Business group takes next steps in branding unique, walk-able neighborhood
By Dave Schwab | SDUN Reporter
The South Park Business Group is currently finding itself, and part of that self-discovery is determining just the right brand to help market the many merchants in the neighborhood. It’s the next logical step in the development of the business organization, which was formed in 2004 and was incorporated in 2011.
“There were only a few businesses about eight years ago in South Park, and they got together and started putting on walkabouts and trying to draw attention [to the area],” said SPBG Marketing Director Marsha Smelkinson. The group’s quarterly Walkabout open houses have been a success, with the next one scheduled for Oct. 6.
“The last several years, that process has continued, meaning more businesses opening up, more customers and visitors coming, more attention brought to the community and more people joining this effort to spread the word,” Smelkinson said.
Delivering the singular message about what South Park’s 70-plus small businesses have to offer is what branding is about.
“We’re at a point in the road where it’s time to get the word out more,” said Maureen Ceccarelli, owner of 25-year-old Studio Maureen & The Next Door Gallery. Located at 2963 Beech St., Ceccarelli’s store is one of the oldest businesses in South Park, a pocket community at the Southeast corner of Balboa Park between Golden Hill and North Park.
A “hidden gem,” is how Ceccarelli said she characterizes the South Park business community’s main areas, which extend along Beech Street between 28th and 30th streets; on 30th Street between Beech and Laurel streets; and on Juniper Street between Fern and 31st streets.
Ceccarelli said she hopes SPBG’s ongoing branding efforts will clue in those people unfamiliar with the community on the fact that South Park is “small enough to navigate and get a feel for, just by walking a couple of blocks.”
South Park’s character and walkability are what make it unique – and neighborly – said Jeniffer Thompson, co-owner of Culinary Creative and Chad Thompson Photography at 3011 Beech St.
“It’s not commercial,” she said. “This is a community of people that all know each other. We’re talking small businesses all in it together, living and working and biking in our own neighborhood. It has a feeling that you don’t really get anywhere else.”
Branding is a challenging undertaking in South Park, partly because of the community’s unique character, said Christy Jaynes, owner of Progress South Park, a home and gift store located at 2225 30th St. Jaynes also chairs the SPBG committee spearheading the marketing effort.
“South Park is difficult to define because it is so richly diverse,” Jaynes said. “It is important, as a business group, for us to be able to describe South Park to those who haven’t yet visited in a clear, concise way. That’s what branding does.”
Jaynes said the branding effort currently underway is designed to “capture the essence of South Park” and “convey the experience that awaits visitors.”
As the group’s branding project progresses, Jaynes said South Park merchants are keeping their roots in mind. “We love our neighborhood and know whoever comes to visit our businesses will too,” she said.
The branding effort, which began approximately a year ago, is presently in the brainstorming stage with SPBG members kicking around ideas for marketing ideas to capture the spirit and flavor of South Park and its businesses.
“What we’re trying to let everybody else out there know is that we are a very dynamic group,” said Matt Thomas, co-owner of Alchemy Restaurant at 1503 30th St. “Branding will be how we express that: what we’re doing [and] who we are.”
It is also important to note, Thompson said, that branding offers South Park’s mom-and-pop business community an opportunity to not only establish its own distinctive identity, but to also distinguish itself from nearby business districts.
“Hillcrest is really big. You get lost there,” she said by comparison. “Here you say, ‘OK, I’m going to have coffee at Grant’s Marketplace in the morning and work my way up [the street], and I can shop local and meet new people, and pretty much do everything I need to do in an eight-block radius.’”
Thomas said the branding effort will culminate in a slogan incorporating “a tag line” that would be the best general description of what the area has to offer San Diego. Given the area’s rich history – particularly its attractive architecture – Ceccarelli said she believes history has to figure into the brand somehow.
Whatever South Park’s marketing brand is ultimately determined to be, Ceccarelli said SPBG, as a business micro-district within the city of San Diego, will be able to use that as leverage in applying for future city grant money.
“One of the grants is based on tourist dollars,” she said. “They want to see what we’re doing to make tourists come here.”
Smelkinson said South Park’s branding effort is a lot of work, but is well worth the time because the community is so deserving. “Both out-of-town visitors and residents of other San Diego communities can find something that they [will] enjoy in South Park,” she said.
For more information on South Park Business Group, visit southparkscene.com or call 619-200-4269.