The Evolution of Downtown

Since 1964, Guidon Books has helped put the "charm" in charming and the "funk" in funky of our eclectic downtown shopping area.  
The family-owned business that specializes in offering new and old books about American history, including Western literature, has been a staple for many residents and tourists.  For more than 50 years, the bookstore has endured fluctuating economies and changing shopping trends.
That's about to change, because next month Guidon Books is leaving downtown and is headed for (of all places) the Airpark.
This column isn't about Guidon Books - it's about the circumstances surrounding the bookstore that its owner, Shelly Dudley, had to confront:  an evolving downtown where quaint shops and galleries are being replaced by new restaurants and residences. There's even an emergence of new offices.
Today, there's less strolling the streets by window shoppers and more surfing the web by customers making online purchases.
However, Fashion Square, our downtown shopping mecca, seems to be holding its own - especially compared to the struggling shops and floundering art galleries south of Camelback Road.  According to the City of Scottsdale, Fashion Square generates 70% of the sales tax revenue in the downtown area.  Trying to quantify how many people annually shop downtown is difficult, but it's estimated that every year 10 million shoppers pass through the invisible turnstiles of Fashion Square.
Almost exactly one year ago, the Voice of Scottsdale published a column called "Art Galleries Still Adjusting To New Normal."  That headline said it all.  Not much has changed since last summer.  Most gallery owners continue to struggle and many downtown merchants are in the same boat.  Both need to create a new marketplace paradigm that generates more customers.  
But so far many of the businesses have become their own worst enemy.  They're resisting adapting to the world that's changing all around them.  Many are doing the same old thing to market their businesses and expecting different results. 
Earlier this month City Council candidate and China Mist co-founder Dan Schweiker summed up the situation:  "My heart goes out to the galleries, but I think they are misguided in thinking that special events are their enemy.  The real challenge is that the marketplace has changed and I don't think it will ever go back to the good old days."
Thanks to a coalition of gallery owners and merchants who ran Artisan Markets out of downtown last year, the city was prompted to update the special events ordinance, which hadn't been done for 23 years.  It went into effect July 1st.
The updated special events ordinance will allow the gallery owners and the downtown Farmers' Market to be treated differently than other event producers.  No events will be allowed downtown on Thursday nights if the applicant is perceived to be in conflict with the gallery-sponsored Art Walk.  The Farmer's Market will not be required to apply for an event permit every three months like many event producers.
Some are saying the revamped ordinance may be "overkill."  French Thompson, who owns French Designer Jewelers on Main Street, has said he thinks "the pendulum may now have swung back" the other way by creating a more restrictive set of criteria.   Mayor Lane said he worries that the new restrictions may create "a perception that we don't want events," or are even trying to  discourage them -- which is not the case, he adds.
Meanwhile, Shelly Dudley is starting to pack up Guidon Books' more than 30,000 books in preparation for her store's move from east 2nd Street to the Airpark.  She says the new owners of the building from which she's moving will be converting the location into ... you guessed it: office space.