Thursday, December 17, 1998
For the past half year, Joseph "Sausage Man" Bianco has been trying, without success, to secure a booth for his sausage sandwich business in the Tuesday afternoon street market in downtown Monterey.
Barred from Alvarado Street for reasons that appear inexplicable, Bianco has taken another route: If he can''t sell in one farmers market, he''ll help create a new one.
On Friday, Jan. 8, and every Friday thereafter--weather permitting--Bianco will join a handful of other food vendors at Schulze Park, on Lighthouse Avenue between Dickman and Drake avenues in New Monterey, a featured player in the New Monterey Business Association''s (NMBA''s) "MarketFest."
NMBA President Kathi DeMaria, a lifelong New Monterey resident and owner for 21 years of the El Nido bar on Lighthouse Avenue, says she''d been looking for a way to raise funds for the district. When she read about Bianco in several CW articles, she thought it would be a great idea to start a weekly farmers market, and pull him in. "Joseph, of course, is a very attractive draw," she says. "We''re going to capitalize on that."
For his part, Bianco is thrilled. "Excitement, with a touch of nervousness," is what he says he''s feeling right now. "It''s a mission that may fulfill a dream or two."
The market will be held Friday afternoons from 4 to 7pm on the sidewalk in front of the park, DeMaria says. "We''ll begin small, with five vendors, and hopefully grow," she says. As of last week, she had firm commitments from Bianco and a produce seller, and is trying to firm things up with a seller of fresh fish, a bakery, and a florist. No arts or crafts, at least at the beginning, because of space limitations, she says.
"I foresee people living in New Monterey or Pacific Grove, coming home from work Friday, they can zip in, pick up fruit and vegetables for the weekend, maybe a sausage sandwich, some fresh pastries, and be out of there in 15 minutes," she says. "Everyone is in a hurry on Friday afternoon. This will be something they can do quickly and easily." Vendors will pay an annual fee to belong to the new MarketFest Association, along with weekly fees to sell their goods, and the funds will go into NMBA coffers, mostly for advertising, she says.
While she''s not positing her market as a rival to Alvarado Street''s behemoth, it will serve the same function of raising money for the business district and bringing shoppers into the downtown area. In contrast to the Alvarado Street market, which gives booth priority to merchants maintaining storefronts within the business district--a major stumbling block for Bianco, who has no store--you don''t have to be a resident or local storeowner to maintain a booth at New Monterey''s MarketFest.
DeMaria says she doesn''t know why the Monterey Business Association is so dead set against allowing Bianco even to work at someone else''s booth in the Alvarado Street market. "But I''m pretty sure I''m going to find out why," she says, referring to the phone calls she expects to receive after this article is printed.
MarketFest is just the latest effort of the NMBA, and its Business Improvement District, set up two years ago when DeMaria began her present five-year term as president. It''s all part of her design to make Lighthouse Avenue "a destination, rather than a freeway."
This past year, the NMBA has managed to get streets widened, trees planted, a decorative wall built at the exit of the Lighthouse Avenue tunnel, and other beautification projects completed. In July 1, a parking program was instituted for employees working on and near Lighthouse Avenue. Instead of paying $30 a month for all-day parking privileges, which is what employees in downtown Monterey pay, New Monterey''s fee is $30 for three months, or $12 a month. The program was extended for another year at this week''s City Council meeting.
"We don''t have indoor garages or parking lots, like they do downtown," she says, explaining how she was able to convince the City Council to approve the lower price in her district. "Many of our workers are making minimum wage, and if they had to pay $30, they''d park up the hill in residential neighborhoods."
In October, the NMBA sponsored its first annual street procession celebrating local marine life. DeMaria says the district plans to hold four parades a year of that magnitude. In order to fund Business Improvement District projects, all business owners within the district are assessed 25 percent of the cost of their business license.
Plans for next year are already underway. DeMaria is working with the city traffic department to make changes in the traffic patterns on Lighthouse Avenue, making it easier for shoppers and harder for those just passing through. "That''s what Foam Avenue is for," she says. Earlier this month, the city approved funding to widen David Avenue at the end of Foam next to Nob Hill, making it easier to turn left or right off Foam.
Vacancies are just about nil in the New Monterey Business District, she says proudly. "The only empty building is the Monterey Baking Company [on Lighthouse at Hoffman]," she notes. A few storefronts are still available in the two new commercial buildings, one a three-story building on the 400-block of Lighthouse, the other next door to French''s Glass. Beautification projects will continue, more trees will be planted, and by next summer, DeMaria predicts, Lighthouse Avenue will be all spruced up. "We want it to be a destination area for people to park easily, shop and walk around," she says.
DeMaria is the first president in NMBA''s 25-year history to take on a five-year assignment, which is the minimum one needs, she believes, to get anything done. She may be right--things have rarely moved as quickly on Lighthouse Avenue. And like her predecessors, she does it on a volunteer basis. DeMaria is pleased; "I think I''m on the right track."