Name: Steve Martin
Owner: S.W. Martin & Associates
Name: Melchor Elias
Owner: Nuevo Mexico
Name: Diane Helbert
Owner: Bru Coffeehouse
What they said then:
In July 2010, The Tribune reported on Atascadero initiatives designed to promote the city’s restaurants.
The campaign was led by Assistant City Manager Jim Lewis, Atascadero Chamber of Commerce CEO Joanne Main and Steve Martin, owner of S.W. Martin & Associates.
In March 2010, www.DineAtascadero.com was developed to spotlight participating restaurants with links to their websites, maps and a calendar of specials.
Leaders also invited restaurants to weigh in on their priorities for initiatives, while the chamber distributed menus to hotels.
What they say now:
“When the city started this restaurant stimulus, the buzz at that time was that everybody was in trouble,” said Martin, who is also executive director of Atascadero Main Street.
“I think some of the restaurants are doing better,” he added. “We have some people who are becoming successful, which is a positive indicator. We also have some people who are going out of business.”
Traffic on the website, he added, is “pretty good — not in the thousands.” Hits for each of the 46 restaurants now on the site range from just 53 to 895 for Overland Stage Western Steakhouse.
Eateries contacted said the site was another tool for bringing customers and spreading the word about specials and discounts. But none could say how much business it actually generates. Most said the impact was minimal.
Diane Helbert opened Bru Coffeehouse in May. She has her staff ask customers how they learned of the business. Few, if any, have mentioned the website.
“It’s mostly word of mouth,” she said.
It’s been almost three years since Melchor Elias opened Nuevo Mexico. He attributes his survival to low staff costs and his luck in winning a hard liquor license through the Alcohol Beverage Control lottery soon after he opened.
He’s watched a number of restaurants close in Atascadero, including Hoover’s Café, Players Pizzeria, Village Café and Denny’s. Now Shockley’s in The Carlton Hotel has announced its closure after less than one year in business.
Still, Elias and other owners seem upbeat about the future of dining in Atascadero.
“I think they’re doing a good job in trying to promote Atascadero dining,” Elias said. “Now that we have the (Galaxy) Theatres, now we have a little bit more business.”
Helbert lived in San Luis Obispo more than 30 years before moving to Atascadero and opening the coffeehouse. She sees potential for the city’s restaurant industry to attract diners who have gone to Paso Robles or San Luis.
A landscape architect by trade, she sees beautification as a key way to change perceptions and attract visitors and residents.
“Look at what Paso did. They really turned things around,” she said. “I think Atascadero can have that same potential. You have to change people’s mentalities about their own town.”