Julie Maxey-Allison | 10th Street
Zach Groban, owner of Rusty Del Mar Surf Shop, is also Chair of Del Mar’s Business Support Advisory Committee. He was interviewed about the impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic on local businesses.
Sandpiper (SP): Given the unprecedented circumstance of the COVID-19 virus, how is the Business Support Advisory Committee working within our new reality?
ZG: This has been a hard transition for everyone. It was like someone turned the light switch off on business and a great economy. The committee has tried to become the middle person along with the Del Mar Village Association to try and solve issues and implement new ideas. We faced issues such as tackling current code requirements to allow bigger signs and curbside pickup. We all have worked hard on plans for when things start to reopen. But we were already fighting an uphill battle, before the coronavirus, trying to make the commercial zone vital. We have codes and ordinances that need to be adjusted but are meeting resistance. We need redevelopment to attract new and interesting businesses. Hopefully the downtown can become a priority in the eyes of the residents and city to help invigorate our commercial zone.
SP: Rusty’s Del Mar is open for “Take Out.” How are you doing?
ZG: We have been lucky. We invested in creating an email list, a website, and a good social media presence. These tools have generated cash flow to pay for some overhead while we have been officially closed. Residents have been very supportive of us during this time adjusting to a new way to do business. We have been in town for over 30 years and people who couldn’t visit Del Mar this year bought our tee shirts online.
SP: How are restaurants and other businesses managing?
ZG: With mixed results. Most have applied for the Paycheck Protection Program or disaster loans. Some restaurants are better set up for takeout and curbside than others. Some have found it not worth the expense of being open. We have already lost Prep Kitchen; the Bully’s site project has stopped, and there is no restart date; and a few “for lease” signs are up.
SP: What do you anticipate for re-openings of shut down businesses?
ZG: We are hopeful and excited. The beach is now open. Some retail businesses can open soon. Most are scrambling to anticipate what the social distancing guidelines, cleaning, signage, and staff requirements are going to be. Customer safety and employee safety are concerning so we’re asking everyone to wear a mask when you come to our stores.
SP: Given that San Diego County Fair and the Del Mar Turf Club races are canceled for summer 2020 what is the expectation for 2020 tourism in Del Mar?
ZG: Optimistic--but it could be bleak. Businesses are barely hanging on, trying to adapt. The commercial zone makes up over 50% of the city’s general fund and we are expecting a $130M loss in sales. The reality is we need customers in town and need them to spend money.
SP: What is the Committee planning to attract visitors to Del Mar in the near and far future?
ZG: That is a tough question. Nobody has any idea what social gatherings are going to look like for the near future. We are working with the DMVA and the city to allow businesses to use the sidewalks more, maybe some pop-up vendors, and promoting a safe Del Mar with precautions in place to keep people safe and healthy.