A new merchant’s association has been formed by members of the downtown business community. Named the Historic Downtown Glendale Merchants Association, its founders said it is “a partnership of the business community to stimulate, enhance and sustain the economic vitality and customer experience of the Historic Downtown Glendale shopping and dining district.”
Heading up the association as its president is Lorraine Zomok, owner of Memory Lane Trinkets and Treasures. Zomok, former director of the Glendale Visitor Center and the Convention and Visitors Bureau, is a resident of the downtown area; she and her husband, Bud, live in a home in Catlin Court.
Other members of the inaugural executive board are Denise Quintana, first vice president, owner of Delfina Salon & Day Spa and Coyote Oatie; Danica Coral, second vice president, owner of Pink House Boutique; Valerie Burner, secretary, owner of Bears and More; and Cheryl Kappes, treasurer, owner of The Country Maiden, home of Gracie’s Marketplace.
“We are excited to work hand in hand with our downtown merchants to foster a strong, growing and vibrant business community,” Zomok said.
She noted “a wide array of benefits for Downtown Partner member businesses,” which includes website listing, social media promotion, cooperative advertising opportunities, business development and educational workshops and monthly member meetings. Additional membership categories include Associate Partner and Friends of Downtown. Membership fees range from $50 to $225 annually. Zomok said membership fees will be used to “brand and market the downtown, assist with area-wide shopping and dining promotions and fund new initiatives that foster visitor growth.”
Zomok said nearly two dozen businesses joined during the inaugural membership drive including The Hop Stop Diner, Tangled Root Botanicals, The Clock Makers, Yvonne Knaack, State Farm Agent and Papa Ed’s Ice Cream.
“I am very excited to join the Historic Downtown Glendale Merchants Association. It will be wonderful to be a part of a focused group of businesses, partners who share the same passion for our community and are coming together with knowledge, experience and professionalism to preserve Historic Downtown Glendale,” said Linda Moran-Whittley, owner of Papa Ed’s Ice Cream.
So, how does this affect the downtown development group that has been meeting since last year, when the Glendale Chamber of Commerce won the contract to create the outreach program and work with downtown merchants to enhance their businesses?
Robert Heidt, president and CEO of the Glendale Chamber, and the individual who hired Katy Engels as the director of downtown development, said the new merchants’ association does not affect the chamber.
“Our partnership with the city is stronger or as strong as it was a year ago,” Heidt said.
He said the downtown development program has pretty much achieved what it set out to do: build a database, get out there and ask business owners for input. Heidt said the chamber already works with multiple groups.
“We will continue to move forward with the city’s vision of downtown and the city will continue to work with Katy.” Heidt said.
Merchants who work with Engels and the downtown development group are not charged a fee, Heidt said, and all who engage in the endeavor are represented equally.
Engels has two advisory groups, Heidt said, and two subcommittees for events. One subcommittee focuses on small events, while the other one’s focus is on major events. Heidt said Engels also has a beautification committee that concentrates on the business fronts and street cleanliness.
“The one that was more recently formed was our strategic leadership advisory group, working as a cohesive group to move downtown forward,” Heidt said. “Our movement forward isn’t contingent upon whether they are or are not joining Lorraine Zomok’s group.”
Heidt had critical remarks about how the new association began.
“It seems this was created in the darkness of night, didn’t invite certain people. If you’re going to be inclusive, work out in the open,” Heidt said. “We welcome everyone to the table. I think the creation and launch of that group is really telling. Why darkness of night? Why invite certain people?
“At the end of the day, a business owner has to do what’s best for their business. If a business owner feels Lorraine’s group is best, make the decision for themselves.”
Engels wrote in a response to questions about the chamber’s commitment to downtown, saying, “The answer is absolutely, yes! We are just as committed as is the city of Glendale in our strategic partnership for downtown.”
City Manager Kevin Phelps does not see the new association having an effect on the downtown development group.
“We don’t see this changing our strategy of our programs, the downtown merchants manager,” Phelps said. “Katy is our conduit for all the city groups to work with the Economic Development Department. Katy has been the person to work with us. Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of infighting between downtown groups. Having Katy there allows us not to take sides.”
Phelps mentioned there were risks of breaking away from a larger group.
“I think the retail market is terribly competitive,” he said. “Grow the market, not break it down into small pieces. Downtown, even working together, faces huge competition from Arrowhead and Westgate.”
When the city put its downtown merchant program together, Phelps said it was likely merchants could not afford to pay a fee, which could be a challenge. So it was decided the program would be for everybody, and participants would not be required to join a membership organization.
Phelps said, “It’s just not going to change our strategy to be inclusive for everybody, build together.
“There’s power in people working together. Encourage merchants to work together in a collective bid, not break down into smaller groups.”