In the 1920s, the corner of Lincoln and Central Avenue in Downtown Phoenix was the place to be.
The area was nicknamed “The Deuce,” both because it was the epicenter of the city’s produce industry as well as ground zero for gambling, speakeasies, and other not-so-clean fun during the height of Prohibition.
Today, nearly 100 years later, those iconic crossroads are still the place to be, thanks to Steve and Andi Rosenstein.
The entrepreneurial couple first met in Chicago in 1986 when both were a few years out of college.
“I worked for a company selling surf gear, and Andi walked into my life, both literally and metaphorically, when she marched into my office one day and presented me her resume,” says Rosenstein, who immediately knew that she was “the one.”
The couple went on to live together for several years before marrying in 1992, during which time they co-founded Fitigues, a clothing line with gym-chic casual looks.
“We were bucking what was customary at the time, choosing to trend-set versus be trendy, and it caught on,” says Steve. “Within a year of our launch, which was in 1988, we were in Nordstrom, Saks, Bergdorf Goodman’s, and more, leading us to open a stand-alone store in Chicago in 1989.”
By 2001, the couple had 30 stores nationwide—but they were ready for a change.
“At the time, our children were young, so we sold our home and distribution center and moved to Scottsdale for a change of scenery,” says Andi. “We would ultimately continue with the brand for another six years from the Valley.”
Out of the business by 2007, the Rosensteins vowed to take some time off. That lasted 24 hours.
“The day after we left Fitigues, a real estate broker we never met sent a photo of a 14,000-square-foot warehouse in Downtown Phoenix,” says Steve. “I thought it might be a good investment property, but Andi had bigger ideas.”
She envisioned it as a bar, lounge, and entertainment pavilion the likes that Phoenix had never seen. Steve eventually saw the vision, especially after the couple came into ownership of a moveable bar installation that was once part of the Black Orchid bar in Chicago.
“My stepdad was a musician. When we found this bar, I sent a photo of it to my mom, and she got goosebumps,” says Andi. “Turns out he played at the Black Orchid on Saturday nights. We knew it was meant to be.”
Armed with a bar, the couple next chose a name.
“The Duce is spelled without the ‘e’ on purpose,” says Steve. “It is a nod to the produce market and homage to the notorious neighborhood during Prohibition.”
Over the next three years, the couple painstakingly sourced every element of what would become The Duce before opening it in 2010, despite the recession.
In its early years, it featured an eclectic array of bars, stages, a vintage soda fountain, and—thanks to a push by son Jake, who today leads event sales for the business —a restaurant featuring Andi’s best family recipes.
Over the years it would grow to be a playground for all the senses at the highest level.
Today, there are three separate stages and multiple bars, as well as a boxing ring, a 1965 airstream trailer that doubles as kitchen space; a dance floor; a massive patio; a retro television playing classic films and Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives (which they were featured on in 2013); and even citrus trees under a refurbished skylight.
The locale is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We are home to families and couples, to hipsters and boomers, to people of all walks of life,” says Steve. “We are Phoenix at its essence, which to us is a melting pot of possibilities.”