Image of Davis Needle, an art structure in the middle of 3rd Street that is constructed of old bicycle parts.

CHANCELL-ING: Getting Back to Business

You can feel glimmers of hope that downtown Davis is coming back to life.

LeShelle and I are visiting our favorite Davis restaurants. Shoppers in protective masks flip through vinyl records at Armadillo Music. G Street is filled with outdoor diners eating slices from Woodstock’s Pizza, burgers from Froggy’s and other local favorites. Meanwhile, signs in the window at Fleet Feet declare “Together We Move” and “Keep Running Davis!”

Of course, we have a way to go before it’s business as usual again. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the economy upside down. The university,the city and our local business owners are certainly feeling the strain. In some cases, such signature businesses as Bistro 33 and Davis Sports Shop have closed for good during the past few weeks.

My hope is that we can show support for our local businesses while making sure we stay safe. Many local shops have done a great job in following public health orders by enforcing mask rules, offering hand sanitizer and limiting occupancies to prevent virus spread.

I am certainly rooting for our business owners during these historic times. I think of areas like the intersection of Third and A streets, a key link between UC Davis’ lecture halls and the wider community with its businesses and services. Just about a year ago, we celebrated an improvement project at Third and A streets that brought new paving, street lighting, bike racks and other features to this signature part of town.

And of course, you can’t help but enjoy “The Davis Needle,” a 25-foot sculpture made of repurposed bike parts that now marks this business corridor. In the coming weeks, you’ll see new banners along Russell and Fifth Streets that further demonstrate our shared interests in our community.

This multi-year project where the campus meets downtown took a lot of coordination between UC Davis, the city and its business community. This is the kind of partnership and goodwill that’s needed to get Davis through the uncertainties of the coming days.

We’ll also need a lot of resilience, and it’s a good thing that our Davis business owners and organizational leaders are a tenacious bunch.

Danea Horn comes to mind. She’s a UC Davis Ph.D. student in agricultural and resource economics who co-owns the Burger Patch at Davis Commons. This vegan restaurant was originally supposed to open on Picnic Day in April, though COVID-19 changed all that.

Horn and her husband, Phil, kept pushing while adapting to this new age of dining. They focused on a business model that emphasized take-out food and learned all they could about online ordering apps. After a series of successful preview events, Burger Patch held its grand opening in late-June and continues to draw faithful customers.

I’m also thinking of Gia Battista, a UC Davis alum who serves as a founding director of the Davis Shakespeare Festival.

The festival was set to celebrate its 10th year in July, but COVID-19 forced the cancellation of its stage productions. Yet instead of going down in defeat, Battista found virtual ways of sharing their love of Shakespeare and theater. They created online Shakespeare reading groups and a series of youth workshops that were a hit.

Throughout this time, it’s been encouraging to see such strong local support for our business community. The Gifting Stimulus Program launched in April by the Davis Downtown Business Association (DDBA) was an overwhelming success. More than $200,000 was pumped into downtown businesses through a gift card program that also included matching funds split between the DDBA and city of Davis.

Let’s keep this kind of support going for our local businesses. And let’s also continue to wear our masks and practice physical distancing so we can get past this pandemic. If we all work together, we can enjoy business as usual once again.