Arts and Culture | Local

New retail reality calls for creative solutions

Arizona Theatre Company offers original content on its ‘Digital Backstage.’(

Editor’s note (April 20): A fourth round of Downtown Tucson Partnership gift cards, worth $35 but costing $25, will go on sale here on Wednesday, April 22 at 6 a.m. HSL Properties helped fund the third round, which sold out in less than 15 minutes, and is also sponsoring the fourth round.

In addition, the Historic Fourth Avenue Coalition and the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association have created a $35 for $25 a gift card program with 25 Fourth Avenue businesses participating. Go here to purchase a card.

“Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” was the executive order issued by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on March 31, following the Centers for Disease Control and Arizona Department of Health Services COVID 19 pandemic guidelines. With the closure of restaurants for dining in, gatherings limited to under 10, and telework encouraged for all but essential workers, retail in Arizona — beyond supermarkets, pharmacies, hardware, and craft stores — has taken a nosedive. The AJP looked at some of the creative ideas being floated in Tucson to keep businesses from collapsing under the weight of the pandemic.

Downtown Tucson Partnership with 50 of its downtown merchants launched an innovative gift card sale on April 3. “There are only 1,000 gift cards available, and they will go fast. I would not be surprised if we sold out in the first 24 hours,” predicted Kathleen Eriksen, DTP’s president and CEO. Indeed, gift cards did sell out in 24 hours, infusing $35,000 directly into the businesses’ tills with DTP adding $10 to every $25 gift card purchase. The project was so successful another round of gift cards sold out in two hours on April 8, with $10,000 donated by Rio Nuevo. A third round is in the making check

Gift cards are a great way to support favorite businesses through hard times, and most retailers sell them.

“We’re all doing our best to survive, business-wise and health-wise,” says The Running Shop owner Sharon Bart. “We’ve always been a brick and mortar business.” Behind locked doors, Bart now takes phone orders and offers curbside try-on and pick-ups for shoes and other running gear. She also ships free with a purchase of $50 or more and delivers free within a 10-mile radius of her 3055 N. Campbell Ave. store. She’s added Arizona-inspired apparel at

Through, shoppers can choose items from favorite Tucson stores without wasteful packaging, for in-store pickup or delivery.

Tucson Chefs created a video ( encouraging Tucsonans to purchase takeout meals once a week. “Our dining rooms are empty and your houses are going crazy,” says Travis Peters, chef and owner of The Parish Restaurant. “Every restaurant is trying to stay open and we need your help. If you could just do takeout once a week.”

“It supports the farmers, brewers, winemakers, and drivers,” adds Tanque Verde Ranch Chef Janet Balderas. “It doesn’t matter where you spend it, as long as you spend it in our local restaurants,” says Chef Juan Almanza of El Taco Rustico. “We are trying to keep our staff employed,” adds Senae Chef Dee Buizer. Call your favorite restaurants for takeout or purchase Tucson restaurant gift cards at

A bevy of popular “paint night” classes has converted to online teaching. Sign up for a free live class with Tucson’s Creative Juice ( and the family can fill a couple of hours absorbed in colorful fun. “We’re doing kids classes during the week, so the kids won’t bother parents for a while,” says owner-artist Chellie Krajnak. Creative Juice also live-streams painting classes on its Facebook page, where painters can follow instructions at any time. Painters can pick up $12 painting kits curbside from the studio after registering for a live class, or get delivery for an extra $5.

Other creative arts also are going virtual. “For the next few months, we’ll be taking our content online,” says Arizona Theatre Company Artistic Director Sean Daniels. This includes videos from artists, in-depth interviews with those who make up ATC’s season, and education programs so that kids — or interested adults — can continue to learn and grow through art. Subscriptions for six nights of the theatre’s 54th season at Tucson’s Temple of Music and Art when it reopens in the fall remain on sale. For more information, go to or call the box office at 622-2823.

While The Loft Cinema is temporarily closed, it offers virtual screenings of new films through collaborating distributor’s websites. Tickets, which average $12, allow access on computer, phone, or other smart devices. Purchase provides multiple days of viewing access. A portion of the ticket price supports The Loft Cinema. Details are available at