What do Los Gatans want?

Online survey questions residents on businesses they’d like to see

Shepherd and Sons1
Photo by Judy Peterson

In recent years, online sales and big box stores delivered a double whammy to retailers nationwide, with the pandemic making it even more difficult to stay in business.  

That’s evident in Los Gatos, where numerous businesses across town have shut their doors.

To be sure, new businesses are popping up—BevMo! proposes to take over the former Pier One location at the Pavilion Shopping Center and the Shepherd & Sims restaurant is opening soon in the former Viva! site at the Cornerstone Shopping Center.  

Resident Stacy Gerrity wanted to know “What’s missing from Los Gatos,” so she used that question as the basis for a Nextdoor survey that was conducted July 17-20.

The topic generated responses from 480 Los Gatos households. 

Some people named specific businesses they’d like to see, many of which have come and gone over the years. For example, one person said, “A Cold Stone Creamery would be great.”

But a downtown Cold Stone franchise closed in 2011.

Several folks wrote about their desire for a new version of the old Domus home goods store and a “good Irish Pub.”

Still others brought up a skateboard shop, a bookstore, a Chinese restaurant, even coffee shops.

“THere’s a Sentiment that retailers here are entitled. Prices are higher, but there’s less service.”

-Resident Stacy Gerrity

There’s already a skateboard shop, three Chinese restaurants, numerous coffee shops and a used bookstore in Los Gatos.

“When you look at the responses to what people want, it’s things we already have,” Gerrity said.

She believes people don’t know what’s out there in part because “retailers aren’t seizing opportunities—we saw a ton of vegan and fresh food requests.” 

In fact, “vegan” topped the list of wants, followed by drop-off childcare, a teen center and sporting goods stores—even recreational spots such as a skateboard park, which was turned down by voters in 2008.

No. 4 on the list was vegetarian offerings, with beer and wine shops, coffee houses, fresh salad spots, upscale restaurants, ice cream/yogurt shops and Asian food rounding out the top 10.

Following the first survey, Gerrity conducted an email survey of residents via SurveyMonkey. It showed that 36 percent of the 2,143 respondents would like the town to communicate with them via a newsletter mailed to homes; social media was preferred by 17 percent and an online newsletter/web site was preferred by 12 percent of respondents.

“Amazon and Walmart are winning because small businesses aren’t utilizing free communication platforms.”

-Resident Stacy Gerrity

“The bottom line is that communication is probably the most important thing in my findings—people are uninformed due to a lack of communication from the town and retailer,” Gerrity said.

She said, too, that “Amazon and Walmart are winning because small businesses aren’t utilizing free communication platforms. I see a lot of want—people want to know what’s going on—but there’s a heavy lack of communication.”

Gerrity, who is a marketing and communications specialist, also believes that “local businesses need help because they refuse to adapt or anticipate customers’ needs.”

“There’s a sentiment that retailers here are entitled. Prices are higher, but there’s less service. People work hard for their money and expect good service and to be treated nicely. Also, shoppers can no longer rely on familiar salespeople,” Gerrity said.

She went on to say the survey showed “there’s a loss of personal touch” and “inconsistent hours are not helpful. Once I went to a children’s store and there was nobody there. The owner said later that ‘sometimes I don’t have any customers so I don’t open.’”

Gerrity summed up her recommendations: advertise more by taking advantage of free social media platforms, emphasize small business charm, offer unique products and services, be reliable and adaptable.

Although Gerrity hopes to one day open her own business in town, the survey was sponsored by a business developer, with results reflecting plus or minus four percent.

Most respondents were 54 or older and 51 percent were female, 92 percent white, two percent Hispanic, 17 percent Indian and one percent black. Seventy-four percent were married.

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