Survey says … La Jolla merchants review survey results of desired businesses for the Village

Tired of the shuttered storefronts and empty retail spaces in town, La Jolla Village Merchant’s Association (LJVMA) member Elsie Arredondo set out to answer the question: What would you like to see in the Village of La Jolla?

With the objective of developing a marketing package to share with business brands that might flourish in the Village, Arredondo sent out a three-question survey to 2,482 La Jolla and San Diego residents and visitors in February. Waiting until there were enough responses to give the board some guidance, she reported her findings during the Dec. 9 LJVMA meeting. Arredondo did much of the work as a one-person committee, but when new members Brett Murphy and Ike Fazzio joined LJVMA in November, they also joined her efforts.

“The board came up with a new campaign to identify businesses that could thrive in the Village and figure out how to bring them here,” she explained. “One of our first steps was to identify what kinds of businesses we need. This survey narrowed our focus quite a bit and gave us a direction.”

The survey asked respondents: What is your top reason for visiting the Village of La Jolla? List three types of businesses you’d like to see here. List three established businesses you would like to see here. Arredondo noted that though there were 101 surveys returned, not all of them answered all three questions.

Eighty-nine respondents answered the first question, and 37 percent said their No. 1 reason for coming to La Jolla was the restaurants. Percentages were specific to the decimal, and just over 25 percent (25.84 to be exact) said their top reason was shopping, and just over 21 percent said because they had business or were volunteering in the Village. Other responses, at less than 10 percent each, were visiting the Cove, going to a sports club or for museums/art.

The second question, Arredondo explained, was more open-ended and had 96 responses. “The results were more narrative in nature, but we read through all 101 surveys and categorized the answers,” she said. Listing three types of businesses they’d like to see in the Village, respondents again said restaurants, followed by retail shops, and then music/dancing, department stores, grocery stores, specialty bars, bakeries/small bites, furniture and boutiques.

Regarding specific businesses, 95 respondents ranked grocery stores at No. 1, followed by Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, clothing, shoes/bags, technology, bakery, furniture, music/theater and food truck businesses.

In the narrative answers, Arredondo said, there was a demand for both cost-effective and upscale options in dining, shopping and furniture, and organic markets.

To further quantify the results, Arredondo said the committee is next looking for a high-traffic establishment, such as La Jolla Sports Club, where they could take a refined survey to identify specific brands to recruit. For example, they might present a list of grocery stores and ask patrons which one they’d prefer, such as Whole Foods, Trader Joes or Sprouts.

“The thought is to have results we could include in a proposal … where we can say to a company ‘this is the customer base you’re not tapping into’ and tell them ‘this is business you could be getting, come get it here,’ ” Murphy said. “Once we gather that data, we want to develop the best proposal possible to make this a no-brainer for these desired businesses.”

The committee’s other short-term goals include establishing an identity for La Jolla, and branding through social media. “This is important for La Jolla,” Fazzio said. “A lot of San Diego neighborhoods have their own identity: Little Italy is a food culture, the Gaslamp District is a club culture, Coronado has family beaches ... La Jolla lacks a little bit of an identity.”

Arredondo added, “We also want to launch a social media campaign to really promote La Jolla, via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. A tentative goal is to post six days a week. We’d like to share what’s going on with local businesses and the Village as a whole.” She is working on criteria for what the board would post, and said the idea will be for businesses to come to the committee and ask it to post their events or promotions on social media.

In other LJVMA news

• Committee on Village valet: Michael Dorvillier, who sits on the committee formed to examine valet parking in the Village, reported that the group has had productive discussions, but is yet to take any actions.

“We discussed combining existing valet areas — the public valet zone at Eddie V’s and George’s at the Cove are only separated by three or four (two-hour) spaces — so those two are virtually side-by-side as it is,” he said, adding they looked at approved valet parking spaces that are no longer in use, such as those fronting Roppongi Sushi, which closed in October.

“We also discussed a free option limited to 30 or 45 minutes, so someone could run into a local merchant, conduct their business and run out, but anything over 30-45 minutes and they would have to pay,” he said.

Further, the board wants to ensure signage is clear to indicate when a valet service is open to the public, and divide valet zones so there is one on each side of Prospect Street. There are currently two valet service areas on the same side of the street.

“There are a lot of challenges, but at the end of the day, we want to make it easier and with less congestion for those coming in and out of the Village,” he said. “That’s where we left it.”

• Block party report: Tresha Souza, one of the organizers of the So Fine on Kline block party Nov. 8, which included an inaugural chili cook-off, said the event was a success. Cook-off proceeds, totaling $800, went to LJVMA and were earmarked for the annual Fourth of July Fireworks at the Cove. Souza said there were 11 entrants in the cook-off with Jose’s Mexican Restaurant winning first place. “For a first year, I thought that was pretty good,” she said, adding she will return to the board next month for an approval for the 2016 event.

La Jolla Village Merchant’s Association next meets 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016 at Cuvier Club, 7776 Eads Ave.

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