Name: Linda Price
Companies: Beachcomber Bill’s, Sea Barn, Footseas and Hula Hut
What they said then:
In July 2009, The Tribune spotlighted the Hula Hut, the newest Avila Beach venture by husband-and-wife team Bill and Linda Price, as a spot for a “quick bite.”
The Prices started with Beachcomber Bill’s souvenir shop in 1986. Later they opened the Sea Barn surf shop and Footseas boutique.
In 2007, Hula Hut filled the former site of The Jetty restaurant to serve casual meals, ice cream and food to go.
“Our fish soft tacos are probably our No. 1 seller,” said Bill Price last summer. “We usually have ahi tacos available on the weekend.”
What she says now:
Their four businesses are humming along, said Linda Price, and sales this summer were slightly up from last year.
They continue to see familiar faces of repeat tourists from Fresno and elsewhere in the Central Valley. They’ve also seen more customers from nearby towns, such as Arroyo Grande and Santa Maria.
“They’re not getting in an airplane and flying away,” she said. “They’re staying closer to home and not going on extravagant vacations.”
In recent months, others in Central Coast tourism have commented on such “staycations” they’ve heard about from customers.
The Prices’ expansions have come largely from a desire to keep redevelopment going after a major oil cleanup a decade ago.
“If a building stayed vacant for a while, it was not benefiting our town,” Price said. “We would watch different locations just stay empty.”
Then the couple would brainstorm a business idea to fill that spot.
Since redevelopment began, Price has watched the face of her typical customer change.
“Avila was a little funky beach town in the past,” she said. “Now that it’s beautiful, a little higher class people come.”
But she’s not entirely comfortable talking about it.
“I’m real sensitive to that,” she added. “I don’t like to say people with more money come now as opposed to then, but it is true. I want the poor to come to Avila Beach, too.”
That leads Price to mix $12 off-brand shorts beside the name brand ones that many customers come looking for, for example.
“That’s why we like to keep the boogie board rental at a bare minimum,” as low as $2 an hour, she added — to encourage parents to think of Avila as an “affordable” place to bring their kids for a day.
Hula Hut, the couple’s first foray into food service, has brought some new lessons.
Able to better predict demands based on previous years’ numbers, they keep food inventories low. They’ve developed good relationships with quick local suppliers if they need more.
“It’s a little more challenging, but it’s been a lot of fun,” Price said. “It’s nice to get up in the morning and get people their coffees.”
— Raven J. Railey