Merchants group aims to ‘Put the Village back in La Jolla’

By Kathy Day

Put the Village back in La Jolla.

That’s line coined by the La Jolla Village Merchants Association’s new executive director, Rosemary Murrieta, who was introduced at Wednesday’s board meeting.

The message cropped up throughout the meeting as committee members talked about plans to improve the appearance and business climate in La Jolla’s central business area.

President Phil Coller said for “tourists and local residents, this place has gone downhill.” He emphasized the need to bring back the “razzle dazzle, noting the key is “to decide what to do and how to do it.”

Some of the ideas presented during the meeting included:

• putting a new twist on the annual Gallery Wine Walk & Taste, tentatively set for Oct. 20;

• a Green Team, to get the word out to customers and other businesses about who is using sustainable business practices and to advance recycling among members;

• a branding campaign that “paints a picture of La Jolla of the future” through a concerted campaign — including redesigned website — that will be handled by Departures, a Gaslamp Quarter advertising firm; and

• beautification efforts, including making sure streetlights work, sidewalks are clean and there’s a more unified appearance to the streetscape.

Emily Rex, from the ad agency, talked a bit about their efforts aimed at polishing the “established” and “iconic” image of La Jolla, which “is a bit tarnished and no longer top of mind.”

While her firm works on improving perceptions, Coller noted it would be up to the merchants group “to live up to this.”

With Murrieta on board, members believe that may be easier since she will be a fulltime employee focused on helping the association achieve its goals.

After the meeting and a “celebratory” press conference marking the rebirth of the business improvement district, Murrieta said her background in fundraising and nonprofits will enable her to help the group bring the Village back.

“Fundraising will be an important part of the job,” she said. “Once we have more specific plans, we will get large sponsors for events, and we have revenue opportunities for the website.”

She also said she hopes to launch a capital campaign to raise money for fixing sidewalks and for public art.

During her first couple of weeks on the job, she’s been attending events and meetings with groups like the La Jolla Art Association and the La Jolla Music Society’s opening night concert.

“I’m excited about the community spirit,” she said, noting that the “organizations are coming together for a noble purpose.”

A sense of the spirit was evident in the gathering at the end of the meeting, where Coller was joined by Murrieta, Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, Town Council President and former Promote La Jolla President Rick Wildman, and Patrick Edwards, president of the Business Improvement District Council.

The group works with the 17 business districts in the city that collect fees from merchant members within their defined boundaries to support marketing and other efforts aimed at increasing business.