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Downtown SLO is about the good times, too 

In response to Kasey Bubnash's cover story that ran on Sept. 5, which asked "What's up with downtown?" I offer words from the wise Yogi Berra, who once said, "Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded."

New Times, what gives? This cover story didn't hit the mark. Your office is downtown. You know what's going on. Businesses come, and businesses go. After lengthy careers, people deserve to retire. And in a free market, sometimes businesses aren't successful. That's the breaks.

And while it is true that there are some vacancies downtown, there's a much more compelling story to be told about how downtown San Luis Obispo is thriving. In fact, since January, more than 30 new businesses opened in downtown San Luis Obispo. Astonishingly, 20 of those are locally owned. Could we shine a light on how our local community supports those businesses? Boo Boo Records celebrates its 45th anniversary this year, HumanKind Fair Trade turned 10, The Sock Drawer turned 12, and we just got an Athleta, which, yes, is a chain store, but it is a B-corp. And it's not like chain stores are a new concept to downtown—just ask the folks who used to shop at Montgomery Ward, JC Penney, and Sears back in the "good old days."

Here in SLO, there is a healthy mix of locally owned and national businesses and experiences for any person to enjoy. For example, look at The Junk Girls, turning antiques into environmentally friendly home goods and art pieces. Or talk to the folks at Blackwater, who were thrilled to move their retail space into a larger, more visible location on Higuera. In the mood for browsing books? You can go corporate and find any title you want at Barnes and Noble, or if you want a more meandering trip through the literary arts, step into Phoenix Books. Want culture? There's a historic restaurant at Mee Heng Low Noodle House. You can watch solar-powered art films at the Palm Theatre, or catch the newest flick at The Movie Experience at Downtown Centre. Into live performance? You can see beloved musicals and cutting-edge theatrical readings at San Luis Obispo Repertory Theatre, which, incidentally, will be building a new facility that will be attached to a new parking structure at Palm and Nipomo.

You can see live musicians, comedians, and touring acts at the out-of-this-world art deco Fremont Theater SLO, which is in the process of being lovingly restored. And out on the streets, our electrical boxes are painted by local artists because the city of SLO Public Art program cares to make our public thoroughfares beautiful.

I could go on and on. People come downtown daily, and people from all over the state and the world want to visit our downtown. Two new hotels are poised to open this fall (more than a dozen years after initial approval for these projects). Cal Poly is coming back in session this week, and students are a vital life force for our downtown, working in our shops and restaurants, and spending their dollars. You want parking? Our downtown has three parking structures, and you can park for free for the first 60 minutes.

And if that's not enough, there's a totally amazing weekly street festival—Downtown SLO Farmers' Market—that takes place every single Thursday night that just won Sunset Magazine's Readers Travel Choice Award for Best Farmers' Market in the West. Downtown SLO has tree-lined streets, friendly people, low skylines, beautiful views, great shopping, fantastic dining and drinking, and there are countless people, myself included, who are proud to work every day on its behalf. There are so many positive stories to tell, every single day.

See you downtown.

Bettina Swigger

CEO, Downtown SLO

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