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Black Bird takes wing to Phoenix

The iconic Black Bird is dressed for summer on a chilly morning Tuesday at its location in west Medford.The long-time Medford retailer plans to open a second store in Phoenix. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]
Retailer’s plans highlight city’s Economic Development Town Hall

Black Bird Shopping Center is coming to Phoenix, the first expansion by the family-owned business that was founded in 1965 on West Main Street in Medford.

A 20,000-square-foot center planned at 4403 S. Pacific Highway is expected to open by the end of 2023. The project announcement was one of several made Monday at a Phoenix Economic Development Town Hall about new business ventures in town.

Anticipating questions, Black Bird Vice President Jonathan Quitt prepared a statement about the project that was read at the meeting, which was held at First Presbyterian Church. Black Bird officials have had pre-application meetings with the city’s planners, but a formal application has not yet been submitted.

The new store will primarily feature hardware, household items and lawn and garden goods from Ace Hardware, but will also include Black Bird’s eclectic mix of sporting goods, clothing, shoes, and automotive and RV accessories.

In response to emailed questions, Quitt said the business is expected to create between 20 and 30 full- or part-time jobs.

“We have been considering an expansion for years, but struggled to find the right opportunity,” said Quitt. “Black Bird is proud to be involved in the rebirth of the greater Phoenix and Talent area following the devastating Almeda fire two years ago.”

Quitt said he will try to make the store more than just goods and services. Besides the usual merchandise associated with the West Main store, Quitt said he’s looking at opportunities for food and beverage options, but can’t elaborate further at this time.

Phoenix Industrial Studios, created by Paul Kay near the future Black Bird site, has access off the Bear Creek Greenway. The studios include Clyde’s Corner pizza, a winery operation, art gallery and more.

Presenter Al Muelhoefer said that Bear Creek can provide a link to businesses, which will help encourage economic development. Audience members said the town should treat wetlands and water features as valued assets to enhance the community and businesses.

Muelhoefer is president of the City Council and chair of the Phoenix Urban Renewal Agency board of directors. He said he was not representing either group but reporting on his own knowledge of business developments and what is available from public records of the two government bodies.

According to Muelhoefer, there are now about $3.5 million in business properties for sale near the main north/south corridor through town. He also reported business developments, potential purchase of a large lot downtown and completion of an agreement that will bring a food court next to the Civic Center.

Partners Eric Herron and Kyle Taylor recently secured the property from urban renewal for development of The Phoenix Phoodery and a second building where personal services will be offered.

The Phoodery will feature an outdoor, central court and connected tap house with cold storage facilities. Five food providers will be able to either buy or lease food prep spaces in one of the buildings.

“We think this will keep people from driving right down (Highway) 99 and going to Ashland or Medford,” said Herron. He anticipates food truck operators will move into the spaces.

A lot between First and Second streets on Main Street is for sale for $450,000. The urban renewal agency is in negotiations to purchase the lot. It formerly housed Barkley’s Tavern, which burned in the fire, a barber shop and other businesses. Part of it may be used to provide parking for the new city police, fire and administrative services building that will be built on Second Street.

“There are so many people waiting for that. It’s quite exciting,” Muelhoefer said of the anticipated reopening of Puck’s Donuts at the corner of Main and First streets. Construction appears to be nearly finished. Kitty-corner from Puck’s, a lot has been purchased to house food trucks.

Among other news was purchase of the former Roscoe’s Barbecue site by whitewater rafting outfitter Indigo Creek, which has been operating at The Shoppes at Exit 24, and plans for a restaurant at the former Jam’s Coffee House location.

One audience member said there appeared to be a lack of help for businesses that might rebuild from the fire and wondered if there was a one-stop center to assist them.

“We recognize a lack of resources for the business community. We are trying to figure that out,” said Colleen Padilla, executive director of Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development. She said efforts are being made to have 5% of a $422 million congressional appropriation for fire relief in Oregon put aside for business development.

Of 41 business that suffered fire losses in Phoenix, only five have sought rebuilding permits. In Talent, 11 permits have been issued, while 61 commercial structures were damaged or destroyed, Muelhoefer reported.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.