Airstream at Organ Pipe National Monument

The changing feel on Whiskey Row

Richard Charpentier Notes from Rich 1 Comment

Everybody’s Hometown.  When I first arrived in Prescott in 2007 that’s exactly how I felt pulling through the town with the Airstream in tow.  I’d found one of those great places that makes everyone who visits feel as if they’re in their home town.  Pretty cool.

July 29th of 2008 at 6:08 a.m. I took a photo that has become one of those images that people who live here say, “Oh, I know that photo…..”  It’s been one of my most popular pieces over the years.  And a 32×48″ canvas of it hangs on the gallery wall as I type.  Some things from the image have changed though……


First off, Annalina’s is no more.  Closed in 2010.  Now you’ll find the Adirondack Cafe in it’s place.  Great breakfasts, great food so that’s good.  The gallery has moved right next to the cafe.  That’s a big change too.  And for the better I might add.  Moving from a location with no traffic to one with lots of traffic means I might just not go bankrupt after all!

One other thing missing from the Row that this photo depicts is the really cool bench.  Actually, if you look up and down Whiskey Row you’ll notice there are no benches any longer.  They used to be out there for folks to take a rest on.  But no more.  Why?

As I’ve spent a lot of time in downtown Prescott I can firmly say we do have a problem with homeless folks moving into the downtown area.  I can’t count the number of times per day that I’m hit up for money, offered a song for money so a guy can get another drink, etc.  It’s sad really.  It’s also problematic as a business owner in the downtown area as customers get accosted more and more and complain about it directly to us.

So, prior to our move to the Row benches were removed.  Talking with another business owner about the image above he told me he’d actually asked for the bench to be removed.  The bench was slept on often by people sleeping off a bender.  And this particular bench saw a fight between two vagrants where one got a pretty bad crack to the head as the end of the fight.

There went the benches.

Since moving here I’ve known there is an issue with the homeless.  Moderate temperatures during the summer months are attractive and draw people up from the Phoenix area.  That includes folks with nowhere to be.  And the Row is attractive given all of the bars and the early opening times.

Now before you hop all over me for being heartless, stop.  When I first started working in town I became familiar with one of the regular vagrants.  We’d chat in the mornings.  He was a pleasant guy who I never gave a dime to.  Money for him meant a visit to the bar.  Not for food or anything else.  I once witnessed a couple of Prescott College kids try to buy this guy a meal at a local sub shop.  He was not interested in the meal, just the money.  He said so to them……..which reaffirmed why I never gave him a dime.

Lately though things have ramped up in my mind.  It’s not just a homeless issue along the Row any longer.  We’ve got some new factors playing in.

It’s Wednesday Parents………..where are your kids?

The latest phenomena that has started to escalate happens on Wednesdays.  But it’s expanding beyond just Wednesdays……..

For some strange reason, school gets out early on Wednesdays.  We’re near the middle school.  So, when school lets out a large number of kids show up on the Row.  For the Prescott Market that means extra employees on duty so the place doesn’t get stolen blind.  I’ve been in to pick up snacks when the kids first hit the Row, and they go into the Market in overwhelming force.  Too many to keep track of.  While waiting in line I’ve seen candy, lighters, drinks, etc go into pockets when the owner isn’t watching.  I’ve pointed it out.  He’s caught some, but some get through.  Not cool.

While the market has it’s struggles on Wednesdays, the Row does too.  The latest thing is large groups hanging out in the middle of the Row in front of the cross walk.  Kids sitting on the railings, blocking the sidewalk, not moving for others on the sidewalk.  I say not moving for folks because  I was heading down to the market to get some pretzels.  The sidewalk was literally blocked from the start of the crosswalk to the Harley shop.  And you know what?  The words “Excuse me” several times didn’t work.  I literally had to push through the crowd, as they weren’t moving for anyone.

One fellow business owner has been calling the police on a regular basis now, writing the director of tourism, etc.  Whiskey Row is a destination for folks to visit when they come here.  But it’s getting a little uncomfortable out there now, and customers are saying so.

What have I seen personally in this escalation?  Drug transactions?  Yes.  Junior High kids smoking and hanging with the vagrants on the square?  Yes.  A young couple (maybe 14 years old) sitting in the Whiskey Row alleyway passing a glass pipe back and forth?  Yup yup.  Kids climbing the exterior of the parking garage walls in the alleyway?  Umm hmmm.  Older teens cutting school hanging out in the parking garage and in the alley between the garage and Art Store not letting other pedestrians through?  Yes.

From the perspective of a business owner, this is not good.  And before you start bashing me for being an old grump, I’ll tell you I’m not.  Prescott has a lot of great intelligent kids.  Talented athletes, polite teens, and generally good people.  As always, it’s the few bad apples.  And bad apples can create a lot of negative impact.  Ask any shop owner downtown if they’re happy with the recent events.  They’ll tell you no.

But there’s nothing to do you say

I’ve heard this time and again.  What do kids have to do around here?  There’s nothing to do, so they hang out in town………

Are you kidding?  There’s so much to do here.  Had I grown up here I would have gone nuts with all the options.

  • Prescott is surrounded by National Forest.  I would have been hiking my brains out.
  • This is a Mountain Biker’s destination town.  Trails are everywhere.
  • The rock climbing offered in Granite Basin, the Granite Dells, Groom Creek, and more is amazing.
  • Have you seen the great skate park here in town?  It rocks.  And yes, I’ve taken my board in there now and again.
  • Thumb Butte and the surrounding trail system?  Have you ever noticed that place?
  • A fantastic library here in town!
  • More, more more……..

Seriously, this town offers a lot to residents.  And to the kids here too.  There’s way more to do then hang out on Whiskey Row, hassling tourists, stealing from shops, and getting an early start in the drug trade.

Note:  I’d actually tabled this post a few weeks ago hoping that things would improve during the afternoons on the Row.  Unfortunately they really haven’t, and tax paying businesses are not getting attention from our city.  I decided to post this today after seeing a letter to the local newspaper regarding the issues downtown.  The author was greeted harshly in comments, but I have to say that the folks responding probably aren’t business owners in town, aren’t affected, and therefore don’t see what the concerns are.  Remember folks, a few short weeks ago we had a brutal murder.  The issue started in town, and the young kids down here are getting involved with the wrong elements!


Comments 1

  1. Regardless of what happens to the downtown “fixtures” your image remains timeless, and I’m proud to report that that exact image shown here hangs in our house. It’s yours, of course, and is no ordinary snapshot, rather a compilation of various techniques that combine to make it a real work of art.

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