Culture News

Harder Development to Open a Pop-Up Gallery and Diner on McDowell Road

When Ashley Harder moved to Arizona from Boston, she wasn't in the business of opening art galleries, connecting with the local food scene, or rehabilitating spaces -- she was selling cosmetics.

Six years later, she's ditched her make-up gig in Scottsdale, moved to downtown Phoenix, and started her own business, Harder Development.

Her first project: transforming the 3,000 square-foot space at 335 W. McDowell Road (formerly Sage antiques) into a multi-use retail spot that will open in the fall.

Harder says her goal is to create opportunities for development and support local business in the process -- all while maintaining a space's character and sticking to solid design standards. 

But before installing dividers and signing leases with local business people for the building on McDowell, she's on a mission to invite the neighborhood in to see some art.

Harder grew up around old buildings in Boston, and says she learned a lot from her sister, who currently redevelops big-city structures and neighborhood buildings in their hometown. When she moved to downtown Phoenix and became involved in the local arts and business scene, she says she couldn't help but invest in what she saw around her. 

A few months ago, she purchased 335 W. McDowell and has a constant stream of ideas for what the space, and the neighborhood (since the closure of favorites including Sage and My Florist) could become, with a little support. 

"I'm in a building with great flooring, incredible lighting, and plenty of wall space," says Harder. "I want to see something great happen here ... and in the meantime, I want to throw a party." 

On June's First Friday she'll do just that. 

Harder met Sebastien Millon at MADE Art Boutique in downtown Phoenix when he was dropping off a few prints. The two got along well, they talked about his work, how she thinks he should draw a tuxedo cat, and ultimately how Millon should really have a show of his own.

Millon agreed, and his work will be up for two months at 335 (the temporary name for Harder's building) before construction begins. Harder says she'll also be featuring a smaller, rotating collection of local work that she hopes to gather before July.

The space on McDowell will be open for First Fridays, for special community gatherings (which can be booked through Harder Development's website), and on Wednesdays, when local food truck Short Leash Hot Dogs will stop by for fixed hours. The front part of the building will be set up weekly with tables, utensils, and a full diner staff.  

"In a better economy, there's no way I could have bought into the market, renovated the building, and been able to support businesses and artists in a place that's now my own neighborhood," says Harder. "It's a really exciting feeling." 

The building will host an opening reception for Millon with food by Short Leash on June 1 from 5 to 9 p.m.. For more information, check out the Harder Development and First Friday Facebook pages.

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Claire Lawton
Contact: Claire Lawton