News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

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Fair can be roadblock for some 101 merchants

n_STREETFAIR_2013_web_smallDowntown Encinitas will play host to the 30th annual Encinitas Street Fair this month. With 100,000 visitors and shoppers expected to fill Coast Highway 101 between D and J Streets, there is some concern regarding the accessibility of small businesses in the area that may or may not be inconvenienced by the closing of streets, lack of parking and large crowds.

But for some business owners such as Joseph Granata, the street fair is more than just a small inconvenience; it’s a business-
killer.

Granata owns a custom tailor and alteration shop in the Lumberyard Shopping Center, an area that is transformed into a beer garden and music stage. And for him, a business like his simply does not do well during the April street fair, forcing him to shut the doors completely during the two-day event.

“Saturday is my busiest day of the week,” Granata said from his sewing machine in his shop. “It’s the worst thing to have a fair on a Saturday. It’s just going to hurt.”

Originally from Italy, Granata has been doing business in Encinitas for three decades. His shop has operated in the Lumberyard for 27 of those years. He said he doesn’t like the idea of the street fair running through such an important artery as Coast Highway 101. But what he doesn’t appreciate most is his lack of say in the entire event.

“I think that they should let people vote on it,” he said. “Let the people decide.”

But Granata’s distaste for the street fair might not be shared by most merchants.

Farther down Coast Highway 101 and in the heart of the fair area at Ecotopiia, a shop that carries various eco-friendly products, manager Diana Phan said that although her regular customers generally don’t come in during the fair because of the lack of parking, the event is a positive thing because “it exposes more and more customers to my business.”

“I know that there are some drawbacks, but there is a lot of good that comes with having the street fair, like exposure to the stores,” said Dody Tucker, executive director of the Downtown Encinitas MainStreet Association. “Even if some of the people don’t shop that day, they’re walking around and looking at all the stores. Many of them do come back.”

According to Tucker, DEMA — which is the driving force behind the event — does give careful consideration to businesses such as Granata’s. When some business owners in the Lumberyard voiced their concerns over their loss of business during the fair, they were offered free booths in the parking lot of the shopping center, something that would solve the issue of accessibility, Tucker said.

Parking is another concern for employees who work in businesses in the area, particularly those in the Lumberyard. Arriving early enough may ensure they’ll have a place to park. But they’re often stuck there until things wrap up with the fair at 5 p.m.

“We’ve been doing this for 30 years,” Tucker said. “We know that at times it can be stressful, but in the end what we’re doing is bringing thousands of people a day to our downtown. Some people take advantage of 40,000 people coming by their store. It’s a way to get people in.”

Christopher Earley is a San Diego freelance writer

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Fair can be roadblock for some 101 merchants