Posts Tagged ‘local’

I <3 PHX: Bodega 420

Friday, March 21st, 2014

A couple weeks before Christmas I wanted to get a few jars of Peanut Butter Americano to give as gifts, but I missed the public market that weekend. Fortunately, the PB Americano website pointed me to Bodega 420 as one of the places I can get a PB fix any day of the week. One visit and I knew this was my kind of place.

Bodega 420 sits at the corner of Fifth Street and Roosevelt, in an old house right in the middle of an active community full of artists, students and young professionals. In 2012, owners Adrian & Mona Fontes and John Sagasta recognized the neighbors needed groceries and other basics but lacked easy access to those everyday essentials. They opened Bodega 420 with a small assortment of products and decided to see how it would go. The sign outside touts hardware, smokes and snacks but this little store offers something better than all of that – connection with the community.


The shop is eclectic with a wide variety of merchandise in a pretty small space. In the first room, there is the counter where you can buy basic convenience store things like cigarettes, candy, headache or upset stomach medicine, allergy remedies and condoms. Above the old fireplace behind the counter hangs a pegboard full of hardware and art supplies. When I asked Adrian about it he told me, “It’s back there so [customers] need help with it, which makes an interaction happen. It’s not just grab it, pay for it, and leave and keep your head down and don’t talk. You have to actually interact to get to that stuff, and that’s by design.” Customers can also ask for bulk grains, beans and pastas. Local musicians count on Bodgea 420 for a little stash of everyday music essentials like strings and drumsticks and can even special order instruments and supplies.


¿Wachoo Want?
On day one the owners painted a chalkboard on the front wall and christened it “The ¿Wachoo Want? Board.” Customers add products to this communal wish list and their neighbors come along and add a checkmark if they agree. When an item gets enough checkmarks it is added to the product assortment in the store. This is also how they’ve grown from a few shelves of hardware and household basics to include an expanded selection of grocery items, an impressive variety of fresh produce, music and art supplies, bulk foods and local specialties. Their newest endeavors include a weekly farmer’s market and new cold-pressed juices.


Fresh Produce in the Food Desert
Before Bodega 420 the neighborhood was a complete food desert which means there was no place to buy fresh, affordable, healthy food for miles in each direction. Now, local produce from Crooked Sky Farm on 16th St & Buckeye shares space with hyper-local fare that is grown on-site.

The garden is in its second year and going strong. Carrots, bok choy, spinach, arugula, lettuce, kale, parsley, fennel, sweet peas, beets, basil, heirloom tomatoes and sunflowers grow in the rich earth that master gardener Tim has coaxed and composted from desert tan to rich brown. The kale plants are so prolific that they look untouched the day after Mona and Adrian harvest them for juicing. Their parsley patch can’t be stopped. I can only hope the heirloom tomato starter I bought will do as well under my care as they’re doing in the bodega garden.


Local Favorites
One of the many things I love about Bodega 420 is the focus on local. The community needs a reliable source for Spaghetti-Os and ramen noodles and you’ll find those items on the bodega shelves. You’ll also find Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap right next to the Irish Spring because there is a demand for both products. Sometimes people are surprised that a place that carries so many fresh foods and local products would also carry Hunts ketchup or Fancy Feast cat food, but that’s what the community wants and needs so that’s what is on the shelves.

Still, there are many local treasures to be found. All of the ice cream, butter, farmer’s cheese and Greek yogurt they sell is from Udder Delights in Gilbert. The eggs come from Hickman’s Farm. I already mentioned the PB Americano – they carry all the flavors and the new almond butter, too. The peppers, pickles and relish are by Mrs. Klien’s and made over on 43rd avenue. They carry coffee beans from Jobot coffee just across the street. The Olive Leaf Tea Company just opened their first brick and mortar store but Bodega 420 was the first place to give them shelf space to sell their product. If you need seasonings you can find the locally mixed Slavo Salt or the most perfect chile powder and condiments ever from Santa Cruz Chile and Spice Company. When the demand for e-cigarettes increased, they found a local supplier who produces lab-grade product in a safe environment, so they rolled out a line of e-cigs and accessories just in time for First Friday this month.


Art and All the Rest
As if all of this wasn’t enough, Bodega 420 is a gallery. Adrian says, “Every month we put a new artist up. [This month’s artist is] a photographer and you can see her work all through the store…so that’s how we do our art shows. And it is really a function of sticking with the roots of the place. We’re in an arts community, so we want to have art on the walls.” In addition to the artists they nurture, Bodega 420 is something of a business incubator. There’s a jeweler who sells her work in the shop. The soap guy makes his product just a few blocks away and sells it at the market. Local artists were asking for more types of paint but it wouldn’t work well at the shop so Adrian urged a neighbor to create a paint shop on his property. A small children’s clothing shop called The Squid and The Monkey got its start at Bodega 420.


Tonight is Third Friday. If you’re in the ‘burbs like me, consider a trip downtown tonight and be sure to stop by the store. Grab yourself an old-fashioned Faygo Root Beer, sit down on the porch and chat with a new friend. Listen to live music. Watch the people go by. Be part of a community and appreciate all that Bodega 420 has to offer. I hope to see you there!

Birthday Ditch Day!

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Birthday ditch day was born four years ago when I was having lunch at one of my favorite CenPho spots – Postino – with some co-workers. It was a beautiful spring day and we were sitting on the patio, eating and lamenting how we wished we had the day off, so that we could drink some wine and just enjoy the weather. That’s right. Birthday ditch day was spawned so that we could day drink on a work day. That first ditch day, two of my girlfriends took the day off with me and we hiked, got manis and pedis, and drank wine.

We had our very own “Treat Yo Self” day ala Donna and Tom from “Parks & Recreation.”

Ditch day technically doesn’t have to be a weekday or an expensive endeavor. My friends, Adele and Chris, spend a weekend day for Chris’ birthday each year together as a family, and end the day with a trip to Whole Foods to buy ingredients to make dinner. If you want to keep it even more simple, there are a lot of free items you can get on your birthday, so you can use your ditch day to take part in Rachael’s favorite tradition – the birthday freebie scavenger hunt!

Ditch day for me has evolved into taking a Friday off with my husband Bryan, and spending the day together. Although each year the agenda is different, the idea of spending some weekday quality time with my best friend has become a birthday tradition that makes my teenage self green with envy.

This year we had donuts and coffee on the couch, then I headed out for some morning pampering at my favorite mani/pedi spot. Pink glitter nails? Yes, please!


After a relaxing morning, we headed to the Phoenix Art Museum to see two exhibits I have been really excited about – “Read My Pins!” (a selection of broaches from the collection of former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright) and “Lifelike” (an exhibit where the art is not necessarily created in the medium that it appears to be – I will be writing a future post on this).




The rest of the day involved food (lunch at Short Leash Hot Dog’s brick & mortar store – Sit…Stay! and dinner at my favorite Phoenix occasion restaurant, The Gladly) and a movie.



We had such a good time that we are already planning out what we might do on Bryan’s birthday ditch day.

Just because we aren’t kids anymore, doesn’t mean that we can’t take time to relax and enjoy getting to be another year older. What will you do this year on your own ditch day?

I <3 PHX: Desert Botanical Garden

Monday, March 17th, 2014


When I say “Phoenix”, what comes to mind? Most people would likely respond with something about our intense heat or the vast Sonoran Desert that stretches through Arizona. If you’ve never traveled to Phoenix you probably underestimate the amount of delicious food, art and history our great city has to offer. The Desert Botanical Garden is one of my most favorite places in Phoenix to visit. Each trip to the garden is a new experience, an opportunity to witness nature’s lifecycle. A Phoenix Point of Pride, the DBG opened in 1939 and boasts over 55,000 plant displays stretching across 140 acres of land. It’s a sprawling oasis in the middle of the city. Acres of cacti are flanked by lush gardens filled with shade trees and wildflowers. Native wildlife is all around too, from butterflies and hummingbirds to rabbits, lizards and squirrels.








Over the weekend, Rob and I went to the DBG to see the Chihuly in the Garden exhibition. Dale Chihuly is a world renowned artist, best known for his brightly colored glass sculptures which are massive and extravagant. The exhibition was like nothing I’ve ever seen. In Chihuly in the Garden, Chihuly has created colorful pieces of glass that mimic the native desert plants. The pieces appear to have been planted and many seem to have grown since the exhibit opened, they stretch out and curl around the plants they share space with. At times it felt like a wonderful Easter egg hunt, walking along the meandering trails we’d spot a splash of color, and walk just a little bit faster, anxious to see what was up ahead.

The DBG is open daily from 8:00am-8:00p. General admission tickets for Chihuly in the Garden are $22.00 (adults), $20.00 (seniors), $12.00 (students) and $10.00 (children ages 3-12). Note: ticket prices vary based on current events and featured exhibition.

Have you been to the Desert Botanical Garden? What’s your favorite place to visit in Phoenix? Be sure to let us know in the comment section below.

Holiday Gift Guide: I <3 AZ!

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Want to get a unique gift for a friend or a loved one? Shop local! Arizona has so many local businesses that can cover most, if not all, of your holiday needs. A few years ago I challenged myself to buy my holiday gifts from only local vendors, and I did it! It took a little creative thinking, as most people ask for items that you would typically get at big box stores, but it can be done.

Below is a gift guide with some of my favorite Arizona gifts:


1. Succulent Garden: Succulents are a great alternative to cactus. And there are so many varieties in shape, color and size. Head to the Desert Botanical Garden for the best selection in town (and check out their latest exhibit while you are there).

2. PB Americano Peanut Butter: PB Americano is a Wilderness Girls favorite – locally made, limited ingredient peanut butters in flavors ranging from classic to cinnamon honey to dark chocolate. You can order from their website, or check out their Facebook page to find out which farmers markets they will be attending.

3. Arizona Wine: Cottonwood houses several Arizona wineries that are producing some amazing wines. Arizona Stronghold “Tazi” (a white blend) is pictured here (and available at Safeway and Total Wine), but also check out Pillsbury Wine Company.

4. Millie’s Sweet & Savory Caramels: The owner and creator of Millie’s Caramels, Jill McNamara, is a “Jill of all trades.” In addition to making some of the best caramels in town, she is also a stellar photographer. Her flavors range from peanut butter & honey to my favorite, rosemary & cracked pepper. Check out her website to order.

5. Arizona Olive Wood: Michael McNamara, the creator of these stunning boards, is the husband of Millie’s Caramels’ Jill, and also an amazing photographer. He uses locally sourced wood and hand crafts these amazing wood boards. They are the perfect gift for anyone who likes to entertain as they are gorgeous as serving pieces (heck, forget serving pieces, these are truly art). Check out his website to order.

6. Arizona Wood Plaque: Keeping with the reclaimed wood gift theme, Citizen Home Decor has an etsy site that features many locally made wood products, including this plaque. They make other states too, so you can give far-flung loved ones an Arizona-made gift featuring their own home state.

7. & 8. Arizona Accessories: One of our favorite boutiques in Phoenix is Bunky Boutique. If you haven’t been there, go now! For the localist in your life, they have really great swag including t-shirts and necklaces.

9. I (Cactus) AZ Tote Bag: Holy Piñata offers a full line of the “I (Cactus) AZ” merchandise. And the best part? They donate $2 of your purchase to a local charity of your choice from their list of charitable partners including Florence Crittendon, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Desert Botanical Garden. Your gift not only helps your Arizona fan to proclaim their love, it helps to support the Arizona community at the same time.

10. Marlowe Designs Jewelry: I own a ridiculous amount of Marlowe Designs jewelry (Laura is my work colleague ). What I like about her style is that she not only does intricate beaded work that a lot of people love, but she also does a lot of jewelry featuring large, more organic/raw stones, which I love. Check out her website to order, or her Facebook page to find out what art festivals she will be at this season. She is also an avid wine fan, and has cork reindeer and necklaces around the holidays.

11. Runner’s Den: When I was training for my half marathon, I needed new shoes, but I was kind of intimidated to go into Runner’s Den, fearing that it would be too expensive. I was wrong. The prices are on par with bigger stores, and the staff is friendly and incredibly knowledgeable. They are also supportive of the local running community by featuring training videos on their site and running get-togethers at their store. If you need a gift for the runner in your life, I highly recommend either getting their gift there, or getting them a gift card.

12. I Am a Localist: This is one of the most unique gift ideas out there, and only $20 for a year-long membership. The recipient’s membership includes local discounts and freebies, as well as VIP and event opportunities (one of the sample experiences on the site is a personal styling session by the team at Frances). It’s the perfect gift for the localist in your life, and a great way, like so many of the gifts mentioned, to also benefit your local Arizona businesses.

This year, challenge yourself to get at least one gift from a local Arizona vendor. Every purchase helps to support the community by keeping our small businesses alive.

What are some of your favorite local Arizona shops to buy gifts from? Share them in the comments below.

Happy Holidays!