Rent hike forces Old Town gallery to close

Zischke 1: Jeff Zischke’s gallery offered a cozy outdoor area for its coffee shop patrons. (David Minton/ Progress Staff Photographer)

Jeff Zischke was over the moon in August when he opened the doors on his 1,300 square-foot gallery in the Old Town Arts District along Main Street off Scottsdale Road. 

He felt that his shop, equal parts a coffee shop, an art gallery and a design studio, would add a unique variety to an area dominated by western art galleries. 

And for several months he did just that by selling Spanish-style coffee, 3D printed replicas of his work and most recently hosting a charity benefit show where he and 20 artists sold custom chairs and donated the proceeds to the Scottsdale Artists School. 

However, after his rent more than doubled at the start of the year, he had to make the tough decision to close up the shop. 

“I'm very, very proud of this gallery space. It looked fantastic but the rent became too expensive,” Zischke said. 

Zischke says his rent skyrocketed to $4,600 a month after he enjoyed a rent that was half that cost during summer. 

Although his gallery was recording sales on the artwork, coffee and pastries he sold, he admitted that he struggled to break even on the space. 

“It breaks my heart because I put my heart and soul in here and I designed every single thing in here. It was successful for what it is, what it did for me,” Zischke said. “But it wasn't making enough.” 

Zischke cited that there were days when his drawers would net between $80 and $100 at the end of the day and he would gross $1,800 a month despite having a budget that called for nearly triple that amount. 

There have been instances in the past where businesses in Old Town have closed after seeing spikes in rent. 

One prominent example occurred in 2012 when the beloved Cathy’s Rum Cake restaurant closed after nearly four decades of business throughout the Valley due to rent nearly tripling as well as the poor economy at the time. 

Closures driven by rent, however, are rare for the galleries that have called Main Street for decades. 

“Most of these galleries have been here for a while and there hasn't been a huge amount of turnover,” said French Thompson, Scottsdale Gallery Association president and owner of French Designer Jeweler. 

Although turnover has been relatively low along Main Street, it is what lies next for the space that is reportedly set to occupy Zischke’s gallery at 7212 E. Main St. that has caused some ire. 

Zischke said an IV therapy business is slated to move into the space – which has amplified a talking point that Thompson has been vocal about. 

“I've often said that the City of Scottsdale should have what would probably be a public/private entity, that would be similar to the one at Fashion Square, for example,  that would look for the right kind of businesses to go into spaces that open up,” Thompson said.

Despite the frustration and disappointment of closing his gallery, Zischke still has plans to stay busy and keep his art lucrative.

“I'll be open by appointment at my home studio/ gallery up in Scottsdale where people can contact me there and I’ll be open by appointment,” said Zischke.

He also has entertained the idea of returning to a storefront to do pop-up shops.

“The only thing I would love to do is possibly a Sunday pop-up where I have this stuff,” he said. “But right now, having the retail space just is not sustainable.”

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