city didn’t have a great plan to to send the displaced. In the end, many New Yorkers stayed in their homes and rode it out. But if an even bigger event happens, FEMA will not have the room to place their harmful trailers in Central Park. Much like the change that swept over NYC in the immediate post 9-11 period, the post Superstorm Sandy NYC is proving to be a time of responding to the vulnerabilities of a coastal city.

We are living in a world that is getting hotter at an increasing rate. How certain cities respond to this reality will determine if they will become a relic of failed leadership or a dynamic place where citizens thrive.

Photo Credit: Photo by the author.

Firefly Hot Spot : The Gladly Serves up Negroni’s on Tap, Over 100 Whiskeys, and New American Cuisine with Global Accents

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The three owners of The Gladly, Richie Moe, Andrew Fritz and Bernie Kantak, all grew up in different parts of the US. They met while working and developing each of their unique skill sets in Scottsdale’s Cowboy Ciao. In 2011, the three joined forces and opened Citizen Public House. After two years of immense success, this dynamic team opened The Gladly near the Biltmore in Phoenix. They are consistently pushing the envelope with their unique menu and cocktails giving Phoenix locals something to talk about.


Who are the owners?

Kantak, Fritz and Moe met while working at Cowboy Ciao/Kazimierz in Scottsdale. Kantak was the executive chef, Fritz started as a host and busser, and Moe specialized in tending bar and their extensive wine menu. Kantak’s background in cooking started at a very early age with his grandparents. His grandmother was a chef, and his grandfather was a butcher. He later attended the Scottsdale Culinary Institute and since has had plenty of hands on experience. Moe jokes that his love for quality beer, wine and spirits comes from being raised in a stroller next to the bar. With a degree in business from ASU Fritz tells me his restaurant experience has primarily developed on the job. He learned the ins and outs of business in school, but after working with Kantak 8 years he developed a deep love for the restaurant business. Their three strong and unique backgrounds come together to build a well-rounded team that generally sticks to what they know while supporting each other through the process.

How did it start?

After opening Citizen Public House on 5th Avenue in Scottsdale in 2011. Kantak, Fritz and Moe had ideas for both cocktail and food recipes that didn’t necessarily fit the menu there. Over the past two years they have continued to file these ideas away for their next project. In order to keep momentum and cultivate their in-house talent they chose to open another restaurant, The Gladly on Camelback Road near The Biltmore this summer.. Their vision was to create an environment and menu that was less of a box than what they had created at Citizen Public House. Andrew gives me examples of how versatile the New American menu with global accents has become, they have a spicy tuna appetizer, a burger, and chimichurri chicken all on one menu just to name a few. They are always experimenting with new dishes and cocktails and pairing one to another. Kantak, Fritz and Moe wanted to create a space that emphasized the greatness in your dish and drink. They feel that that should always be the center of your experience.

Some of the signature and rare menu items you will find are lamb riblettes consisting of Cascabel chile rub, cumin fig glaze, cilantro and pickled onion, coffee charred short ribs with caramelized gorgonzola barley and blueberry cumin compote, their famous original chopped salad, and for dessert their smoked tea chocolate pot de crème with angostura marshmallow and golden graham treat. These items are decadent, truly original and unlike any other in the Phoenix area. Kantak and Moe have worked closely to build menu items as well as spirits that go hand-in-hand. I am accustomed to bartenders and mixoligists working with food as their inspiration, but have very rarely seen in the other way around.  Kantak created the smoked tea chocolate pot de crème dessert with pure inspiration from the bar using cocktail bitters in his recipe. The Gladly is truly an inimitable experience.

They are the first restaurant and bar I have personally seen in Phoenix to have Negroni’s on draft, a cocktail comprised of aviation gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. Their Gladly Manhattan is made up of Russell’s Reserve Bourbon, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, tobacco and leather bitters, Guinness maple syrup, and toasted orange peel and Marasca cherry. Richie has built a menu of classic cocktails with a twist as well as his own creations to deliver a true cocktail experience unmatched in this area for their customers. In addition to their cocktails, they have a well-rounded beer list, exquisite wine list and an impressive list of over 100 whiskeys on hand at all times.

They use various vendors some of which are local purveyors, others that have left the state, but are still considered family. One of these vendors is Tender Belly located in Denver, Colorado. The owners of Tender Belly, two brothers, worked with Bernie, Andrew and Richie at Cowboy Ciao and they have always supported each other’s endeavors. Tender Belly provides The Gladly with the majority of their meats, all of which are fed a vegetarian diet and raised with plenty of space to roam. While they source their ingredients from other vendors they primarily make most items in house and from scratch. They are dedicated to quality products and building a strong network of business owners is something to admire.


How Did the Space Come Together?

The space The Gladly resides in was originally Ruth’s Chris Steak House. While keeping the bare bones of the space, the owners wanted to create something that was entirely different than what had been there before. They did their best to repurpose everything they could while still bringing an original and fresh look to the building. They sourced lighting and decorative pieces from local artists who use restored metal pieces. They kept the kitchen in its general form as well as the private dinning rooms. When it came down to overall design Kantak, Fritz and Moe worked together. For the three, deciding on the basic items needed for functionality came easy, but when it came to wall decoration they we’re slightly stumped. They commissioned a graffiti artist originally from Phoenix, Sean Griffin who goes by Griffin One, who had completed a mural at Citizen Public House. He ended up painting two of the walls in the restaurant. The entry wall is composed of various bar tools, and the far back wall they call the “Library” consisting of a painted wall full of shelving and books. There are even soft lamps painted on the walls that are so realistic, in the evening they mesh right in. The paintings were all created in a street art style, all with spray paint, and are phenomenal. The graffiti art is the perfect offset to the gorgeous and streamlined look of the restaurant.


Why we love it!

When you experience The Gladly you will find no matter what you choose off their menu it is unique and created for with their customers in mind. They make their growth possible by thinking outside of the box and creating truly exceptional dishes and cocktails. What we love about The Glady is their dedication to creativity. It can be easy to get stuck doing what you do, but for Kantak, Fritz and Moe this isn’t their way. They are constantly experimenting and giving the local community something to be excited to try and have again and again.

We love The Gladly because they are dedicated to expansion and growth without abandoning intimacy for both themselves and their customers in the business. As I sit with Fritz he describes the growth they are experiencing in the same way a rock musician would do with an album. Every few years he see’s them opening a new and different restaurant, unlike what they’ve done before, but very true to the overall feel and aesthetic they have developed with both Citizen Public House and The Gladly. They are not only invested in the cultivation of their products and recipes, but in their staff. They are so grateful for the young talent they have in both their restaurants and want to see it flourish.

They are big fans of the Phoenix community. When asked what do you love about this neighborhood the list is almost endless. Andrew explains that Phoenix is dynamic, accessible, and that entertainment, shopping, and the restaurant movement is growing constantly. He is so happy that their team is a part of it all. And ultimately when he goes to sleep at night he is excited to wake up in the morning because he genuinely loves everything about what he does. We are so lucky to have business owners like this in the Phoenix area.


Hours and Location

The Gladly is located at 2201 East Camelback Road and is open daily from 11am to 11pm.

What else is in the neighborhood?

A few of Andrew’s favorite restaurants in the neighborhood are Lux Central, Pizzeria Bianco’s location on 20th Street and Camelback and Binks Midtown.

What’s coming up for The Gladly?

There are a few things coming up for The Gladly this winter. If you’re looking for a location to book your holiday parties they have a private room that fits 56 comfortably, but can accommodate up to 75 that even has it’s own private bar! They also have plans to start serving weekend brunch, and will continue to experiment with pairing nights so be sure to keep an eye on their Facebook page for more information on those events.

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Firefly Hot Spot: Pane Bianco Serves Up the Best Food Using Simple, Locally-Sourced Ingredients

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I met with Marc Bianco late on Tuesday morning while customers were just making their way through the doors of Pane Bianco as they opened for lunch. Within moments of greeting me I was in the far back, where their stock of local ingredients resides. I sat at a baker’s table while Marc shared his deep love for the Phoenix community, the science behind baking bread and his dedication to sourcing simply the best ingredients possible.


Who are the owners?

Marc and his brother Chris Bianco, the owner of the Bianco restaurants, grew up in the Bronx watching their mother and aunts make handmade pastas. Marc shared with me how cooking from scratch has always been part of their lives. Although Chris went to the Scottsdale Culinary Institute for 6 months, the two brothers’ most effective training has been through trial and error. Marc is responsible for making the breads and dough for all the Bianco restaurants and he and Chris constantly work together to develop recipes and perfect their product.

Marc hasn’t always baked or even worked in the restaurant industry. In fact, before joining the family business, he had never worked in a restaurant. At the time Chris opened Pizzeria Bianco Marc was still living in New York. He was working as a graphic designer, primarily designing labels for beer and wine. When his brother set the date for opening the restaurant, Marc flew to Phoenix to be the very first customer. He sat in the window in their original location in Heritage Square, was handed a menu, ordered, and became part of history.

After the pizzeria had been open for a few years, Marc’s hands-on involvement with the family business began. He moved to Phoenix and started reaching out to local farmers at a time when local farmers were few and far between. Marc recalled how he would go to a customer’s home to pick peaches from their tree. He recounted another story where he visited an heirloom tomato grower in Tempe to handpick tomatoes for the restaurant while mistakenly wearing a white shirt. When he arrived at the Pizzeria with the delivery, Chris stopped him. His white shirt was now green from picking fresh tomatoes and Chris had him walk through the restaurant with his delivery rather than taking it through the back door. The customers cheered and clapped as he walked through. Moments like this have separated the Bianco’s and have shown their customers first hand the lengths they will go to bring them the best ingredients.


How did it start?

After 6 years of success with Pizzeria Bianco, Chris wanted to open another restaurant. Pane Bianco was born out of two desires. Chris and Marco had spent a great deal of time at Lux Coffee Bar and loved the community that was forming in that neighborhood. They wanted to be apart of it and they wanted contribute to it. They also had a strong desire to open a fast paced lunch spot where you could take items to go or eat lunch on the outdoor communal patio, a spot to enjoy beautiful weather and connect with the community. The location on Central Avenue and Campbell was a no brainer.

When they originally opened, their hours were limited and they only offered food to go, though there was the outdoor patio right outside the restaurant where people enjoyed the sandwiches and was almost always packed while Pane Bianco was open. After functioning this way for nearly a decade, they made plans to expand their location into what used to be Lux’s old location to accommodate indoor seating as well as table service. While completing the expansion they used as much as they could from the original design; you will even find outlets in the floor in their back room from the beauty parlor that was originally in their space. They have kept the bare bones, with Chris still adding his personal touches. Marc tells me how Chris designs all of their restaurants, and how their father’s artwork hangs in each of them. The brothers really have their hands in every small detail and it shows.


As Pane Bianco expanded, so did their original menu. They not only serve the sandwiches and salads they started with, but also their pizzas and what they call their “big plates.” Some of my personal favorites on their menu are their house made mozzarella with local tomato and basil, their sopressata sandwich with aged provolone and wood roasted onions served on their homemade wood fired focaccia bread, or their famous Rosa pizza with red onions, Arizona pistachios, rosemary and parmesan.

The Bianco’s philosophy is clear: Keep things simple and do things well. They do this by having a strong connection to their farmers, many of which even attended Chris’s wedding early this year. By having this connection they are that much more confident in the ingredients they serve. As I sat and chatted with Marc, local vendors and farmers made their way through the back door to deliver produce. They were at home, and that is how they want everyone who comes through their doors to feel.

The Bianco’s success is astonishing. They currently run three Phoenix based locations. One at Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix, another at 20th Street and Camelback, Pane Bianco at Central near Camelback, and their location in Tucson that is on its way to opening. In addition to their local locations Chris is involved with Union Jacks, a restaurant he opened with Jamie Oliver with multiple locations overseas. Bianco’s pizza has been awarded the best pizza in the country by Bon Appetit and Rachel Ray. They have been recognized by Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, GQ, Food and Wine Magazine, and Andrew Zimmern for their exceptional recipes. On top of all of this Chris has been awarded the James Beard award for the best chef in the Southwest. We are incredibly lucky to have the Bianco’s restaurants in our home city.


Why we love it!

We love the execution of their philosophy. When I met with Marc, he explained to me the science behind bread baking. He taught me the variables that can make bread change. He explained fermentation times, hydration, different types of flour and how their properties mix and don’t mix, and how important salt and pepper is. It is apparent he loves the science of food and the social aspect of running restaurants.

The quality of their food is exceptional. The Bianco’s dedication to sourcing the best ingredients is equally translated to the best taste and presentation. The wood fired flavor you experience with each sandwich, pizza and baguette is un-paralled to any other I have tasted. Their handmade mozzarella, locally sourced tomatoes, and fresh seasonal toppings make for an experience unlike any other. While their success is world renowned, Bianco’s steady flow of regular local customers plays a large part in their continued success. Their regular customer base proves that their recipes not only impress the food critics, but keep the average Joe returning weekly, if not daily.

Marc tells me that though he’s from New York, he is proud to be in Phoenix because Phoenix is growing and has so much talent. At Firefly we are so happy to have pioneers like the Biancos, who are successful across the world, to bring culture and and the best quality to the Phoenix community.


Hours and Location

Pane Bianco is located at 4404 North Central Avenue in Phoenix. They are open daily for lunch from 11am to 4pm, and for dinner from 4pm to 9pm Monday through Thursday, and for dinner from 4pm to 10pm on Friday and Saturday.

View their website for their other locations hours of operation.

What else is in the neighborhood?

A couple of Marc’s favorite restaurants are FnB on 5th Avenue in Scottsdale and Nobou located in Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix directly across from Pizzeria Bianco.

What’s coming up for the Bianco’s?

Stay tuned for the opening of their newest location of Pizzeria Bianco in Tucson near Congress and 5th Avenue this fall. Also keep your eyes peeled for Chris’s cookbook he is co-writing with Gary Nabhan scheduled for publication this fall as well.

Photos by author. 


Firefly Hot Spot: Tammie Coe Cakes & MJ Bread Continue to Wow Phoenix with Their Decadent Goodies

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Who are the owners?

Photographed above is Tammie Coe. Tammie and MJ Coe have a deep passion for creating items that are undeniably beautiful and delicious. The two met in culinary school and married after graduating. They continued the development of their craft by working in established and well-respected restaurants and kitchens. They have lived in Phoenix for nearly twenty years and have made a name for themselves within the community for their enchanting fondant cakes, delectable pastries, famous sugar cookies and their nourishing handmade breads.

How did it start?

Tammie Coe Cakes & MJ Bread began eleven years ago with a pastry case in Arcadia’s La Grande Orange Grocery. Here they developed their menu of signature pastries and breads, which made their everlasting mark on the Phoenix community. When the demand for their quality products became more than they could keep up with a pastry case, they opened their first standalone bakery. Over the years they have moved and expanded to a total of three locations.

They operate three successful bakeries and coffee shops, work with wholesale vendors, cater special events, consult with restaurant owners and chefs, and are able to work with any and every special order. Tammie and MJ are constantly evolving by producing unique baked items through research and development.

Collages3Why we love it!

Tammie explains this to me in the context of trying new recipes and perfecting classics. As we sat and conversed in her newest location on Central Avenue, surrounded by her mother’s, Ina Moss’s, and long time hairdresser’s, Pierre Hambur’s, artwork, she told me a story from a few mornings prior. Tammie decided to experiment with seven different recipes for chocolate chip cookies at home. These seven recipes were compiled of numerous types and measurements of butter, flour, sugar, and chocolate chips. Tammie did this all in the name of creating the perfect chocolate chip cookie that is unmatched. You can taste this devotion in each baked good Tammie and MJ craft. Their menu is extensive, but I would be remiss if I didn’t share some of my personal favorites with you.

My first introduction to Tammie Coe Cakes was at my bridal shower. My Aunt searched for the best red velvet cake. It was no contest, it had to come from Tammie Coe Cakes. The fondant cakes Tammie creates are unlike any other cake I have ever had. The cake was so stunning we almost didn’t want to cut in to it, but when we did our taste buds were delighted. The contrast between the gorgeous yet durable fondant and the moist and lightweight cake made for decadent experience. Tammie and MJ have created desserts that play a key role in making the personal moments in our lives exceptional.

My second experience with Tammie Coe came when I was working for Giant Coffee in downtown Phoenix. There I assisted the incredible owners, Ernie and Matt Pool, as they opened their first ever coffee shop. Before ramping up their own in-house bakery, they purchased all their bread and baked goods from Tammie and MJ. This is where I had the opportunity to try nearly all of their exceptional staple pastries and breads. Their unique apple oatmeal cookies, ooey gooey cupcakes, blueberry muffins and thick cut sour dough toast with Cotton Country Jams were just a few of my favored baked goods. My husband would always be eager to see what I would bring home each day from work. We got spoiled.

A year later I began to work for Lux Coffee, which had been around for nearly a decade at that point. Their bakery was established, but even today Lux turns to Tammie Coe Cakes and MJ Bread for items they feel can’t be done better. The items they receive daily are their sticky bran muffins, brioche, as well as ciabatta and levain breads.


In addition to providing their local wholesale accounts you can find all of my personal favorites and many more at all their locations in Phoenix. I have frequented each of their local locations and can tell you it’s a perfect place to get a heartwarming cinnamon roll, a fantastic cup of coffee (roasted at Lux) to either stay and enjoy with a friend or to take with you if you’re on the go. We highly recommend Tammie Coe Cakes and MJ Bread!

We love Tammie Coe Cakes and MJ Breads because each of the baked goods they create are individual, edible pieces of art. You can taste the passion they have for their business. We love that even after being in business for about a decade they wake up in the morning and want to experiment with baking just because they love baking.

Tammie Coe’s success is remarkable. Their investment in the Phoenix food community is made clear as they collaborate with other restaurateurs to help them establish or improve the quality of what they serve. At Firefly Living, we appreciate Tammie and MJ’s philosophy of “rising waters raise all boats”. Tammie Coe and MJ Bread continue to improve the Phoenix community every day by producing consistently top-notch baked goods and by sharing their expertise and commitment to quality with other businesses.


Hours and Location

Tammie Coe Cakes and M.J. Bread have three locations. Their location at 610 E. Roosevelt has been closed for the summer, but will reopen November 1st. Their location on 5210 North Central Avenue is open Monday through Thursday from 8am to 5pm and Friday and Saturday from 8am to 8pm. Their location at Phoenix Sky Harbor in Terminal 4 is open morning to night opening 30 minutes before the first flight of the day and 30 minutes before the last flight.

What else is in the neighborhood?

A few of Tammie’s favorite local restaurants are The House, Pino’s Pizzeria, and all of the Upwards Project restaurants – Federal, Windsor, and Postinos. It goes without saying that she is a great supporter of the local Phoenix community and appreciates the talents of her favorite chefs.

Photos taken by author. 

Firefly Hot Spot: Gadzooks Redefines the Enchilada

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By using ingredients like modelo braised bison, scratch-made crema and honeysuckle vinaigrette Gadzooks is redefining the enchilada. With a love stemming from childhood for enchiladas and Mexican food, Aaron Pool opened Gadzooks this April.


Who are the owners?

Aaron Pool is a Phoenix native who began cooking with his mother at a very young age. He especially loved baking and even had an Easy-Bake Oven as a child. His palate for spicy food developed at a local Phoenix restaurant that has since closed called La Fonda’s. Here, he would order cheese crisps, enchiladas and experiment with different salsas. His mother was famous for her green chile chicken enchilada casserole, and on a family trip to Tahoe during his freshman year of college it began to click. Although Aaron’s family was made up of dentists, and while there was a time he thought he wanted to join the same line of work, it was reaffirmed on this trip what he wanted to do. It was here that the idea for a fast casual restaurant involving enchiladas was born.

How did it start?

After graduating from Arizona State University in 2009 Aaron began working out the plans for Gadzooks. He worked with Navin Pathangay of Pathangay Associates to complete the build out of the space on the corner of 7th Street and Osborn where the business now resides. They began by stripping the building to the bare bones of the 1950’s gas station it once was. With the aid of the Adaptive Reuse Program at the City of Phoenix, Aaron and Navin were able to design the space creatively with the city on their side.


The name Gadzooks is German and means an exclamation of surprise. While what they are cooking up and serving is in no way German you can certainly expect surprising ingredients. Aaron told me stories of him experimenting with braising new meats and working with commercial kitchen appliances for the first time ever while he was building his menu. He even found himself in the restaurant at 3am at times trying to get recipes right. Aaron has worked very hard to implement family recipes that maybe wouldn’t fit it to the traditional Mexican restaurant by making minor tweaks.

At Gadzooks they make everything from scratch in house and source local ingredients whenever possible. An item that stood out to me in particular on their menu is their homemade tortillas. They offer two options – hand pressed, in house corn and scratch-made half and half corn and flour tortillas. The half and half are perfect for enchiladas because they give you a buttery softer taste and texture without becoming soggy like most flour tortillas do. You will find multiple recipes from his mother on the menu including their soup, cornbread and homemade cookies.

Aaron met a lot of opposition from restaurant veterans with starting his own business at such a young age, but his success speaks for itself. He is doing far better than he could have ever imagined and is loving every minute of it.


Why we love it!

We love that Aaron has developed his business in a very sustainable way. We love that he has reinvented a classic he has always loved, and that despite facing opposition he pursued his dream of owning and operating a restaurant. His dedication to creating a menu that is out of the box is admirable. By making everything in house and from scratch, including their tortillas, his menu options are unique and cannot be found anywhere else. We appreciate Gadzook’s sourcing local ingredients whenever possible and for working with the city of Phoenix and their Adaptive Reuse Program when completing their build out. We highly recommend this new local gem!

Hours and Location

Gadzook’s is located at 3313 N. 7th St. at Osborn St. in Phoenix and is open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 10pm.

What else is in the neighborhood?

After working twelve plus hour days, Aaron’s favorite local places to grab some food and a drink after work are St. Francis located on Camelback near 2nd st, Chelsea’s Kitchen on 40th Street near Camelback, and Rokerij on 16th Street near Maryland.

What’s coming up for Gadzooks?

They are participating in the Arizona Taco Festival on October 19th & 20th, and over the next couple weeks they will be expanding their hours to be open on Sundays for brunch. Aaron’s plans are to have a slightly modified menu more specific to the brunch crowd, but their fast casual businesses model will stay put, creating a very unique brunch experience.

Photos taken by author.