It's so sad that no-one besides me is doing anything to support Alameda businesses these days. More and more stores have been closing lately, which is mainly the fault of the Park Street Merchants' Association (PSMA). Businesses in the Park Street district don't get anything of value for their membership dues to PSMA, except for a newsletter and a few mixers where they are expected to waste time getting to know their fellow merchants and perhaps discussing how to help support each other and foster a successful business district together.
What exactly is PSMA doing to help keep businesses afloat in this difficult economy, apart from their usual street fairs that bring tens of thousands of people downtown, and the occasional ads for Park Street in local and regional papers and at the local theater? I mean, apart from helping businesses obtain façade and sign grants that have spruced up many store fronts along Park Street in the past few years, making them more attractive and visible to shoppers, and apart from the extensive streetscape project that brought improved sidewalks, benches and trees and many other benefits to the district, what has PSMA done? Sure, PSMA helped support the renovation of the historic theater, which is nice, but they must have known at the time that there was a huge economic downturn coming, and that it was going to take a lot more than people coming downtown for dinner and a movie to give any kind of boost to surrounding businesses.
Clearly, PSMA's lackadaisical approach to promoting Park Street businesses has had an effect on our entire community. Some businesses have been closing on Webster Street recently, too, like the New Zealander, and the Skippy peanut butter plant. What did PSBA do to try to prevent those closures? And I'm not sure how, but the serious problems with Greece's economy must also be the fault of PSMA.
Of course, I can also blame my fellow Alamedans for all of those problems. Instead of driving off to cities that are not Alameda to do their shopping, they should be buying things here, whether they need them or not. Why should people buy balloons and party favors only when they are throwing a birthday party? And why is it that people only go to restaurants when they are hungry? Everyone should be patronizing local businesses as much as they possibly can. I have 62 pairs of waterproof yachting boots in my closet right now that I haven't worn yet, but I try to make sure to support every one of Alameda's shoe stores at least once a week. And yet, it's still not enough. Please, somebody, give me a hand here! Go buy some ice cream, or scrapbook supplies, or new power tools, or something.
Lane O. McHail
PhD, MBA, CFC
Celebrated Yacht Racer and Muralist
Monday, May 24, 2010