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Whatever happened to Turlocks bridal district?
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I remember it well. It was January 2008, and while there was a chill in the winter air outside, the atmosphere at Two Guy's Catering was electric.
Roger Brooks of Destination Development had just finished outlining his plan to turn an under-used downtown Turlock business district into the bridal shopping destination of the region.
"Turlock can become the place to go for all your wedding needs," Brooks told the crowd of downtown property owners, business owners and media representatives.
Brooks had to sell the idea to most of the assembled crowd that day, as the majority of businesses in downtown Turlock were not wedding related.
First, he brought out the numbers:
• More than 220,000 weddings are held every year in California;
• An average of $18,000 is spent statewide for a wedding; and
• In this region, the average wedding expenditures is about $25,000.
Next, he painted a picture of the thousands of shopping-crazed brides-to-be and their families that would be strolling down Main Street in no time at all, eager to stop in for a bite to eat and a salon visit, while spending that average $25,000 in downtown Turlock retail shops.
The promise of recession-exempt spending that comes with weddings was a siren call to many at that Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association meeting. Many, but not all.
Brooks' call to tear down the Main Street Jack in the Box and replace Pacific Tire and Wheels with a boutique hotel was not a welcomed suggestion.
"They got a lot more thinking to do before they can go any farther with this," said Pacific Tire and Wheels owner Randy Humphries. "We've been in this store for 18 years and I don't see us going anywhere soon. It's stupid to take one of the successful businesses out of the area that regularly draws in customers for the whole downtown."
As it turns out, Pacific Tire and Wheels is still a Main Street fixture while the downtown bridal plan has turned to dust in the wind.
I know that there was a dedicated group of supporters of the bridal plan and they worked hard to lure bridal-related businesses to the downtown area. The downtown business incubator was originally created to encourage those bridal businesses to make the leap to downtown, however, it also housed many other non-bridal business ventures.
The goal of the incubator was that the businesses would not only attract brides to the area, but also hopefully within time, the businesses would have enough of a customer base that they could expand into their own stores.
Today, the site of the incubator is preparing to house an antique store - which will add to the plethora antiquing options available in downtown Turlock already.
I remember when the idea of downtown being the antique shopping destination of the region was floated about. But it was never supported, even though the downtown area has quite a few long-standing antique stores that already have a loyal customer base.
Don't ask me, I'm not a highly paid business consultant.
Not only has the bridal plan been completely abandoned in just four years - in fact the new head of Turlock's Downtown Property Owners Association, Dana McGarry, declined to comment on the status of the bridal plan when asked in January - but it seems somewhat opposite of wedding-themed businesses have moved in.
Just 11 years ago, Main Street Turlock was home to only one tattoo shop, the eponymous Main Street Tattoo. Today, Main Street alone plays home to four shops, with two more within minutes of downtown's central avenue.
In the past three years, three more bars/nighttime eateries have opened for business - and just in the past few months a hookah lounge is now serving Turlock's tobacco loving residents where Mistletoe and Roses used to pour tea to frilly-hatted ladies.
That's quite a turnaround - from bridal destination to adult playground, and in just four short years.
Is the bridal plan dead? I say, yes. It's quite clear that Turlockers would rather party down Main Street than buy wedding dresses. Does that mean downtown should become the party destination of the region? No.
I think downtown Turlock should aim to be a mix of retail stores and eateries. Beauty salons, tattoo parlors and insurance companies should all be welcome on Main Street; after all, downtown used to be the one-stop shopping destination for all your needs, not just one.