Single Gal and “Chic” Downtown Retail

I want to take this time to salute a brave soul, the owner of Chic Chateau, one of the only retail clothing stores in all of downtown.  So much has been said about how retail cannot survive downtown—because there aren’t enough people or there isn’t enough money or enough parking—that we need to keep an eye on how Chic Chateau is doing to see if they can prove the naysayers wrong.  Geared toward the 20- to 30-something woman, the boutique will be a barometer of how retail will do in our downtown now and in the future. 

The clothes are trendy and cute (my friend walked out with an adorable outfit); Chic Chateau, housed in an apartment complex on the corner of San Fernando and Third Street, is obviously banking on it’s proximity to San Jose State. Now, with my busy schedule, I haven’t made it over there quite yet, but plan to visit them very soon.  Why?  Because I think it’s in everyone’s best interests to make sure that Chic Chateau is successful.  What chances will we have downtown if the store doesn’t make it?

Regardless of how much is being run through the register each day, if Chic Chateau can survive, maybe it will encourage other boutiques or even the mucky-mucks at large clothing chains to take a chance downtown—and that will add to the downtown that we all want and need. 

So even if you are 245-pound man with a 48-inch waist, maybe you could get used to the idea of squeezing yourself into a pair of skinny jeans with sequins down the sides matched with a baby doll shirt? Or, on second thought, maybe just buy an outfit for your niece…and I will see you there soon.


  1. Chic C won’t make it.  Cheap quality throw-away clothing plus lack of focus with that store (they have some weird tea room thing in here as well, like 20 year olds want that) equal gone within the next 9 months I presume.

    What is really telling is that the art store subsidized by the RDA in the 4th Street garage failed.  And no Flames yet with their heavy subsidy?

    And why is Cafe Nonos gone?  They had good falafel, the only one in town and they seemed to be often busy.

    Downtown business is an oxymoron (unless you are a lobbyist for labor).

  2. SG, let’s not be so harsh on those of us men who are carrying a few extra pounds.  I’d say a guy who weighs 245 would more likely be a 38 waist, not 48, unless he’s only like 4 feet tall.

    If Chic Chateau can hold on until the CIM project is done, there might be a chance that it will survive.  I commend them for giving downtown a try but can’t say I’m optimistic about their survival.

  3. This all comes back to the same “chicken-and-egg” theory of downtown retail.  There have been successful small retail businesses downtown, but not enough to sustain a retail community without a major retail draw.  One cute little boutique, if successful, isn’t going to mean retail has turned the corner.  There needs to be more…much more.  One little chic boutique isn’t going to be the downtown retail draw.  There needs to be an effective plan set in place if downtown retail is ever going to be viable.  We need a better plan than the “if you build it they will come” plan of the Pavilion.  We need a more solid answer to the question “why should I shop downtown?”

  4. I wish the Chich the best of luck.  SJS has done a nice job with its new high rise housing project.  It hopefully should provide her with plenty of young customers.  It seems the downtown takes two steps forward and one back however.  They did such a nice job on the River Street project, and now they are squeezing a tall modern building on a postage stamp size lot right in front of it.  I always enjoy looking down at this unique little enclave of buildings as I drive south on hwy 87.  This little grouping of turn of the century buildings are our working mans version of San Francisco’s painted ladies.  I attended an event there last week, put on by The Friends of the Guadalupe and the Chamber.  It was a very nice event, but there was no parking.  This little lot shoulod have been used for parking or they should have moved the Donner Mansion to the site for a Bed and Breakfast.  Just think, visitors could spend the night there, have lunch at Loury’s, dinner at Manny’s, go for a strole along the Guadalupe and catch an event at the Pavillion.  Anyone know what is going into that new tower in front of River Street?  I sure hope it is compatable.

  5. A telling sign of downtown retail was when Alta left the Fairmont.  After leaving, Rhonda opened two boutiques up the peninsula, both in established retail areas.  The flagship Alta is still on Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen.  I can recall my mother once saying that ” Willow Glen will be the downtown of San Jose.”  A few years ago, I began to think she was right, at least for independents.
    I’ve noticed the new boutique on the corner of 3rd and have been curious.  I also wonder why the RDA gave the Ok for this boutique when in years past they prevented others from opening.  Have they learned a lesson?  Seems to me that in the past the RDA violated the concept of free enterprise.
    I too wish Chic Chateau well, and will stop by to check it out.  If Chic Chateau doesn’t make it beyond five years, the blame shouldn’t totally be because it opened in downtown.  Unless a store is an established chain, it has little chance of survival in today’s retail world, unless there are some pretty deep pockets behind it.  I wish it weren’t that way, but it is.

  6. I like the Chic Chateau – was in there on Saturday and there was some nice “foot traffic”.  I’m a fan and wish them luck.

    One lady asked me if there was any retail downtown to buy a business suit – she was from out of town…and didn’t have time to travel to VF.

    My question is…how is Black Sea Gallery surviving?  Background on this anyone?

  7. Another great boutique is located near Santa Clara University. Nalej is a cute clothes
    store located at 2255 The Alameda and is just a block off of the university campus.
    The store features hip clothes for men and women.

    A great find can also be found next door to Nalej. LeJJBelle Pedicure is the best
    manicure/pedicure salon I have ever been to and has a Hawaiian/South Pacific style

    With all of the high-rise condominiums under construction and in the planning stages
    for downtown San Jose, it is about time the city focuses on attracting an anchor
    department store in the city core … Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and the
    like would give San Jose the final piece vital for a Top 10 city in the U.S.

  8. Plueeezzzeee, people…

    The BEST downtown boutique is The Workingman’s Emporium at 260 n. 1st. St. They have the most adorable Ben Davis pants, steel toe boots that are 2-DIE-4 and oh-so-chic denim shirts. Singal Gal’s 245 lb. man won’t have any problem shopping here. He can bring his big brother along too.

    And they’ve been downtown like for-EV-er!

  9. As an old downtown merchant, I do have a few comments:

    In my day, there were always cheap rents available on the marginal streets. As businesses became successful, they moved to the high traffic locations and were able to pay higher rents. Unfortunately, all of the downtown streets are marginal.

    There are some solutions. Downtown San Jose can never become Santana Row or Willow Glen or Los Gatos because of the built in problems.

    Downtown retail needs FREE parking and foot traffic.

    Downtown retail needs to be seen. The sign ordinance needs to be revised. The trees need to be trimmedor removed.

    The biggest problem is the “light rail.” There used to be light rail (we called them street cars) that ran in downtown, but they didn’t cause the problems presented by the present system. People were able to get through town without great detours. Pedestrians could cross the streets without putting their lives as risk. And, there was still room for on street parking!

    As long as the streets are for all practicle purposes blocked, no major retailer will want to be there, and the stores that do come in are doomed to failure!

    Sorry to be so negative, but the only area of the downtown worth going to is San Pedro Sq.

  10. Retail stores will not be successful unless there are sufficuent customers to buy

    There are not sufficient customers living in downtown for most retailers or will there be for at least 5 + years

    Downtown retail has had 3-4 decades of retail failures due to city, redevelopmetn and customer decisions to not shop in a problematic downtown when they have dozens of better shoppig areas to shop

    Successful retailers will not take a risk on areas with decades of retail failure since they have many other potential successful proven locations to locate with anchor or destination retailers to help attract customes and offset startup costs , long terms leases and monthly overhead equal to 1/2 to 2 million per store risk

    Retailers know San Jose has 2-4 times longer approval process, 2 times higher costs and unpredicable approvals so go elsewhere

    Do not expect any substantial downtown retail for 5-10 years or more until a large group of customers ( with the money to spend ) live downtown

    Main barrier to sucessful downtown retail is city / RDA policies and attitudes of downtown residents and existing downtown business who unrealistically and against all logic believe that downtown is an attractive retail location –

    It is not –  so either accept it or change the undesirable downtown situation which will take 5-10 years and everyone working together on a sustainable realistic reatil development plan which dows not exist – but then the dreamers can dream while we will all shop in other cities

  11. Prof. #11:  It speaks for itself.  However, I’ll comment anyway.  I guess SJ State Girl graduated from high school before the mandatory exit exam.  Or perhaps she’s from Arkansas.

    Unrealistic #12:  ANOTHER 5-10 years!

  12. JtF, re: #4 you make some good points.  I need to check out that “tall” building you mentioned, “tall” being a relative term with our stubby accomodating skyline.

    And you meant Henry’s, right?  Unless I’ve been under a rock for several years, Manny’s is a place for the history books.

    Right on Spud—the WMS has been around forever even if it’s not in its original location.  What’s that say about the type of businesses that downtown can support?  Should we expect the WMS to move out of downtown once all the chic people move into the expensive “high rise” condos?  That would be a shame.

    And yeah, I’d like to know how Black Sea is surviving, but that would be at any location, not just downtown.  Talk about tired cliche merchandising.

  13. Sorry I am a little off on the waist sizes of large men, I will do better research next time!  Please tell me that Willow Glen is taking the place of downtown!  Cute shops yes, but never any nightlife to speak of, and that’s just the way they want it…

  14. Does anyone know if there is a correlation between RDA subsidies and the above listed downtown stores?

    I lived downtown a decade ago and was amused that the RDA then wanted to spend a half million subsidizing a bakery. 

    No one bothered explaining why we needed a subsidized bakery when there were a half dozen Vietnamese stores with the best french bread I’ve had.

    The Vietnamese stores, of course, needed no subsidy to survive.

  15. # 16, I believe the answer to your question is this:

    The RDA needs to pay staff. Staff needs to be tied to a project. With regards to your question, if the RDA allocates 500K for a bakery, how much of that 500K do you think the bakery will actually see?

    My guess is about 100K if they cooperate with the RDA. And…that 100K will will probably be spread over several years.

    Keep in mind, this is only a guess derived from reading the numerous stories in the Merc regarding RDA spending.

  16. Didn’t the city just buy another bakery to build the ballpark?

    At 250K for pool consultants, you have to wonder how much the RDA would hand out if you open a few doughboy pools downtown.  They would go nicely with the tent and cleaner than our fountains.

  17. Redevelopment believes – Subsidize it and it will be successful – foolishly Not hundreds deals later

    San Jose believes – Build it and they will come – foolishly Not billions later

    Too many decades of bad Council, RDA and Special Interest decisions – that benefit politician and insiders – billions spent and millions wasted on poor economic development results and a few jobs – while Gilroy, Milpitas , Campbell and others benefit by millions from San Jose residents buying or having jobs in their cities

    San Jose financial insanity + poor development results =  few city services while our clueless Council blankly smiles at another city / RDA photo op

    Sad, sad, sad –

    Rule of political change – Do not elect         1) professional politicians,  2) incumbents 3) incompetents 4)  candidates needing a job – all have conflicts of interest with taxpayers interests –  if you want change

  18. #14 Mark
    Thanks, yes I ment Henry’s.  I only wish we still had Manny’s in the basement of the Fallon house.  At the turn of the century, Henry’s and the Fallon house both were housing for Italian emigrants, then became the homes of two of my favorite restaurants.  I better start living in the 21st century.
    #21…didn’t they also buy the Sunlight Bakery building, or is that still in the works?

  19. Cafe Nono’s took a big hit when a couple of businesses moved out of the Mitchell Block. I think the family may also have been having some internal issues.

  20. RIP,

    Aly (owner of Cafe Nono’s) is actually remodeling.  First place closed for remodeling that is actually remodeling that I have ever heard of. 

    He signed a new lease and is upgrading the space.  I took a peek late last week; it looks really nice.

    Great Sands, great cafe drinks, and great news.

    Well at least some good news on the small biz front downtown!

  21. Re: #10
    San Jose State Girl:
    You need to stop shopping and start spelling. People judge your intelligence and abilities by how you present yourself – and yes – that includes spelling.
    Study this:
    Unfortunately – their – they are.
    Get to work, girl, or you will never be able to afford to shop at Santana Row.  Good Luck.

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