Downtown Visalia Holiday Open House

VISALIA, California

Several new businesses are setting up shop along Main Street between Willis and Bridge Streets.

Starting Thursday -- all 52 businesses downtown will be open until 8-pm. It's a way for the stores and restaurants to lure holiday shoppers to the area. And visitors may notice they have a lot of new shopping options.

After 23 years, Pauline Collection will be closing up shop next week.

Pauline Collection owner, Liz McClelland said, "The economy hasn't helped anything that's been so bad. It has picked up in the store February March April and May were better than last year and so I thought oh wonderful but then it went down again."

Pauline Collection will be the latest in a series of merchant shut downs on Visalia's Main Street. But as stores and restaurants leave -- new ones are opening up in their place. A new bar and grill is set to open in this vacant space. Further down Main St, the new Mexican restaurant "Boleros" is slowly gaining customers.

Magdalena Navarro said, "We're doing ok we're surviving. Just the economy has hit everybody and its good days and bad days."

Boleros is one of roughly ten new businesses that have recently opened its doors to downtown customers. As a way to encourage foot traffic, the Downtown Visalia Alliance has spruced up main street kiosks with new visitors maps. Workers have also installed a new sound system.

McClelland adds, "I know the speakers I enjoy it as I'm walking down the street I enjoy it a lot."

Spearheading the campaign to boost the downtown economy is local realtor and business owner Sam Sciacca. "Downtown Visalia has a holiday open house and I want to bring as many people downtown as we possibly can."

Sciacca convinced all 52 downtown merchants to stay open until 8-pm on Thursday nights in December and he's using a vacant office building to offer gift-wrapping and free pictures with Santa.

Sciacca said, "We bring the numbers to town they're going to buy and shop this is something that's going to lure them into town, something that should have been done a long time ago that's been a tradition that's been lost."

The special Thursday night campaign is called "Downtown Visalia Holiday Open House."

It begins Thursday, and visitors can take free carriage rides and some stores will even be offering free refreshments, too.

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