There’s something awesome happening on Main Street in Superior and the Chamber of Commerce is to blame. “Blame” may be harsh, but we mean it in the absolutely best way possible.
A little history: the Town of Superior has historically been a mining town, first with Magma Copper, later BHP Copper. The town prospered when the mine prospered and declined when the mine did. Businesses were not immune to this boom and bust cycle, but for the most part, Main Street thrived in Superior.
In the 1990s, the mine was closed down, seemingly for good. Businesses shut their doors and buildings were boarded up, leaving behind a feeling of desolation.
Something happened then in Superior. It was discovered by Hollywood (with a little help from the Arizona office of Tourism). Noted director Oliver Stone chose Superior as the location for his movie, U-turn.
In preparation for the filming, set designers and movie artists descended on the town and began transforming Main Street. It went from boarded up to vintage. Buildings were restored to former glory, then weathered.
Even the street itself was transformed from asphalt to (faux) dirt road when the producers had trucks of dirt dumped and smoothed over the pavement. At the time, the Mayor of Superior was Manny Ruiz, who is known to be soft spoken and ever calm. After several months of filming and dealing with the blowing dust on Main Street, several residents approached the Superior Town Council to complain. Mr. Ruiz looked out over the audience and calmly said, “Maybe we should all pray for rain.”
Bill Holmquist, who originally came to Superior as part of the movie crew, decided to stay and relocated his business to Superior. He and his wife Jenny are still residents of Superior and are the owners of businesses on Main Street, Random Boutique and, more recently, Porter’s Cafe.
Also in the 1990s, even more new residents began moving to Superior. Artists discovered the little town. It had so much going for it – proximity to Phoenix, AMAZING views, affordable housing, historic buildings. It was a blank canvas, primed and ready to bloom into something beautiful.
The local high school contributed to this pool of talent. Teacher Gloria Arvizu-Thompson and her art students created and painted a mural on the side of a building on Lobb Ave.
Recently, restoration work began on the Mural on Lobb Ave. Time and weather has taken its toll on the mural. Local artist Marilee Lasch started a project to repair the mural. She got in contact with one of the original artists on the mural, former Superior Student Javier Gomez. Javier is now a tattoo artist at Inkbomb Tattoos, but he also teaches art classes at the local school. Javier carried on in the tradition of his mentor and brought a group of Superior students to help work repairing the mural.
Other artists, too, created beautiful murals on the sides of buildings. Charles Davison, one such artist, has contributed much to projects on Main St. In 2012, he created one commemorating the community’s annual Prickly Pear Festival.
In recent years, the Superior Chamber of Commerce began discussions with residents of the town and members of the business community on ways to promote new business and retention of local businesses on Main Street. What emerged from those conversations was a committee dedicated to Business Attraction and Retention and a plan which included ideas on expanding the mural program to beautify Main Street. Chamber and BAR members envisioned the boarded up windows, backs and sides of buildings on Main Street as canvases for murals, turning the entire length of the business district in Superior into an art project.
Random Boutique was one of the first businesses to undertake a mural, with a colorful family of pachyderms marching in a line down the side of the building. The old flower shop received a treatment of the brightest prettiest flowers from artist Juliana Brutsche.
All the businesses and building owners were given the option of turning their buildings into canvases. Even the building which houses the Pinal Nugget’s sister publication, The Superior Sun, received the mural treatment.
If you haven’t been to Superior recently, you might want to make the trek. Take a tour of the Main Street mural gallery (which is the entire street). Stop in at Random Boutique or the Mercantile for a spot of shopping and have lunch at Porter’s Cafe or the Sunflour Bakery.
Want more activities? Save your visit for the Second Friday of every month when the businesses stay open late and live music and vendors line Main Street during the evening hours. Or plan to visit the town during the annual Prickly Pear Festival on Aug. 19 when the whole town turns pink in celebration of the humble desert fruit.
For more information about the BAR committee or events in the Superior area, go online to superiorarizonachamber.org.