Honestly, it doesn’t really surprise me…I’ve been watching the number of unread Stranger copies I have to carry back to the delivery van increase more and more (for those who don’t know, I assist a man named Christian in delivering a free publication called The Stranger around Tacoma – related video blogs here and here). The statement on the site is correct – the old management may have had a small draw, but it got smaller. Under the old management, they’d go through about a bundle (25 copies) of The Stranger every week. When the old managers vanished, I was carrying most of that bundle back to the van every week. We cut them down to 15 copies a few weeks back, and I was still carrying most of it back.
It is kind of sad, given the circumstances. Not only did the new owners take on management of a Titanic-esque situation, but they found themselves between a rock and a hard place in terms of customers. They seemed to be having a hard time drawing new customers – possibly because many people still saw it as they did upon first entering La Costa: a dump. A new paint job and new signage on the front, unfortunately, doesn’t make enough people look at a spot without thinking of what used to be there. In the meantime, though, their changes made the existing customer base pretty much vanish.
I think they may have fared at least a little better, even in spite of the sinking ship they took on, if there had been more of an obvious switch-over. As it was, delivering there every week, it never felt like, “Okay, La Costa has closed and this new place is here.” It just felt like, “Eh, the sign changed. Whatever.” I was in the premises every single week, and I never felt tempted by the changes to give it a chance – and I’m a guy who’s tempted by a lot of the places I stop at.
I regularly eat at a number of places I deliver to because I liked the feel, the smell and the people during my brief moments inside. And I have to confess, I was more tempted by the people (though not the feel or the smell) of La Costa’s old regime than Gringo de Loco. I always had a warm, friendly greeting from them, even though I wasn’t there to eat. After the management switch (and, admittedly, the moving of the free publication racks to a crappy place under a counter where they were harder to see) I no longer felt like I should give the place a try due to the friendly nature of the people running it. I’m sure the new management was friendly, too…but I never met them.
I didn’t feel, to me, like a new place…but it didn’t feel like the old place, either. In light of that, they never really had a chance.