PLEASANT HILL -- In the past couple of months, Pleasant Hill landed a popular pizzeria and a retailer that sells brand-name shoes, clothing and accessories at discount prices.
Zachary's Chicago Pizza, the local chain known for its deep-dish pies and loyal following, is taking over a large space across from the Century 16 movie theater, and Nordstrom Rack is coming to Sunvalley mall. Although the mall is in Concord, the store will be in Pleasant Hill.
"We've gained a couple of really great businesses, so when we look at the interest in Pleasant Hill we're very encouraged about that," said Kelly Calhoun, economic development manager.
Since sales tax dollars make up more than a third of Pleasant Hill's general fund revenue, the city is investing in programs to attract new businesses and retain existing ones.
In April, Pleasant Hill launched the retail marketing incentive program to give a total of $37,500 in grants to small businesses that generate sales tax revenue and to neighborhood shopping centers.
Business owners can receive a $2,500 grant to implement the marketing plan as long as they agree to spend $625 of their own money. Groups of owners in a neighborhood shopping center may qualify for a $5,000 grant with a $2,500 match.
Grant funds may be used for direct advertising costs as well as for a range of services, including graphic design work, printing and distribution of materials. To evaluate the program, the
Grocery Outlet, Magoo's Grill, Natural Life Foods, Guitar Heaven, Dickey's Barbecue Pit, MVP Sports, Slow Hand BBQ, Wild Birds Unlimited, Kobe Japan, Computer Sales and Service, and Kinder's BBQ are participating in the program, according to Calhoun.
The owner of the Oak Park Shopping Center also agreed to put up the matching funds for a comprehensive marketing campaign to promote the entire center, most likely through radio and TV ads, she said.
In addition to the grant, participants receive 12 hours of consultation with Hogan Marketing and Media, a Concord firm the city hired to develop tailored marketing strategies for the businesses. For example, to promote Dickey's upcoming grand opening, Hogan has been working on a direct mail piece and Facebook campaign, as well as distributing beverage cups customers can bring in and fill with a free soda, Calhoun said.
Some of Hogan's ideas are less traditional. For example, Grocery Outlet is known for marked-down foodstuffs, but wine connoisseurs may not go there to find their favorite vintage.
"Grocery Outlet has a pretty nice wine section at their store that a lot of people don't know about," Calhoun said. "Hogan is working with them to create a VIP wine club through a social media campaign and special events to get people to sign up online."
The retail marketing incentive program is just one of the city's economic development efforts. Through the business concierge program, the city guides new tenants through the multiple steps of the application and review process.
Pleasant Hill also is also developing workshops based on the results of a recent survey of business owners which found they want help with online marketing strategies, green business practices and business-to-business marketing among other topics.
"I'm very happy with what's going on; very excited about that," Councilman Jack Weir said following Calhoun's recent presentation to the council.
During the economic downturn, Pleasant Hill has lost some businesses -- including Borders Books, Monsoon Masala and Blue Tomatoes furniture -- and added well-known outlets such as Big 5 Sporting Goods, In-N-Out Burger and a second Ross Dress for Less. A Carter's baby store and nail salon are coming to the downtown, and the owner of the shopping center is negotiating with tenants for all but one of the vacant spaces, according to Calhoun.
"We think there's a lot of momentum right now and that Pleasant Hill is on that retail radar screen and people are looking here," she said.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.