Ventura businesses enjoy Main Street walkability
Main Street in Ventura looks a lot like Santa Barbara’s State Street: parklets, pedestrians, pooches and even teenage boys performing tricks riding their bikes. Business owners around the promenade hope it’s here to stay.
“We’re so happy that, you know, the street is open, and everybody can just walk and have a sense of community. I feel like people are loving it,” said Jessica Joyce, an employee at the boutique Passport Habits, located at 542 E Main St.
She asked a customer if she liked the new pedestrian-friendly concept.
“How could we not?” the shopper said. “We all want our small businesses to open.”
Ventura’s Main Street has fewer chains, like Lululemon or Gap, than State Street in Santa Barbara. The shops are mostly local, single-store boutiques amid small restaurants.
“(The promenade) allowed the restaurants to survive,” David, a bookseller at Calico Cat Bookshop, said.
The store, at 495 E Main St., has a variety of books squeezed into every corner (with a selection of local books up front). It’s not the kind of place that would attract everyone, but it’s been busy.
Although the shop fits a “niche,” as David described, more people are checking books off their reading lists.
“It’s become sort of a destination because we can just walk around,” he said.
With places like bowling alleys closed, shopping and strolling along Main Street has become an activity for locals and daytrippers.
“It’s definitely brought a lot of people to Ventura who haven’t been here, so they are exploring more,” said Mia Westcott, Palermo Coffee Bar manager. “It’s brought us a lot of business that we lost out on for a couple weeks.”
The beginning of the pandemic was harsh, and business varies in correlation with the COVID-19 case rate. But she says there’s been a lot of traffic lately.
“I noticed when numbers are getting higher and the ICU bed availability is getting smaller, I have noticed that we do get a little slower. I think a lot of people in our community keep track of that pretty much daily,” she said.
Palermo, at 321 E Main St., had a line of customers. She wasn’t sure what the case rate was like recently, but she assumed it was positive.
“Historically, we just have crazy busy summers, and it’s already starting to get busy lately. We get glimpses of the summer during the weekends,” she said.
The stark increase of people working remotely has kept Palermo’s parklet busy with people and their laptops.
Johnny Costa, manager at Immigrant Son Caffé, at 543 E Main St., noticed more customers enjoying eating on site since opening a parklet.
“We have more tables now. Our operation had to change,” he said. “People now come to stay and eat here.”
He hopes the setup becomes permanent. Losing the parklet would lose a social aspect, he said.
The restaurant added more pastries for people to stop in and take to go. It’s planning to expand its hours to serve dinner as well.
Ms. Joyce at Passport Habits said she sees shoppers catch interest in the boutique after eating at Immigrant Son Caffé. Being next to restaurants has increased business now that the street is walkable.
“Now that the restaurants have reopened, there’s life back in the city, and it just feels sort of normal,” she said.
All four businesses expressed a desire for the street to remain walkable, even when COVID-19 is no longer a factor.