Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Evolution of a town: Groveland, near Yosemite National Park

The other day a Groveland resident and community leader came into the restaurant and started a conversation with me on the certain demise of Groveland's downtown business district. His views were that we were in the tank and sinking fast with mentions of several unoccupied stores and just as many up for sale. On the night of this discussion, I was quickly convinced by his arguments that he was right.

Since then I have spent some time pondering this conversation. Surely it is natural for neighbors to move, businesses to change, some close, new ones open. For every failure or "for sale" he pointed out I am now able argue some superb new businesses or transitions. I wish I was more prepared when the topic was first being discussed. My dwelling on the subject over the last month as made me curious as to how many others in the community think as he does.

Yes, we know there are several empty store fronts along the way and a few places are for sale. But what was so obviously ignored in the conversation were are all the recent successes: Coffee Time has a new owner and is consistently open with a great product, the painters offices have moved off of Main Street and the space is opened anew with some very energetic ladies doing a great thing with Body Beautiful. The flower shop has a new name, Benita's Bouquets and new owner. In a smart move that puts more visitor friendly retail shops on Main Street, Sabre Design, a graphics company moved off of main street and a fantastic hip clothing shop opened in their place with Perfectly Posh.

Bunny Rose, a long time downtown merchant showed her confidence in Groveland by purchasing a second Main Street store, Critter Corner. For a year and a half the restaurant next to the Hotel Charlotte was closed, now some great people are running the Cross Country Cafe, a fresh sandwich deli. The long-closed Tshirt printer has been reincarnated as a carpet and tile center and Sun Cable offices converted to a Dollar store. Murray & Bev have finally moved Homemade into the vacant space next to Hot Doggie, a brilliant move. Even the long closed Tiano's has gotten a face lift this summer with new windows and hopefully a plan to open soon. Let's not forget what an asset Main Street Market is to Groveland, they too are less than 4 years old.

Remember the feed store that closed this summer? Now it is a furniture mart and is doing 5 times better than projected. All Seasons Groveland Inn with its new owner has fresh landscaping and an inviting curb appeal. Does anyone remember the Charlotte before Victor and I bought it four years ago? The Charlotte might have been on the failure list with the restaurant well into its third season of closure.

Lets talk about the evolution of Groveland as a cultural center. This community first built the museum library project, then a wonderful stage in our park just waiting for someone to produce great events. These, paired with our new world-class skate park makes our public space very unique. In recent years Groveland has added Whitewolf Art Gallery showcasing works from local artists. We now enjoy 3 Groveland Art Strolls a year, a quilt stroll every other year, the 6-show concert series produced by Mountain Sage with the introduction of Grammy award winning artists, the Yosemite Courtyard Theater at the Groveland Hotel with productions throughout the summer and Cabaret Charlotte and Theatre du Jour at the Hotel Charlotte with the winter performances featuring Groveland's new theater company, Yosemite Entertainment Productions (YEP) and I am sure there are even more new cultural events.

On the outskirts of Groveland, Priest Station (the first impression visitors have on approaching Groveland) has just been purchased by the Anker family with plans to put in a mountaineering shop, coffee house, pack station for guided wilderness trips, a restaurant and a 5-star out house. This refreshed outpost will serve as a gateway to Groveland followed a mile down the road by the monumental historic restoration project in its infancy in Big Oak Flat that STCHS is undertaking.

I argue that Groveland is on leaning towards great successes, not the eminent demise prophesied. I hope that all folks in this community consider taking a fresh look at where we have been and where we are going and put their hearts and efforts into supporting this great community. I hope everyone out there is shopping Groveland. But I urge you to do more than just shop our great stores, get involved! There are many opportunities! Together we can work on building our own positive self fulfilling prophesies.

Let's all go buy some rose colored glasses to go with our rosy future!

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