Welcome to getting to know a formidable organization in our backyard called Coronado MainStreet. I must confess, as a long time vacationer and now resident of Coronado, I had no idea that MainStreet existed. I am happy to not only get to know MainStreet, but also to bring attention to a worthy cause for the neighbors of our Island home.
Coronado MainStreet Ltd. was started by the City of Coronado in 1988 when the downtown area had a vacancy rate of 35% and the structures were deteriorating. The City decided to meet this head on by adopting a national “four point approach” that is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, promotion, economic vitality, organization, and design. The goal was to revitalize and improve the commercial area we now appreciate as we eat, shop and walk down the main street of Orange Avenue and beyond. But this didn’t happen overnight or without the dedication of volunteer board members and tireless efforts for funding.
Katherine Farley took over as President of MainStreet in 2019 after being a board member for six years. The entire board is made up of volunteers who never give up striving to make downtown a constant beautification project.
“We are proud to have a voice in what the downtown area looks like,” said Farley. “We work closely with the city to discuss what improvements are important to having our businesses thrive and our structures remain present.”
A glowing example of MainStreets work took place in 1988. “The Spreckels building was falling apart and every third space downtown was vacant”, said Farley. “We were working with the City looking for programs to revitalize the downtown area. We surveyed our neighbors, asked what they wanted, and ‘beautification’ was the number one choice. The MainStreet philosophy and its four-point approach was adopted and we never looked back.”
When you go to the MainStreet website, it is abundantly clear that the list of events and volunteers is long and strong. An example of that dedication comes from its newest member, Executive Director, Liz Riebe.
“Connections have been lost during COVID and we want to rebuild and be ready when the world opens back up. This was the perfect time to take on a new job and lay the groundwork, support the community, and be ready”, said Riebe. She is taking her position seriously and has hit the ground sprinting!
“I have been out in the community since the day I took on my roll as Executive Director, introducing myself, building relationships, and letting people know we are here and we need their support. I want to find out from the businesses that make our city, ‘What can we do to help?’”
One of the programs Riebe is re-introducing is Coronado Currency. This was a program that was used with Coronado merchants previously where paper gift certificates were offered for discounts at merchant shops.
“This was a great program,” said Riebe. “It just needed to be revitalized and given a refresh. My idea is to create a program where shoppers can have an actual card they can get and then reload to use at our local shops with the merchants. There will be no cost to the merchants in the program and we will promote and make it well known to locals as a payment plan they can use in all of our shops who accept it.”
Riebe expresses that this will be like a gift card program that you can use again and again. “I want this to be something that kids and adults can enjoy as they shop in our stores,” said Riebe. “This can be a gift card that you can reload over and over and encourage people to visit our merchants. Hopefully this will feed into other things like fundraising efforts at the schools and progress.”
This is just one of the ideas that Riebe and the MainStreet board are working on as we try and come back to a normal life experience in our town. Farley reiterates, “This is a local and tourist supported town and we need to use our voices to make sure our needs are met. Our goals are always to avoid vacant spaces and constantly work with the City and the design board in order to maintain the character of our town.”
When you look at the MainStreet website, you quickly realize that the events they schedule throughout the year are community attended events with large gatherings of people. Unfortunately, because of COVID a lot of these events might be cancelled or reformatted to meet the new normal. Motorcars on MainStreet, is one of those events.
“We still plan on having this popular event on April 25”, said Riebe. “It’s going to be more of a homegrown event where the vintage cars are parked in the owners driveways and we will issue a map of the locations for everyone to visit. There will be a sign in the yards where the cars are displayed and you will be able to drive or ride your bike by so no major gatherings take place and we can keep moving per the COVID guidelines. We are working with local merchants as well to provide a discount if you mention ‘Cars on Main Street.’ We have to work together with what’s going on in the here and now.”
Other events on the calendar are still being discussed. MainStreet’s biggest fundraiser is the Annual Garden Party in September. There are still hopes that event will take place.
Coronado MainStreet works with several non-profit organizations and participates in grants to help fund their projects, as well as being a participant in the MainStreet America Program. They will always need the support of the local community and welcome volunteers and assistance from anyone who would like to help.
“This organization is powered by the people to help keep Coronado going,” said Farley.
When speaking with Riebe she is quick to remind people that she is just a cog in the wheel of volunteers that make MainStreet successful. “Everyone is a volunteer and there are so many that make this work. Mariah Rowden is a perfect example of that,” said Riebe. “I am part time and she is the other half that makes this work.”
Riebe took over her position when Rita Sarich retired after 20 years of service to this community. Needless to say, Riebe has large shoes to fill after Rita’s retirement.
“Rita has been a wealth of knowledge, and very humble in regards to her success with maintaining the integrity and authenticity of our business district,” said Riebe. “I am looking forward to being an integral part of carrying on such an important and vital role within our community.”
“Rita was dedicated to Coronado Main Street and its mission and to the entire Coronado community. “We thank her for her many years of service,” said Mark Andrews, one of the MainStreet board members.
Farley agrees with that sentiment. “Rita gave 20 years to this organization and was a timeless supporter of the community. She was always at meetings, convinced the board about the importance of MainStreet to our community, made endless phone calls, and tireless communication with the city to let us be heard. She will be missed.”
Coronado Main Street is part of our landscape. Everything they do and plan to make Coronado better is funded through their annual events, grants and the generosity of others. Citizens of Coronado are always invited to attend annual events and to support the cause. Thank you to the board, all volunteers, and to those like Sarich in the past and Riebe in the future.
Go to coronadomainstreet.com or call 619-437-0254 to become part of an organization that is a benefit to our entire community.