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Businesses Downtown

Original post made by Fran, Foothill Place, on Nov 11, 2008

I wish City of Pleasanton planners would take a close look at Burlingame and Los Gatos for ideas in planning our downtown shopping district. Both those cities have upscale boutiques and restaurants mixed with smaller well known chains like Sonoma Williams.

With that being said, I hate mall shopping and use the downtown businesses as often as I can. It’s my first choice. They have everything I need, except hardware, and garden things and I find parking is easy.

The clothing stores actually help you; prices are comparable to the department stores, like Macy's and nice selections. When I needed a gift for a child, the toy store had great toys and they wrapped. I love the pet store, nice and it’s so much closer instead of going to Petco for dog treats & toys. The lingerie store has a choice in my bra size and actually knows how to fit. I think they beat Nordstrom's and Victoria's. The gas station is cheap and the regular works just fine in my BMW, the shop next to them has all sorts of ideas for gifts and cards, the kitchen store has everything I need for cooking and the running store had shoes that were in my size.

All the complaining about the restaurants; sure, now and then you hit an off night, but you can’t tell me the mall restaurants are better. I’ve eaten at almost every restaurant in downtown and they beat all the PF Chang’s and the Cheesecake Factories. When’s the last time an owner of a chain restaurant every came and asked how the meal was? Baroni’s, Baci’s, Stacy’s have all asked. Don’t use a mesg blog to complain, tell the owner or manager.

I’m sorry if I sound like a commercial for the downtown businesses, but I am tired of reading how everyone loves their cute downtown and doesn’t want it change, or how some landlord is giving his opinion in the Weekly on what the retail businesses need to do to bring shoppers downtown. If he shopped downtown, he would already know that the retail businesses offer unique selections, personal service, special orders and actually care about you as a customer.

The public needs to realize that the small businesses offer choices, personal service and conveniences that the mall doesn’t. On the subject of closing at 6pm, I asked the owners of my favorite stores why they close early, the answer is all the same, they tried staying open until 8pm and spent thousands of dollars in advertising, wages and overhead but hardly anyone shopped downtown after 6pm. I can’t blame them. I do find a number of the clothing stores will stay later if I call and can’t get there until after 6pm and no they don’t ask my name before saying they will wait. That’s the advantage of dealing with small businesses.

Most of the store owners live in Pleasanton and need the support of the community to stay in business. If you want your downtown to thrive and stay cute, you need to actually spend money in the stores.

Comments (17)

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Posted by Downtown
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 11, 2008 at 12:20 pm

Great post Fran! And I'll add to it, you can pick out a great gift or bottle of wine from around the world with awesome sevice at the wine steward, they also offer AG Ferarri Italian food specialties, dozens of chesses etc... For anyone who hasn't tried it yet, the Bibiane Bakery down near Tully's is AWESOME! I like the positive approach! I personally would hate to see downtown turn into the mall, and think if people would look around they'd realize what is there is much better than most of the complaining you read here. But as you said, businesses need patrons to buy and not just look to stay in business.....

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Posted by patron of main street
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 11, 2008 at 12:42 pm

good post -- maybe some of the people who love our quaint little downtown will start spending money there. Starting with hosterman who claims to want to improve things. If hosterman would spend a little money there rather than heading off to "conferences" at our expense to debate world peace, or her crisis of the day, it would help. She wants to have a "retreat" for the city council. She better hold it downtown and patronize the downtown restaurants rather than another of her typical boondoggles to some fancy hotel in another city. If I hear of hosterman holding an out of town retreat I will personally start the recall campaign myself. SPEND YOUR MONEY IN PLEASANTON JENNIFER.

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Posted by Joanne
a resident of Birdland
on Nov 11, 2008 at 4:48 pm

Wow, I couldn't have said it better. My kid love the toys at GR Doodle bugs, I buy cards at Sincerely Yours, I get my hair done at Gary Patricks, my husband likes the Wine Steward and the art gallerys and is going to miss Benny at Accentuals. In one way, I feel like it's our little secret about the great shops in the downtown, but I understand how the community needs to support them.

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Posted by downtown shopper
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Nov 11, 2008 at 7:38 pm

I have family in Chico and the downtown area has a couple of nice apparel stores that appeal to the younger college age crowd (male and female). They along with a yogurt shop, bagel shop, novelty candy shop, Pita Pit, and Mr. Pickles keep a steady stream of customers (young and old) cruising the downtown area (and spending money). It doesn't seem that our downtown has anything to draw the high school and college age kids to spend any time (and money) there.

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Posted by Karen
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Nov 11, 2008 at 10:32 pm

I went into a ladies dress shop downtown this week and had a wonderful surprise. It was called Apparel & Co I think, and it is next to Strizzies. Great clothes, great prices. And there is not 50 of each style, like a the mall. I say -- try it! I can't keep them in business alone, but I helped!

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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 11, 2008 at 10:40 pm

There's a yogurt/gelato shop set to open behind the Kolln building.

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Posted by Carol DiSalvi
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 12, 2008 at 4:14 pm

I own LilyAnn’s Lingerie and I appreciate the comments regarding downtown businesses. However, I felt I needed to comment on the postings.

The perceived idea that the downtown businesses have only high priced items is wrong. Most of us have very affordable merchandise that competes with the mall department stores. At LilyAnn's our bras, lingerie, swimwear and sleepwear start at what you would pay at Victoria’s Secret, Nordstrom’s or Macy’s. What we do different is offer old fashion service and regular and hard to find sizes.
Before opening, I surveyed women about mall shopping verses downtown and was told by all, they would welcome an alternative to the mall. I’ve advertised for almost 5 years that we’re in the downtown and carry sizes starting at 30 thru 46 with cups at A thru K. The results are, I rarely sell A – D cups.

We keep our clients names and sizes on file and are very much aware of who has bought bras from us. So where do all those A – D cup women I surveyed shop for a bra? Could it be they haven’t needed to purchase any new bras or panties in almost 5 years or didn’t realize I carry those sizes. As far as teenagers and college age women: We carry merchandise for all females that wear bras and sleepwear. I have customers from ages 13 to 95.

Regarding staying open in the evening, we did for 2 years until 8pm and it wasn’t’ financially justified. I lost money and the bottom line is, I need to sell merchandise to warrant the overhead. We’re asked all the time are you new? It seems a lot of people come downtown for events such as parades, street fairs and holiday tree lighting and when they do, they don’t really see their downtown for how special it really is.

For all the ladies that shop at LilyAnn’s, thank you for your support. Without you we wouldn’t be able to stay open. Sincerely, Carol & Kelly

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Posted by patron of main street
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 12, 2008 at 10:23 pm

When talking about women's clothing I agree that Apparel and Co is a good find, almost as good as Retro Martini. I have purchased items from Retro Martini that work for casual jeans days as well as for a vacation in Europe. Never overpriced and the service is great. If I ever felt inclined to spend $200+ on jeans (not likely) I would go to either one of the consignment stores for a huge selection at way less than $200. Sorry All About Me and Sugar Shack, a hundred bucks for a T-shirt with rhinestones on it or a pair of overpriced jeans just does not fit into my budget. If I spend that kind of money I need to feel that my business is actually wanted. Many of the downtown stores offer value and service, all it takes is a little time to look around.
Another thread mentions stores not staying open late although posting late hours. I have no problem at all with stores closing when they have no business (browsing is NOT business). Please, just do not post late hours and then close early.

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Posted by jackals
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Nov 15, 2008 at 7:56 pm

Thank you Carol and Kelly for an owner's perspective - which is one backed by taking the risk of running a business downtown.

I have to say however that the downtown is looking a bit tattered last few years. .kind of like Niles. ouch.

Maybe if the stores catered to everyday items residents need to buy they would be more successful. A good balance with gifty type shops, restaurants, and business focused on things residents go to the mall for may work.

I'm am not a marketing expert but I recognize a failed business plan and that is downtown ptown.

For the record we mainly visit coldstone, strizzi's, the dairy, the bookstore, that is it. Will check out the lingerie store soon.

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Posted by Chris
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 17, 2008 at 12:37 pm

I love Savvy Seconds and the gals are wonderful!!!! Debbie, Jamie, love them!!!

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Posted by los gatos shopper
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 17, 2008 at 1:24 pm

I agree with Chris, Savvy Seconds is a great store with wonderful service. They greet you as you walk in and never, ever act like you don't belong in their store. Hello Sugar Shack, are you listening? When I walked in there (3 times, gave them the benefit of the doubt) each time I was ignored right after the owner stared at me as if I had no business thinking I was allowed to shop in her store. I must not fit their desired profile. A thiry-something from Ruby Hills with weekly botox appointments and driving a Mercedes SUV. Nope, not me. Guess having a little hobby business that caters to their friends is all they want.

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Posted by my opinion
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 18, 2008 at 9:50 am

Looking at the above posts it seems clear that some stores are really trying to make it work and a few don't seem to care. I have shopped often at Lily Ann's and am always amazed at the personal care and selection. I have also experienced the open hostility at Sugar Shack. It is pretty clear that if you are not one of the chosen crowd then you are not welcome to shop at Sugar Shack. Reminds me of another store that went out of business a year or so ago. If you were their "friend" you were served champagne and encouraged to buy. If not, you were ignored. These economic times are going to be very hard for stores with that attitude to weather.

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Posted by jennifer
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 19, 2008 at 9:37 am

I remember in the early 70's downtown was a fun place to shop. There was a bumper sticker Support your local Merchant. I had that on my car!!!
Livermore used to be in the shadow of Pleasanton, but look at Livermore today. Outside In, Main St. Designs and more. What is happening to Pleasanton is the high rents these landlords charge. What happened to Domus?? Rent hike. If these landlords try and help the merchants, maybe we would have more boutiques. We have too many banks.

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 19, 2008 at 10:42 am

Hello All, My name is Joe and I am the owner of The Wine Steward at 641 Main Street. I've watched the comments for some time regarding happiness and displeasure, regarding regarding Main Street businesses. I have resisted posting as I don't want to be percieved as using this forum inappropriately, but given this topic and prior postings feel I am in a unique position to comment.

We have been in business now since Dec. 18th 1999. I have participated in the P.D.A.'s economic vitality committee, sponsored downtown steet closure events, concerts in the park etc..... There are things that are awesome about being downtown, and others that make it difficult.

A bit about our original business plan and our goals.

I have been a wine fan, collector, foody etc... for almost 25 years of my life now. I had the good fortune of having a family member introduce me to his passion for all things wine about 25 years ago and we had always romanced about opening up a wine store to pursue our passion in earnest. We had grown up shopping at (still today), some of the best wine shops in the world on the peninsula in K &L Wine Merchants, Beltramo's and even Holiday Wines and Liquors. We both used to travel far and wide in pursuit of great selection, good prices and knowledable service. My wife and I were fortunate to find our 2nd home in Pleasanton back in 1988 and decided it would be an incredible place to raise our family.

Downtown in 1988 was not at all the desirable place it is today. It was dominated by small bars, lots of "antiques" stores a couple of restaurants and not much else. By 6:00PM on any night of the week the streets downtown were dark, somewhat dreary and not very inviting. For some reason in the discussions of downtown, there is an assumption that it has always been the way that it is today, but today's iteration of downtown, did not exist until the city, led by City Manager at the time Deborah Acosta (now Deborah McKeehan), led a charge to upgrade infrastructure, widen the streets, put in good lighting etc.... I remember what a disaster Main Street looked like for 12 to 18 months and lots of complaining by the businesses that no one could survive without foot traffic etc.... Somehow we made it through all of that, and the resulting finished project was a gem! Now all we needed were businesses to come.

BTW, I don't mean to put down the antiques stores and I do know that Pleasanton was identified as almost an antiques destination, but going into those businesses, most seemed more like garage sale enterprises with up to 20 or 30 vendors sharing a single retail space. It was in 1999 after one of those antiques shops (Main Street Antiques) was going out of business, that my wife noticed a "For Lease" sign being tacked to the front of the building.

When I met the owner (longtime resident Bob Byrd) to look at the building, he told me of its past as a movie theater (New Lincoln, and Roxy), its history as a variety story (Dochery's I think), and then as a carpet and flooring store, prior to becoming an antique store. I was thrilled to find the orignal movie screen and one of the projectors in the basement (since given to Charles Huff for historical preservation), and came up with the idea to restore the building to its theater heritage and open The Wine Steward. In hindsight the restoration of the building has done little for the business, but still brings attention back to the building for its history as the first movie theater in Pleasanton.

Fast forward to today. We are in a business that is based upon heavy competition, with wine available at every grocery store etc..... Our differentiation is our ability to find great wines at great prices and offer great service that you don't normally find anywhere else. What has allowed us to survive to this point is the loyalty of our customers! While every day retail traffic isn't the mainstay of our business, monthly wine clubs, special winery and industry tasting events, wine storage locker rentals etc... provide the basis for our existence. We do not advertise, and exist almost solely on word of mouth.

In hearing both the positive and the negatives of certain businesses downtown, please use this posting as an invitation to give me your comments both positive and negative regarding what we do well, or not so well, and what you'd like to see done differently. If you have never experienced our store and can take a minute to let me know why, I would appreciate that as well. If you are looking for great wines and wine related gifts at very competitive prices, please come pay myself, Jim, Steve, Kent, Eric, Erik, Lolo, or Judy and the rest of the crew a visit. I'd like to wish all of Pleasanton a happy, healthy and especially safe holiday season.

You can reach me at with any input.

Happy Holidays and Thank You for your support.
Joe Sasek
Owner, The Wine Steward

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Posted by patron of main st
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 19, 2008 at 1:34 pm

Greetings Joe, thanks for your time. I appreciate you not asking us to post all of our compliments on this forum, that smacks of free advertising. That being said . . . . my husband and I like your store and the service. We are members of several wine clubs in the Livermore area and have very little time to pursue shopping for wine at other times. However, your store is always the first place we go for a bottle of something that we have not tried and want to learn about. We will make it a point to come in again soon.

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Posted by AnneMarie
a resident of Birdland
on Dec 17, 2008 at 8:48 pm

Here is my take on the whole downtown... Our Downtown has some very unique stores.... stores that are becoming more and more rare these days thanks to big corporate giants. However, walking down Main Street today I couldn't help but feel sorry for the merchants that are working these stores. In what is known to be the busiest shopping time of the year, tonight, Main Street looked more like a ghost town. Streets should be full of shoppers with shopping bags walking from store to store. Part of the problem that plays into this is that there are WAY TOO MANY salons, cosmetic sugery places, banks, real estate offices, and vacant buildings. I would like to see more boutiques open up and, perhaps, an anchor store to get people Downtown, a more well-known store, (that wouldn't take away from the exisitng businesses)... Crate and Barrel (since we don't have one at the Mall), Novells or Armstrong Nursery, Tuesday Morning, etc. I just think we need something to attract more people Downtown. Tully's is doing a great job, and I think we need more businesses like that. That's just my take on the whole issue. I am just tired and frustrated of the fact that we have a beautiful Downtown, yet with Christmas being about a week away it looks like a ghost town.

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Posted by Grace
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Dec 17, 2008 at 10:01 pm

I've got to agree with AnneMarie - Tulleys is doing very good business and drawing customers partly because of its location, but mostly because of its cozy, living room atmosphere which allows two, three, four people to get together and sit and chat comfortably without having to buy a very expensive dinner. In cold, rainy weather, no one wants to be in drafty dark restaurants, shivering. This weekend, Tulleys was packed with people enjoying the hot drinks and cookies and staying warm. Unfortunately, it's one of the few places for folks to gather informally, plus it closes far too early - they start kicking people out at 8:45 so that they can shut the doors by 9. I haven't tried the renovated coffee shop across the corner from Tulleys, and I doubt it has such a cozy atmosphere... but I will check it out.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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