Welcome to the Neighborhood, Luci’s

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(flickr/Scrap Arcs)

Update 12/07/2011: For my most recent ode to Luci’s (with a similar sentiment) in the Downtown Phoenix Journal, go HERE.

Each and every day, Phoenix is maturing.

From all reference points, urban life in Phoenix is becoming less and less like the cynical joke it was just 5-10 years ago. Though there will always be another new cheap suburb to move to, or a cancerous mega-development on the fringes to call home, the city’s center is solidifying.

While I would belt out a resounding “no thank you,” to those said disgusting fringe developments, it is an unfortunate reality of life here. Fortunately for us stubborn, merry urbanites, Phoenix’s incessant growth has finally begun to bear fruits where it really counts – in its heart.

One of the biggest symptoms of becoming a truly vibrant place is the proliferation of not merely independent businesses, but independent businesses with character, charm and style.

Let us welcome one of those newly-minted fruits – Luci’s Healthy Marketplace. Kudos are in order for owners (and natives) Ken and Lucia Schnitzer, for some urban TLC well done.

Though not overbearingly health-conscious, Luci’s does angle toward what is better for our bodies. After all, the new neighborhood market is named after Lucia, herself a survivor of breast cancer.

Located in North Central Phoenix, on Bethany Home and 16th St., Luci’s is the latest food magnet to set up shop near an intersection that has already become quite the hub of its own.

Über-popular nearby haunts include the Richardson’s family of restaurants, which in addition to its namesake restaurant, also include Dick’s Hideaway and the Rokerij (read: roke-er-y).

There is also Phoenix City Grille, a power-spot for local politicians. Famous (and politically inclined) regulars include former Arizona governor turned homeland guardian Janet Napolitano, and Arizona’s current senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl. Not to be outshone, Texaz Grill and the Golden Phoenix also come to mind as popular neighbors. The latter, being one the few remaining great, old-school Chinese restaurants in all of central Phoenix.

Essentially, the secret is out. The ‘hood is cool.

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(thehotsheetblog.com/GPCVB)

Luci’s sells a variety of items you’d find in a larger, corporate grocer, but it does so in an atmosphere that is unique, casual and hip-ly retro. Think La Grande Orange with a bit more variety in product, sans the trappings of the conspicuously status-aware.

Besides produce, meats, bread (thanks to Simply Bread), dairy and other tenets of a legitimate market, Luci’s also sells eco-friendly gifts, cosmetics, cleaning supplies and many other green household products.

There is a coffee bar serving organic, locally-roasted java, and a gourmet takeaway counter full of inexpensive eats prepared in-house at their charming demonstration kitchen. There is also a nice section of wines and beers.

Due to a quiet opening, Luci’s has already been in business for a short time. This weekend and the week after however – May 17th to 23rd – is the big “grand opening celebration.”

Luci’s Heathly Marketplace | lucishealthymarketplace.com | 1590 E. Bethany Home | North Central Phoenix | 602-773-1339

Luci's Market & Coffee Bar on Urbanspoon

5 Comments

  1. Luci’s is the type of place I’d like to support, but I’m finding it hard to do so with enthusiams. It’s clearly more successful as a coffee house than as a grocery or place for takeout. The last two times I’ve visited, there has been no Simply Bread product in stock, and most of the limited selection of groceries is priced too high for daily shopping needs. In addition, the demonstration kitchen has never in use during my visits; I think it could have been better used as a sort of deli counter with sandwiches prepared to order. As for the ready meals, they just don’t seem that interesting. The place certainly looks good, but Luci’s needs to refine its concept and become more consistent before I can give it a strong endorsement.

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  2. Hey David,

    The weight of my own “enthusiams” is to be channeled more toward Phoenix as a whole, and it’s oft lagging food landscape. My first impressions were actually similar – the higher pricing, the limited supply of varied products, etc. I’m not wanting to solidify any critical observations yet however, as I definitely wasn’t trying to given a final endorsement right now. Rather, I was merely trying to report it’s opening while at the same time conveying some hopeful local optimism. I definitely plan on returning multiple times in the coming weeks.

    Like many past fast-casual/market hybrid concepts that have existed here in Phoenix, my impression at Luci’s was that they are still learning as they go. Thankfully, there seems to be an unusually genuine desire to get things right, and I didn’t read a pretentious, know-better vibe (* I could end up wrong though).

    My feeling (and hope) is that after the official “grand opening” this weekend, many of the unconnected moving elements will begin to coalesce.

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  3. Oops. Sorry about that typo. That’s what I get for commenting when I’m too tired. I’m hoping Luci’s defines its niche and settles nicely into it. I’m holding off on a Yelp review until after the grand opening with that hope. I still go to Luci’s occassionally because it’s close to my house, and I hope it does realize its potential. Although I’ve never found the food landscape here to be all that lagging, I’m always pleased to have more and better options.

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    1. About the typo, I actually thought it was correct until my spell-check wasn’t cooperating. So, sign me up to the tired brain club as well.

      In any event, I just want to clarify that when I say “lagging,” I’m referencing cities of similar size (and sometimes even a little bit smaller) that seem to have a more robust food/restaurant/market environment. I’m referring more sheer quantity than individual quality. Because I’m both a lover of food and Phoenix simultaneously, I’m always a little analytical in that regard. In fact, maybe to my detriment.

      We have fantastic restaurants here, ones that could arguably compete with many of the best elsewhere for sure. I have no insecurities about that. My comment had more to do with the sheer numbers and overall maturation of our collection in comparison. In the past 10 years or so however, we’ve been making great strides and that’s exciting to see. It makes me a proud, and one reason I still get a little giddy inside over small openings like Luci’s (* even if it’s not always warranted in the end).

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