Downtown Los Banos merchants forming association

Downtown merchants are forming their own association to give voice to businesses in the heart of the city.

Focusing on events and projects that benefit the downtown will be the aim of the Los Banos Downtown Association, said Donna Mendes, president of the association.

“We’re just in the process of forming our organization,” she said. Mendes has owned and operated Positive Changes, a fitness studio downtown, for 14 years.

The new association, which consists of an executive board, will coordinate events.

“We’re forming a nonprofit organization to benefit the core of the downtown,” she said. “We want to promote, improve, beautify and coordinate events taking place in the downtown area. We basically want to focus; you know, we’re downtown merchants, we want to generate more enthusiasm.”

Their goal is to bring more awareness to the area, she said, which includes businesses up and down Sixth Street; even businesses between Fourth and Seventh streets are included.

The idea of forming the association came together about six months ago, she said. Although the Los Banos Chamber of Commerce has helped downtown merchants in the past with different events, Mendes said, they still wanted to have a more downtown-focused group.

“We decided that we just kind of wanted to have an association where we can strictly focus on downtown,” she said. “Our goal is to keep downtown thriving.”

When the Los Banos Chamber of Commerce began, it was for the downtown merchants, said chamber President Geneva Brett, adding, “our mission is to promote all businesses and the community in which we live.”

The chamber still plans to work closely with the new association to help promote downtown.

“We want to see all our merchants succeed and be successful,” Brett said.

The chamber also still plans to hold the two street fairs, Christmas parade, and be involved with organizing and promoting the annual Downtown Wine Stroll.

Brett said she has shared some ideas with the association for future events.

On Oct. 30, the chamber handed over the remainder of the Christmas lights that are to be hung on trees downtown. They now become the association’s responsibility.

“Now that these merchants are forming the association, we are giving them our lights, which are specifically used for downtown,” Brett said. “We’re very happy; it was our idea to give them the lights.”

Added Mendes, “Now the plan is (that) we have to work as a team to get these lights hung.”

Some money from the Wine Stroll will help with this project.

Other events have been planned for later this month and December. The first is Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30.

“Basically, it’s just promoting small businesses,” Mendes said, “and so they will have specials. Their hours will be extended, I believe.”

Christmas Evening Downtown will be Dec. 5.

“It’s just our businesses downtown opening up to the people of Los Banos, the city of Los Banos, showcasing our small businesses,” she said. “There’s so many people in Los Banos that aren’t even familiar (with) what we have in downtown.”

Next year the group plans to focus on beautification projects such as working with the city to upgrade city benches.

More than 100 applications to join the association have been handed out, she said. Dues are $25 for the year, and the association is open to any business, even if it isn’t located downtown.

“We wanted to make (the dues) affordable,” Mendes said. “Right now, we have 10 businesses, if not more, that are wanting to become part of this.”