By Kelcie Pegher, firstname.lastname@example.org, @klcpegher on Twitter
As he walked along the International Boardwalk on the Redondo Beach pier one day last week, merchant Charlie Anderson was just about the only person on the waterfront.
“It’s a ghost town here,” said Anderson, the owner of the Slightly Different collectable shop.
Christmas can be a tough season for many of the retail establishments on the waterfront. In the summer, the hours are long as the pier is relatively busy with tourists who stop to pick up souvenirs emblazoned with Redondo Beach and enjoy a restaurant meal or fast-food establishment.
“For the most part, that’s what we all do … work crazy hours,” he said.
But in the winter, the merchants wait.
Joy Coradetti — who owns Mystical Joy, a gift shop specializing in tarot readings — just scrapes by in the winter. In the summer she can make it, though she’s not rolling in cash. A lot of times, she’s catching up on bills from the winter.
At 3 p.m. on a sunny Redondo Beach Monday, Coradetti hadn’t yet had any customers at the store.
“There is no one down here,” she said.
She endorses the proposed waterfront project, even speaking at a recent meeting last week calling for support because business on the waterfront is so slow. Currently, a draft environmental report on the project is under public review.
“The boardwalk has had the reputation of the stepchild,” she said.
Her store, which has been on the boardwalk for the past four years, is decked out for the Christmas season. Angels sit near the front of the store, and outside a little Christmas tree made out of lights greets customers.
Critics say that the stores that will fill the waterfront will hardly be small businesses — the math they’ve done on square footage suggests rents will be much higher. At a public comment meeting for the draft environmental report, many testified that they’d like rents to be grandfathered in for the current tenants.
It’s still a little too early to say anything definite about rents, said CenterCal CEO Fred Bruning.
“We do want to keep a good number of the local tenants now, starting with some of the legacy tenants like Quality Seafood, or someone like Mystical Joy or even an R10, because even though they haven’t been here for generations, they’re still doing good business,” he said.
It also depends on what the city wants, Bruning said. If Redondo Beach government wants a huge amount from rent up front, it might not be possible to grant rent concessions to all of the local tenants, he said.
“I think where we’re going to end up is going to be able to offer economic deals that are affordable to the existing tenants, and give the city a reasonable return on the ground lease,” he said.
Coradetti wouldn’t mind her rents going up if she was busier. A psychic, she said, is often a staple at waterfront locations.
Pretty much anyone can make money on the pier on a nice day in July, Bruning said. He hopes that by having a movie theater and a public market, there will be more of a balance for the winter months.
Candace Nafissi, a leader behind Rescue Our Waterfront and former city council candidate, claimed a lot of the stores on the waterfront are doing well.
“I don’t want a movie theater, I don’t want another huge hotel blocking the ocean view. I want a flat development that has a very good mix of eateries and shopping,” Nafissi, said.
If the best-case scenario is that rents are grandfathered in for current tenants, the new tenants will have to make up the remainder of the rent, she said.
“It’s awfully hard to commit to something when we don’t know the starting end of the transaction yet,” Bruning said.
When Coradetti started her business four years ago on the boardwalk, she anticipated the change that would come with the waterfront project. She’d like the project to come sooner, if possible. At the moment, it could be 2017 before construction begins.
“I didn’t know it would take six years, so I’m trying my best to tread water, literally.”