"There's always a need for chain stores in a district like Second Street," says Frank Colonna, who, for eight years, was head of the Belmont Shore Business Association and in June was elected to the Long Beach City Council. "They bring in a national marketing presence and a karma that validates the area. But there needs to be a balance, and along Second Street, we were losing that balance. The business mix was changing."
In March, at the insistence of the three groups, the City Council passed a moratorium lasting through December 31, 1998, that bans new restaurants from opening on Second Street. During that time, city officials will work with the groups to see what can be done to keep a balanced business mix.
Perhaps the biggest concern for retail business owners was the increasing number of fast-food establishments or restaurants specializing in food to go. "Their food is to go, but we want people to stay and walk around," Colonna explains.
Representatives of the three groups are working with Colonna on a Planned Development Ordinance for Second Street. The members are considering the use of tighter parking restrictions to discourage property owners from converting retail sites to restaurants, says Colonna; that will help keep the business mix balanced. The three groups have given themselves six months to develop the ordinance; a tentative plan is expected by late fall.
While the ordinance may maintain a balanced business mix, it can't force a landlord not to rent to a chain. Polly's Sheldrake says Second Street's business owners had better get used to competition from chains because they are not going away. Independent stores that survive, he adds, will do so because they are run efficiently.
Even chain competition is not enough to discourage new small-business owners from giving the Belmont Shore district a chance, however. "The active lifestyle of the residents drew us to the area," says Thom Lacie, the manager of Runners High, a running shop that opened on Second Street in November 1997. "Part of the community here wants specialized stores; they like the personalized service."
Sales at Runners High have greatly exceeded Lacie's pre-opening expectations, he says, and when asked what is key to his business' success, he falls back on that old cliché: "Location, location, location."
Frank Colonna, http://www.shorehomes.com
Dodds Book Shop, 4818 E. Second St., Long Beach, CA 90803, (562) 438-9948
Runners High, 5375 Second St., Long Beach, CA 90803, (562) 433-7825