Tommy Hamilton/Tommy Locust Photography
Andy Wysocki and Bill Sanderson hope that the storefront for Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café will open on Sunny Dunes Road sometime in July. Credit: Tommy Hamilton/Tommy Locust Photography

The nascent Sunny Dunes Antique District had a coming-out party, of sorts, on Saturday, June 20.

Various businesses in the district kept their doors open a little later than normal for the Pop Shop Hop, “an evening of shopping and discovery of all the shops on Sunny Dunes,” according to the event’s Facebook page.

A decent-sized crowd—considering it was about 110 degrees outside—wandered among the various shops and chatted with proprietors; anybody who visited all of the participating businesses received a free entry into a raffle. Of course, participants could purchase extra raffle tickets, with the proceeds going to the Safe House of the Desert, which operates the Pop Shop thrift store in the area.

Around 8 p.m., people assembled at the Tool Shed, a gay/leather bar on Sunny Dunes, for the raffle drawing; all of the prizes were donated by various area businesses.

“I love this neighborhood,” said George Zander, who helped organize the Pop Shop Hop. He’s part of Some Fabulous Leos, a charity group which has spent the last year supporting the Safe House. “I love the entrepreneurship.”

Yes, there’s lots to love in this little neighborhood, located just south of downtown Palm Springs, where a lot of new businesses have popped up within the last year or two—and in that spirit of entrepreneurship, these businesses came together earlier this year and started holding monthly meetings to fight for common interests.

The Sunny Dunes Antique District—not everyone’s sold on that name, by the way—has modest goals. A bike path and bike racks, for example. A sign at the start of the district on Sunny Dunes. Maybe a stop for the Palm Springs BUZZ Trolley, which as of now simply zooms by the area.

The group already has a win under its belt, of sorts. Bill Sanderson, of Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café, notes that the group worked with Palm Springs Councilwoman Ginny Foat to get the city to allow businesses to place A-frame signs outside. Unlike the businesses in, say, the Uptown Design District, the businesses in the Sunny Dunes Antique District can’t legally place signs outside, Sanderson explained, because the area is zoned for commercial manufacturing.

As of now, that zoning remains in place, although he said Foat received assurances that the businesses wouldn’t be cited if they put out A-frames. “As for a zoning change, we’re working for that to become permanent,” he said.

Speaking of new businesses: While Townie has been selling bagels and other goodies at farmers’ markets for some time now, Townie’s storefront, at 650 E. Sunny Dunes Road (in the spot formerly occupied by Tlaquepaque), isn’t even open yet. Fingers crossed, it’ll open sometime in July. During the Pop Shop Hop, Townie used some counter space inside the Pop Shop.

Next door to the Pop Shop, more or less, is the 20,000-square-foot building that houses Antique Galleries of Palm Springs, at 505 E. Industrial Place. Mike Rivkin is one of the owners of Antique Galleries, which opened over Thanksgiving weekend 2014. He and others credit Angela Kinley, who manages the Pop Shop, with galvanizing the creation of the neighborhood group (although it should be noted that Kinley adamantly, yet politely, refuses to be a spokesperson for the neighborhood).

“This building was closed for a number of years,” Rivkin said about his delightfully air-conditioned space. It was previously a printing facility and then a medical-marijuana-growing spot, he said.

“The building was a wreck,” Rivkin said. Today, it houses diverse wares from dozens of vendors. “I think, in some respects, this building was a catalyst” for the increase in area businesses over the last year or so.

Rivkin said the business district has been a success so far because everybody in the neighborhood seems to understand the idiom: “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

“There’s a lack of competitiveness and a wonderful sense of collaboration,” Rivkin said, pointing out that he often refers customers to the other antique/collectables businesses in the area—and vice-versa.

Across the street from the Pop Shop and Antique Galleries is I Remember This!, a vintage and collectables store that also opened around Thanksgiving last year. Co-owner Andy Cardenas said he’s heard from other potential store owners who are interested in the district, even though the area hasn’t necessarily had a great reputation.

“We’d like to keep this a neighborhood,” he said. “We want to keep it from becoming too commercialized so we don’t lose our focus. We want it to be more independent.”

The Sunny Dunes Antique District obviously has a long way to go—including reaching a definitive conclusion on that name. (Some of the stores that don’t sell antiques have concerns, it turns out.)

“We all got together to try something,” said Bill Sanderson, of Townie Bagels.

Considering the number of new businesses opening in the area, what they’re trying seems to be working. Stay tuned.

Below: Andy Cardenas, of I Remember This!: “We’d like to keep this a neighborhood. We want to keep it from becoming too commercialized so we don’t lose our focus. We want it to be more independent.” TOMMY HAMILTON/TOMMY LOCUST PHOTOGRAPHY

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Jimmy Boegle

Jimmy Boegle is the founding editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent. He is also the executive editor and publisher of the Reno News & Review in Reno, Nev. A native of Reno, the Dodgers...