Steve and Andi Rosenstein are a couple of transplants from Chicago. But unlike most transplants who are content to merely live and work in paradise and enjoy every bit of sunshine the desert offers, these two wanted to give that desert something back by helping to revive downtown Phoenix. In Steve’s own words, they have “embraced what downtown Phoenix used to be and could be again.”
A little background on Steve and Andi: they met fresh out of college in the early 80’s and began working together in the retail clothing business. Six years later they married and started a business called Fitigues that began with one sweatshirt and which they eventually sold to Chico’s in 2006 for almost $10 million. But they weren’t content to merely relax for the rest of their lives.
They decided to create something special, something they felt was needed here. And they are doing it via an ambitious venture known as The Duce.
For more on The Duce, click here.
I recently interviewed Steve and learned about his transplant story, in some ways so similar to many, but in other ways very unique.
Susan: What was your personal transplant experience like?
Steve: We moved from Chicago to Arizona in 2001. I’d loved Arizona since I wrestled in college for U of A. Andi’s dad lived in Scottsdale and we used to come and visit. But we were like poster children for cool urban Chicagoans. We lived in a loft in a renovated historic building in Lincoln Park and loved the city. Andi would have stayed in Chicago forever if it was up to her. (Susan’s note: this seems to be a common theme with transplant wives vs. husbands, no matter where you’re from.) But one winter when we were visiting friends in Florida, our flight home got canceled due to bad weather in Chicago. We had to stay an extra night at their house and as I sat by their pool with a cigar and a glass of wine and watched the kids swim in February, I said, “Honey, what are we doing living in Chicago?” Andi looked at me like I was crazy and reminded me we had two small boys to consider, but she eventually warmed to the idea and said she’d give it a try. (Susan’s note again: Andi, I completely understand.)
Susan: Why The Duce?
Steve: We needed something to do after we sold our Fitigues business. And we needed a city again. We didn’t know anything about downtown Phoenix when we first moved here. We used to go there for events and games but then come back to Scottsdale to eat afterward. The first day after we sold the business someone emailed me a picture of this historic old warehouse just by chance. When we decided to drive over to see it, we got lost.
I was intrigued by the history of the neighborhood in which the building was located, what used to be the produce district but was also an area known as the “deuce” because of its speakeasies, jazz clubs and gambling in the 1920’s. I saw it as “fresh produce meets Prohibition”. This building just spoke to me, and I wanted to create something with it, something that felt like an authentic urban neighborhood, to bring a sense of community to downtown Phoenix again. I felt this was one big area where this city was lacking, and people here missed that if they used to live somewhere else that had real communities.
Susan: You’ve worked on several different professional projects. What part of your career stands out the most to you?
Steve: Well, the first thing I’d have to say is starting Fitigues with my wife a few years out of college. We had a good eighteen year run with that. But also being an entrepreneur since I was a ten-year-old kid painting houses and washing cars to earn money. That was also a real highlight to me.
Susan: Would you move to Arizona all over again?
Susan: What piece of advice would you give other transplants?
Steve: That’s a good question. I would say spend a little more time researching what part of town you want to live in. Maybe check out historic neighborhoods and the city. There are some beautiful older areas in the downtown area, bungalows, wide streets, and big old trees. The Valley has a lot more to offer than just Scottsdale and Paradise Valley.
To read a complete review of The Duce restaurant, click here.
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