Saturday, September 25, 2010

Seal Beach Changes

Some weeks you never quite know what to expect. This past week certainly was a surprise in many ways. The Chamber suffered a devastating loss, one of our newly installed board members, Beverly Pearce passed away last week.
At the same time, it was a busy week of City Council meetings, Planning Commission, additional community meetings, and the real start of change in our traffic and parking patterns in Seal Beach due to the Electric Storm Drain project and the West OC Connectors projects.
Erik Dreyer-Goldman was out of town with some family emergencies this past week, and our Director of Operations, Gina Phillips, mom had to have open heart surgery. If you would keep all of them in your thoughts, we would appreciate it.
All in all, change came abruptly and in some cases very painfully to our members and supporters of business. Cicero, the great Greek Senator and orator, said over two millennia ago: “History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity.”
In Seal Beach, with the 95th anniversary of Founder’s Day coming up in just a few weeks, what can we learn from history, business decision and cycles of change in our own community.
Firstly, there are those businesses which have been proven over time to be successes: Walt’s Wharf, Hennesey’s, Bay Hardware, Clancy’s, Art on Glass, Sun Newspapers, Harbour Surf, the post office and a few others. They have managed to last for decades and have filled a niche for many of our residents and visitors. They have evolved in small ways, but rather have each become destinations for more than one generation. We should tip our hats to those businesses who have survived more than one down turn in the economy and certainly a boom or two.
Secondly, the historic successes: the Joy Zone with its roller coaster and the Jewel City CafĂ©. There was the remarkable Red Car railway system and the hotels and expanded dining options like Sam’s Seafood (when that part of California was still Seal Beach). If we thought Seal Beach was always a sleepy town, you might be surprised if you saw Vivian Laird’s Garden of Allah and her rakish matchbook advertising. What about the gambling boat run off of the pier in the 30’s? If you look at photos of our Main Street in the 40’s liquor stores and restaurants dominate it. Tourism boomed and caused Seal Beach to thrive. They exploded into prominence like bright fireworks and then faded from view as the region’s demographics and needs changed and the era of the Glider Inn slipped away one night.
As we moved through the late 70s and early 90’s, Seal Beach went through a period of contraction. It wasn’t unusual to see boarded up store fronts on Main Street, a decline in many of the options we now enjoy. We saw restaurants, coffee shops and retail clothing come and go, but some solid businesses arrived and flourished. California Sea Shell Company, Main Street Art & Frame, Baby Boomer and others have made their mark.
By our current decade, we have seen the changes, the new buildings on Main Street and the annexation of what is now the Shops at Rossmoor and the Target shopping center. This started the current upswing in the businesses of Seal Beach.
What can all this teach us? Those cycles continue to move forward and that life brings change. We should be thankful each day for the business and personal successes we have and be a little more gracious about those who might have less or are going through a rough time. We should continue to shop local and find common ground between us. Seal Beach has been a boom town, a shanty town, an older town and a young town. Most importantly, it is our town. It’s success or failures are only our own visage in the mirror of history.

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