At first glance, the name Air Guitar doesn’t fit. It’s a modern-day convenience store, minimalist and design-forward and flooded with natural light pouring in from floor-to-ceiling windows.
But then you meet Craig DeMarco and Eric Seitz, who along with their wives, Kris and Elissa, founded the just-opened bodega, and it all starts to make sense.
The story behind the name is that DeMarco and Seitz were driving around when “Paradise City” came on the radio. Eric started playing air guitar. Kris said, “That’s the name.”
“It was random,” says Seitz. “But when you’re playing air guitar it’s really hard to be unhappy. That’s the feeling we wanted in the store.”
The cofounder of Upward Projects, DeMarco comes from the restaurant world, with 26 restaurants including Postino, Federal Pizza, and Churn; Seitz of Bro Retail Group comes from the retail game, with 21 convenience stores at Chevrons across the Valley. “We were intrigued by the other’s business model,” says Craig.
Both dudes sport midlife man buns, listen to a lot of music (and constantly compete to name that tune), and even took their own Bill and Ted-esque world tour to Kyoto, San Miguel, and San Francisco in the name of researching convenience stores.
Air Guitar picks up where Circle K leaves off. It’s located at the intersection of Higley and Ray Road on a previously undeveloped piece of land, a stone’s throw from Agritopia and even closer to a new mixed-use development that will include Buck & Rider, Undertow, Belly, and Gadzooks.
There’s a “Greetings, my excellent friends” vibe when you walk in. If the actual Bill and Ted were to design a convenience store, this mashup of Whole Foods and a corner store would be it. Road trip snacks sit beside gluten-free cauliflower pretzels, organic fountain drinks flow next to Mountain Dew, lottery tickets are sold alongside Dr. Bronner’s soap, and the 48-foot long open cooler includes both Bud Light and canned craft beer – something for every person and price point.
And then there’s the fun stuff: A serious wine selection split into $15, $25, and $40 sections (the pricier $100 to $200 bubblies are in the Bonus Round cooler); a slew of grab-and-go meals, like chocolate chip chia pudding and salmon tabbouleh made locally by M Culinary Concepts; absolutely stunning fresh flowers from Camelback Flowers; a full coffee bar; pizza by the slice; an ice cream shop; and a nitro slushy machine. The place offers self-checkouts and a sizeable patio to enjoy your just-purchased wine and a concert-level sound system that plays music you’ll want to air-guitar to.
In other words, the whole place feels like an excellent adventure.
Behind every great Bill and Ted is a great woman. In this case, there are two: Kris DeMarco and Elissa Seitz, who collaborated on everything in Air Guitar, especially design and merchandise, and had a hand in picking the store’s many products. Here are 3 they personally use and love:
-Better Booch Kombucha
-Hu Chocolate bars
-Siete Grain-Free Tortilla Chips
-Harmless Harvest Organic Coconut Water
-Camelback Flowershop bouquets
-Homemade Guacamole Kit by Bird Dog Produce
3000 East Ray Road Building 6, Gilbert
5 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week