TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A new development on the west side of Tucson comes in a tiny package.
Thirteen retail and dining establishments are opening Friday, May 4, near Mercado San Augustin, inside a formation of shipping containers.
The MSA Annex is a concept developed by the team that has kept the Mercado San Augustin running for seven years now.
The individual store owners spent Thursday, May 3, putting the finishing touches on their shops, at the corner of Cushing Street and Avenida del Convento, west of downtown.
The developers are holding a block party starting Friday evening, May 4, through Sunday, May 6, to celebrate the grand opening of the MSA Annex. The event will include free concerts and family-friendly entertainment.
The wheels were turning for Duncan Benning as he raced to roll out the welcome mat in his new, bigger bike store. It's a space he gets to call his own.
"I was lucky. I figured out what I love to do from a really young age," said Benning, the owner and manager of Transit Cycles.
He was once a 19-year-old with a passion for bicycles. Benning has worked in bike shops most of his adult life, until he was able to own and operate Transit Cycles for a few years in Mercado San Augustin.
His bike path has taken a turn into a shop a little more than 160 square feet big.
"I just like that they're different. I like the aesthetic," he said, talking about the MSA Annex's shipping container style. "I like how the space looks. To be able to kind of pull all those things together just made it that much more appealing."
The curb appeal might catch you by surprise. These shipping containers sit in formation among the taller buildings around them, across from new housing developments and Caterpillar's new west-side headquarters.
Each container is repurposed with each owner's creativity in mind.
"These are real, solid buildings. You look at the walls and the lights and the exit signs and the air conditioning. There's nothing temporary feeling about them at all," said Kira Dixon-Weinstein, the executive director of Mercado San Augustin and the developer of the MSA Annex.
Each container store is unique on the inside. On the outside, they share a space. It was a selling point for Benning when he first signed on to lease the space.
"As time went on, we got even more excited about who our neighbors are going to be," he said.
Across the way sits Westbound, a beer, wine, and spirits concept co-developed by Rebecca Safford.
"All of us bring, first of all, our friends and family. But also our customer base. It just will work together," she said.
Safford and her husband are ready to pour. They are best known as the owners of two Tap & Bottle locations in Tucson.
This alternative option couldn't have been cooler for them.
"I think that the west side and this specific location is just growing," Safford said.
Their experience in retail is unmatched by Kristin Tovar. For her, that growth Safford speaks of will start on the ground floor.
"This is our first shop. We've never done this before," Tovar said.
"It's been a weird transition but it's been really fun. Really a huge learning process," she said. "Just to be able to show people that it is real, and all the things that we've been dreaming up are actually happening and coming true. It'll be a preview to all of that. Then, of course, there's more to come."