Saratoga downtown turning into deadtown

January 28, 2010 — by Christine Tseng

Saratoga has always had a particularly dull downtown, with sidewalks empty except for the odd couple or elementary school kid. Most shops are lucky to have a customer grace their establishment, even if they only stop by to have a look. The local Starbucks has revived the ailing spirit of the town, yet it still continues to repel the young and old alike with its crumbly scene .

The decline in the economy has only hurt the area more. Since leases are so expensive downtown, many business have struggled to stay afloat.

“It’s just slow,” said shopper June Chang. “I feel like it’s not warm to the shoppers. It’s not like Los Gatos, where it feels more active and energizing in the business.”

High-priced dining and expensive boutiques also serve to chase away the average Saratogan. La Fondue, The Plumed Horse, Sentsovi—all three restaurants demand at least $100 a person per meal. And while these fine dining locations add a certain dignity to the downtown, having more affordable restaurants would reel in more customers.

There is no panacea to solve this issue. However, small steps can be taken to warm downtown Saratoga’s frigid atmosphere. One solution is the renovation of the buildings. The buildings are old and the paint of many stores have worn off. Instead of attracting customers with a colorful storefront, customers almost feel repelled by the peeling paint and wooden signs.

This warrants a new paint job at the very least, if not a total renovation of the downtown. The buildings should be modernized to have larger windows and good displays that draw the shoppers in. Furthermore, the signs should be large and clean-looking, not the old wooden signs in place now.

It would also be nice to have more shops to choose from, and places more suited for the younger demographic. The existing businesses could cut their space in half to make room for more stores, and by doing this also cut their rental fee in half. This would not only save them from the hiking rental fees but encourage more shoppers.

Many people, including myself, often feel hesitant when entering a completely desolate store. Instead of being allowed to look at items by themselves, shoppers in this awkward situation are bombarded by questions from the over eager salesperson trying to sell a piece.

Although the town cannot force the shops to make these changes, they could still step in to help. They could provide incentives or maybe buy the stores from the current owners. Afterwards, they could lower prices and renovate the fronts.

Frankly, the downtown is dying and unless major changes are made, the city of Saratoga at large is simply going to grow progressively less appealing.

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