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Burns & Gambo

Older Valley restaurants fading, new ones taking over

Bill Johnson's Big Apple has closed one location in the Valley but kept four others open. (KTAR Photo/@Bob McClay)

PHOENIX -- Diners may not be able to get into their favorite restaurants anymore because some of them have closed.

For example, five valley Applebee's were closed as part of a franchise sale. There is a fence around the Bill Johnson's Big Apple on west Indian School Road. The local chain's four other locations are still open. The Islands has closed near Paradise Valley Mall.

Arizona Restaurant Association President Steve Chucri said people may have tired of some of the restaurants.

"The life cycle of your average restaurant is 20 to 25 years," he said. "Some restaurants have had a very long run in the state, but demographics change in certain neighborhoods. Consumer demand changes. The overall likeability of a certain brand or concept changes over time."

Chucri said TGI Friday's is a great example of a restaurant becoming a "tired brand." While there used to be dozens of locations in Phoenix and Tucson, only two are still open. One of them is the Friday's Front Row at Chase field, the other is at Interstate 17 and Happy Valley Road.

Still, Chucri insisted that more Arizonans are going out to eat, and restaurants are doing well.

"We were $100 million more in growth over the growth of last year, meaning 2012," he said.

Chucri added that as some restaurants have closed, others have opened in the Valley.

"Sam Fox has opened some new restaurants," he said. "Bootleggers is expanding into Scottsdale. Kevin Binkley has expanded two new restaurants in the year. We are seeing the growth pattern happen more than we are restaurants being closed."

About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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