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The Escondido Hotel. A horse stable. A meat market. And a combination furniture store-mortuary. These are just a few of the businesses that made up the streets of Downtown Escondido shortly after its 1888 incorporation, when a trip to San Diego was a day-long journey. During Escondido’s formative years, the businesses on Grand Avenue were the go-to spots for locals to get groceries, visit the blacksmith, or pick up a newspaper. And while today’s downtown businesses have modernized, the value to the community is the same. Escondido’s downtown district is the epicenter of the City’s retail, dining, entertainment, and more. Locals and tourists can experience a mix of old and new in Downtown Escondido, where historic buildings share sidewalks with brand new businesses.
The rise in ecommerce and home delivery have made it easier than ever to get goods to your doorstep. But the impact of shopping local and spending local cannot be overstated. Small businesses generate $68 of local economic return for every $100 spent with them. One of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic, local small businesses rely on loyal customers and steady foot traffic. And it’s not just a matter of choosing your local department store over a neighboring city’s. Shopping local truly means shopping small. Local businesses generate 70% more local economic activity per square foot than big box retail.
The growth and success of Escondido’s downtown region is a priority for the City, which is why it invested in the Grand Avenue Vision Project. The seven-year project renovated elements of Grand Avenue — the main drag of Downtown — to make the street more pedestrian friendly, improve parking, and expand outdoor dining space. Finished in April 2022, the response to the changes has been overwhelmingly positive from both business owners and shoppers.
“Everybody loves the area,” said Alex MacLachlan, president of the Downtown Business District. “The historic architecture, the fun vibe; we are just trying to make Grand’s potential realized.”
Enhanced accessibility for pedestrians and drivers is especially important on Grand Avenue since it is the annual locale of the beloved Cruisin’ Grand event. Dubbed the No. 1 car cruise in the nation by Curbside TV, Cruisin’ Grand invites people to stroll through Grand Avenue and beyond to admire hundreds of high-end hotrods and vintage cars. And while the cars steal the show, the event itself is a great spot to run into neighbors, catch up with friends, and discover the new businesses and sights in Downtown.
Whether residents are attending Cruisin’ Grand or popping into a restaurant, the City of Escondido encourages locals to shop, dine, and spend locally whenever possible. And doing so is easier than ever with the new Downtown Escondido Gift Card Program. Gift cards can be used at any of the participating retailers, restaurants, venues, and amenities in Downtown Escondido. The Downtown Escondido Gift Cards not only serve as an excellent present for friends and family, but they also give residents a personal sense of responsibility in supporting small businesses. Not sure where to start? Below we cover just a few of the fun ways you can use the new Downtown Escondido Gift Card to craft your own downtown experience.
Stone & Glass
Escondido’s premier glass art gallery, Stone & Glass, offers Grand Avenue shoppers the opportunity to take a glass blowing class, purchase a gift, or commission your own custom piece. Founder James Stone opened Stone & Glass more than 20 years ago, and is best known for his use of color, and his unique process of casting glass hot out of the furnace and directly into sculpted metal.
Residents and visitors can shop local vendors all in one place at Daydream, a boutique retailer showcasing curated goods from Escondido makers. All items are either handmade, designed, produced, or curated by local vendors. Featuring a rotating selection of home goods, gifts, apparel, accessories, and more, Daydream provides another outlet to shop local, spend local.
Stop into Ginger Road Wellness & Spa, located at 146 E Grand Avenue, for some well-deserved “me” time. Ginger Road offers a luxurious selection of facials, peels, and other skin treatments. Using the latest technology and finest ingredients, Ginger Road can address any skin concern and also sells a variety of goods in its Spa Shop.
The Grand Tea Room
An invitation to a tea party became the inspiration for bringing a proper tea room to Escondido. The Grand Tea Room owner and operator Louisa Magoon came into the tea business after a successful career in corporate food services. When there was a major shift at her company that left her looking for a new job, her husband encouraged her to try something new and open her own tea room and gift shop. Living in Escondido, she knew it was the perfect place for such a shop. They searched Grand Avenue and found a vacant spot that needed some work. They signed a lease in February 2011 and by August, The Grand Tea Room became a downtown staple that Magoon now runs with her daughter Leola.
As a business owner, Magoon knows the importance of embracing other businesses in the Escondido area. That’s why as a member of the board of directors for the Escondido Downtown Business Association, she helps get the word out on upcoming events and meetings in newsletters and alerts to the community.
A Delight of France
A Delight of France has been an Escondido household name since it opened in 1990. Its original location on Grand Avenue welcomed thousands through its doors to enjoy French breads, pastries and fine French cuisine. The owners of A Delight of France — Alberta Agyan and her daughter Grace Hall — are now preparing to move to a larger, two-story building on Grand Avenue. In an interview with Escondido Times-Advocate, Agyan said, “I think of this as a whole new exciting adventure. I can’t thank our community and my customers enough. They kept supporting us through the last couple of years. I never thought I would be owning a new building but it’s because of our faithful customers. I hope to give them back a place they will be proud of and can come with family and friends for years to come!”
While many spent 2020 working from home, couple Weston and Samantha Nawrocki discovered the perks of opening a new business closer to home. In November, they opened Manzanita Roasting, a premium coffee shop on Grand Avenue. Even though indoor dining was limited when they opened, the Nawrockis launched a subscription service for their packaged coffee to get locals hooked on their brews. And it worked.
“We ship all around the country and an order of two bags or more ships free,” Samantha Nawrocki said. “It’s just really good, quality locally roasted coffee, that’s sourced. What my husband does is kind of upping the game. He’s always roasting it better and better, making sure that he gets the perfect sweetness from the coffee.”
The Downtown Escondido Gift Cards can be purchased in any amount, online or in select downtown stores. All-digital and always available on your phone, the Downtown Escondido Gift Card is great for the holidays, birthdays, teacher appreciation, coach gifts, or just to show your appreciation to a friend. You can find which downtown businesses accept the Downtown Escondido Gift Card at visitescondido.com. More businesses are being added daily, so check back often.