Under the Sun

Grand Exit: Downtown’s ThirdSpace Is Looking for a New Home

Richard Andrew Garcia
Richard Andrew Garcia Robrt L. Pela

Someone was making a chipotle chicken sandwich last Friday at ThirdSpace, a Grand Avenue café and restaurant. The dining room smelled of bacon. A woman with dreadlocks slowly wiped down the bar. A man named Rich sat in a dark corner, telling an old friend about how much he loved this place.

“I come here all the time,” Rich was saying. “It’s like a second home. The people are great, and the food is good, and the entertainment. I can’t believe it’s going away.”

At the bar, another man named Rich told a customer about why ThirdSpace is leaving Grand Avenue at the end of the month. “The timing is funny,” said Richard Andrew Garcia, one of the owners of ThirdSpace. “My business partner and I were just looking at the books and realized this was going to be the first year we were going to turn a profit. A month later, here we are.”

Where they are, Garcia said, was about to be homeless if he didn’t find a new location for the beloved cafe and restaurant in the old Paisley Violin storefront at 1028 Northwest Grand Avenue. The anchor of a popular collective that includes a tattoo shop and an ice cream parlor housed in tiny former prisoner-of-war houses located just out back, ThirdSpace was asked last week to vacate.

Garcia has been with ThirdSpace since its beginnings. He’d lived in the neighborhood even longer, ever since finishing up at Zaki Gordon Institute, a film school in Sedona. “Paisley had been closed three or four years by that time,” Garcia remembered. “We opened here in 2014. There was a little bar in one of the casitas out back, where Novel Ice Cream is now. I think we had nine stools in that bar. I was hired as the manager and bartender.”

ThirdSpace's former owners moved the bar into the old Paisley Violin space, and added a kitchen and full-serve liquor license. “This was 2016, maybe,” Garcia thought. “They moved me up to general manager of the restaurant and gave me a percentage of ownership of the business.”

About a year ago, the building’s owner decided to sell. “He didn’t renew the master lease, so anyone who was renting one of the casitas had to go through him. It’s been a little uncertain for the past year, but we’ve made it work.”

Garcia couldn’t buy the ThirdSpace property himself. “The owner said if he sold to someone else, he would negotiate a long-term lease so that every business here would be safe,” he said. “I don’t think it’s any sort of evil or vindictive thing at all, but it didn’t work out that way. On Monday, I came in and was handed an envelope with a request to vacate by the end of the month.”

Some of the casita businesses might remain, Garcia supposed. “I have no idea. I hope they do, they’re all good businesses. The ice cream shop, even in the middle of winter, there’s a line around the block,” he said.

Among Garcia’s concerns, he said, was the fate of some of his customers. “We have disabled and destitute neighborhood people who come in here to eat, people we’ve taken care of the last five or six years. I just hope whatever happens here is a good thing for them, for the whole neighborhood, too.”

He knew a lot of people were posting angry messages on social media about ThirdSpace’s displacement. “There’s an emotional connection here, so maybe people feel a kind of betrayal around what happened. A lot of people think of this as their second home. We have paintings of some of our regulars on the walls. I don’t want to speak ill of anyone, though. I don’t want any awkwardness.”

What Garcia wanted was for ThirdSpace’s new home to be on Grand Avenue, or pretty close. The old Chez Nous location would be perfect, he thought. Also that property across from the Las Palmas Inn, the one owned by the Delacruz family, would work well if they were willing to lease it out.

He’d been thinking a lot about the importance of the Grand Avenue vibe. It was, he said, less like a business district and more like a community. “It’s artists and people who like to live in a sort of small town. It’s what we built our business on. We have a lot of people who grew up here, started coming here at 18 and they’re still with us. If we moved to Sunnyslope or Miracle Mile, they’d come too.”

He didn’t like to think about leaving this particular space, not just yet. “Everybody here, we’ve all been in tears the last three or four days,” he confessed. “But I don’t want to say anything negative about why we have to go. And leaving might be the best thing for us. We’ve pushed the capacity of our kitchen, and sometimes it gets crowded in here on weekends, so we might find a place with a bigger kitchen, more space to pack people in here for First Fridays. It would be super awesome.”

Especially, Garcia said, if that place were somewhere on Grand Avenue. “It was really starting to get great here again,” he said. “In the old days, there were movies at the Monkey Show, a whole bunch of galleries, huge crowds.” He paused and looked around him. “I know it’ll be great again. I hope I’ll be here when it does.”
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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela