Glendale thrives as state's antique capital

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The city of Glendale, which is located 30 minutes from downtown Phoenix, calls itself Arizona's antique capital.

It created the tag line soon after it formed an office of tourism four years ago.

That was before USA Today in June 1998 named it one of the nation's Top 10 antiquing areas, according to Jaye Stimson, the city's tourism manager.

The 100th largest city in the U.S. has more than 90 antique shops, specialty stores, tea rooms and restaurants clustered in a 10-block downtown area surround- ing a park and city hall.

Two distinct and adjoining areas make for a long walking, or a free trolley, tour:

  • Old Towne Glendale with 100-year-old storefronts.
  • Historic Catlin Court Shops District, a fashionable subdivision built between 1917 and the late 1930s where many homes have been converted to stores.
  • Here you will find stores such as the Dusty Attic, Victorian Rose, Ramblin' Roads, Glass Creations and A Mad Hatter Antiques.

    Some outlets also serve as museums (or vice versa).

    There is the American Museum of Nursing, the Bead Museum, the Katydid Insect Museum, Sandy's Dream Dolls and Max's Sports Bar (which claims the nation's largest football helmet collection).

    Katydid, which opened in June, has 2,500 insects in its collections, 90% from Arizona. The nonprofit Bead Museum, which opened in October, includes an exhibit area (with beads dating as far back as 10,000 B.C.) and a bookstore and gift shop.

    The Sahuro Ranch, one of the city's major attractions, after an 18-month restoration, reopened in October.

    Located two miles from downtown, the ranch, which dates from 1885 and is now a 16-acre city-owned museum, features the original home, farm buildings, galleries and a gift shop.

    Visitors tour the fruit-packing shed (figs, plums and peaches were grown), see original farm machinery and an exhibit on Arizona's pioneer women, which runs through March 11.

    Glendale also has two dinner theaters, the Cerrata Candy Factory, which is open for tours, and the 1-year-old $8.5 million Glendale Civic Center, which includes a 13,000-square-foot ballroom.

    Those seeking brand-name stores can drive north to the Ball Road Corridor and Arrowhead Towne Center, which has 150 stores, 4 million square feet of space and familiar names such as Barnes & Noble and Toys R Us.

    "We have good product, enough for a two- or three-day stay," said Stimson.

    "Visitors," she said, "will drive in for a few days from as far as Flagstaff in the north, and antique dealers drive from California on shopping expeditions because everything costs twice as much there."

    Glendale, with a population of 215,000, has spent $50 million on downtown improvements during the past decade and is seeking its share of Greater Phoenix's 12 million annual visitors.

    It has only limited-service hotels, and many tourists stay across the valley at hotels and resorts in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa and Tempe.

    With $300,000 total tourism funding, Glendale spends a good part of its budget on tourist publication advertising.

    "We have a Midwest small-town feel. I'm from Iowa, and I feel at home," said Stimson.

    Glendale, in fact, was homesteaded by midwesterners in the 1880s.

    Its printed materials display the slogan, "Where Midwestern Charm Meets Southwestern Grandeur."

    "We're getting results, and we're seeing more international visitors," according to Stimson.

    Surveys have shown that 40% of shoppers are visitors, she said.

    In October, Glendale opened a 1,300-square-foot visitor center, which is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. Stimson is based there with her small staff.

    For additional details, call the Glendale Office of Tourism at (877) 800-2601; fax (623) 915-2696.

    The Web address is http://tour.glendaleaz.org.

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