No one knows how they will respond to adversity until it comes. Still, one thing is for sure, compassion and creativity, as demonstrated by La Quinta businesses and residents these past few months, are always an excellent response.
Stepping up to the plate
One restaurant that stepped up to the plate to help the local community is RD RNNR Libations, Pints and Plates. Having only four months under their belt as a new dining venue before the pandemic hit, but with such a heart to serve, owners Chris and Anita Chmielak began providing meals for front-line healthcare personnel. Then other restaurants joined them; they organized a fundraising effort to continue on a larger scale and generous residents chipped in. RD RNNR also participated in the state-funded Great Plates Delivered program and has served more than 12,000 meals to home-bound seniors.
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“We felt confident in being able to deliver a great dining experience with our many years in hospitality, but this is the first business we have owned,” said Chris. “We went into survival mode and wanted to do what we could to stay open and help others. We are one of the only restaurants that stayed open the whole time in Old Town.” Anita added, “Now we have a lot of new customers who’ve said, ‘We’re here because of all the goodwill you’ve done, and we want to support your restaurant.’ It’s come back ten-fold.”
For a while, take out was the only dining option this past spring and summer, so restaurants like Burgers and Beer got creative in their menu and marketing, responding to community needs with offerings like a value family meal and some even with grocery staples.
On the retail front, La Quinta’s newest retailer, Apricot Lane Boutique, as well as h2o Closet and Jadabug’s Kids Boutique pumped up their online and social media presence and offered services like curbside pickup or free delivery. Jadabug’s even created activity packs parents could purchase to keep their kids busy and engaged at home.
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Just opened in March, Cali Rosina serves uniquely sourced teas and chocolate delights along with food bites like avocado toast.
A successful pandemic opening
Having served their unique teas and chocolate treats at festivals throughout the West Coast for years, Jodie and Joshua Smith, a sister and brother team, decided to open a permanent Coachella Valley location. Residents of La Quinta, they spent more than a year looking valley-wide to find the right spot for Cali Rosina Tea & Chocolate. They opened their cafe on March 9 in Old Town La Quinta. “It’s been an up and down roller coaster opening just a week before everything shut down,” said Jodie. “Fortunately, we were able to stay open as an essential business.”
Having just taken a personal loan to start the business and with no prior brick and mortar history, they were not eligible for any other loans. “It’s been trying at times because of COVID, but overall, I feel like we’ve gotten a big embrace from the La Quinta community,” said Jodie. “I’ve always loved it here. It’s a creative, artsy, family-oriented community with a mountain vibe. And we have something unique to offer our community. It was worth the wait in retrospect,” she added.
Foresight for contingency
In 2016, the La Quinta City Council had the foresight to set aside $10 million for potential future economic issues. “We pulled $1.5 million out in late March to help local businesses,” said Gilbert Villalpando, assistant to the city manager. “We can’t help everyone, but we did what we could to keep businesses thriving.” City efforts included the “Open for Business” banner program, zero-interest economic relief loans of up to $20,000, a rebate program to help cover COVID-19-related supplies and an alfresco program. The alfresco program offers ongoing assistance with grants of up to $20,000 for any businesses, not just restaurants, that want to expand or create outdoor patios.
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RD RNNR was one of the first to take advantage of the alfresco program with a grant toward their attractive pergola shade cover and enclosed patio project. The covered area will provide seating for about 40 people to enjoy the desert ambiance by day and twinkle lights by night. Construction should be complete this fall.
More new dining options
Joining the coffee and tea scene is Dutch Bros Coffee. The family-owned company, which currently has 379 Western locations, will break ground in La Quinta this fall at the Jefferson Square Shopping Center at Jefferson Street and Fred Waring Drive for a drive-through-only location. And the Old Town La Quinta Starbucks is moving a few hundred feet to accommodate a drive-through; construction should be complete by spring 2021. Pizza lovers can enjoy Pieology, which just opened in late September in the former WaBa Grill location. Other new dining options that debuted this past year include Caddyshack, Torikachi Ramen, TQLAs and La Quinta Nutrition & Brow Bar which offers nutritional counseling, meal replacement shakes and esthetic treatments.
Moving forward steadily
While much of 2020 may have seemed like a perpetual roundabout, business did keep moving forward steadily in La Quinta, including new business. With completion of the Complete Streets Project in mid-2020, the roundabout traffic is now moving more smoothly. The city is currently working with local artists to select public art sculptures to display in the roundabout planters. Progress is also continuing on the signature SilverRock project.
Chris and Anita Chmielak, owners of RD RNNR, are excited to unveil their new patio this fall.
Long-awaited grocery anchor secured
La Quinta Cove residents have been missing a full-service grocery at the Tampico Plaza since the Ralph’s store closed in 2014. Due to community pressure and diligent city follow-up, the property owner finally secured a new tenant to take over half of the former Ralph’s building. Grocery Outlet of Emeryville, Calif. will begin remodeling the structure soon with an anticipated opening of fall 2021. This new La Quinta site will be the chain’s third Coachella Valley location and one of more than 300 locations in California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Grocery Outlet offers brand-name groceries and farm-fresh produce at up to 40 to 70 percent off retail prices.
Processing permits quickly
Last year one of the city’s proud accomplishments was streamlining their permitting process online. The investment to transition to an online approval process in 2019 was immensely helpful in keeping new projects moving forward without any delays from the city during the recent shutdown.
Still, one thing is for sure, compassion and creativity, as demonstrated by La Quinta businesses and residents these past few months, are always an excellent response.
Celebrations will continue online
Creativity also comes into play when you can’t celebrate in person. Rather than cancel long-held community events, the city held a virtual 9-11 remembrance event, and the public is invited to participate in online celebrations for Veterans Day and the festive holiday tree lighting.
Encouraging atmosphere for new businesses
While these are still challenging times, new businesses considering La Quinta should be encouraged by pro-business leadership, fast-track approvals and a supportive local community. With a little foresight, compassion and creativity, anything’s possible.
Total Population: 40,754
Median Age: 48.9
Average Household Income: $126,444
Median Household Income: $87,208
(% of population)
Retail Trade: 12.29
Healthcare/Social Assistance: 10.56
Educational Services: 8.59
Accommodation/Food Services: 8.58
Professional/Scientific/Tech Services: 7.80
Real Estate/ Rental/Leasing: 6.58
Public Administration: 5.89
Admin/Support/Waste Management Services: 5.69
Other Services (excluding Public Administration): 5.64
(% of population age 25 and older)
High School Diploma: 19.02
Bachelor’s Degree: 22.53
Graduate/Professional Degree: 14.53
Source: Esri/Coachella Valley Economic Partnership