No library boost for downtown

Nolan Owens, 4, peeks in the window at the new Garlic City Books

Almost every day it’s the same scenario: someone stops by Garlic
City Books to inquire whether it is the new library.
Almost every day it’s the same scenario: someone stops by Garlic City Books to inquire whether it is the new library.

“It’s sort of amusing,” book store manager Ann Marie Guinn said with a grin.

But so far, that interest in the library has not translated into more sales.

“I can’t say that they have (had an impact),” Guinn said.

Despite drawing crowds of up to 2,000 people each day, the impact of Gilroy’s interim library on downtown business seems to be minimal.

Still, merchants generally were happy to have the library downtown, expressing hopes that it eventually may have an impact.

“It definitely draws people downtown,” said Linda Ashford, owner of Ashford’s Heirlooms antique store. “People stop in and say, ‘I know the new library is downtown. Where is it?'”

Although Ashford has not received more customers as a result of the library, she hoped that may change during the summer when more people typically wander the downtown.

“The good thing is that it’s within a block of us,” she said.

Garlic City Cafe co-owner Socrates Diego said the eatery has a lot of regular customers, so it is difficult to determine how many of them have been drawn in by the library. Still, he said of the library, “It’s welcome.”

At nearby Sue’s Coffee Roasting Company, barista Nick Loquiao said the library clearly has not had an impact on the coffee shop at all, noting that the coffee shop has few customers on most afternoons. It is typically much busier in the mornings and on weekends, he said.

Head Librarian Lani Yoshimura happened to be one of a couple of customers in the coffee shop at the time. She said she did not know whether there would be a tremendous economic impact on surrounding businesses yet, but there is no shortage of patrons attending the library each day.

“We had a number of 2,000-(patron) days,” she said.

Several people said it was hard to quantify the library’s economic impact.

“Unless people are sourcing every customer, a lot of time a merchant may not know,” said Eric Howard, president of the Gilroy Downtown Business Association.

Howard, whose family owns Bruce’s Tire, said his business recently gave special deals to customers who had library cards with them. He said he was surprised by the positive response, although he does not know how many customers were actually patronizing the library on those days.

Mayor Al Pinheiro, who supported moving the temporary library into the newly renovated building at 7652 Monterey St., said the library’s new northern downtown location is a bit removed from many businesses in the area. However, its placement may expose library patrons to downtown businesses as they drive by, he said. It’s all a matter of marketing, he said.

“I haven’t heard one person downtown that isn’t happy that we put it there,” Pinheiro added.

The library’s downtown location has other advantages that extend beyond the downtown itself, council members said.

For instance, Councilman Bob Dillon heard from Yoshimura that a lot of people from eastern Gilroy were applying for library cards since it moved.

Regardless of the economic impact, several merchants say they are pleased with the library’s temporary location as well as the renovation of the library building by developer Gary Walton.

In the words of Guinn at Garlic City Books, “We’re happy to have the library in downtown.”

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