Valley Ad Exec Relishes Fond Memories of South Mountain Area
You can take the boy out of South Mountain but you can’t take South Mountain out of the boy.
“I still believe they have the best views in the Valley,” said Ray Arvizu, who grew near 16th Street and Southern Avenue in the 1960s, went on to play basketball at Grand Canyon University, professional basketball in Mexico, and today is president and CEO of Arvizu Advertising and Promotions.
“Talk about memories … I have a ton,” he said of his old neighborhood. He remembers the Silver Dollar Drive-In, Roosevelt Swimming Pool, South Mountain Little League, the first McDonald’s on Central Ave., Pete’s Fish and Chips, Pancho’s…
It was a different era, he said: kids would swim in the canals and ride their bikes to Little League practice. The neighborhood was predominantly Hispanic families.
Back then, Arvizu didn’t dream of owning an advertising agency; he wanted to be a professional basketball player. As a high school student training for college ball, he would run from 16th Street and Southern Ave. to 16th and Baseline Rd., passing only one housing development—the rest was fields of flowers and citrus. Walking back he could see the entire Valley.
“It was all, all fields,” he said. “It was spectacular views.”
Today, married and a father of four sons, he’s channeled the dedication and drive he once had for basketball into his company, his community, his family, and the next generation of Arvizu’s to hit the court—his twin sons, Daniel and Roberto, who currently play for their high school. Arvizu has also organized a traveling club team to help them hone their skills and compete with other teens across the country.
Says the proud father: “my sons are hot basketball prospects. I enjoy watching them play.”
The goal-driven personality that motivated Arvizu as a young kid has made him successful throughout his life, whether in sports or business. He excelled on the court at Grand Canyon University and in the early 1980s moved to Mexico and played pro ball.
As a businessman, Arvizu was an early pioneer in helping companies develop marketing strategies that appeal to the Hispanic market. Today his agency is one of the largest full-service advertising companies in Arizona.
The company is a family affair that he dreams will one day be carried on by his sons, developing a family legacy of excellence, the way Eddie Basha built his chain of grocery stores. The family is well on its way: Ernestina, Ray’s wife, serves as the agency’s chief operating officer, and his two eldest sons already are learning the ropes. Ray Jr. graduated from Grand Canyon University in December and now works in the agency full-time, and Andres is a student at the University of Phoenix and works in the events and promotions department.
Arvizu said his free time is “all my family.” On Sunday mornings he and his sons play basketball together, grab lunch, and maybe catch a movie. The 11 other kids who play on the twins’ traveling club team often hang out at the house, too.
“It’s priceless,” Arvizu said. “You see the kids growing up around you.”
He is the quintessential family man and is dedicated to helping youth, said long-time friend and associate Luz Sarmina-Gutierrez, president and CEO of Valle del Sol.
Alex Juarez, director of Hispanic marketing for Qwest, agreed. “When you talk about Ray you have to talk about his family,” he said. “He’s a family man, No. 1.”
Some people may be intimidated by Arvizu’s accomplishments, his physical presence and his bold drive, Juarez said, but “inside he’s a big teddy bear.”
“I love the community and I love to help out as much as I can,” Arvizu said. His company recently focused its charitable giving on increasing educational opportunities for local Hispanic youth. This past Cinco de Mayo, Arvizu gave away $25,000 in academic scholarships to youth attending Grand Canyon University, and another $15,000 to students attending South Mountain Community College—staying connected to his roots.
But the old neighborhood looks much different today. The roads are wider and paved; there are shopping malls and expanding neighborhoods. South Mountain is “finally getting its due,” Arvizu said. His uncle still owns two acres in South Mountain, and that’s where the family gathers for Easter.
“It’s been a great, fulfilling life,” he said. “And it all started at 1628 E. Sunland.”