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Helping Down Town business

Original post made by Don, Downtown, on Nov 9, 2008

After reading the article in this weeks PW it state that the mayor and council want to help the down town as the economy worsens. I had a thought of doing something like the first Wednesday during the off winter months. I am not saying close the street, although maybe at a specific event it would work. I am thinking of organizing a get to know your local downtown restaurants day.

I am suggesting a ticketed restaurant sampling afternoon or evening. Because everyone is watching the pennies the tickets would be reasonably priced. Say in the $20-$30 range for a couple. Have 3 to 5 restaurants prepare an appetizer that the ticketed couple could sample. The public would go to the participating restaurants and try the samples then move to the next over a 4 hour or so period. In the fallowing months the remaining businesses would have their turn. Over the next four or five months all of the eating establishments would have an opportunity to win customers and help during this hard times.

I have not worked out the economics but it should be profitable to the business. This is achieved by the volume of customers purchasing tickets before the event. Publicity and council support would help generate the numbers needed. Themes and special events/days could be tied into this as well. It should not take a lot to get large numbers (hundreds) if done right were everyone feels a benefit. This would let the staff prepare the correct amount of food based upon the sales. The public would benefit by learning about a place they have never been to before and have a night/time out without blowing the budget.

Just some thoughts. Any other ideas. Hope some of the council will note this as the start of how to help downtown.


Comments (25)

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Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Nov 10, 2008 at 8:48 am

(Post removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff as irrelevant to this thread.)

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Posted by Boycott
a resident of Canyon Meadows
on Nov 10, 2008 at 9:09 am

(Post removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff as irrelevant to this thread.)

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Posted by Boycott 2
a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Nov 10, 2008 at 9:11 am

(Post removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff as irrelevant to this thread.)

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Posted by MainStreetDiva
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Nov 10, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Can we stay focused here, rather than turn every thread into an anti-Mormon diatribe?

I like this idea, I would certainly be interested in attending a round-robin style downtown event such as this.

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Posted by Newbie in town
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2008 at 6:46 pm

I know I would be interested in a sampler's menu option to many of the high-end restaurants. We are willing to pay for a good meal, but after finding one or two places that we like and feel is worth the money, it's hard to break out of that routine and risk a bad night out (and wasted $$) on a different place.

I like when the places downtown offer early bird specials. This has always brought us in the door and we don't even have blue hair!

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Posted by Karen
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2008 at 11:05 pm

We're going downtown for dinner on wednesday night with friends..rather than go to Chili's etc.

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Posted by Courtney
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Nov 12, 2008 at 8:51 am

I like the idea, especially if you include a wine sampling to go with it (maybe for an extra charge).

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Posted by Kim Pace
a resident of Southeast Pleasanton
on Nov 12, 2008 at 9:18 am

The restaurants aren't the only businesses that are hurting. Retail is probably suffering much worse. In the past, restaurant-centered events did nothing for retail as people eat and leave. And in the past when restaurants were flush with business, they weren't particularly interested in pairing up or doing events with retail. If we want a downtown of restaurants and banks, so be it. If we want a downtown with retail, then it's time to start doing business with the retail stores on and off Main Street. Your choice.

If the mayor and city council want to help,perhaps they could do what they did back in the early 90's when Main Street was newly refurbished ---throw some money into advertising the downtown. Promote not only locally but in Fremont and other towns since Main Street is enjoyed by many nonresidents.

On the other side of the coin, retail and restaurants have to offer what people are looking for so maybe in these tough economic times, it's time for the owners to take a close look at what they offer the public. And the landlords have to be realistic about rents they are charging, and maybe even do some upgrading and better maintenance on their buildings.

Any way you look at it, downtown Pleasanton will end up being what landlords, business owners and residents want it to be.

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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Birdland
on Nov 12, 2008 at 9:28 am

Certainly there is more to our downtown than just restaurants (& bars). That being said, the clothing, knick knack & jewerly stores need support too. Personally, $200 blue jeans & overpriced vases are not something that appeals to me or my neighbors. Something needs to change re: inventory & price expectations with the downtown merchants before I will shop there for items. Gone are the days when money grew on trees in the backyard & downtown Pleasanton merchants have not adapted to this economic environment.

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Posted by patron of main street
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 12, 2008 at 9:32 am

Kim, Thanks for a thoughtful, and correct, statement about restaurants not participating with retail merchants. The facts is that getting people downtown for any reason at all is good but you are right, people eat and then leave. If residents want more than food and banks it is up to them to spend money at the retail stores. It is possible to find just about anything in one store or another.
You comment that landlords need to be realistic about rents, maintenance, etc. Actually, they don't. Most of those buildings are owned outright by long time owners who really don't care how long they stay vacant. They do not need the current cash flow, they are just holding onto an illiquid asset and waiting out the market. It would be nice to "make" the landlords be less greedy, it just won't happen.
The mayor could help downtown by patronizing it. Not just spending her own money (although no merchant I have ever spoken to recalls hosterman actually buying anything downtown). Several other posters on different threads have said that the mayor needs to hold her city council retreat downtown. What an idea! The retreat is to benefit Pleasanton so have it where the money spent will benefit Pleasanton. If anyone knows how to get that one idea through to hosterman that would be the best first step in revitailzing downtown. Care to take that one up Kim?

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Posted by local merchant
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 12, 2008 at 10:23 am

There's much to offer downtown everyday. A variety of prices, products, and activities. A great place to start looking is What's Up Downtown on Web Link. The restaurants and merchants have recently joined together with reciprocal dining- shopping coupons available with purchases. Amarone Cucina Italiana
is a fabulous new authentic Italian restaurant. Amelia's Deli and Stacey's Cafe have both added new social events.
The Magical Holiday Evening is Friday, November 21 from 6-9. This is great way to check out all that Downtown has to offer.

and... yes, Mayor Hosterman does indeed shop downtown.

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Posted by Lover of downtown
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 12, 2008 at 11:13 am

This is a good discussion, but something I haven't seen mentioned in this thread is that our city recently contributed millions of dollars to support our downtown businesses. The council--including Mayor Hosterman--spent over $7 million of city funds to acquire the county's transportation corridor located downtown for both parking and a pedestrian/bicycle path to encourage people to come downtown.

Add to this another $8.8 million in city funds approved by the current council to help build the Firehouse Arts Center to create a destination and breathe cultural life into our city that will help promote and revitalize our downtown.

While these expenditures make sense, I'm not sure we should be asking the city to spend our tax dollars to advertise or bail out private businesses. That's not the role of city government. People who open up shops or start a local business take a risk and need to be nimble enough to offer what people want in products and services to keep their doors open.

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Posted by C that's me
a resident of Birdland
on Nov 12, 2008 at 1:13 pm

The comment from a fellow Birdlander is just not true.
Since when is downtown only about "expensive vases and jeans"
My goodness, have you gone into every shop downtown and that is all that you found?

There is so much variety- home furnishings & accessories, wedding gowns, children's clothes, VERY reasonable jewelry made my local artists (Kim Pace's neat jewelry comes to mind- $30 earrings and necklaces under $100- made right here and sales tax will be paid here)

Scrumptious baked goods from numerous bakeries. Fresh food!
Take out food galore, pet accessories, kitchen gadgets, cooking lessons! Wine, Cheeses, hair, nail services.
Books, Bike rides, runs throughout Pleasanton, toys, art, VERY reasonable clothing for teeaagers, and on and on.
How about locally made products, made, cooked, composed and written RIGHT HERE. We have a Pulizer prize winning resident author for goodness sake.

Stop with the negative about downtown and get out and take a look - oh yea, buy something too! It will make you smile.

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Posted by Timothy T
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 12, 2008 at 3:48 pm

I agree with C that's me, to a point. Those things ARE downtown (though not in the abundance that he/she represents), but the dominant thing down there are banks and salons, two things even the most astute of grooming aficionados can only take so much of.

I'm not sure how a Pulitzer prize winning resident author living in Pleasanton is a draw to downtown.

The bottom line is, until restaurants stay open later (Midnight, not 9pm), until stores stay open later ("Who's Open After 5" is pretty much useless), and there are more places to go grab a late drink than the seriously deficient Redcoats, downtown will languish as it is right now.

With Domus gone (a good browsing store but also one that closed too early), nail salons taking over, and Pasta's on its way out, they need to rethink and get things done before Dublin opens up their own version with better variety and later hours.

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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Birdland
on Nov 12, 2008 at 8:26 pm

Perspective it important which allows "threads" like these to continue....I've lived in Pleasanton for 14 years, my husband graduated from Foothill....when Hopyard was "hops"....

I do not know one person who has purchased "home furnishings" or "wedding gowns" from downtown merchants. Donuts (baked goods?) go to Jelly Donut on Valley & Hopyard, not downtown. Bagels - usually at Noahs or Starbucks. Great breads are purchased at Trader Joes, Genes, even Safeeway. Take-out food - maybe downtown, maybe. Pet accessories-please. Petco, Pet Express, not downtown - way too overpriced. So much for the business plan there. And, yes, I have 2 dogs.

Wine....cheese...back to Trader Joes, Genes...even Safeway. Downtown? no. Hair & nail services....maybe, with a gift certificate. There are plenty of quality hair & nail business NOT DOWNTOWN for way less. Books....library, not Towne Center Books. Bike rides....trails. streets, sidewalks, whatever, they don't involve spending $$ downtown. Toys? JR Doodlebug - maybe.

VERY reasonable clothing for teens? Please.

Also Pulitzer Prize winning resident + downtown = zero. Timothy T has it correct.

On the plus sisde, looking forward to Firehouse Arts Center. HUGE plus for downtown Pleasanton. Something to draw people there besides another italian restaurant or over-rated Mexican.

Keeping the City Council Retreats in Pleasanton is a GREAT idea. Downtown or long as it is in Pleasanton. But take that further....why are both our high school proms in San Ramon & SF? Why not have Pleasanton hotels, restaurants, corporate faciilities host these events?

Perspective is important. These are trying times. It is not about getting out and "taking a look" - this is reality.

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Posted by Downtown Resident
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 13, 2008 at 5:21 pm

A follow up regarding the posts concerning getting out and "taking a look" Although I agree, Downtown has potential and is certainly not the best it COULD be yet. I think the resident of Birdland's comment regarding expensive vases and expensive jeans was the typical comment from someone who doesn't frequent downtown. In the past one to two years there have been many new shops that have opened that have contributed to various price points and various product offerings. I know it's easy to have visited stores in downtown once a few years ago and write the downtown area off as an over priced small grouping of retailers. But that just isn't entirely the case anymore. Again, I do agree that the downtown is lacking in more retail shops and with the other posters concerning later hours, have you seen the streets of downtown after 8pm, it's a ghost town. If the shop owners stay open late, will it pay off? Remember folks, if you actually took the time to really shop downtown you would realize these shops are owned and operated by families, there's more to it than a corporate office of Trader Joe's or Safeway. Did anyone know there are growers that come as far as Fresno every Saturday to participate at our Farmer's Market to support their families? I am not saying anyone should over pay for anything, but some of us like frequenting the convenient large chains and some would rather spend time at these mom and pop shops that offer the same if not better products most of the time. So how do we change this cycle? I think the Mayor and City Council really need to get involve and offer incentives to not only shoppers but also shop owners. I noticed the current Mayor Jennifer Hosterman noted on her summary about herself she successfully launched a "keep your shopping local" campaign. I wouldn't have called it "successful" and that is part of the problem. Does the city really even care about the merchants or whether or not people are frequenting downtown, or is it just easier to let the status quo continue without seeking loyalty from both merchants and shoppers alike.

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Posted by Downtown Resident
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 13, 2008 at 5:27 pm

A lover of downtown - I agree, the city is not there to bail out the private businesses. However, taking responsibility for the environment in the downtown district concerning restrictions to allow a better shopping environment to promote shopping (tax dollars) I believe is a duty of the city. Why is there not an ordinance controlling the number of service related, banks, salons etc, frequenting the retail store fronts of downtown? There are roles the city should be involved in, as far as bailing anyone out, absolutely not. There's been enough of that from government lately.

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Posted by frank
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Nov 13, 2008 at 7:33 pm

That's an interesting concept, passing a law (zoning ordinance) that controls the numbers of certain entities that can exist in a particular geographic area. Normally the geographic area is defined to be a category of use, which allows certain types of entities to exist within that area. To understand this one can study our current zoning map.

The poster's suggestion would be novel. For example, let's take PUD-C and go further and by ordinance dictate how many car repair shops and tire stores are permitted in an area that is so zoned. Hey, if this were a communist society, no problem!

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Posted by Karen
a resident of Foothill High School
on Nov 14, 2008 at 7:02 am

I have a few friends that own businesses downtown and their biggest problem is rising rents.

The building owners have high rents, and then they raise them even higher - for business buildings that have low ceilings, are long narrow dark facilities, uneven floors, little downtown parking (most facilities are not designed to use the corridor parking because their entrances are in the front off Main, etc. If downtown landlords want good renters, they need to reinvest in the buildings to make them more attractice to selective stores.

Domus had a nice location and a parking lot, but the building felt like a run down mini-Kmart/5 and dime type store from 1950.

BTW, when will Koln hardware ever be finished?

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Posted by downtown
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 14, 2008 at 8:37 am

Karen -- please read other posts on various threads about the downton landlords. Most of them have owned the buildings so long that they have no mortgage, all rent is gravy. They have no incentive to keep rents down or spend money to improve the buildings. They can afford to have vancancies until the time they can find another bank, mortgage lender or botox spa to pay up. These landlords are also many of the people who spent $25,000 or more to fund the yes on 8 campaign. Someday karma will get them, for now we get to watch the small merchants gradually go away and the downtown turn back into a sleazy and rundown place no one wants to visit. Thanks much you greedy landlords.

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Posted by Shades of Grey
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 14, 2008 at 9:45 am

Please don't lump ALL landlords into the greedy bucket. While some a certainly only in it for the money, my landlord has held rent steady for a number of years now because he is aware things are not easy.

Interesting that some of the greedy are very long time Pleasanton residents, who really don't care much about the downtown though. Very few owners own the majority of property downtown.

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Posted by Simple
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Nov 14, 2008 at 1:11 pm

This is much more simple than people seem to realize. If you value Downtown and the business community that reside there, then SUPPORT those businesses. If you don't they will go away. Please though, do not support them simply because they are Downtown, but hopefully because they are worthy of your business. I sense a lot of confusion between the ambiance and beauty of our Downtown vs its viability as a shopping/dining destination.

There are great individual stores Downtown that to me are "worth" the trip to Main Street. Others I've never been in because they aren't of interest to me. Maybe some posters will tell people of some great places Downtown where they've had great experiences for purhasing holiday gifts this year?

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Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 17, 2008 at 10:20 am

As for long-time property owners being the greedy ones and driving rents up, I think the opposite is true. The long-time owners, Beratlis, Madden, Finch, et. al., are not the ones turning businesses over time and again. The turnover seems to be coming from the newer construction, and newer remodels, where the newer owners have to make a greater return on their greater investment, and pay their greater mortgage...

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Posted by Beg to differ
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 17, 2008 at 10:51 am

While some of the above mentioned have not raised rents Jack, others have with little or no improvements to their properties, and have done so continually. They see others getting $3.50 to $4:00 a ft. downtown, and believe that their un-improved property is worth the same. There are very few properties downtown owned by "new" owners (Kolln Hardware being one). Other than that there has been almost no turnover in building ownership downtown over the last 10 to 15 years.

Also there has been very little "remodel" of any buildings downtown to merit the owner raising rent. The 2 significant remodels I am personally aware of were largely paid for by the tenants making the improvements in return for long term fairly priced rental contracts.

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Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 17, 2008 at 12:38 pm

Hey, Beg to Differ,
I don't think we differ that much...
An earlier poster noted that the old-time owners will sit vacant until the $3.50 rent shows up. I don't think that's the case here. The old-timers bought their properties so long ago that I think they're content being "under market" but keeping their properties leased, stable and open.
The "remodel" in question was Stacey's...
I do recall when that property was improved, rents were raised and businesses were forced out (The Tux shop comes to mind)...

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

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