San Carlos works to retain small shops downtown

SAN CARLOS, Calif. (KGO) -- The holiday shopping frenzy is about to begin and one Bay Area city is trying to retain the small shops downtown as an alternative to malls.

San Carlos wants to make it a little harder for chains to set up shop downtown.

Downtown San Carlos is home to about 100 restaurants and small shops but the city is concerned that Laurel Street, as well as San Carlos Avenue, are under threat of losing their small town charm.

Laurel Street in San Carlos looks like Main Street, USA. Most of the shops and restaurants are independently owned and some businesses have been here for 10, 20, even 30 years.

"So you become friends over the years. You know people by a first-name basis. It's totally different than walking into a corporate company. If that goes away, the charm goes away," Cigars and More owner Rony Davit said.

With that in mind, the San Carlos City Council will consider an urgent ordinance Monday night that would require national chains who want to open here to go through a 45-day review.

"So it would give us time to research some of the conditions that we might apply to some of these formula-based businesses and things like that, so it gives us a little time," San Carlos Economic Development Director Albert Savay said.

Some residents are concerned because several businesses have been given notices to vacate after the holidays for a major renovation.

Mindy Carr said she has seen chain stores change other streets. "I think Burlingame Avenue is a good example of that. All the little privately owned businesses are all gone. It's all big retailers. The prices have gone up," she said.

However, the owner of Plaza Florist would welcome the foot traffic that chain stores would generate. "So they don't go all the time to the mall, to the chain store, chain store. They can come to the city, explore the city. I think it's a good idea," Jill Naghdchi said.

Wayne Macktinger is a leasing specialist for shopping malls. Retailers crunch the numbers before choosing where to open.

"Can we do enough volume to be profitable? And I suggest they can here," he said.
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