Life Along the Streetcar with Tom Heath from The Heath Team Nova Home Loans

This week we discuss a woman’s quest to explore Tucson and the movement she ended up creating.

Each and every Sunday our focus is on Social, Cultural and Economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban Core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the U of A and all stops in between. You get the inside track- right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on DowntownRadio.org– we’re also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown Radio app.

Reach us by email contact@lifealongthestreetcar.org — interact with us on Facebook @Life Along the Streetcar and follow us on Twitter @StreetcarLife

Our intro music is by Ryanhood and we exit with The Pride of Arizona

Today is October 20th, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”. We start today with a band of bands

Reluctant Ambassador

When you live in DC and Seattle, travel to NY and Buenos Aries, Tucson can seem uninspiring. That’s the spot Kristin Tovar found herself when she learned she be moving back to join her, soon to be husband, in his hometown.

She admits she wasn’t excited by the prospect, but it was the right thing to do. Having a cup of coffee she was called out for unimpressed view of Tucson. The barista said he had also traveled the world and began to list why he loved being in Tucson.

This interaction sparked an idea for Kristin who started an Instagram quest to find out Why I love where I live. Her page took off, now with over 17,000 followers and her own trending hashtag. The page turned to a movement, to a clothing line and, for just over a year, a brick and mortar location.

We sat down with this reluctant ambassador of Tucson to get the full story.

Transcript

Tom Heath: Good morning Tucson. It’s a beautiful sun in the Old Pueblo. Thank you for spending a part of your brunch shower with us on your downtown Tucson Community sponsored rock and roll radio station. This week we discuss a woman’s quest to explore Tucson and the movement she ended up creating. 

Tom Heath: Each and every Sunday. Our focus is on social cultural and economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban core. We shed light on hidden gems. Everyone should know about from a mountain to the U of A and all stops in between you get the inside track. Right here on 99.1 FM streaming on Downtown Radio also available on your iPhone or Android phone by downloading our very own app. Just head over to your Google Play or the App Store and download down town radio Tucson. 

Tom Heath: If you want to get us on the show, our email directly is contact at Life along the streetcar dot-org you can Back with us on Facebook at Life along the streetcar and follow us on Twitter at streetcar life. Today is October 20th. 

Tom Heath: My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to Life along the streetcar. We start today with a band of bands. So the University of Arizona is a land grant institution, which is basically what it sounds like the land was awarded to the university and part of the expectation is that the university would carry out a community outreach component that benefits the entire region. 

Tom Heath: Every College within the university that is tasked with this public purpose this week. We’re going to focus on the Outreach from the Fred Fox School of Music according to their website. The Fred Fox school of music is quote firmly committed to providing accessible varied in meaningful Arts experiences to the community unquote. Well part of that commitment will be on display next weekend in Arizona. Idiom for the 66th annual band day from 7:30 a.m. Until 10 p.m. Bande happens at Arizona Stadium at is a long day in which High School bands from all over the Southwest will participate in this competition and educational Outreach. 

Tom Heath: In total, I believe they have 40 bands this year slated to perform they range in size from 30 to 250 Plus members, they perform and they are evaluated by a slate of Judges that are assembled from across the country areas of critique include visual execution musical presentation and overall performance. Now, the judges will evaluate them, but the fans they have a little Here as well. They get thousands of people that will show up for this event. If they do well groups. 

Tom Heath: Well regardless of whether they do or not groups will receive a rating but if they do well they could end up leaving with a nunamaker award for distinction. Now this award is named after you of a professor. I believe he he was a high school band director for a period of time as well in Globe and the interesting an interesting thing about this award is it’s not always Ways given so if in the eyes of the judges a band has not performed at a superior level they will not issue the noodle maker award. 

Tom Heath: So receiving, it is truly an honor for a school and looking back at some of the winners over the past few years thing places, like how rink on high who has a multiple multiple wins and Casa Grande who won it once recently. It generates a lot of media around that local area that local high school and that program that invent an inevitable e generates more student interest. 

Tom Heath: I think it’s a great way for the U of A de honor their land grant. If you’re heading out there, do do take a look at the schedule. The bands will be listed there starting at 7:30 a.m. The pride of Arizona marching band will be performing as well. I think they have two performances actually throughout the day now interestingly Fred Fox who the the school is named after he was a French horn player. 

Tom Heath: He lived to the ripe old age of a hundred and four years old. He passed away earlier this year in May and As I understand it he was teaching right up until the day he passed so a hundred and four years of Performing and teaching as well as writing a few books. I think this U of A band day is right in line with the Fred Fox School of Music.

Tom Heath: Well when you live when you live in DC or Seattle you travel to New York or Buenos Aires Tucson can seem uninspiring and that’s the spot Kristen Tovar found herself when she learned she’d be moving back to join her soon to be husband in his home town. She admits. She wasn’t excited about the prospect of coming back to Tucson, but it was the right thing to do. Do having a cup of coffee here locally. 

Tom Heath: She was actually called out for her unimpressed view of Tucson. The Barista said he’d also traveled the world. I began to list why he loved being in Tucson why he chose to be here? Well, this interaction sparked an idea for Kristin who then started an Instagram quest to find out why I love where I live. Now her page took off. I think now it has like seventeen thousand followers and she has her own a trending hashtag that page turned into a movement became a clothing line and about a year ago actually a little over a year ago turn into a brick amd mortar location at the Mercado Annex.

Tom Heath: The store is called “Why I Love Where I Live.” The movement of the same name was started by Kristen Tovar and we sat down with this reluctant ambassador of Tucson to find out her full story. Let’s start very exotic. Tell me about Buenos Aires. 

Kristen Tovar: Yeah, my husband and I went there. It was our first anniversary. We went down there. We were actually going to do a whole tour through South America and something happened with our fights in the timing of it. So we decided just to spend our whole three weeks in Buenos Aires a little different city. Therefore my 20s on yeah, but it was great. We did like walking tours there. We went up to Iguazu Falls, you know went to museums got to Enjoy the food there, which was great. Yeah. 

Tom Heath: Did you did you grow up in Tucson? 

Kristen Tovar: I grew up in Phoenix. Okay specifically more Scottsdale. Okay. Yeah. 

Tom Heath: So you’re an Arizona native? 

Kristen Tovar: Yes. 

Tom Heath: Okay, but you went to the U of A?

Kristen Tovar: Went to the U of A. That’s where I met my husband week before school started at the U of A. Okay. Yeah. So 

Tom Heath: you made a good decision. You get out of the Phoenix area…

Kristen Tovar: Yeah, all my family are Sun Devil. So I was the only one that left and came down here. I still get trouble for that. 

Tom Heath: But after you Graduated you you you did not stay in Tucson?

Kristen Tovar: Yeah, I didn’t stay in Tucson after graduating. I worked a couple of years at a medical office and then decided to take a job in DC for a summer working with middle school students teaching them about leadership. We went around to all different museums and historical sites and I just fell in love with that the big city feel the public transportation. I wrote the Metro for the first time and just was amazed at all of these people living in such a close face and walking and The Museum’s but aren’t just everything about it was appealing to me and something that I didn’t grow up with.

Tom Heath: Then this was DC. But you’re also in other big city like New York?

Kristen Tovar: Yeah visited New York while I was on the East Coast several times and then eventually moved to Seattle where I had some friends that were there and spent time there but my husband and I started dating just before I left for Seattle. So it was kind of like a last ditch effort, you know, we’ve been friends for a long time. And I was like, let’s give this a go I’m leaving but so yeah, we dated long distance and then that’s eventually why I came back to Tucson. 

Tom Heath: So you get the devastating news that your boyfriend soon-to-be husband has a job in Tucson.

Kristen Tovar: Yes, you have to leave Seattle. Yes exactly and tell me about that day. Well, it was a process. He’s a native to Sonnen. And so I think he was comfortable being here. He didn’t leave to go to college in another city. His family’s here. He just was pretty content where he was. And so then when he finished his master’s to be a high school teacher, he got a job right away here but through that process. I was trying to plant seeds of like why don’t you move to Seattle? 

Kristen Tovar: Why don’t you know, we could we could live somewhere else and that conversation obviously continued through even after we got married of you know, what other places could we be we at that point we didn’t have a ton of responsibilities as far as kids or a mortgage or anything. And so it was we thought this might be a good time to go somewhere else. What time frame was this? What year was this that you so we got married 2012. So kind of that summer and it was that summer in particular of 2012 that I started the Instagram account “Why I Love Where I Live”.

Tom Heath: Why did you start that account? 

Kristen Tovar: Yeah, so I was realizing that my discontent and longing to be somewhere else was affecting my relationships Community. Obviously my own well-being and a barista at a coffee shop kind of called me out in his Way and just said he had lived in all these other cities and places but he’s choosing to live in Tucson and he gave his you know, at the time his own list of why he loves where he lives but it just struck me as maybe I am missing something. Maybe I’m not seeing everything that Tucson has to offer and that my perspective, you know, I’m not seeing it with fresh eyes. 

Kristen Tovar: And so really that name came to me like in our little downtown apartment. I was thinking of it and I just thought how could I work to change my attitude? So I with Instagram, I always love taking photos. And so I started an Instagram account why I love where I live just as a personal experiment to start documenting things that you know caught my eye that I thought were interesting but I did enjoy that was beautiful and even as a placeholder of like I see something I want to come back to this learn more about it understand why it’s important and unique to our city. So it was just this initially just a collection of things that I hoped would help. Develop a deep love for Tucson. 

Tom Heath: So this is your own sort of therapy about about making sure that you did love where you lived?

Kristen Tovar: Yes, definitely and I think it helped me to an accountability as far as continuing to practice gratitude because it wasn’t there was a moment where you know, the light switch went off like I mentioned but then after that it’s still did take work to keep that mindset and to continue to look for new things. And so it was an initial, you know thing that happened but then that the count and taking photos was reinforcing everything that I had decided to do. 

Tom Heath: Early on as you’re taking those photos, was there a particular moment a particular event a scene where you just it just sort of gave you that emotion that that really solidified?

Kristen Tovar: Yeah, I would say the Tucson coffee crawl. I think it happened. Maybe just one year two years, but that year it happened. We live downtown and we got to ride our bikes which was great. I love not having to be in a car just the different things that you see, you know, when you’re walking or that you’re slowing down a little bit more when you don’t have to focus on driving and we got to do different, you know, coffee tastings and education at different places. 

Kristen Tovar: So we just kind of had a little tour through Downtown that was provided for us and it was that that day it was in The Fault like everything about the weather the people that we got to meet that are doing these wonderful things with coffee the taste like all of the senses. I think we’re a part of that day and I just remember coming home and being like this is like, this is wonderful. This is I love living here. I mean just kind of coming to that realization of like there are things to do here. 

Kristen Tovar: There is a lot of culture and depth and the people here are amazing in your husband’s like, yeah. Yeah, well, it’s funny because you know, he like I said he was content with Tucson, but I wouldn’t say he was love with like a fanboy. Yeah. Now I think through my process he’s fallen in love with it in a completely different way and become a lot more passionate about it.

Tom Heath: Well some people you got some traction on Instagram, right? I mean some people started like tagging and and you became a trending hashtag didn’t you? 

Kristen Tovar: Yeah, so it’s funny because I didn’t tell my friends or family that I was doing that but eventually You know people would mention it and find out that it was me behind the account and they were just shocked or surprised and it was weird because it just kept coming up in different places and I thought oh, this is like hitting a nerve with people, you know other people started using the hashtag and that was probably even prior to our first Community event that we did but it was a weird experience to see other people, you know using that same tag. That was so personal for me. 

Tom Heath: We are in the middle of our interview with Kristen Tovar telling us the story of how I love where I live kind of came about when we come back from the break. We’ll we’ll learn about how this turned into a movement and what it’s become over the last last few years here in Tucson, but first, I want to remind you that you’re listening to Life along the streetcar on downtown radio 98.1 FM made available for streaming on Downtown Radio dot-org. 

Tom Heath: All right, we’re going to get back to our interview with Kristen Tovar of why I love where I live. We heard about how this sort of hashtag Instagram page came to be as she wanted to have positive vibes about Tucson and started a journal that in this electronic age on Instagram here now about how this morphed into a much larger movement than she was ever expecting. 

Kristen Tovar: A couple of friends wanted to do a mural event near their house and I it was around the time of Valentine’s Day and Arizona’s birthday and I had always wanted to do some sort of collaborative community art project around that and so it was the perfect opportunity to work together. They had a space for a 10 by 10 foot mural on the side of their house close to 4th Avenue. And so it was a public space and so we just put out a call to people working up do this mural have the Arizona state flag with a heart in the center and then Right on the bottom of the mirror why you love where you live? 

Kristen Tovar: And so we only promoted it, you know just through friends and on Instagram and a lot of people showed up and we’re excited about what we were talking about. And so that particular day was pretty much the day that it turned from just my experience to wanting to share that with the community and provide more opportunities for other people to feel that same way that I felt you fell in love with Tucson. 

Tom Heath: You started to develop that a little bit more you share it with the world and now you have an event And you realize this is beyond you at some point that you took the leap and really invested not just your energy but your your time your money and a lot into yeah opening a brick and mortar store? 

Kristen Tovar: Yeah, so that that process definitely was stretched out over several years. It wasn’t instantaneous. We waited until the next year to do another community art event this time. It was in the Rialto Theater alley and it was all about photos. So we took Polaroid photos of of people and they wrote why they love where they live on the bottom of the Polaroid and then we put Of those together into one giant art piece. 

Kristen Tovar: And so at that point we sold our first set of shirts and we had invested what we thought was quite a bit of money into shirts, but we sold out of them and had interest in, you know more people buying them. So that was the first time that we thought about my husband. I thought about opening an online store and it was just a weird transition to go from a movement and a personal experiment into you know, a business so So as the online part grew we lived in a small historic home downtown and I living room was full and we had young kids and so we started looking for places for Storage off-site storage. 

Kristen Tovar: And one of those places had the opportunity to do a storage and storefront and that was something we had never thought of I mean, we have no experience my husband and I with retail anything like that. And so but something in our heads was like maybe we should pursue that look into it and that’s around the same. Time we found out about the annex and the openings here. 

Kristen Tovar: And so yeah, we signed the lease for our space and it definitely felt like a huge leap to go from not having a business to all of a sudden having an actual brick and mortar shop now to go from from that being happy where you are to being one of its lead promoters and investing financially into that. Yes. And even now I think it’s so funny because people come in and think oh, you’re a cheerleader. You’ve always loved to Sonia No, but it’s it’s always fun to let people know the real story behind what’s going on. 

Tom Heath: So inside your shop. This is you’re not just selling T-shirts anymore?

Kristen Tovar: Yeah, so we expanded into other kind of lifestyle and accessories like hats and jewelry. We started a kids line which has been really fun. And then one of my favorite things is the books that we carry. So for me learning about the place and different places has helped me understand it better. Come to love it and know it better in a deeper way and have a different connection than if I just walked by something and didn’t know the history behind it. And so a lot of the books we carry just give people an opportunity to stop in and think about you know, what’s happened in Tucson. And then also yeah just shape their view of the city.

Tom Heath: The items that you sell, though, they’re not all just made by you anymore. You’re including other people, right?

Kristen Tovar: So it initially started with our designer Ryan trait of say Wells design he Created an Arizona. We called the Arizona heart but it’s you know, the United States with the heart and everything’s coming out. The love is coming out of Arizona or going to either way, but he designed that for another client actually and when we saw it, I just thought that is so are like exactly what I would want people to see and know about our brand so initially it was just stuff that Ryan had designed and eventually we’ve moved into carrying local artists work. So Tucson and Phoenix local as in, Arizona. Patches stickers all sorts of things. 

Tom Heath: So I’ve interviewed muralists on the show before but I think you’re the first person that I’ve ever interviewed that actually has their own mural on Sixth Avenue, right?

Kristen Tovar: Yes. Yes sixth in six close to its on reproductions the side of their building and that was a continuation of the Arizona statehood day and Valentine’s Day celebration wanting to again create art for the community. So we partnered It with Danny Martin and paid him to do that mural we gave him a few ideas of things that we love to see and then he created three separate murals that kind of all go together. And one of them is actually if you look closely the yellow one is a bookshelf with different books about two sons. So it’s fun. You could go, you know, go there and look for some ideas of for the reading on Tucson.

Tom Heath: Well and murals still play a part in your business because you just recently announced something with Joe Patrick? 

Kristen Tovar: Yes. Yes, so really I mean From the beginning street art murals the colorful nature just of the streets around Tucson is really what first caught my eye and made me like slow down and think about what there is to love about Tucson. So getting to work with muralist has been really rewarding and now we get to carry some of Joe’s products in our shop and prior to that. He hadn’t sold. I mean, I think it’s a prince and things but as far as consumer type products, he hadn’t done that before so we are the first shop to carry some of his stuff which is really Be cool. 

Tom Heath: How can people find you if they want to come check out your place? 

Kristen Tovar: Yeah, so we are located at the MSA and X next to the Mercado st. Augustine and we’re going to shipping container. So you look for the red sign that says why I love where I live. We’re also online. We do sell quite a bit to people that have used to live in Tucson, but are in other places and want a piece of home. So we’re online and then on Instagram and Facebook as well, Why I Love Where I Live.

Kristen Tovar: What are your hours in the store? 

Kristen Tovar: So are ours were open weekdays. A Tuesday through Thursday 11:00 to 6:00 Friday and Saturday 10:00 to 8:00 and Sunday 12:00 to 4:00. One recent thing that we’ve started doing is meet the artist events. So we’ve been bringing artists into our store. Usually it’s things that we already carry, but then they get to come in and bring in more of their products because we have such a small space. 

Kristen Tovar: We can’t highlight everything we want to but that’s a been a great opportunity to see the community come around artists and support them. And also just have a face-to-face conversation. Ation with the people that are designing and creating the products that they love. So we’re really excited about that. 

Tom Heath: You’ve had so much success. What’s that Vision? Then what’s next? 

Kristen Tovar: Yeah, it’s funny because all of this success. I think that we’ve experienced sure that I’ve experienced personally has come in my opinion, you know, accidentally, it hasn’t been something that I’ve pursued up until the retail store. And now I think one thing I’d love to do is write more about the experience so that people could Pick that up and and learn about it any time whether they get to meet me in person or you know, meet me at the Shopper and event but just something that people anywhere could read and learn from there’s books that I’ve read and learned from that have been super impactful and we’ve had requests from other cities to go, you know do something similar and at least right now I want to do what we’re doing in Tucson really well and support this community and if opportunities come in the future, I would consider it but I think still the focus is here. Tucson and continuing to build the brand the excitement the vision of a city that is proud of itself and wants to see everyone flourish here. 

Tom Heath: That is Kristen Tovar of why I love where I live the the store at the Mercado Annex the movement the hashtag the Instagram phenomenal success from someone just to sort of trying to come to grips with with how great Tucson is and once you dig into it, I think a lot of people find that same thing that we have a very unique history here. 

Tom Heath: I know I did and that’s kind of how this show excuse me how the show came to be appreciated our time with Kristen looking forward to learning more about her. She was involved with the creation of the cultivate markets that pop up throughout the year. We’re actually going to head back and talk to her about that on a separate episode. My name is Tom Heath. You are listening to Life along the streetcar on Downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on Downtown Radio.org. 

Tom Heath: Well, that’s going to do it here for episode number 106. If you want to check out any of our past shows you can always head over to Life along the streetcar dot-org for webpage there. We’ve got just about every episode we’re able to record on there and you can always head over to Facebook to to learn more about the topics of today’s show and reach back for past shows as well.

Tom Heath: Today, we had a pleasure of talking with Kristen Tovar of why I love where you live got her story is to how that shop came to be after really not wanting to be in Tucson. She was that reluctant Ambassador, but she’s become such a great role model for young entrepreneurs and others and look forward to sharing more of her story as time goes by and also discuss the U of A’s band a coming up next Saturday at Arizona Stadium if you’re in the Marching band mood want to support local high schools head out to the U of A. 

Tom Heath: There is a cost for those tickets, which you didn’t talk about but you can find out more on our Facebook page will link to the event after the show here lots of stuff coming up in the fall. We are in our busy season, you know hockey for the roadrunners just started. We’re midseason for the Arizona football Wildcats the the gala season the theater season the concert season, everything is underway so much to come on Life along the streetcar.

Tom Heath: If there’s a topic we should be covering that we’re not something, you know about hit us up on our email address contact at Life along the streetcar dot-org head over to Facebook. You can find us on Twitter and let us know what we should be sharing about Tucson that you get the inside track on yourself there. Well, we thought we’d leave you today with a little bit of music that’s different than our normal. Show Ender but it’s appropriate for you of a band a we’ve got the pride of Arizona marching band and we’re going to leave you with a couple of songs here that you might recognize. It’s going to be pared down Arizona followed by fight Wildcats fight. 

Tom Heath: My name is Tom Heath. You were listening to Life along the streetcar in Downtown Radio dot-org. I hope you have a fantastic week and I hope you tune in next Sunday to get a little bit more insight about what’s happening in our Urban core. 

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Tom Heath - Senior Loan Officer with Nova Home Loans