Vallejo Main Street Program board president Gregg Goins in front of a Georgia Street planter in honor of three Vallejo Police Department officers killed in the line of duty. The planter was created by Randy Golovich of Randu Original Tiles in Vallejo. Goins is pursuing a survey on how to brand and market the downtown. (Sarah Rohrs/Times-Herald)

What makes downtown Vallejo unique and special? Is it the area’s history? The nearness of the waterfront? Cultural amenities, such as the Empress Theatre and JFK Library or community events like Farmers Market and Fourth of July parade?The Vallejo Main Street Program has set on an ambitious course to gather as many opinions as possible to try to answer that question.

The goal is to come up with a brand identification for downtown Vallejo, Main Street board president Gregg Goins said.
“Once we establish a marketing strategy everyone will be singing the same song,” Goins said. “We can start putting things all together. It’s not a negative for the downtown, but a positive.”
Finding a name, slogan or description for the downtown has long been on Main Street’s “to do” list, said prior board president John Sylvain.
With little funding and no paid staff, board members will take on that task as volunteers.

One possible slogan could be “Downtown Vallejo, the Heart of Vallejo,” Sylvain said. Such a slogan could refer to the area’s civic center, historical origins and place for community gatherings while also instilling some affection for the area, too, he said.
“If we could up with a description, like the “Heart of Vallejo,” then people could start to believe in (the downtown) and quit looking at it as a problem area. We could focus attention on the positive,” Sylvain said.
As part of the first step in finding a branding identification for the downtown, Main Street board members, under Goins’ direction, have taken this idea a step further. They have developed tailored surveys which will soon be sent out to 16 different groups with a stake in the downtown.
Some of those groups include artists, property owners, churches, businesses, neighborhood groups, schools, nonprofits and others. Survey questions are designed to gather opinions on the opportunities and challenges of the downtown and what can be done to help market the area.
Ultimately a branding identification can be developed for marketing purposes and also to instill pride in Vallejoans in what their downtown has to offer, Goins said. Time is of the essence, he added.
“There is momentum in the downtown,” Goins said, referring to the new Temple Art Lofts project, the Virginia Street capital improvements, the Soltrans bus transfer station, new parking garage and businesses. “All of this creates a lot of positive energy down there,” Goins said.
After completed surveys have been collected results will be tabulated, studied and discussed among stakeholders and others. Goins said a brand for the downtown will emerge and then be developed for use in advertisements and other marketing campaigns.
Cooperation and participation from all downtown stakeholders and businesses is vital to make this process a success, Goins said.

Fred Menard of Indian Alley Antiques said he supports the effort, though he added surveys have been done over the years and then forgotten. However, he added, “anything you want to try to do to promote the downtown is good.” He said his suggested slogan for the downtown is: “Vallejo, Jewel of the Bay.”
A downtown Vallejo businessman for nearly 20 years, Goins is a technical recruiter and placement specialist and also an artist. He helped establish Mare Island Technology Academy and has served on the Main Street board of directors since January.
Since he assumed the board president position, Goins has also helped get a new and updated downtown Vallejo walking brochure developed, printed and widely distributed.

One of the chief aims during his term is to find ways to bring positive attention to the downtown so that Vallejo residents will want to come down to the area. “We only have one downtown and it’s a very unique area,” he said.
The Main Street survey and effort to find a brand for the downtown is separate from the branding identification process the Vallejo Visitors and Convention Bureau has undertaken. Bureau chief Mike Browne said the process he is involved in is designed to result in an identification for the entire city of Vallejo, not just the downtown.
Contributions from key Vallejo businesses allowed North Star Destinations Strategies to be hired to collect information and conduct an online survey, the results which may be available next month. More funding will need to be found to complete the rest of the process.
Goins said the bureau’s process will take too long and may not do enough for the downtown. “We have to do this now. No one else is going to do it for us,” he said. “We have to start tooting our own horn and it’s all about economic vitality.”

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