Jun 10, 2007
Downtown Riverside looks for right mix of businesses to spur revivalBy Jonathan ShikesPE.com

Where Old Town Pasadena has The Cheesecake Factory, downtown Riverside has Simple Simon’s. Where San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter has Quicksilver and Oakley stores, Riverside has Mrs. Tiggy-Winkles and Citrus Punch Designs.

Independent shops and restaurants lend a city unique personality, but they don’t attract the customers and cachet that national brand names do.

If Riverside really is to enjoy the renaissance it is pursuing via new projects and proposals downtown, it will need both, city officials say.

CeeAnn Thiel, owner of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkles gift shop on Main Street in Riverside for 32 years, says the city doesn’t need to be a destination for chain stores “you can go anywhere for.”The key is to attract one without losing the other. That won’t be easy.

Riverside has long been an epicenter for the Inland region’s judicial system, universities and county government, and a destination for 151,700 workers employed citywide, more than any other Inland city.

The right mix of tenants could give Riverside one thing it has lacked, a downtown experience to attract shoppers, diners, arts patrons and other residents from Corona to Yucaipa.

With very little nightlife and few homes, downtown goes to sleep when the workday crowd leaves. The result is vacant buildings and a high business turnover rate, said developer Rufus Barkley, who owns two downtown buildings.

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