Written by: Executive Director Dominic Tartaglia
Innovation is what sets great businesses apart from good businesses. At the San Luis Obispo Downtown Association we are privileged to represent some of the greatest businesses in America and as I work with our current Board of Directors, I am constantly made aware that they will be the people that kick off the next evolution of the Downtown Association. They are 14 members of the community who are the most dedicated and innovative business owners in each of their respective industries and when they walk into board meetings their energy is palpable. At times, the energy is so high that the ideas and questions start flying into the realm that many would call “blue sky.” In those moments it’s apparent why these folks are trendsetters, they are brilliant and not afraid to ask important questions.
Over the last couple of months we have been examining the various events we host with the objective of ensuring that we are putting on the best events possible and our guests are pleased with the end product. In short, we are making sure customer service stays a priority for us. Making sure our membership is happy with our events and that the public is excited to participate in our long-standing events is one way we continue to foster an economically vibrant downtown. We also have been looking at everything from using standing desks to the way that we patrol the streets of our district on a daily basis. When it comes to finding new approaches to take our Downtown to the next level, we are not leaving any stones unturned and as a part of those efforts we will be looking to the public to be a part of this process.
Over the course of this summer we will be asking members of our district as well as visitors to help us take a look at the Thursday Night Promotions that we host every week on Higuera Street. What has become known by so many people as “Farmers’” is an event that we have proudly produced and managed for over 30 years now and continues it to grow in size and popularity. We have noticed many people love the market, however there are some people that are interested in seeing more—more diverse food offerings, more diverse entertainment, more diverse produce, more people watching and more room to move about. As our internal dialogue played out amongst our energetic and brilliant Board of Directors, the consensus became that we should quantify the requests we have heard and establish a process to indicate where we can improve and continue to be the industry leader in producing Farmers’ Markets for the public.
In our plans we will be reaching out to our member businesses and vendors to hear their thoughts on our strengths at the Market or if they have any concerns we can address. The process will likely begin with a brief survey and progress into follow up discussions so we can have a complete understanding of our membership and their requests. After the first phase of research, we will reach out to the public and start picking the brains of our loyal attendees as well as the folks who discover our Market while here on vacation. The second phase will consist of a mix of survey approaches including an online survey, social media and a giant suggestion box at the Market where visitors can drop us a note.
The process is meant to be a fun way for members of the community to be engaged in their local market and to offer beneficial feedback for our Downtown. We hope to take those comments and deduce what the tastes and preferences have evolved into over the last thirty years. Questions like, “What brings you back to the market each week?” and “Why do you buy your fresh veggies here instead of at the market?” are just the tip of the iceberg for us as we go forward. As we drill deeper we want to know how we can make the event easier for families to bring their young kids with them and what people do before and after the Market. For us, understanding how people spend their time Downtown on Thursday nights and how they commute here is a big concern. If people are spending their Thursday nights Downtown people watching and enjoying dinner, that is a good sign that our Market is vibrant and that we are doing our jobs in providing a public benefit.
As we move forward please keep an eye out for a chance to be a part of the discussion to take Thursday Night Promotions into the next stage. Further exploration of our Market will undoubtedly include some sort of game and fun marketing to keep our plans fresh in the minds of anybody with a great idea. The whole premise of this analysis is to make sure our Market continues to be the crown jewel of the city for another 30 years and that just won’t happen if we can’t have some fun with it. I’m sure if you polled our board members they would tell you that their businesses excel because they enjoy what they are doing. If their happiness is any indicator of how true that concept is, I’ll take a page out of their book.
See you at the market!