Valley residents have often bemoaned the gentrification of Mill Avenue. Up until the late 1990s, the Tempe strip was a cultural mecca of mom-and-pop shops and rock clubs. But when corporate entities started moving in, landlords started raising the rent on retail spaces, forcing small business off Mill to make way for chain stores.
Mill Avenue's transformation from community hipster strip to corporate shopping district is chronicled in a new DVD, Mill Ave Inc. (Any Key Omnimedia). Filmmaker Nico Holthaus started shooting video footage on Mill in the mid-to-late '90s. Back then, beloved music venues were closing on a regular basis, and everybody had a feeling of impending doom. The documentary includes a full tour of now-defunct rock club Long Wongs, shot during the So Long Wongs closing event, as well as music from some of Tempe's best-known bands, like The Gin Blossoms, Flathead, Dead Hot Workshop, and Gloritone.
Holthaus' film also contains interviews with musicians from the bands that shaped the Tempe scene, along with the independent business owners who were at odds with developers. The movie has screened in several Arizona cities and other cities throughout the U.S., to rave reviews, according to Holthaus.
Trailers of Mill Ave. Inc. can be viewed at www.millaveinc.com or can also order a copy of the DVD from the site for $12.85. -- Niki D'Andrea