Closing down history in Douglas

Closing down history in Douglas
At the end of May, Ortegas Sportsworld will close its doors. It will be an end of an era for the city of Douglas and an end to almost a century-old tradition for the Ortega family. (Source: Tucson News Now)

DOUGLAS, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The end of May will mark the end of an era in downtown Douglas.

A family owned and operated shoe store will close its final location for good.

The Ortega family has been in the shoe business for nearly a century.

Juan Ortega was a shoemaker, learning his trade from Tony Lama in El Paso, Texas.

The Ortega's eventually opened five stores in Douglas and one each in Globe and Safford.

Expanding to high-end shoes, clothes and even sports gear. They served an entire community for generations.

Cecilia Romero, Shoeworld Store Manager and granddaughter to the company's founder, said she's seen families grow up.

"Kids that I probably tried their shoes on when they were small, and they're adults with children of their own now," she said.

But over the years, sales have gone down.

Romero said online shopping has affected them a lot and shoppers shop where they can find the best deal.

The Ortega's were forced to consolidate their stores until only one remained.

The founder's son, Daniel Ortega, said he's honored that he's been able to grow the company his father started.

"I'm really saddened by the fact that we're closing," he said. "But that's a fact of life now."

A hard truth not only for the Ortega's business, but for many businesses in downtown Douglas.

Dozens of empty store fronts have become a common sight on G. Avenue.

One of the few shops still open is Devore's Auto Supply Shop.

Store's owner Reyes Huerta said he remembers shopping at Ortega's a kid, and even took his kids to shop there.

And just like the Ortega's fought, he's trying to keep his doors open too.

He said he's seen business shift from the city's center to big box stores like Walmart closer to the border with Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico.

Agua Prieta has grown to roughly seven times the size of Douglas and now has plenty of shopping of its own.

Below is a Google Map time lapse of the area from 1983 to 2016.

Huerta said he's had a hard time keeping up with the low prices offered at some of those bigger stores.

"They might come and see that the Walmart is there shop and don't even know that we exist in the downtown area," Huerta said.

Losing money from Mexico has been a major hit for the Ortega's too. Romero said the peso's devaluation and visas have affected them a lot.

The City of Douglas said it has been working with business owners to try and improve or grow their businesses.

New stores will pop up in Douglas, but many don't stay for long.

Romero said she met with city officials to brainstorm on what they can do for the downtown area, but so far nothing has worked for them.

There are also fewer people staying in Douglas.

While other places in Arizona are growing, in recent years Douglas has seen a decline in population.

"Look what's happening now that there's nothing even for our kids," he said. "What's the future for them, where are they going to work?"

As the Ortegas get ready to close their doors, many of the five siblings have already found new jobs. The ones who haven't said they are hoping they can find work so they can stay in Douglas.

The City of Douglas said it is working on a $20 million infrastructure plan to get its internet and electrical grid up to par so it can try to bring more industries in.

The city told Tucson News Now there are new developments being discussed, but couldn't provide any further information on them yet.

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