On Grand Avenue, a New Space Is Blending Soccer, Food, and Art

David Alton (right) working the Bones Bodega pop-up on Friday, May 21.EXPAND
David Alton (right) working the Bones Bodega pop-up on Friday, May 21.
Lynn Trimble
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Two dozen people were lined up along the sidewalk outside the historic Bragg’s Pie Factory building on Grand Avenue last Friday, waiting for the roll-top garage door to open. Inside, at a new space called Bones Bodega, the pop-up Shameless Burger was serving up vegan burgers and french fries. Making sure everything was running smoothly was a former professional soccer player named David Alton, who was wearing a white T-shirt and shorts and could be seen giving patrons the go-ahead to enter the building in staggered groups.

"It's a bit like a speakeasy, with limited hours and supply," said Alton, who recently opened Bones Bodega with artist Gino Belassen.  "It creates a different kind of environment ... It's a hybrid project, where we're working to bring together different cultural elements."

The pair launched a football (as in soccer) collective called Bones FC in 2018 as a way to support local football culture and create connections between the sport, food, and art. Early Bones collabs included a skincare collection with Skin and Bones and streetwear designs with Preston Paperboy. Bones Bodega is the next step.

Belassen launched an art studio and gallery, Belhaus, in the 1,300-square-foot space in April 2019, along with his mother and fellow artist Sherri Belassen. It was low-key, usually open during First and Third Friday art walks, serving espresso drinks and showing a small selection of his own or others’ artworks. Earlier, the space was home to Hazel & Violet, a letterpress shop that relocated to a Grand Avenue storefront inside the same building. Now that it's the home base for Bones FC, Alton and Bellasen are ready to activate the room in new ways.

“We’re building out sort of a ghost kitchen for vendors,” Alton told Phoenix New Times. They’re also considering getting a liquor license.

Alton said they want to open a full-time marketplace in the fall so they can bring more art, coffee, and retail offerings to Bones Bodega. “We’re going to work with other brands to curate an ever-changing selection; we’re basically building out a program so people can expect to get select items from the community here,” he said.

Recent pop-ups here have been drawing more than 100 people, from both the surrounding neighborhood and other parts of the Valley. Tonja Payne was one of the first people in line Friday night but lingered afterward at a café table outside the nearby business Cha Cha’s Tea Lounge. “I love being around all these people,” she told New Times while waiting in line for the chance to get a Shameless Burger. “There’s a lot of joy in this community.”

Bones Bodega. 1301 Grand Avenue, #6. More info at bonesfc.com.

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