Vista, CA — Despite being in the midst of a global pandemic, Janelle Davidson decided to stick with her plans to open a niche home decor boutique in Downtown Vista, Calif. on July 24, 2020.
“It was probably the craziest time to be opening a store, but I think in some ways, it may have also been the best time,” said Davidson, owner of Tin Gypsy, located at 253 Main Street in Vista. “We signed the lease to open Tin Gypsy back in February 2020, right before the pandemic hit. If I had known somehow that the pandemic was going to happen, I still would have signed that lease. It has been a dream of mine to be downtown, and there was no way I was going to let this opportunity slip by. I knew I had such great support from everyone in Vista, so it was definitely time to open. Still knowing it was a risk, I was excited to open and be part of historic DowntownVista. Being that most people are at home due to Covid-19, many are looking to redecorate and remodel their homes, so opening up a home décor shop during this time was perfect. It’s so great knowing that I could help them in some way to create a space that they love.”
Davidson said opening day for Tin Gypsy was really busy, and since then, she has settled into a natural, consistent flow of customers.
The shop offers Fair Trade home decor items that are handmade by original artisans from around the globe such as Turkey, India, Africa, Bali and Guatemala. Davidson chose Downtown Vista as her shop’s locale because it is “a hip and fun place to spend a day or evening.”
“It’s unbelievable to be literally next door to the AVO (Theater) where I spent so much time as a teenager watching movies,” said the Vista resident, who quit her 10-year job doing accounts receivable for a local construction company to focus on her new shop. “I see so many wonderful changes being made to downtown. Downtown Vista is a wonderful place to visit, and to be part of the downtown vibe, along with the other great shops, restaurants, and breweries is super awesome.”
She is also excited about the City’s recent “Vista is Open” campaign, aimed at helping local small businesses recover following the Covid-19 economic shutdown, while offering special deals to customers.
“I think the city’s ‘Vista is Open’ program is such a great idea,” Davidson said. “They offer so much in ways of advertising and promoting small businesses. The City has been so welcoming and supportive.”
Through the Vista is Open campaign, which includes a dedicated website, the City has produced videos and photo shoots for local businesses, created social media ads (including paid placement) and has even helped create logos. The City has collaborated with local Barb Miltenberger from Around The Town, who has even hosted a few promos with local businesses to build awareness for merchants. The Vista is Open program also provides free social distancing floor stickers and window clings to local businesses.
Vista is Open is part of the City’s Businesses Economic Recovery Plan, which was developed in response to the devastating impacts on the business community as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the plan, the City is working to identify grant opportunities, coordinating with utility providers on efforts to assist businesses, advertising local businesses, as well as implementing a host of other programs for local businesses.
“We understand that many local small businesses simply don’t have the time or resources for marketing and other support services, so we are doing as much as we can to help them,” said Kevin Ham, Vista’s Economic Development Director.
To further provide businesses with marketing support, the City hired Bill Hornung, owner of Vista-based digital media company Humble Pie Communications to design the Vista is Open website.
“It’s like having their own marketing team available to them,” Hornung said. “We have several more promos in the works and invite other restaurants and retailers to contact us if interested.”
Hornung said the Vista is Open campaign is a good example of how local spending can make a big difference in a community.
“Vista is Open was a strategic decision by the City to encourage people to support their local businesses and to help these businesses promote themselves so they can get traffic to their storefront,” he said. “It’s an effective strategy and approach and helps the local economy. It’s a good investment and I think it will help Vista stay afloat in the long term and enable businesses to thrive.”
The Vista City Council will also be implementing several new programs for Vista is Open to further support local businesses and encourage local spending. They include:
- Customized “selfie” photo opportunities displayed throughout Vista to encourage visits to targeted business areas (encourages consumers to take selfies and post on social media).
- Digital treasure hunt in which consumers can win prizes while exploring commerce areas in Vista.
- Vista is Open Bucks: Local dollars in the form of a Vista branded digital gift card valid only within the City zip codes.
Perhaps one of the hardest hit sectors by the pandemic has been small retailers, who were, among many others, forced to close for a period of time. One Vista retail shop that recently reopened after being shut down for two months is Twice on Main. Although the eclectic resale shop is open again, the owner, Natalie Trevino, keeps limited hours to cut down on costs. She has also switched out her once vintage bridal section for vintage home goods.
“When I reopened, we had a positive response from my regular customers and the community,” said Trevino, who had to lay off employees during the shutdown. “People were excited to come back out and support small business. I’m hoping this new vintage section will bring in new interest and customers and help pull me through this (pandemic).”
Trevino, who finds her unique items through estate sales and thrifting, has turned more toward social media to promote her vintage goods and other shop items. She has also received promotional help from the City through Vista is Open and other programs.
“The City is doing anything it can to help local businesses,” she said. “The zoom workshops for small businesses have been helpful, as well as the Vista is Open campaign. I think the concept is phenomenal. I saw a listing on the Vista is Open website for a smogging place and I needed to get smogged so I thought, why not support another local business? It’s like getting a referral from the City.”
In an effort to help keep local small businesses such as Trevino’s afloat, Vista-based 760 Print is offering big discounts on coupons as part of the Vista is Open website. While Chris Clark, President of 760 Print, had to furlough three of the company’s employees, he is surviving via savings, plus a PPP loan from the Small Business Administration.
“We feel fortunate and are doing OK,” he said, adding that 760 Print’s main customers include medical device manufacturers and breweries. “My goal for the coupon promotion is to help other businesses stay open. There is a huge unknown out there for small business owners. This is a great opportunity to not only help local businesses stay open, but to also help consumers discover businesses in Vista they may have not known about.”
“The City is taking an effective initiative to help local business and it makes me even more proud to be in Vista,” he added.
Meanwhile, City leaders understand that small businesses have been deeply affected by the pandemic, and are looking for creative ways to help them get customers back in the door.
“The Vista is Open program gives local merchants an exclusive online platform to market their services and products to customers, free of charge, whether it’s a restaurant, print shop, retail shop or other small business,” said Vista Mayor Judy Ritter. “It also allows residents who have been financially impacted by the shutdown to benefit through special pricing and deals.”
“Our local small businesses are the backbone of our community and we want to help them survive and thrive,” she added.
For More Information:
Kevin Ham, Economic Development Director, City of Vista