Gilbert Edition - December 2020

GILBERT EDITION

VOLUME 3, ISSUE 4  DEC. 22, 2020JAN. 25, 2021

ONLINE AT

Chandler USD superintendent set to retire

IMPACTS

TOWN& EDUCATION

WRAPPEDWITH RIBBON

ROMEO’S EURO CAFÉ

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THEN AND now The coronavirus pandemic has caused

Restaurants, bars steer through pandemic toward changed future

restaurants and bars that were healthy at the beginning of the year to shift how they do business, seek aid and, in some cases, close.

START OF 2020

NOW

10,000 restaurants in Arizona

230,000 employees statewide

10%-12% of restaurants have closed permanently in Arizona 26 Gilbert restaurants with 1,628 employees received federal assistance

35%-40% of the state restaurant workforce has been furloughed, laid o or had hours cut

BY TOM BLODGETT Restaurants and bars in Gilbert, just as elsewhere in the state and nation, have been hit hard during the coro- navirus pandemic, but those that are surviving are learning to adapt to their new environment. Data shows the depth of the pan- demic’s eects. In Arizona, the restau- rant industry has lost about $2 billion in sales this year, part of the $250 bil- lion in sales estimated to have been lost across the nation, according to the

Arizona Restaurant Association. The association also notes a high displacement of workers—as much as an 80% cut in statewide restaurants’ payroll at the pandemic’s height—who were laid o, furloughed or had their hours substantially cut. Furthermore, 10%-12% of Arizona’s restaurants have shuttered perma- nently, according to the association. Still, between pivoting to delivery and takeout and the help of loans, CONTINUED ON 12

“You can either sit on your hands and you can cry… or you could start thinking of new ideas on how to generate more income. It’s almost like a big hustle. ” W RIETH, OWNER AND CHEF, NOT YOUR TYPICAL DELI

SOURCE: ARIZONA RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION, U.S. SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATIONCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

BY ALEXA D’ANGELO AND TOM BLODGETT Hundreds of thousands of drivers traverse the Broadway Curve section of I-10 each day, and the Ari- zona Department of Transportation will begin con- struction on the 11-mile stretch of the freeway in 2021 in the region’s largest freeway redevelopment project to date. “Maricopa County, including the East Valley, con- tinues to grow year after year,” ADOT spokesperson CONTINUED ON 14 Construction to begin on stretch of I10 in 2021

BROADWAY CURVE improvements

Project timeline: 20212024 Cost: $643.68M Funding sources: state, federal

The Arizona Department of Transportation is scheduled to begin a multiyear project on a stretch of I-10 including the Broadway Curve.

IMPROVED RUSH HOUR SPEED

32mph today

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40mph with improvements in 2025 without improvements in 2025 29mph

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SOURCE: ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATIONCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

COMMUNITYIMPACT.COMCIPATRON . Complete 2020 by joining your neighbors with a contribution of any amount to CI Patron. Funds support Community Impact Newspaper ’s hyperlocal, unbiased journalism and help build informed communities. Choose IMPACT . Make a CONTRIBUTION . Strengthen JOURNALISMFORALL . Contribute today! Snap or visit

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

THIS ISSUE

CONTENTS IMPACTS

HIGHLIGHTS FROMTHISMONTH

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Now Open, Coming Soon &more TRANSPORTATION

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MARKET TEAM EDITOR Tom Blodgett GRAPHIC DESIGNER Isabella Short ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Michelle Gavagan

FROMAMY: Anyone who travels from the Chandler- Gilbert area to downtown Phoenix at rush hour knows the pain at the Broadway Curve on I-10. That spot where Tempe and Phoenix meet has long been a chokepoint that transportation ocials have aimed to address. Our front-page story looks at that fast-approaching project.

Local road projects

METRO LEADERSHIP PUBLISHER Amy Ellsworth,

aellsworth@communityimpact.com MANAGING EDITOR Matt Stephens ART PRODUCTIONMANAGER Aubrey Galloway CORPORATE LEADERSHIP PUBLISHERS AND FOUNDERS John and Jennifer Garrett GROUP PUBLISHER Traci Rodriguez EXECUTIVE EDITOR Joe Warner CREATIVE DIRECTOR Derek Sullivan SALES DIRECTOR Tess Coverman WHOWE ARE

Amy Ellsworth, PUBLISHER

FROMTOM: We have our favorite haunts, restaurants and bars that we frequented before COVID-19 became part of the landscape. We have held our breath in hopes of those businesses making it to the other side of this pandemic. Our front-page story examines how those businesses have navigated this rocky period and how it will change them even after the virus is contained.

TOWN& EDUCATION

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Gilbert and local school district news

BUSINESS FEATURE Wrapped with Ribbon

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Tom Blodgett, EDITOR

John and Jennifer Garrett began Community Impact Newspaper in 2005 in Pugerville, Texas. The company’s mission is to build informed citizens and thriving businesses through the collaboration of a passionate team. Today we operate across ve metropolitan areas providing hyperlocal, nonpartisan news produced by our full-time journalists in each community we serve. BECOMEA#COMMUNITYPATRON

THIS ISSUE BY THE NUMBERS

New businesses 12

Road projects 4

3

Local sources 11

Events

Please join your friends and neighbors in support of Community Impact Newspaper’s legacy of local, reliable reporting by making

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DINING FEATURE Romeo’s Euro Café REAL ESTATE

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a contribution. Together, we can continue to ensure citizens stay informed and keep businesses thriving. COMMUNITYIMPACT.COMPATRON CONTACT US 610 N. Gilbert Road, Ste. 205, Gilbert, AZ 85234 • 4804824880 PRESS RELEASES gilnews@communityimpact.com SUBSCRIPTIONS communityimpact.com/subscriptions © 2020 Community Impact Newspaper Co. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction of any portion of this issue is allowed without written permission from the publisher.

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GILBERT EDITION • DECEMBER 2020

IMPACTS

Businesses that have recently opened or are coming soon, relocating or expanding

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Ivy & Sage Market

Fry’s Marketplace

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PHOTOS BY TOM BLODGETTCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

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Gilbert Crossroads Kids’ Dentists & Orthodontics: 480-336-2873. www.gilbertcrossroadskidsdentists.com 4 Fry’s Food Stores opened a Fry’s Marketplace store at 4075 E. Williams Field Road, Gilbert, on Nov. 4. The 127,000-square-foot grocery store includes a Starbucks, grab-and-go items from Chompie’s deli, a cheese shop, a sushi station, wine selections and a pharmacy. Like other Marketplace stores, it also has apparel and housewares departments. 480-347-9812. www.frysfood.com 5 Furniture Brat and U-Haul opened Nov. 18 at 425 E. Germann Road, Ste. 105, Gilbert. Furniture Brat sells furniture imported from around the world and can customize upholstery. It also fabricates and sells container homes. A U-Haul dealership has been brought in as well so customers can transport pieces home. 480-821-5200. www.furniturebrat.com 6 Ivy & Sage Market opened Nov. 10 at 4946 S. Power Road, Gilbert, in the Gilbert Gateway Towne Center. Ivy & Sage is a market of more than 50 local artisans, crafters and designers. Thus, oerings consistently change. 480-506-5020. www.instagram.com/ ivyandsagelifestyleco 7 Jersey Mike’s opened Dec. 9 at 835 S. Gilbert Road, Ste. 103, Gilbert, in the Gilbert Warner development. It is part of a national submarine sandwich chain. 480-307-6300. www.jerseymikes.com/ 9058/gilbert-az 8 Little Caesars opened a location at 4049 E. Williams Field Road, Ste. 103, Gil- bert, on Dec. 4. The national chain oers

low-cost pizza for takeout or delivery. 480-988-7441. https://littlecaesars.com/ en-us/store/8868 9 Matty G’s Steakburgers & Spirits opened a location Oct. 29 at 3373 E. Queen Creek Road, Gilbert. It is a neigh- borhood grill that specializes in burgers and hot dogs and is adorned with sports memorabilia. 480-534-7302. https://matty-gs.com 10 Mr. Mesquite Taqueria opened Dec. 12 at 2425 S. Gilbert Road, Gilbert. The Mexican street food restaurant, which serves food cooked over mesquite char- coal, has seven Valley locations. 480- 687-3303. https://eatmrmesquite.com 11 Pet Planet opened a location Nov. 6 at 4099 E. Williams Field Road, Ste. 107, Gilbert. The 25-year-old Canadian-based company has 14 U.S. stores, all in Arizona. It brands itself as a natural grocer for pets, selling healthy pet food and treats as well as vitamins and supplements. 480-350-7803. www.shoppetplanet.com 12 VillageMD opened a new Village Medical clinic at 1760 E. Pecos Road, Ste. 102, Gilbert, on Dec. 8. Village Medical oers comprehensive primary care across a broad range of physician services, along with 24/7 care through telehealth and virtual care. Services include preventive care, treatment for illness and injury, and management of chronic conditions. 480- 457-8800. www.villagemedical.com COMING SOON 13 The Beauty District is coming to 4936 S. Power Road, Gilbert, in the Gil- bert Gateway Towne Center in early 2021.

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HUNT HWY.

E. HUNT HWY. NOWOPEN 1 The AppleXchange opened Nov. 21 at 5052 S. Power Road, Ste. 107, Gilbert, in the Gilbert Gateway Towne Center. The shop does Apple device repair and sells used Apple computers. 480-690-5800. https://theapplexchange.com 2 Baneld Pet Hospital opened a location Oct. 31 at 1525 N. Higley Road, Gilbert, in the City Gate Marketplace. The veterinary practice does preventive treatment and emergency care as well as

general surgery. 520-827-4407. www.baneld.com

3 Complementary practices Dentists of Gilbert Crossroads and Gilbert Cross- roads Kids’ Dentists & Orthodontics opened to patients Dec. 14 at 835 S. Gilbert Road, Ste. 105, Gilbert, in the Gil- bert Warner development. Mike McDou- gal treats adults and Tiany Andersen children at the practices, which share a suite with separate entrances. Dentists of Gilbert Crossoads: 480-297-0979. www.dentistsofgilbertcrossroads.com.

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

TODO LIST

December-January events

COMPILED BY TOM BLODGETT

DECEMBER 31 THROUGH FEB. 6 ‘FOREVER PLAID’

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Four music-loving friends are killed by a bus on a way to their rst gig as a band, a moment that is the start of the musical’s story. COVID-19 restrictions include limiting seating capacity to under 38%. Every other row will be empty, with two seats left empty between each party attending a performance. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, additional 4 p.m. shows Fridays and Saturdays Dec. 31-Feb. 6. No show Jan. 1. $40. Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Ave., Gilbert. 480-497-1181. www.haletheatrearizona.com JANUARY 16 SEE IT SATURDAY HD South is launching a monthly opportunity to see artifacts that are normally not available for public viewing. In the rst such show, it will showcase high school yearbooks from 1940-50. Archival gloves must be worn by those who wish to ip through the pages. 10:30 a.m.- noon. Requires museum admission plus $1 donation to cover cost of archival gloves. HD South, 10 S. Gilbert Road, Gilbert. 480-926-1577. https://hdsouth.org

Matty G’s Steakburgers & Spirits

Pet Planet

It oers salon suites for rent to beauti- cians. https://thebeautydistrict.com 14 An F45 Training location anticipates opening in late January or early February at the Crossroads Towne Center, 3757 S. Gilbert Road, Ste. 109, Gilbert. The gym is primarily focused on circuit training and high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. 480-375-8769. https://f45training.com/ gilbertandthe202/home 15 Ile.gal Modern Cocktail Kitchen plans to open Dec. 29 as a rooftop bar at 313 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert. The bar, which originally planned to open in April but postponed because of the pandemic, has an artistic craft cocktail program, a full scratch kitchen that uses fresh avors found throughout Arizona, and views of downtown Gilbert and the San Tan Moun- tains. The menu oers locally inspired artisanal dishes. The full craft cocktail

bar focuses on an assortment of agave spirits. http://ilegalaz.com 16 Sun Devil Auto anticipates opening a location at 658 S. Gilbert Road, Gilbert, about Jan. 1. The chain of automotive maintenance and repair shops has been a family-owned and -operated business since 1978 in the Phoenix metro area. This will be the third location in Gilbert. 480-418-5000. www.sundevilauto.com CLOSINGS 17 Buddyz A Chicago Pizzeria closed Dec. 13 at 3611 E. Baseline Road, Ste. 102, Gilbert, and moved to Mesa. The deep-dish pizza restaurant is one of four locations in Arizona, but the owners have plans to open another Gilbert restaurant in spring. 480-503-4444. https://buddyzpizza.hungerrush.com

GILBERT REGIONAL PARK PLANNING MEETING

JAN. 12

Landscape architecture rm Dig Studios will host a virtual meeting to gather input on what residents would like to see next at Gilbert Regional Park. Online input also can be given for those who cannot attend. 6-7 p.m. Free. www.gilbertaz.gov/departments/ parks-and-recreation/gilbert- s-new-regional-park/public- meetings#Jan

Find more or submit Gilbert events at communityimpact.com/event-calendar. Event organizers can submit local events online to be considered for the print edition. Submitting details for consideration does not guarantee publication.

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GILBERT EDITION • DECEMBER 2020

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

E. GUADALUPE RD. TRANSPORTATIONUPDATES

COMPILED BY TOM BLODGETT

E. ELLIOT RD.

ONGOING PROJECTS 1 Power and Pecos roads water line

funds, regional funds, developer contributions 3 Val Vista Drive widening The town is widening Val Vista Drive from Appleby Road—about where Val Vista narrows to one lane in each direction—to Riggs Road. The result will be a six-lane section from Ocotillo Road to Merlot Street. Status: Base paving has started for the curb lane south of Chandler Heights. Project is approxi- mately 45% complete. Timeline: March 2020-August 2021 Cost: $25.96 million Funding sources: bonds, town and Maricopa 4 Val Vista Drive Eastern Canal bridge repair The project will reconstruct the bridge deck on Val Vista Drive and the Eastern Canal. Status: Construction is set to begin in early January to avoid holiday traffic on Val Vista from SanTan Village mall. Lane closures will happen during construction. Timeline: January-July Cost: $1.06 million Funding source: town of Gilbert ALL INFORMATION ON THIS PAGE WAS UPDATED AS OF DEC. 11. NEWS OR QUESTIONS ABOUT THESE OR OTHER LOCAL TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS? EMAIL US AT GILNEWS@COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM. Association of Governments funds UPCOMING PROJECTS

E. WARNER RD.

Lanes are affected as crews complete the water-distribution system in the Power and Pecos roads area. This water line will support the growth and development of the surrounding areas and provide reliable pressure and supply as demands in the area grow. Status: Construction is anticipated to be com- plete in late January. Traffic restrictions will be on Power Road’s southbound lanes for most of the project. There will be minor traffic restric- tions on Pecos when the water line crosses over from Power to the north side of Pecos. Timeline: November-January Cost: $2.24 million Funding source: Gilbert water funds 2 Lindsay Road/Loop 202 interchange construction An interchange at Lindsay Road and Loop 202-SanTan Freeway will be built to provide ac- cess to Loop 202 and a frontage road system on Loop 202 between Lindsay and Gilbert Road. Status: Construction for the interchange is anticipated to start in early January and last 14 months. There will be traffic restrictions on Lindsay throughout the duration of the project. Timeline: October 2020-November 2021 Cost: $18.15 million Funding sources: town of Gilbert bonds and

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

TOWN&EDUCATION

News from Gilbert, Gilbert Public Schools, Higley USD & Chandler USD

COMPILED BY TOM BLODGETT

GILBERTPUBLIC SCHOOLS During a presentation on a revision of the fiscal year 2019-20 annual finance report Dec. 1, Finance Director Jackie Mattinen told the governing board that the district has been awarded a $14.27 million enrollment stabilization grant from state AZCares funds. HIGLEYUSD The governing board approved Nov. 18 an increase in the district’s preschool tuition rates anywhere from 6.67% to 9.33%, depending on the level of service. Under the proposal, district staff members would continue to get a 20% discount and have their registration fees waived. CHANDLERUSD The governing board heard proposed changes to the junior high and high school course catalogs for the 2021-22 school year. Courses being added to the junior high curriculum are Academic Pentathlon and Beginning Orchestra. High school course additions are site specific and include Honors Aerospace Engineering at Hamilton High School and Full Orchestra at Arizona College Prep and Perry High School. SCHOOL HIGHLIGHTS Gilbert Town Council Jan. 5, 19, 6:30 p.m. 50 E. Civic Center Drive, Gilbert 480-503-6871 • www.gilbertaz.gov Gilbert Public Schools Board Jan. 5, 6 p.m. 140 S. Gilbert Road, Gilbert 480-497-3300 www.gilbertschools.net Higley USD Board Jan. 20, 5:30 p.m. 2935 S. Recker Road, Gilbert 480-279-7000 • www.husd.org Chandler USD Board Jan. 13, 7 p.m. 1525 W. Frye Road, Chandler 480-812-7000 • www.cusd80.com Follow us on Twitter: @impactnews_gil MEETINGSWE COVER

Council member awarded some attorney’s fees from lawsuit against town GILBERT A judge has awarded Town Council Member Laurin Hendrix some, but not all, of his attorney’s fees and costs associated with his lawsuit against the town about the timing of his seating on council. Daniel Kiley, Maricopa County Superior Court judge, ruled Dec. 1 that Hendrix was entitled to $17,085 in attorney’s fees and $370 in costs because he partially prevailed in court. Hendrix had requested $33,872.50. Hendrix filed suit in August to be seated immediately, rather than January, on council after the canvass of the town election that month, arguing that because then-Council Member Bill Spence had been appointed, Hendrix was entitled to it upon his election. Kiley ruled, based on a reading of state law, in September that Hendrix would be able to take the seat upon the date of the general election Nov. 3 but dismissed arguments that Spence was an “usurper” of the seat. In figuring the award to Hendrix, Kiley threw out fees and costs associated with the part of the suit against Spence. Kiley wrote in his judgment that to account for Hendrix not succeeding in all his claims for relief, Hendrix was entitled to two-thirds of the remaining billable hours from his attorney, Timothy La Sota. GILBERT’S LEGAL BILL Here is a breakdown of what the Town of Gilbert must pay from Council Member Laurin Hendrix’s lawsuit against the town and Council Member Bill Spence about when Hendrix should assume his seat. $17,455

Camille Casteel to retire as Chandler USD superintendent in 2021

CHANDLER USD Superintendent Camille Casteel announced in a letter to families Dec. 10 she will retire at the end of this school year, June 30, 2021. “It is time,” Casteel wrote. “While this is one of the most difficult

decisions I have had to make, after 50 years in CUSD, I feel the time is right.” Casteel joined the district in 1971. She taught first grade at both Erie and Knox elementary schools, accord- ing to the district. She became the district’s first female principal in 1983, at Weinberg Elementary School. In 1986, she joined the district’s administrative team as the assistant superintendent. She was promoted to associate superintendent in 1991 and five years later, in 1996, she was selected as the district’s first-ever female superintendent. Camille Casteel Most HigleyUSDCOVID-19 cases not following district’s policies HIGLEY USD More than 70% of district students and staff who have been confirmed as positive cases of COVID-19 have not followed the district’s policies and procedures established to mitigate the coronavirus’ effect. That statistic, gleaned from the district’s followups to each positive case, was presented to the governing board at its Dec. 9 meeting. According to that presentation, of the 37 staff cases, 72% did not follow the procedures, namely coming to school when they had symptoms. For the 121 cases from students, 74% did not follow procedures, causing board members to plead for compliance.

$33,460.54 Town’s fees to firm Gust Rosenfeld

$11,709.83 Indemnifying Spence’s legal fees

Awarded legal fees, costs to Hendrix

TOTAL COST: $62,625.37

SOURCE: TOWN OF GILBERT/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

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GILBERT EDITION • DECEMBER 2020

“I really, really enjoy that experience with the customers, watching them be able to pick something out and hearing their stories,” Yonda-Lead said.

BUSINESS FEATURE

Kim Yonda-Lead curates the oerings at her gift boutique with input from loyal customers, helping build a community vibe.

WrappedwithRibbon 4844 S. Val Vista Drive, Ste. A111, Gilbert 480-687-4904 https://wrappedwithribbon.net Hours: Tue.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., closed Sun.-Mon. REWARDING COMMUNITY Kim Yonda-Lead has two Facebook pages for the store, an open one but also a closed group for rewards members. From that latter group comes many of the decisions on what to carry or, for example, when holiday items should be put out. She even hosted a Zoom Christmas bingo. “I showed them dierent products, and they played; they won; they shopped; but they also got prizes and had fun,” she said. The feedback has been critical to making it through the pandemic and building a community, Yonda-Lead said. “I’m blessed to have this type of place and be able to do that,” she said.

Wrappedwith Ribbon Listening to dad’s promptings proves right for gift boutique owner K im Yonda-Lead said she always had a knack for shopping for and making gifts. She said her parents noticed, and her dad Bad timing struck again when COVID-19 came to town, shutting the store just months after it opened. But a quick pivot to online sales not only saved the store in Gilbert, but also broadened the customer base across the country. BY TOM BLODGETT

urged her for years that she make it into a career. “I was crafty making things and just picking out [things], and both my parents would tease me, just that I love to shop and I like giving things to people,” she said. Dick Yonda proved right in the end, as Yon- da-Lead opened her gift boutique, Wrapped with Ribbon, in September 2019. It just took a while to get there. For as long as dad urged her that it was what she should be doing, the timing never seemed like it was right, Yonda-Lead said. For a while she lived in Lake Havasu City, too small to support such a ven- ture. Later, she had a satisfying career coordinating Gilbert Fire and Rescue Department’s volunteers. The timing argument changed after her dad died. Realizing life is short, Yonda-Lead embraced opening the shop. She curated a couple of pop-up shows for friends in her backyard and with success there, she decided it was time to open a store.

Yonda-Lead planned to focus on the brick-and- mortar store the rst year, but customers clamored for a website to buy things. When state orders to close shops came, Yonda-Lead had put in the website’s foundation, for which she is grateful. “We quickly put hundreds of items up on that website and moved to doing more social media, Facebook Lives—and people were there,” she said. The boutique itself is crowded with items and decorations of all types meant to appeal as gifts. Yonda-Lead has curated them, some from local artisans and others picked up in national markets, with input from customers. Knowing the products is important to her. “I want to be able to look you in the eye and tell you about that product or tell you what I like or what I think you might like,” she said. “Anything that’s in here is something I wouldn’t mind to give to somebody personally.”

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

DINING FEATURE Romeo’s Euro Café Self-taught chef accepts no substitutions in dishes I f you are a diner who takes the menu as a starting place or a sug- gestion, Romeo’s Euro Café in used to give cooking classes on Sundays, and Taus hung around “like the towel boy” to collect some free food at the end of classes. BY TOM BLODGETT

A TASTE OF ROMEO Romeo Taus hosts weekly Taste of Romeo dinners in a private dining room across the Heritage Court breezeway from the restaurant. Each week he serves anywhere

from four to 30 people dierent sample-sized portions of food and pairs them with wines.

the Heritage District probably should not be on your list of restaurants to try. Chef Romeo Taus does not do substitutions in his restaurant. That is because Taus has meticu- lously crafted his Mediterranean -style dishes, combining avors and layering the dishes in just such a particular way. “That’s all I have,” he said. “I’m not here to throw things in food that I don’t think belong there. There’s a reason why they’re there.” One might think Taus has come to these conclusions from years of training. But he is not a classically trained chef Taus is an immigrant from Roma- nia, with a family story that bounces between there and the U.S. His father was American born and returned to Romania with his family as a school- aged child. Taus is Romanian born and came to the U.S. at age 18 when his dad returned in 1972. Taus eschewed his original path toward engineering and ended up working at a drugstore company opening stores in California and then Arizona in the late 1980s. His business partner at the time and admits he stumbled into nding his talent, and he came into the restaurant industry by accident.

“All of a sudden I realized that my taste buds, I taste food very much dierent than a lot of other people,” he said. “Then what’s the next step? I realized that I could do this for the rest of my life. That was exciting.” He told his wife, Janice, that he wanted to open a restaurant, and in 1991 they did so near Fiesta Mall in Mesa. After only a few weeks, he got some media attention, launching steady growth. In 2004, he moved into his current space in the Heritage Court building on downtown Gilbert was Joe Johnston, a friend and the restaurateur behind nearby Joe’s Real BBQ. That made Taus something of a pioneer of the Heritage District as Restaurant Row exploded in the years that followed. Taus has seen up and down cycles since then with the Great Recession and the coronavirus pandemic, but he has held on through the losses and the increased competition by serving food he believes in. “I believe in the sum of the parts being greater than each part,” he said. Gilbert Road. He did it though he said many people advised him against it. But one person who pointed him to

Romeo Taus, who emigrated from Romania at age 18, shows o his Pork Molise ($29) dish.

“... I REALIZED THATMY TASTE BUDS, I TASTE FOODVERYMUCH DIFFERENT THANA LOT OF OTHER PEOPLE.” CHEF ROMEO TAUS

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GILBERT EDITION • DECEMBER 2020

IN THE TIME OF coronavirus Here is how events unfolded

March 19 Arizona closes restaurant dining rooms in counties with any cases. Restaurants can oer takeout, delivery or curbside. Bars are also closed.

May 4 Gov. Doug Ducey announces restaurants may reopen dining rooms May 11 with certain restrictions.

June 29 Ducey orders bars to pause operations through July 27, and restaurants may serve alcohol to go.

July 9 Ducey orders restaurants to keep indoor seating to less than 50% capacity and outdoor seating to have at least 6 feet between tables.

regarding the coronavirus for restaurants and bars.

Aug. 27 The state allows bars that provide dine-in services to operate at 50% occupancy.

Oct. 22 The Arizona Department of Health Services issues new guidance for food- serving bars, prohibiting dancing but allowing games and karaoke.

Dec. 2 Ducey announces a program to allow more outdoor seating at restaurants.

Nov. 9 Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Pamela Gates rules that restaurants selling to-go drinks is illegal.

SOURCE: STATE OF ARIZONACOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

and you can cry about what’s going on, or you can stand up and you could pull yourself up by your bootstraps and you could start thinking of new ideas on how to generate more income,” he said. “It’s almost like a big hustle.” For Rieth, whose deli employees include a number of autistic or special needs workers, his rst landing spot was how to best serve the commu- nity at that moment. As a result, he added some grocery items to the deli oerings. He also moved to disposable containers, cups and cutlery to limit contact between customers and sta. Other ideas followed. He added sell- ing meal kits, which were popular for a time, and posted videos on his social media channels featuring positive news, sta interviews or promoting other restaurants in town. In the fall, he started stang the McQueen Park concession stand for youth softball events, and he recently purchased a food truck where the deli can work more events. “We’re going to do anything we need to do to make our ends meet,” Rieth said. “And by the luck of God, we have been able to make our ends meet.” Hurting now is the lack of winter visitors, particularly with the Cana- dian border closed. “I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me,” he said. “I don’t feel sorry for me. I just want the public to under- stand what’s going on with the econ- omy from a small-business standpoint because it’s serious. I don’t think it’s talked about enough, honestly.” Yadev had the misfortune of open- ing Sherpa Kitchen in January. He had started in a food truck, Everest Momo, the previous year. The restaurant had

beginning to bear the fruits of our labor when it comes to spring training [baseball] and all that.” In Gilbert, sales tax collections from the restaurant and bar sector in May, representing sales from April, were down 28.31% from May 2019, accord- ing to town data. Payroll for restaurant workers went from $14 million a day in the state before the pandemic to about $2.5 mil- lion during the shutdown, Chucri said. But as COVID-19 cases began to fall, Ducey began to open up the economy in May. For restaurants, it meant they could open, but with health restric- tions in place. In July as cases rose to new heights in the state, Ducey ordered restaurants to limit capacity to less than 50%. With the fall surge, Ducey reiterated the rules still were in place and moved Dec. 2 to encourage more outdoor seating, dedicating $1.2 million to help restaurants purchase furniture, heat- ers and barriers and allowing outdoor dining space to go past sidewalks and other public rights of way. Chucri said employment is improved but 35%-40% of the indus- try’s prepandemic workers still remain displaced. “On a day-to-day basis, you look at, ‘wow, we love our employees, but how many do we need?’” he said. “How can we be very nimble and adept at what we do and keep labor costs down?” Making adjustments As the pandemic hit and the shut- down happened, Chef W Rieth of Gil- bert’s Not Your Typical Deli said his rst reaction was shock, but then he got creative. “You can either sit on your hands

a soft opening ahead of a scheduled April 8 grand opening, and he said the restaurant received great initial response from the community. “That was very fullling,” he said. “But March came along and every- thing kind of changed. We did close for a little bit because we needed to gure out what we needed to do to get around it.” With the help of PPP loans, Yadev and his wife Chandra stayed aoat, but they nally closed the restaurant in November. The Yadevs continue to operate the food truck at farmers markets but they have converted the restaurant to retail space for selling their cooking sauces and frozen Momos, a steamed dump- ling lled with meat or vegetables. Yadev has not shut the door on some- day reopening, but the transformation allows him to continue to follow his passion. “I wanted to let people know good food doesn’t have to be very expensive and the importance of buying local and just build a better food commu- nity,” he said. “That was important for me. And I wanted to share my culture and the food that I grew up with over here, and also educate the farmers over here about how their ingredients can be used in many dierent ways.” Howrestaurantswill change Chucri said to-go meals have grown from about 5%-8% of a typical restau- rant’s bottom line to about 20%during the pandemic. “What has been the saving grace of the restaurant industry?” Chucri said. “I would tell you it’s to-go and getting very good at to-go, and to-go alcohol has been huge as well.”

CONTINUED FROM 1

including the federal Payroll Protec- tion Program, most have survived. At least 26 Gilbert restaurants, which employed 1,628 people at the time of their application, received PPP funding. “I didn’t want to wait until things got better,” said Subash Yadev, who had to transform his Nepali cuisine restaurant Sherpa Kitchen into a retail business to survive. “We adapt and we change as humans whenever there’s issues like this and hurdles. So that’s what we were doing, just adapting to the situation.” Some of the changes restaurants have made in 2020 will continue into the future, said Steve Chucri, president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association. Beyond the expanded role of takeout, Chucri said he foresees long-term eects on the industry. Ever-changing rules Just as public health guidelines on the coronavirus have frequently changed, so has the resulting oper- ating environment for businesses, including restaurants. As the virus rolled into the state, Gov. Doug Ducey ordered March 19 that restaurants’ dining rooms be closed, an order that predated the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” executive order that shut down much of the state in April. That is when the losses mounted for restaurants. Chucri said state restau- rants lost $850 million in sales during April alone. “It was a perfect storm,” Chucri said. “It hit us at a time where we were just

12

COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

RESTAURANT downturn

FALLING employment

One measure of how the restaurant and bar business is faring in Gilbert is the town’s revenue collection from sales tax for the category. Here is how collections tracked from January 2019 through the most recent report of October 2020.

Another way to track the industry’s woes is reduced employment in the food services and accommodations sector in the Greater Phoenix metropolitan area. Here are those employment numbers dating back to January 2019. 2019 2020

2019 2020

250K

$1M

200K

$800K

150K

$600K

100K

$400K

-28.31% peak year over year decline

-35.78% peak year over year decline

50K

$200K

0

0

SOURCE: TOWN OF GILBERTCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

SOURCE: ARIZONA COMMERCE AUTHORITYCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

A judge ruled Nov. 9 against Ducey’s executive order allowing restaurants to oer to-go alcohol, saying it was unfair to bars that paid for that priv- ilege. But the restaurant association plans to run a bill this spring at the Legislature to allow for it. Chucri also said he expects more fast-casual restaurants to add drive- thrus as a direct result of the pandemic experience.

“I think it’s here to stay because people like the convenience and they’re looking at it dierently than they once did,” he said. Beyond that, he sees three areas that will aect restaurants going forward: enhanced sanitation, better packaging and an increased use of technology. The additional takeout business has underscored the need for better pack- aging that will prevent third-party

delivery services from opening a pack- age and keep food from getting soggy, Chucri said. And the use of technology also will grow, he said, helping keep customers abreast of wait times on a texting platform or having diners call up menus with QR codes. Chucri said he expects the industry to pull back toward normal perhaps at the end of fourth quarter 2021, or maybe even third quarter. But the

industry’s future remains uncertain. “The worst part is there’s usually an answer,” Rieth said. “Like, ‘why aren’t your busy? Well, maybe this, this and this.’ Well, nobody’s got answers any- more. We’re all kind of just ying by the seat of our pants.”

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GILBERT EDITION • DECEMBER 2020

A LOOK INSIDE theproject

Preparing for future needs

The Arizona Department of Transportation will begin a years- long project in 2021 on I-10 along the Broadway Curve to widen a stretch of the freeway to 10 lanes in each direction.

Transportation ocials say the widening of the interstate is necessary to prevent even more trac in the future, with an estimated 25% increase in the number of drivers by 2040.

25% increase in trac by 2040

Current weekday trac at the Broadway Curve, nearly

143

B

17

300,000

W. UNIVERSITY DR.

Projected weekday trac at the Broadway Curve in 2040

D

10

375,000

SOURCE: MARICOPA ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENTSCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

E. ROESER RD.

A

trac and, specically, cut down on the amount of time that people ulti- mately will spend commuting or try- ing to access this particular area or navigate through this particular part of our region.” Herrmann said ADOT expects to nalize the construction contract by early 2021, and the project is slated to begin in mid- to late 2021 and take about three years to complete. The project is expected to cost about $643 million, but the nal cost will be determined in the negotiation pro- cess, Herrmann said. Funding for the project stems from Proposition 400, a dedicated sales tax for transportation approved by Maricopa County voters in 2004, and Highway User Revenue Funds and federal funds. Project details Throughout the course of the proj- ect, construction crews will widen I-10 from four to six general-purpose lanes and two HOV lanes between 24th Street and US 60, according to ADOT. Herrmann said ADOT will be build- ing a “collector-distributor” road sys- tem between Baseline Road and 40th Street to separate local and through trac on I-10. Drivers getting on or o the freeway in these spots will stay in the new lanes to get on and o the

CONTINUED FROM 1

Project area

E. SOUTHERN AVE.

TomHerrmann said. “If we were to do nothing, we would be approaching a gridlock.” Construction will take place on I-10 between I-17 and Loop 202, including the Broadway Curve. The project will aect freeways in Phoenix, Chandler, Tempe and the town of Guadalupe. The Broadway Curve project marks the state’s rst major freeway recon- struction eort, Herrmann said. “This is a much-needed improve- ment to I-10,” Herrmann said. “The Broadway Curve sees about 300,000 vehicles a day and is the second-bus- iest section of Arizona freeways.” According to data from ADOT, o- cials expect the number of drivers on this segment of the freeway to growby 25% by 2040. The project is expected to save drivers 2.5 million hours annu- ally otherwise spent in trac, accord- ing to the Maricopa Association of Governments, the entity responsible for planning Maricopa County’s major highway improvements. Jenn Daniels, former Gilbert mayor and current member of the Arizona State Transportation Board, said the project is a “massive undertaking.” “Ultimately this project will improve access at businesses,” Daniels said. “It will help with the weekday

PROJECT DETAILS

60

LANE CHANGES IN EACH DIRECTION

A ADOT plans to add a collector-distributor road system between Baseline Road and SR 143. Drivers entering and exiting I-10 in this area will use the lanes as a transition between the main freeway lanes and surface streets. Only drivers traveling the entire distance between Baseline and SR 143 or beyond will use the I-10 main lanes.

E. BASELINE RD.

Existing New

W. GUADALUPE RD.

+1

+2 +2

C

W. ELLIOT RD.

B ADOT plans to widen I-10 to six general- purpose lanes and two HOV lanes in each direction between US 60 and 24th Street. C ADOT plans to add a fourth general-purpose lane in each direction between US 60 and Ray Road. D ADOT will modify connections between I-10 and SR 143 and Broadway Road to improve trac ow and create HOV lane connections.

W. WARNER RD.

10

E. CHANDLER BLVD.

202

SOURCE: ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

N

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