While the EMC program, that recommends newspaper advertising, fliers and greater uses of what if calls "freebies," such as Facebook and Twitter promotions, puts an immediate focus on the upcoming Christmas shopping season, Olson says the city and the PDA are working together to bring more sizzle to the downtown. A big boost is expected to come with the opening tonight of the $10 million Firehouse Arts Center on Railroad Avenue, just a block from Main Street. Some pubs are already open late on weekend nights including those that offer music, dancing and other entertainment, such as Barone's the Farmer Restaurant, Redcoats and Main Street Brewery. The PDA is working with other businesses to make a downtown trip to a Firehouse performance even more enjoyable with restaurants that will guarantee quick service so that patrons can dine and still make it to the theater on time, and some that stay open later with menus for late night desserts and drinks even if they don't have music and dancing.
Beyond the Firehouse, Olson wants to expand special events downtown. This year's First Wednesday street parties brought record crowds, partly because of good weather at each of the five summertime events, but also because more folks who live here are finding the street parties better organized. The popular beer garden was restricted to adults only this year with a second band added along with family seating at the north end of Main. Next year, Olson plans to add a wine bar and entertainment at the family section, and she also hopes to draw more people to south Main Street with a limited number of hot rods and classic cars on display, courtesy of the Pleasanton-based Goodguys organization. Olson says she knows the added attractions are working. The September First Wednesday usually attracts only 5,000 people. This year it was well over 10,000, about the same as August's event. Main Street Brewery's business was up 10%-15% vs. the month prior when the First Wednesday venue was not extended north to the arroyo.
Another benefit of First Wednesdays is that there's more appeal to Pleasanton residents than other major attractions, such as antique shows and exhibits at the Fairgrounds which have a greater Tri-Valley/East Bay appeal. Downtown merchants like it when out-of-towners shop at their stores and dine locally, but it's those who live in Pleasanton who need to be more supportive. Olson cited a study by a national nonprofit grass roots group called the "350 Study" that found that if every employed person in the U.S. spent $50 a month at independently-owned businesses in their home towns it would generate $42.6 billion in local revenue throughout the country. That's not to say those who live here should avoid Stoneridge Shopping Center or other Pleasanton shopping centers, which bring in huge sales tax revenue to the city, but Olson simply reminds everyone how much a meal or two or a special gift could benefit our historic downtown, which most of us consider the crown jewel of Pleasanton. Still, PDA and city surveys show that the public would like more variety and even more special downtown events. Merchants, as members of the PDA, want to hear from their customers about just what they'd like to see. Those are the ideas Olson will use in the coming weeks as she and her PDA directors plan their 2011 strategy to add more sizzle to downtown.