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Boosting business with sidewalk sales

November 22, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — To boost their sagging fortunes, local merchants here have been lining the sidewalks of downtown Calexico with merchandise since Wednesday morning.

Today, on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, bargain hunters can walk down Second Street and peruse Christmas decorations, pick up cooking wares or buy a Seattle Seahawks baby jumper for $3.99.

The City Council kicked off the city's annual sidewalk sale Tuesday by allowing the merchants to put out their goods earlier than normal at the request of a coalition of merchants.

The merchants said the economic downturn here that accompanied stricter security measures along the U.S.-Mexico border has greatly affected their businesses and necessitated an early start.

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The sale is a December tradition in Calexico as merchants here mimic the aggressive sales techniques of their Mexicali counterparts during December.

The comparison to Mexicali merchants is especially significant this year as Calexico merchants compete with their south-of-the-border counterparts for customers. Long lines at the border have changed the crossing habits of Mexicali shoppers, according to David Ouzan.

Ouzan, owner of the 99-Cent Store on Second Street, said Calexico has to work harder to attract business here because Mexicali shoppers are not crossing over as much since Sept. 11.

On Wednesday morning he stood outside his store and watched a woman walk by, spy a turkey basting pan and take it inside to be rung up.

It was a 79-cent sale but Ouzan was vindicated.

"We need more traffic on the sidewalk so we can sell what people want to buy," he said.

"Just like this lady," he said as the woman walked out of his store with her basting pan in a plastic bag.

That shopper aside, Ouzan is aware some people are concerned about the sidewalk sale.

Mayor Victor Carrillo singled out Ouzan during Tuesday's City Council meeting and told him to personally take responsibility for the sale.

Carrillo said the council would approve the early start if the merchants respected the code enforcement, kept the sidewalks clean, policed themselves and provided trash cans for the customers.

Ouzan vowed then to set an example.

On Wednesday he was out and about, making sure his fellow merchants were allowing enough space for people to walk the sidewalks two abreast.

"I went over to Kids Outlet this morning to make sure they were following the rules," he said.

The walking space on the sidewalks is the big concern for the city's Building Department.

During Tuesday's meeting, Chief Building Official Bob Williams said there is really no way to enforce certain city codes during the sale but merchants could police themselves and make sure there was as much space as possible.

As for the city's trash can concern, Ouzan thinks he has that one handled.

"See," he said as he kicked a cardboard box lined with a trash bag, "I made my own trash can for the customers."

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or claverie7@hotmail.com

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