2 downtown Phoenix firms closing

Ginger D. Richardson and Erica Sagon The Arizona Republic Jan. 16, 2006 12:00 AM

PHOENIX - The start of the New Year has brought some marked changes to the local downtown business scene.

Among the biggest surprises: the closing of popular Central Avenue lunch spot, Zoes Kitchen, and the impending departure of the Jewel Box, a Central Avenue pawn shop that has been in downtown Phoenix for more than half a century.

While owners at the two businesses blamed their leaving on a variety of factors, both can be indirectly tied to big-ticket projects currently under way in downtown Phoenix.

Honeylou Reznik, who owns the Jewel Box along with her husband, Morris, said they have long known that their single-story building and the land it occupies would eventually be incorporated into the new Arizona State University campus.

The couple had planned to relocate their business until Morris fell sick late last year.

Instead, they will shutter their doors May 6.

"We knew this spot was eventually going to be part of ASU, and that's a great thing for this city," Honeylou Reznik said. "But it's still sad; it's hard to leave - we're almost like an institution here."

Jay Dushoff, the couple's attorney, said several developers have offered to buy.

The Jewel Box, which is located at 601 N. Central Ave., sits on a prime piece of real estate that would be ideal for a new student-housing complex, academic building, or both.

Nathan Lowrie, owner of Zoes Kitchen, said he's leaving the downtown area because customer traffic at his store had dwindled since light-rail construction began.

The new 20-mile line will connect Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa and is slated to open in 2008.

Just how construction will affect downtown business owners is something of a mystery.

Some, like Betsy Yee, who owns Blue Fin, a Japanese restaurant in downtown Phoenix, are worried about how they will survive the next two years.

But others, like Dave Soltis, owner of such downtown institutions as Focaccia Fiorentina and La Mesa Pit Barbecue & Smokehouse, say the work has not hurt business.

Soltis hopes the line will bring more patrons. He already has gotten his liquor license.

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