Santa Monica’s shopping districts have been hit hard by the recession but the Pico district hasn’t been hit as hard as the rest.
Jennifer Taylor the City of Santa Monica’s liaison to the Pico Improvement Organization (PIO) told the Mirror “Pico is faring far better than other shopping districts in the City because it is truly a neighborhood serving retail area.” They really don’t cater as much to the high-end customer or tourists. Stores in the district that have been doing very well during the recession are Trader Joe’s and the 99 Cents store. The Pico Trader Joe’s is the highest performing Trader Joe’s in Southern California.
Sales at the Pico Farmer’s Market are also up because more people are cooking at home these days and are interested in sustainable, healthy, high quality ingredients. During these tough times more residents are supporting services and businesses that provide good value and good quality.
Taylor also mentioned that business vacancy rates are dropping in the Pico area because the area’s lower rents compared to other shopping districts have become very appealing to many businesses. Pico’s small businesses are also in a better position to respond to market changes and needs of customers because their owners are in direct contact with their customers.
PIO’s secretary David Ruiz stated that the area is looking at new ways to generate business as well as to rejuvenate the area. Pico has been known as the rougher part of Santa Monica so the PIO is interested in “creating a new identity.” They are approaching this by having the annual Pico Art Walk & Car Show on October 17 which will include the entire boulevard. They are also toying with having evening events to generate more customer traffic, and publishing a promotional magazine that will carry merchant advertising.
Ruiz also noted that during the recession the area’s older restaurants have continued doing well because they have a strong customer base.
The owner of Acapillow, Peter Path, told the Mirror he is a fourth generation business owner on Pico Boulevard. He has operated Acapillow for 16 years and seen “up and downs but has never seen anything like” the current business climate. He makes pillows that are sold in boutiques nationwide and internationally. The recession has forced him to downsize his showrooms in San Francisco and Highpoint, North Carolina and lay people off. In order to keep his business afloat he has begun reupholstering furniture and selling art. He is “looking forward to staying on Pico for the long run and not giving up.”
La Foto owner Marisa Lopez like Path has been grappling with the slow economy by trying to diversify her business. She has added a bilingual educational component to her darkroom and gallery business. She would like to see “more community involvement in art” and more galleries on Pico Boulevard.