TURLOCK -- Just weeks away from a final plan to turn Main Street into the wedding capital of California, and most business and property owners haven't heard about it or don't care.
The Downtown Property Owners Association hired Seattle-based consultant Destination Development for $38,000 to create a unique branding and marketing plan aimed at breathing life into the aging downtown. The first draft of the plan was revealed earlier this year and the final draft, along with a presentation to business owners, is slated for next month.
With the closing of Youngdale's and relocation of Farmers & Merchants Bank, there are nearly 60,000 square feet of vacant downtown commercial space, said Trina Walley, executive director of the property owners association. The wedding theme will give new businesses reason to fill that space, she said.
Before Main Street is known as a wedding-shopping destination, Walley said, there are four steps must be taken:
On a recent afternoon, 49 Main Street business owners or managers were asked for thoughts on the plan. Twenty-one said they hadn't heard enough to make a decision or simply don't care what happens; 11 liked the idea and though it was viable; 10 didn't like it and thought it was a waste of time and money; five liked it, but were skeptical of anything happening; and two refused to comment.
"The biggest misconception out there is we only want wedding businesses in downtown," Walley said. "That's not true. We need a healthy mix."
Here's what the business owners are saying:
Sharon Stencil, Ritzy Rags
"There's just not enough information out there, but they need to do something. I'd like to see notes or something for the business owners who can't attend the meetings. ... I love downtown and it needs something. Most people who walk into my shop had no idea I was here."
Connie Irish, Fontis Spa & Salon
"I think it's good for my business, but I don't think everyone in downtown will benefit. I think it's a cool idea, I just don't think its going to help everyone down here."
Roselia Nunez, Rainbow Fabrics
"I think it's a good idea. If it brings 100 people (into downtown) and we get one new customer, it was worth it. We specialize in weddings and quinceañeras."
Jose Bedolla, Main Street Tattoo & Piercing
"Not too many people get tattoos for a wedding."
Dana Kirkes, LeFleur
"The concept could be good, but they have to include everyone and I don't know if that's happening. It's a really cool idea. We in the valley really don't have anything like that. Why should we keep sending our brides to LA when we have so much talent in our own back yard?"
Randy Humphries, Pacific Tire & Wheel
"They want to eliminate all fast food, they want to eliminate us. ... It might be a good theme, but to change all of downtown for it? I don't know about that. It seems to me like a big waste of money. Have you seen our roads? They have to concentrate on beautifying Turlock before they change the whole theme around."
Lisa Wilson, Main Street Footers
"We think it's absolutely silly. Who wants to come here for dresses and tuxes and flowers? People come downtown for hotdogs and tires."
Terry Newcomb, The Silk Garden
"I feel the wedding idea, in conjunction with another venue, is great, but to make all of downtown a wedding venue is just silly. To spend a lot of money on it is simply ridiculous. For a downtown to be viable, you need a good mix. It's asinine to hear someone has come to town to say, 'You guys have to be a wedding destination.' "
Don Fernandes, Vail Creek Fine Jewelry Designs
"I've been to all of the meetings and love the idea. I think it'll be great for the long term. I find it unfortunate that so many people think it's not possible. The people with the least amount of information are the most skeptical. Obviously, it's going to take some time to move businesses that don't fit in the plan, but my understanding of other cities ... they've successfully increased property rents and business in their downtown areas."
Joe Camara, Camara's
"I hope it comes through. We have people who drive 100 miles to look at wedding things, why not have it here if we can keep it here and bring us new customers? I only see positive."
Elaine Weber, Mistletoe & Roses
"I think it's a good idea. It would work for me. We could hold receptions, showers, those types of events. We need to stand for something in downtown."
Bee staff writer Michael R. Shea can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2391.