Merchant group growing
by Marjan Philhour
I remember Halloween 2014 – I walked down a deserted Balboa Street past 37th Avenue
with my husband, kids and some of our friends and was struck with the realization that,
despite being a neighborhood with numerous schools and countless families, our options
for Halloween festivities were lacking. It was a “ghost town” that evening, and it wasn’t
In the past we had driven to other San Francisco neighborhoods known for its
“good trick-or-treating,” or visited friends in the suburbs where neighborhood
Halloween gatherings were the norm – why wasn’t there an option for us around
Later that fall, I began talking to local merchants about putting together a
Halloween festival, something the whole family could enjoy without having to
leave the Outer Richmond. They liked the idea; not only would it be good for
the community, but it would also be great for business.
With the help of a some committed neighbors and store owners, we went
from merchant to merchant signing up businesses for the festival and a trick-ortreat
scavenger hunt. We held our first planning meeting in March, 2015 and shortly
thereafter announced the first annual Balbooa Frightfest (a name creatively
thought up by one of our merchants), to take place on Halloween, 2015.
Here we are, three years later, having just celebrated the third Balbooa
Frightfest, which was bigger and better than ever. We partnered this year with St.
Thomas the Apostle School, Lafayette Elementary School, Full Life Christian
Center, Richmond District Neighborhood Center and more than 25 local merchant
and neighborhood organizations. In addition to games and prizes, we
were proud to feature tables from local organizations and groups, including a
cookie making table sponsored by SF Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, a fire truck
from the SF Fire Department and circus workshops by the SF Circus Center.
Local merchants also reported a significant increase in foot traffic that day,
which is great for business.
The continued success of the Balbooa Frightfest can be traced back to that first
merchant meeting in 2015. While many business owners knew each other, there
was no official merchant association or organization. The first Frightfest showed
us what we could accomplish for our neighborhood. There was a desire to
build on our initial success as we enjoyed working together and sharing a strong
commitment to our neighborhood.
Finally, in January, 2016, we held the first official meeting of the Balboa Village
Since then, we’ve grown from 10 to more than 40 merchants and sponsored a
number of projects focused on building community in the Outer Richmond. For
our current members, we offer social media and online advertising training for
their businesses and we maintain active social media accounts promoting our
business corridor. We also host neighborhood tours, community fundraisers and
organize evenings that offer discounts at stores and restaurants in order to
In 2018, we will launch our paid membership program to provide more benefits
for our merchant members to help their businesses thrive and connect with more
neighbors in this community and beyond.
We hear the phrase “shop local” a lot, but it’s important to understand how critical
keeping our dollars in the local economy is to our collective success. Research
has shown that locally owned businesses reinvest in the local economy at a 60 percent
higher rate than chain and Internet retailers.
Also, if we as San Franciscans shifted 10 percent of where we did our shopping from
online to local retailers, we could create 1,300 new jobs annually and generate more than
$200 million that could potentially stay in our communities.
The Balboa Village Merchants Association will continue to grow and try
new promotions, sponsor events and support local merchant campaigns to improve
the vibrancy of the Balboa Village corridor.
In a time where Amazon and other Internet retailers are continuing to expand,
it’s even more important that we adapt, evolve and organize to strengthen
our merchant corridor and attract new customers while maintaining the character
that has made the outer Balboa Street corridor what it is today.
We care about keeping families and hard-working people, who keep our local economy
running, in the Richmond. Strengthening that connection between local businesses and
neighbors will ensure that generations to come will enjoy what makes the Outer
Richmond so special.
We would love to hear your thoughts on improving and supporting our local
merchant corridor. You can reach us on Facebook and Instagram (@BalboaVillageSF) or
through our website at http://www.BalboaVillageSF.org.
Marjan Philhour is the president of the Balboa Village Merchants Association. To
contact the merchant group, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.