Is Growth In Store For Hayward

Haiming Jin / THE PIONEER

Richard Duboc

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Business in downtown Hayward is picking up, largely due to the city's campaign to get residents to shop at the Farmer's Market. However, many stores have also closed due to the recession.

After years of slogging through a rough economy, Hayward businesses have reasons to be optimistic.

Walk down B Street on a Saturday afternoon and a scene will play out which could be taking place on any other main street in America. Local people are beginning to line the sidewalks again, and a general spirit of community consumerism is returning.

Forget that Costco is just down the road, there are far more interesting places with all the accoutrements of local character where one can spend their money.

Need a lamp for your dorm room? You can find one for less at the Salvation Army thrift store on East A Street.

Don’t forget about The Cobblers shoe repair store, which has been in business in Hayward for 78 years. Both of these stores offer a great opportunity for students and residents looking to save a few bucks and possibly even find a hidden treasure.

It seems that people are beginning to return to Hayward’s downtown, at least during the day.

“We’ve seen an uptick in sales,” said Jim Wieder, who has owned Hayward Ace Hardware since 2006. Wieder credits an influx in industrial clientele and the increased foot traffic caused by the Saturday Farmers’ Market, for boosting his business since last year.

In an age when Home Depot serves as many people’s neighborhood hardware store, it is important to see that customers are also patronizing the traditional main street mainstay.

However, as you walk down B Street and continue on to Foothill Boulevard, you will see empty buildings and others, even if occupied, may still appear to be empty.

Business closures have affected Hayward. Tyre Treads on Mission Boulevard, noted for its unique “Big Mike” statue, was forced into foreclosure last month.

“It’s almost a ghost town,” said Vick Kralj, president of The Bistro, “People are scared to come downtown.” The Bistro, a European-style café and watering hole that features nightly live music, is trying to appeal to a younger demographic, who, Kralj believes, “see so many empty buildings that [shows] it’s not vibrant.”

Wieder, who served as the President of the Hayward Chamber of Commerce before taking over at Ace, believes that the Farmers’ Market is one of just many steps that need to be taken. “There has to be a more aggressive marketing campaign by the City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce,” said Wieder.

Wieder and Kralj do not believe that Hayward is taking full advantage in attracting CSU East Bay students to the downtown area. According to a recent university report, CSUEB generates an annual regional economic impact of $415 million, but does this translate into a dollars-and-cents revenue stream for Hayward businesses?

Some have bemoaned AC Transit for cutting back services to the campus. Others believe Hayward just lacks the ability to attract a more commuter-oriented student population.
The City of Hayward is aware of the divide and the need for continued economic revitalization.

Just down the hill from the CSUEB campus, Mission Boulevard is expected to be given a much-needed facelift by the ongoing Route 238 Corridor Improvement Project. The city is hoping that redeveloped roads will increase consumer attention and bring new business to the abandoned lots that adorn the street. If improvements are made, more students may be apt to make the trek to the downtown area.

The Downtown Hayward Business Improvement Area is committed to promoting downtown street parties and holiday events. In May, they approved a $19,800 budget for the annual Light Up The Season event on Dec. 2. This event will hopefully continue the city’s recommitment to street festivals that tend to cease after the summer due to the colder weather.

During last month’s meeting of the Hayward Redevelopment Area Committee, William Lee of AECOM, an economic consulting company working with the city on the Route 238 Corridor Improvement Project, voiced the need for new restaurants and grocery stores along Mission Boulevard to service CSUEB students, suggesting that Trader Joe’s would be a welcome addition.

There are also plans in the works to completely redevelop the South Hayward BART Station, including building modern apartments and a Starbucks. Former San Francisco 49er and Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana and his Montana Property Group is listed as a developer.

Many residents have noted that Foothill and Mission Boulevard, historically the commercial heart of the city, has fallen into disrepair.

B Street, on the other hand, has seen what many hope to be a mini Renaissance, spurred on by the increased foot traffic brought by the 12-screen Cinemark Theater. Buffalo Bill’s Brew Pub appears to be a hit with residents and students alike, but it is thus far an anomaly.

Current president and CEO of the Hayward Chamber of Commerce Kim Huggett, who formerly served as the director of government and community relations at CSUEB, knows firsthand the challenges that face Hayward businesses.

“The recovery for some small businesses has been slower than hoped,” said Huggett, who believes that the Route 238 project will bring relief. “My hope is that it creates a more efficient traffic flow throughout the downtown area and stimulates the development of new businesses.”

Huggett also knows the revenue-generating potential of CSUEB students on the downtown area, but believes that without direct AC Transit bus routes, “it can be difficult for students who live on campus to get there.”

CSUEB student and dorm resident Beatriz Moreno believes that transportation and the campuses hilltop location are the key issues preventing students from venturing into town, because once they walk down the hill, “nobody wants to walk back up it.”

Hayward business owners will continue to keep the lights on and the shelves stocked. Back at Ace Hardware, Weider remains cautiously optimistic. “I think things will get better. It’s not going to be right away.”