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Luisa Correa, Spring 2014

Downtown Chula Vista small businesses continue thriving, farmers market takes economic hit

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Entrance traffic to Third Avenue Village businesses. Photo: Luisa Correa


Despite the national recession that began in 2007, businesses in downtown Chula Vista have managed to succeed after more than 20 years. Business owners in the iconic Third Avenue village area say their longevity, quality customer service and unique niches have kept them in business. These aspects have kept customers coming back and acquiring the services for years.

Chula Vista was affected by the nation’s economic downfall about 7 years ago. Although many businesses were affected and suffered a decrease in sales, that didn’t apply to the shops in downtown Chula Vista.

VIDEO: Business owners talk about the growth and success of their business.
They share how they’ve managed to stay open for so many years.

Leslie Doyle, a long-time Chula Vista resident and downtown Chula Vista shopper, said she’s always thought of the businesses as having what it takes to run a successful business.

“These stores know how to talk to people. I’ve always been satisfied with my purchases in the 40 years of shopping here,” Doyle said.

Exterior of Harper’s Music, one of Chula Vista’s oldest music stores. This business has been open since 1962. Photo: Luisa Correa

Some business owners in the Third Avenue village say a lot of clients have great memories of  certain businesses, and the customers continue going back because of a previous positive experience.

Adam Sparks, owner of Mangia Italiano on Third, says the key to staying successful is having something to offer the customers and staying involved in the community, also using online technologies, such as Leads Market service – so that more potential clients find out about the shop.

Sparks says the community events he holds at his restaurant help him establish relationships with customers and provide a reputation for quality customer service.

Also, Luanne Hulsizer, executive director of Third Avenue Village Association, said the downtown businesses continue to show an increase in sales because they have been around for so long.

“They have been able to survive, because they have longevity. When you have longevity like that in your community, usually you can sustain it,” Hulsizer said.

Hulsizer says in the years she’s been working with the village shops, she has seen an increase in foot traffic, which she believes has boosted the businesses’ sales.

Michael Meacham, director of economic development  for Chula Vista, also says the location of the businesses in the area have had an increase in traffic in the last couple of months. He says these changes have helped businesses strive through economic times.

Backside of entrance sign to Chula Vista streets. Traffic driving through downtown businesses. Photo: Luisa Correa

Meacham says the convenient location of these businesses has helped them continue to stay actively running. With more than 250,000 residents, Meacham says Chula Vista’s E street through H street area get a fair amount of traffic, leading to the businesses’ success. He also said Chula Vista is one of the top cities for small businesses.

Sales have moderately increased for specialty stores by 5.8% from 2012 to 2013, according to the city of Chula Vista’s 2013 sales tax records.

Meacham said another reason for the gradual increase in business revenue is the rise in household units, income and population since 2010. Meachan said although the profits might be increasing slowly, it’s still making a difference.

In general, Chula Vista’s sales have increased in many areas: general consumer goods, restaurants and hotels, autos and transportation and business and industry from 2012.

Hulsizer says many of the businesses specialize in one thing and that is something people continually look for. She says specialty items such as vacuums, sewing machines or trophies have definitely played a big role in the businesses success.

Dale Gonzalez, a long-time employee at Burdick’s who specializes in vacuums and sewing machines, said although they’ve been somewhat affected by the recession in the last five years, their quality customer service and specialization in vacuums and sewing machines has helped them stay afloat.

“The customer service is what’s kept us going,” Gonzalez said. ”Most people also keep coming back to get their sewing machines repaired.”

Exterior of Burdick’s Sew and Vacuum store. Started the business more than 20 years ago. Photo: Luisa Correa

Chung Tae Young, owner of Ray’s shoe repair, has been operating the store since 1950 and believes the reason he’s still in businesses is because they provide a service that has been harder to attain in recent years.

“People keep coming back because we are knowledgeable and know how to fix their problem,” Young said. “There aren’t many places in Chula Vista that do what we do.”

Young says he even remembers former mayors coming into his store, requesting shoe repairs. He says he believes his store is different than many other new ones, and he feels it will continue to be successful in the future.

Downtown farmers market still searching for customers

Unlike the established business owners, vendors at the weekly farmers market have felt the effect of the economic recession.

The long-time attraction has been operating for over 20 years and is also located in the Third Avenue village. The vendors at the market have been struggling in the past years and have been trying their best to make a profit.

Bob Teague, manager of the Chula Vista Farmer’s Market, said the market has experienced a gradual decline in customer and vendor attendance in the last 5 years.

Teague says one of the reasons for the decline is the decrease in vendors at the market. He says less vendors choose to sell at the farmers market because of the increase in gas prices. Teague says most vendors have to travel long distances to get to the farmers market. He also says many people choose to buy produce at grocery stores because of the lower prices, rather than at the farmers market.

Some vendors aren’t making much of a profit, and he believes it’s because people have been affected by the recession and are simply spending their money on priorities.

MULTIMEDIA: Farmers market manager and vendor talk about their experience struggling through the recession.

“It all came for the economic downturn that the whole country was experiencing,” Teague said.  “I hope there will be change soon.”

Teague said although there have been economic problems that began in recent years, there will always be a future for farmers market. He said the reason is they have a positive reputation in the community.



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