Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ten Years On Texas

Ten Years On Texas
Fairfield Business Owners Group Sees Positive Change
By Cathy Bussewitz/Staff Writer

Catherine Salmon is executive director of the North Texas Street Business Association which formed to clean up the street and reduce crime. (Joel Rosenbaum/The Reporter)

When business owners in Fairfield created the North Texas Street Business Association, their goal was to reduce crime and clean up the street. A decade later, many are pleased with the change.

"Unfortunately, this area has had a bad rep for many years," said Paula Cummings, owner of Sea Splendor Aquarium for the past 18 years and an original member of the association. "I think it was a little neglected. We had a little more crime issues, and overall appearance of the street just got really bad. And I think the biggest change I've seen on the street, is that overall, its appearance has improved 100 percent."

There are 375 businesses on North Texas Street. Catherine Salmon, executive director of the NTSBA, is working to promote one of the block's little-known characteristics: the fact that there are 49 restaurants that specialize in nine different ethnic cuisines.

"That's something really unique about our district," Salmon said. "I don't think people know you can come down here to have Thai food, Japanese food, Italian or Chinese. That's something I really want to highlight."

To that end, the NTSBA created a restaurant guide organized by ethnicity, and on the flip side of the brochure, a map.

And the information is all available on the group's Web site, which includes a business directory where each business is linked to a map and can upload its own photos.

The association also recently implemented a "star shopper" loyalty card, and has given away or sold more than 60 so far.

"What's exciting to me is that people purchased them from Dixon, Suisun and Fairfield," Salmon said. "It's just a great way for people to try out some of the new business on the street that they haven't tried before."

One of the group's accomplishments in the past year was led by a beautification committee, which helped improve the overall appearance of the street. The association made friendly requests to the owners of property that needed maintenance, and asked the city's code compliance for help when needed.

But what has pleased many business owners the most is the decrease in crime. Some attribute it to the police department's assignment of an officer to the business improvement district.

"They put their finger on crime a little quicker," said Bill Arlington, owner of American Energy Inc., a gas station in the business district. "If there is a problem, you have a police contact to call who can handle it."

Cummings said she used to see panhandlers outside her shop, but doesn't have that problem anymore. She doesn't know where they went.

"The crime issue has been attended to and has really been controlled," Cummings said. "Overall I think the whole area has turned around tremendously."

Cathy Bussewitz can be reached at business@thereporter.com.

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