Wine Stroll, Wednesday Night Live, free movies and concerts keep downtown humming

New stores, restaurants, business expansions indicate economic improvement on Main Street

From downtown stores staying open late on Wednesday nights to free movies in Delucchi Park to Friday night Concerts in the Park, merchants with help from the city government are working vigorously to attract more people to go downtown. And it seems to be working.

Hundreds turned out Thursday night for the semi-annual wine stroll sponsored by the Pleasanton Downtown Association in cooperation with participating merchants and local wineries. The event was an opportunity for the PDA and its members to showcase in a unique way the diverse businesses and services downtown Pleasanton has to offer with more than 25 Pleasanton and Livermore wineries showcasing their wines with merchants hosting their own appetizers throughout the evening.

Stores are now staying open later, and a survey of restaurants and downtown retailers this week had many saying that they are busier than they've been since the Christmas holidays. Whether that means increased profits is still anybody's guess, but merchants like what they see. They're also gaining strength with new stores and restaurants opening and others expanding.

Rick's Picks has opened at 719 Main St. where an antique store used to operate and next to Little Valley Winery, which opened just a few months ago. Owned by Rick Hirschberg, it's similar to his store in Danville with a wide variety of merchandise from housewares to framed pictures. Opening in the other part of the building shortly will be J'aime Bridal, who is growing her wedding gowns and accessories retail store at 111 W. Neal St. by nearly two-thirds as her business improves.

A block north, Sue Martinovich will open The Farmer Restaurant in the next week or two in the Pleasanton Hotel building, which she owns. The restaurant will feature American cuisine in a casual dining atmosphere located where the first floor bar used to be, with plans under way for a second eatery on the south side where a restaurant owned by Verne and Bill Laube closed last Jan. 1.

Across Main Street, Saigon Restaurant, featuring Vietnamese food, is preparing to open in the space once occupied by the Oak House restaurant. Comerica Bank recently opened just a few blocks south. In Larry McColm's 350 Main Street retail complex, Kasaria Jewelry Design has just opened one of its branches on the Angela Street side while two doors away Yogo Fina is preparing to open its newest ice cream and frozen yogurt shop.

These new businesses bode well for downtown Pleasanton, where summer weather and aggressive marketing by a merchants group is providing more reasons to shop locally. "Wednesday Night Live" started last week with live entertainment at different downtown locations. Organized by Melanie Sadek, who owns Murphy's Paw on Main Street with her husband Mike, the group of 20 retailers is building on the Pleasanton Downtown Association's popular First Wednesdays street parties to keep the momentum going for downtown shoppers and diners. The group's stores are now staying open at least until 8 p.m. every Wednesday through Aug. 26, with many open much later as their program attracts customers.

Then, every other Thursday the city's Parks and Community Services Department is sponsoring "Thursday Nights at the Movies, a free outdoor event at Delucchi Park with movies shown on a giant 26-foot screen starting at about 8:30 p.m. Next Thursday, the city will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the 1929 classic "The Wizard of Oz", a family favorite with Judy Garland in her signature role as Dorothy from Kansas on her adventures over the rainbow and along the yellow-brick road on her way to the Emerald City. Jack Black is back on Thursday, Aug. 6 with "School of Rock," to be followed on Thursday, Aug. 20 with "Raiders of the Lost Ark," which will wrap up the summer series.

On Fridays, of course, there's the summer Concerts in the Park series in Lions Wayside Park, which this year is drawing record crowds--so many, in fact, that Christine Salidivar, executive director of the PDA, said the overflow attendance is being accommodated across Neal Street in Delucchi Park. Next Friday, La Ventana, always a favorite, returns to Lions Wayside with its own unique brand of Latin music. The concerts start at 7 p.m.

Besides these upcoming events, two others promise to attract still more to spend time downtown in early August. The "Pooch Parade" will mark the start of First Wednesday on Aug. 5, an annual showing of everyone's best friends as they are led down Main Street for prizes. Then that Saturday, Aug. 8, downtown merchants will sponsor a street carnival in cooperation with the Pleasanton Partnership in Education (PPIE) Foundation that is raising money for Pleasanton schools. The event, scheduled from 5 to 9 p.m., will include a dunk tank (the "dunkee" yet to be chosen), a children's fishing derby, a vehicle with video games inside and much more.

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