Edgar Nuñez (left) and his father are but two examples of small business owners along the Anaheim Corridor. Photo by Prumsodun Ok.
We’re all very well familiar with the Pike, Shoreline Village, and Second Street. But what about places like Cambodia Town or the Zaferia District? How often do you hear people going out to these places to eat? Or simply walk the streets? The fact is: these are our neighborhoods. This is our home. And the many small, family-owned businesses down our streets suffer from many problems that keep them invisible.
First off, people judge locations by their appearance. The physical appearance of a place, and the way people move through it, creates the atmosphere. Central Long Beach, although having a culturally vibrant and dense population, lacks the buildings with fancy facades that other parts of the city boast. A drive down Anaheim Street will reveal no more than strip mall after strip mall. The small businesses that occupy these spaces could greatly benefit from the physical beautification of their facilities.
Secondly, with this change, there must be a change that happens inside as well. The businesses in our neighborhoods need to find ways to market themselves to diverse groups. They need to appeal to people from different parts of Long Beach and from out of the city, while still serving the local population. Perhaps this means that we find a way of keeping our restaurant menus affordable yet making them more health conscious. Perhaps this means training our wait staff to be more knowledgeable, friendly, and professional.
If small business owners in our neighborhoods had the right help and resources, I’m sure that they would jump at the opportunity to beautify their stores. Just by making small changes—new paint on the building, a new sign, tasteful décor inside—people will notice. And if other small business owners see the change going on, they will want to follow that example. Once small businesses start looking better, then there will be healthy competition.
Maybe the Pike and Second Street will have a new competitor for its dollars, a competitor that instead offers the unique food or couch or service of local character that only a small business can give?
By supporting local businesses, we are investing in our communities. We are supporting families in our neighborhood. And, we are elevating the quality of our own lives, instilling a sense of ownership and pride in our streets, homes, and businesses. So now my question to everyone is, what would it look like to invest in the development of our small businesses? And what would an organized way of doing this be?