South Park walkabout was ‘perfect way’ to start the season
By Cynthia Robertson | SDUN Reporter
It was crowded on the evening of Saturday, Dec. 1 in the heart of South Park, but nobody minded. In fact, it was “the more, the merrier” at the neighborhood’s winter walkabout, called “Twinkle, Twinkle, Mix and Mingle.” The evening is a holiday tradition that many locals look forward to for the community, the food and the shopping.
The rain stayed away, revealing a waning moon and cloud streaks appearing like snow puffs across the sky. By 6 p.m., when the walkabout started officially, there were already happy groups of people streaming from the trolleys into The Grove and Rebecca’s Coffee House, both near 30th and Juniper streets.
Inside The Grove, a small orchestra played “Angels We have Heard On High” while customers perused books, yarns, crafts and ornaments. Everyone carried little paper cups of hot apple cider poured by Ellae Elinwood, a neighborhood resident volunteering for the evening.
“I’m an old friend of Anne, one of the owners at The Grove,” Elinwood said. “I love it here at The Grove. I never have to go anywhere else to do my shopping.”
Nicole Ochoa and her son thanked Elinwood for their cider. The Ochoas are relatively new residents of South Park, having moved from Allied Gardens last summer.
“I love the feel of an event like this,” Ochoa said. “I grew up in Brooklyn, so I never was one for the suburbs.”
In a far corner of The Grove was Mission Hills resident Debbie Koontz, all smiles as she gazed at the baubles and doo-dads. “I go to all the walkabouts. I like the holiday one because it gets me into the holiday spirit. It’s certainly more fun than going to the mall,” she said. “I never get bored because there’s always something different to look at.”
Bad Madge, the vintage shop at 2205 Fern St. that Koontz raved about, had droves of people dropping in. Nearly everyone stopped to admire the set of vintage TV trays set up outside the shop.
“Each of the trays have a different scene painted on them,” said Vaughn Avakian, a buyer for the store. “I found the trays at an estate sale in East County.”
At one point, Avakian offered to take the half-empty cup of white wine from a customer as she was leaving the store. Bad Madge offered drinks for the event, but they could not be taken outside.
“You can call me a greeter, a cup collector, bouncer [and] spiritual advisor,” Avakian said, joking. But what Avakian did best was answer questions the customers had about the eclectic collection of items in the shop.
For tasty things, most people were talking about Eclipse Chocolat, which will be officially setting up shop in January at the intersection of Fern and Ivy streets. For the walkabout evening, the shop had a booth set up with samples of their chocolate bars and truffles. The crowds never let up clamoring for a taste, and owner Will Gustwiller encouraged the eager eaters to sign a raffle ticket for a chance to win a “lifetime supply of chocolate,” he said.
Back at the corner of 30th and Juniper streets, Café Madeleine had the Christmas spirit in full swing. A group of carol singers in old-time costume sang “Silent Night,” while people dined on crepes outdoors at little tables. The air was warm and rich with the scent of fresh crepes prepared by Jesse Mateos.
Mateos had to keep asking Marie Ricci, the manager of Café Madeleine, for more mushrooms. “Hands down, the most popular crepe of the evening is the Mushroom Crepe,” Mateos said, calling himself an aspiring chef.
Performing artist Angelique enchanted the children with her graceful gestures to lovely tunes, and Andrea Lopez stood nearby, crepe in hand, with her Golden Retriever named Spooner. The dog sweetly nosed everyone that nudged up beside him, making toddlers giggle.
“It’s good to be here,” Lopez said. “I just got off work at the First Hair Salon down the street. This is a perfect way to start the season off. Spooner likes it, too. He’s excited tonight.”
The South Park Business Group organized the holiday walkabout, with support from the City of San Diego’s Small Business Enhancement Program. Ed Landsberg Realtor, Culinary Creative, Grant’s Marketplace and Andrea Frank Realtor sponsored free trolley service.
The walkabouts are quarterly events, with the next one taking place March 23, 2013. For more information, visit southparkscene.com or call 619-200-4269.