PHOTO: Andrea Kelly, AZPM
From left: Ron Abbott and Paul Cisek, the owners of the forthcoming Johnny Gibson's grocery store downtown, laugh during an event announcing their plans to turn the former Beowulf Alley Theater into a grocery store. To their right is Michael Keith, CEO of the Downtown Tucson Partnership.


The owners of Rincon Market in Tucson, and the owners of Tubac Market in Tubac, Ariz. are teaming up to open the first downtown Tucson grocery store in decades.

The store is expected to open in December, and will be named after long-time Tucson barber and boxer Johnny Gibson.

The news will drive development downtown, said Michael Keith, CEO of the Downtown Tucson Partnership. A grocery store was one new development city officials wanted to attract, and something they heard about from the public, he said.

“It’s huge. There isn’t a presentation I’ve done in four years where the first question hasn’t been, ‘yeah, but what about a grocery downtown?'" Keith said.

Ron Abbott owns Rincon Market with his wife, and said the timing was right to open a grocery downtown. He said the market couldn't support two markets, so when he found out, over dinner, with Paul Cisek, the owner of Tubac Market, that the Cisek family was considering a downtown grocery, they decided to partner in the business.

PHOTO: Andrea Kelly, AZPM
An artist's rendering of the forthcoming Johnny Gibson's market in downtown Tucson, using the marque from the former Beowulf Alley Theatre. The store is scheduled to open by the end of 2014.
"Timing is everything," Cisek said.

The Abbotts have been approached about expanding downtown in the past, Abbott said, but it didn't seem like it would work until the housing development began, and until the streetcar was developed, he added.

“I think it’s going to be the missing link for the downtown community for other businesses to go forward with projects that maybe have been put on the back burners," Abbott said.

The two existing markets and the new downtown market will share in a distribution agreement to lower the costs for all three. Arizona-owned Basha's Grocery Stores will distribute to the markets, using the space in the former 17th Street Market as storage.

The new store will go in the former Beowulf Alley Theatre, 11 S. Sixth Ave., between Broadway Boulevard and Congress Street. It is across the street and just around the corner from the Ronstadt Transit Center, which the city is hoping to develop into a multi-use facility that maintains Sun Tran transit services.

The grocery may spur ideas for Ronstadt development, Keith said.

“We couldn’t have gotten a better economic stimulus for downtown, at a better place, and a better time than right now. This is a game changer for all of downtown," Keith said.

The grocery store will include fresh fish, produce, gourmet groceries, natural groceries, a cafe, salad bar, and delivery service, Cisek said.