Arts & Life

Retro Row business owners face pandemic-related change and find community support

The weekend of March 13 was one that is now a flashbulb memory for many.

It was for Dana Tanner. 

Restauration has a parklet for outside dining and opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Sunday. Paris Barraza/Daily Forty-Niner

It was a Sunday when Tanner was on her way home from a marketing seminar in San Diego. She was eager to implement new ideas and techniques into her restaurant, Restauration, until she turned on the news and had to face her new reality. 

“I was thinking, ‘I will be going home and basically firing or furloughing my team members and have to go immediately to take out,’” Tanner said. “And I have no idea how the frick I am going to do that.” 

Restauration faced the battle of closing its doors again after they had just reopened since their building caught on fire months prior.

Tanner had to adapt quickly to takeout and utilize social media to bring in customers. 

“I amped up our social media and became more diligent about email blasts and updating our menu constantly,” Tanner said. “We tried to be a little more present in the community.”

Hobo Jane Boutique is located off of Cherry Avenue in Long Beach. Paris Barraza/ Daily Forty-Niner

Tanner wasn’t the only business who faced this big adjustment. Many other stores on Fourth Street, commonly known as Retro Row, worked with what they could to keep business up and running. 

Sara Jane Martini, owner of Hobo Jane Boutique, is one shop on Retro Row that had to experiment with new ways to keep business alive during the shutdown. 

“I was sad and I sat home for a few weeks but then I decided to open,” Martini said. “And I did it under the radar and it was all based upon self service.” 

Martini allowed customers to schedule an appointment to shop in her store by themselves while she stood outside. To make this work, masks were required, whatever was purchased was not bagged by any employee and Venmo was the source of payment. 

Hobo Jane Boutique is operating under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic. Paris Barraza/ Daily Forty-Niner

Now with some restrictions lifted, Martini runs her shop with limited hours while following all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to remain open. 

While Tanner and Martini’s businesses are back open and running, not all businesses on RetroRow are as lucky. 

A staple part of Retro Row, The Art Theatre of Long Beach, is still closed since the first shutdown of non-essential businesses in March. The Art Theatre is the last independent theatre in the city still standing and when it will reopen is unknown. 

“It’s as bad as it can get,” said Jan van Digs, The Art Theatre of Long Beach board president. “We’ve been closed since March 23 completely and we can’t open for any reason at all and it’s tough.” 

According to The Art Theatre of Long Beach’s website, the theatre is already making safety precautions for whenever they reopen. Paris Barraza/ Daily Forty-Niner

This theatre has been in the city since the 1920s and is now a non-profit. Van Digs said that they have done whatever it takes to keep the theatre afloat. 

Renegotiating the lease, firing all of their staff and applying for grants are just some of the efforts the board has made for the theatre. 

“We are just waiting for the day they say we can open,” van Digs said. 

As if social and technological changes don’t impact the vulnerable state of the theatre enough, the uncertainty of when everything will reopen again will.

 Despite the ever changing climate of the coronavirus pandemic, the Long Beach community has supported local and long time businesses tremendously. 

Parks Antiques, a storefront on Retro Row, is operating at limited person capacity. Andrea Ramos/ Daily Forty-Niner

The Art Theatre has been hosting films online and, while it may not capture the in-person atmosphere, the locals of Long Beach show up virtually and support in any way they can. 

“I think people do understand we’re the only single house movie theatre left, they appreciate what we are trying to do,” van Digs said. “You know I think they are looking forward to us coming back.”

The Art Theatre isn’t the only place that appreciates the sincerity and helpfulness of the community. 

Martini said that if her boutique were located anywhere else during this time, she would have never been able to stay open. 

“They have been incredibly supportive,” Martini said. “Because they know that you have to support local in order for us to stay.” 

It’s the same for Tanner’s restaurant. 

Like other storefronts on Retro Row, Alien Artifacts, which sells clothes, accessories and novelty items, is practicing safety guidelines due to the pandemic. Andrea Ramos/ Daily Forty-Niner

Through this time, Tanner has made a name for herself on Restauration’s social media and the community tells her how much they love it.

“I’ve always been really shy about that because it’s about the food and the chef and now people are saying no it is you, put yourself out there,” Tanner said.

Throughout this time, business owners everywhere are experiencing uncertainty of how to run their shops under different operations or figuring out how to open up again. But, the one thing the shops on Retro Row don’t have to feel weary about is the constant support from the community. 

“The bright spot in this whole thing is the Long Beach community,” van Digs said. “They’ve supported us.” 

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