Pleasanton Weekly

Column - February 8, 2008

Column

Business is booming in city's downtown

by Jeb Bing

Talking about the vibrancy of Pleasanton's downtown often depends on the source. For the very best news, stop by the Pleasanton Downtown Association office near the north end of Main Street where Executive Director Christine Salidivar keeps tabs on new businesses, retailers who've left, vacancies and a never-ending list of restaurants, shops and others who want to open on Main Street. She even has a caller who wants to buy a building on Main Street, which is rare and probably hopeless since building owners tell the PDA they're pleased with the rents they are getting and have no plans to sell.

Salidivar has kept her list of activities and actions for the four years she's been at the helm of the PDA. Right now, she has several restaurants looking for space downtown, retailers who want to move here to sell clothes, jewelry and ceramics. The Bay Area's popular Pawells Sweet Shoppe has asked the PDA for help in finding downtown space to market its old-fashion candies. There's even a veterinarian who is looking for a ground floor spot, no doubt attracted by pet stores like Murphy's Paw that waited over a year for the right-size Main Street space and is doing a booming business. Even banks, which some critics say hurt downtown business because they're not open Sundays and holidays to draw pedestrians to Main Street, apparently find downtown a good place to do business. Comerica Bank has signed a letter of intent to occupy the first floor of the newly restored Kolln Hardware building, which will open later this year and Guaranty Bank is planning to renovate the two-story building at 234 Main and take part of the space, leasing out what it doesn't need to more retailers.

Salidivar says downtown Pleasanton now has 400 active separate businesses and that there are actually 600 active business licenses this year for the downtown, although some of these are hair stylists and barbers who rent their own space in hair salons and barber shops. You can find office space at a few second floor locations, but nothing on the first floor. Empty store fronts may look vacant, but that's only briefly while new tenants negotiate their leases and prepare to move in. Pure Girls, which had been busy and popular, found that its customers came only certain times during the day and not everyday, not often enough to generate the profits needed to pay the higher rents downtown store owners charge. That store space is unusual, too, measuring out to 3,672-square-feet with a sizeable back room that most retailers don't need.

Salidivar agrees with some property owners that the historic buildings we have downtown are a good sell, but it's the type of business that goes in these buildings that determines if it can be successful. She'd like to see a florist come back downtown and more retailers that focus on merchandise for the 20- and 30-somethings, even kids. The PDA is making an effort to attract more businesses and customers to the side streets, and a walk down Angela and Neal streets shows the success it's having. There's also demand by shoppers for a bigger variety of restaurants downtown, with the Redcoat and Amelia's already down side street destinations and a popular Walnut Creek Cuban restaurant waiting in the wings. Although vacant space is scarce, openings do surface, sometimes suddenly, so anyone who wants to try opening a business downtown should get on Salidivar's list soon.

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