401 plan with a twist leads to a big idea for downtown

If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in Delta Airlines one year
ago, you would have $49 today!
If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in Delta Airlines one year ago, you would have $49 today! If you purchased $1,000 of shares in AIG, you would have $33. If you purchased $1,000 of shares in Lehman Brothers, you would have $0 today. But, if you purchased $1,000 worth of beer, drank it and turned in the cans for aluminum recycling you would have $214. So, the best current investment plan is to drink heavily and recycle. It is called the 401-keg plan.

That whimsy I found carefully printed on a chalkboard outside the restaurant Alchemy in a place where the intersections are painted with shamrocks, Murphys, CA, and the sidewalks, where they have them, are teeming with people. My wife’s sister’s baby shower brought me as chauffeur to the small town which mixed very old and clearly new buildings. Hadn’t been to Murphys, which is in the Sierra foothills on the way to Bear Valley, in 1,000 years.

As I strolled the Main Street drag and talked with merchants, it really hit me that we’re missing the boat in Gilroy – the wine boat that is. Every block on the Murphys main promenade featured at least one winery tasting room. On some blocks there were two or three.

That’s what transformed downtown Murphys into the vital, quaint, charming business district that it is today. Old “dilapidated” buildings, like the ones the city of Gilroy is about to tear down, have been transformed into retro-cool tasting rooms. I can name a few: Vina Moda, Hatcher, Black Sheep and Twisted Oak. Our wineries, top to bottom, stack up very nicely – Martin Ranch, Solis, Sarah’s, Jason Stephens, Sycamore Creek …

The beauty of downtown Murphys is that you can stroll, shop, eat lunch or dinner, taste wine and walk to one of the B&Bs just off the main drag. The winery tasting rooms fueled it all – from the hotdog joint, Cactus Jacks, to the cupcake and espresso shop, Lila and Sage.

That could happen in Gilroy, and it could be the key to unqualified success that has thus far eluded us.

A field trip involving community groups and arranged by super-organizer, Visitor’s Bureau Director Jane Howard, could give the idea a serious and solid foundation. Representatives from local wineries, the Economic Development Commission, the Downtown Business Association, city of Gilroy planning, Police Chief Denise Turner, the Chamber and a Council member or two head out on a bus to Murphys, sit down for a few key, pre-arranged sessions to talk to the people who facilitated and witnessed the transformation. From there, it’s strolling the streets, jotting down notes and having a brainstorming session afterward with the goal – “How can we make this happen?” – always top of mind.

If the city could plants the seeds with inviting incentives, the downtown could really change within a 5-year span. First step: getting a couple of wineries to buy in. More would follow and don’t forget, Gilroy is a regional hub. There’s no reason that can’t work for downtown as well as it works for the outlet mall.

Works for the Le Grand Union High School District and I wonder, given our dropout rate, if GUSD shouldn’t give it serious thought. The Le Grand High School Virtual Academy is a tuition-free, online high school for students living in the Merced area. Advertised as having state approved curriculum, certified teachers, flexibility in scheduling and pacing and access to socialization and enrichment activities via the high school district, this could provide a significant number of students with an alternative.

If you’re male and over, say, 25, choose any alternative over white sunglasses.

Elvis, aka Don Prieto, can get away with it, however, because it’s part of the costume. Our talented and beloved impersonator has stepped up and will be donating a ‘One for the money’ performance as an auction item for the One for Brian golf tournament Sept. 9 at the Gilroy Golf Course. I’m thinking there’s someone in the Debbie Pellicione group of 9 coming to the post-tourney dinner featuring BBQ pitmaster Troy Garcia’s ribs, that’s going to snag that prize. The tourney, a benefit to help Garlic Festival Director Brian Bowe pay for his battle against carcinoid cancer, is sold out. Still room for dinner, though. We’re up to 180 guests and climbing. Shoot me an email if you’re interested. We have some really great donated auction items, too, like a signed magnum, a tour and tasting for 6 from gracious Martin Ranch Winery owners Dan and Therese.

If you need a quick meal to go with a hot summer night on the patio accompanied by a bottle of Dan’s double-gold winning J.D. Hurley Merlot or Therese’s Malbec – double gold and “Best Malbec” at the San Francisco International Wine Competition – check out BBQ 152 at the old KFC site across from the Longhouse Restaurant. It’s outstanding Q – pulled pork, tri-tip, ribs, hot links and chicken done in Yoder smokers. Call ahead (842-4499) to make sure they haven’t run out of anything. Good Q takes hours, so a run on ribs can wipe out that day’s stock. The simple cole slaw, with a few dashes of pepper, is perfect as a crisp, clean side.

A few tapas turn a side into a meal at Lizarran Restaurant downtown and on a hot August night, Sunday actually, you can catch Gypsy Flamenco singer, Kina Mendez, from Jerez de la Frontera with guitarist Albert Marques and accompanying dancers. Live, enchanting show from 7 to 8:30 p.m. for the price of a movie.

Price for Brian Bowe’s cancer treatments is astronomical and not paid for by insurance. But Brian delivered good news from Houston, where he is starting treatment: “Everything was basically as we expected with regard to my tumors (liver, diaphragm, lymph nodes, lung, etc.) … No real surprises … Dr. Delpassand said PET scan was negative … Kathy asked him about the bone scan. He said that was negative as well … so … I’m a good candidate for this therapy so we’re very hopeful that it will be effective.”

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