What’s happening at Plaza Palomino? The short answer is “a lot.” The elaborated answer is much more interesting!
To gain a more complete appreciation of what’s happening now, let’s take a quick peek back into Plaza Palomino’s history. We’ll start our journey in 1983, with the initial groundbreaking of this now iconic shopping plaza. Beautiful property on the southeast corner of North Swan Road and Fort Lowell, at the gateway of the historic Fort Lowell neighborhood, became the site for the center that was affectionately and officially named “Plaza Palomino,” in the spirit of the well regarded Palomino Club that was located right across the street at the time. Shortly after the 1985 construction completion, La Contessa Boutique, a lovely clothing shop catering to stylish and discerning women and offering personalized shopping assistance, was of the first retail tenants to move in. Less than a year later, Dark Star Leather with its fine, handcrafted leather accessories, jackets and more opened its doors.
During the next many years, Plaza Palomino saw great successes in restaurants and retail, and popular events and happenings. Just as with any singularly inspected non-static entity, a three-decade review would show all of the ebbs and flows of life itself: Plaza Palomino weathered many changes.
Now imagine late 2011, early 2012 in Tucson, the city was still held generally in the grip of a tight economy. Scott Douglas, a Tucson born and raised investor, toured Plaza Palomino and saw potential in the inspiring architecture, promising courtyards and prime location. Instead of choosing to take his investment group’s money out of town, he kept the investment dollars in Tucson. After purchasing the complex and investing 18 months and an additional 5.5+ million dollars in a head-to-toe renovation, this group, West Coast Capital Partners, was pleased to re-introduce the beautiful plaza in late 2013. Completely updated and beautifully landscaped, the plaza is easier to navigate and is more comfortable for tenants, customers, and guests. “We are excited for the future of Plaza Palomino,” says NAI Horizon Commercial Real Estate Services leasing agent Phil Skillings. “This center absolutely provides an upscale mixed-use environment for shopping, dining, and professional offices.”
True to the dedicated drive of desert denizens, La Contessa Boutique, and Dark Star Leather, and several other Plaza Palomino specialty stores survived through the transitions and are still thriving within the lovely plaza. Maya Palace has been in business 37 years, and many of those years have been at Plaza Palomino. Now with its position directly off the new grand entry and circular drive, Maya Palace shines as it continues to provide quality, unique bridal wear, and evening, cocktail, and special event fashion. Joining Maya Palace along the entry circle is renowned J Gilbert Footwear and clothing, hosting daily specials that can only be found at this location. Darlene Morris Antiques has been at the plaza for many years and takes pride in offering the finest selection of period antiques and collectible porcelain, furniture, and jewelry. Abstrax Salon & Day Spa also kept pampering clients through the plaza’s makeover, and the beauty shop sports a lovely courtyard seating area and easy-access entrance. Premiere Piano, Home of Steinway, open since late 2014, is Tucson’s only authorized Steinway dealership, and hosts a gorgeous showroom and separate recital hall.
Plaza Palomino is also home to the very popular Vero Amore, Tucson’s only restaurant offering authentic Neapolitan pizza along with its fine selection of Italian dishes. La Placita Café offers Oaxacan and Sonoran cuisine, and Café Francais French restaurant and patisserie rounds out the international dining options at Plaza Palomino.
Let’s talk about the happenings! The new ownership brought on Tucson artist, MBA and event coordinator, Susan French as Marketing Director, to bring fresh energy to long established events at Plaza Palomino, and introduce new opportunities for visitors to experience the beautiful plaza. French calls the feel of the plaza “more intimate than commercial,” and appreciates the opportunity to create events that build the unity and community of Plaza Palomino.
The Plaza Palomino Saturday Mercado, Tucson’s original Saturday farmers’ market, is 22 years old, and provides produce, crafts, jewelry and handmade baked and canned goods to regular customers and new visitors every Saturday morning from 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM. A new “Super Saturday Sidewalk Sale” is now happening every 4th Saturday, during the Saturday Mercado, when French brings in additional artists, vendors and live music to the plaza. Janice Hernandez, lead vocalist with her husband, Jesus Hernandez, of Alégrate, a Mexican and American blended-genre band that often plays during the Super Saturday event, says, “…. it’s a beautiful plaza! Great vendors, fabulous restaurants and stores, and great people. Viva La Plaza Palomino!”
And the plaza holds big, annual events. Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Tucson will bring its 23rd annual Southwest Flair A-Fair to Plaza Palomino again, October 20 – Nov 1, an event that draws thousands annually to see the work of up to 150 artist vendors. “The flower-lined promenade is such a beautiful setting for the vendors,” says French. Plaza Palomino now hosts the Rodeo Days Arts Celebration, founded by French six years ago. The annual February Rodeo Days event is a fun-filled western-themed day-long family event with artist vendors, at least 4 western-style bands, beer from local breweries, silent auctions, horse-drawn carriage rides, pony rides, costume contests, Quick Draw events, jumping castles and more. Several non-profit organizations have also set their fundraising events at Plaza Palomino.
So what else NEW is happening? Music has long been a popular attraction at Plaza Palomino, especially Jonathan and Susan Holden’s well-attended Rhythm & Roots music series. Renovations have made the plaza even more conducive to outdoor concerts. French, sound master Jonas Hunter, and musician/producer Pete Swan have joined forces to introduce a new concert series at Plaza Palomino called “Palomino Nights.” The concerts will be held on the 3rd Saturday of each of month from 8:00-10:00PM. For summer nights, the trio will bring in kiddy wading pools to cool toasty toes, fans to move the evening air, icy bottled water, and vendor Tropical Fruit Drinks Unlimited will serve fresh squeezed fruit drinks. A raffle with Plaza Palomino gift certificates will be held monthly, and Vero Amore will have dinner specials for guests to dine in or take into the plaza. Hunter booked bands for the first 4 months quickly, and within minutes of the series being announced, other musicians called wanting to be a part of music in the plaza.
With so much to offer, you can count on Plaza Palomino to be a beautiful part
of your shopping, dining or event experience. Keep up to date with all of the happenings
facebook.com/plazapalomino. We’d love to see you at the plaza!
Where? Plaza Palomino 2900 – 2990 N. Swan Road at Fort Lowell.
Every Saturday Mercado – Tucson’s original farmers’ market – 9AM-1PM weekly
Super Saturday Sidewalk Sale – Shop, Music, Art and farmers’ market 4th Saturdays 9AM-1PM, June 27, July 25, August 22
Palomino Nights concert schedule:
June 20 – Nancy McCallion and the Scarlet Lettermen
July 18 – Amber Norgaard’s full band
August 15 – DeGrazia Band – Spanish guitar techniques
The author is a long-time Tucson resident, writer, poet, photographer, artist, event
coordinator, and promoter of art and music. This writer has had several articles
published, most under different pen names.