Economic Development at a Small Scale

Phil, pictured in front of his current contribution to Santa Ana economic development.

Working in downtown Santa Ana, we're spoiled by the food options near our office. Last year, I was especially fond of a place called The Grilled Cheese Spot. Their specialty, as you probably guessed, was grilled cheese with various combinations and permutations. They also had some killer onion rings and tomato soup. I went there so often that the culinary master who ran the place, Phil, knew me by name. His warm greeting only increased my attachment to the place.

I was disappointed late last year to find that The Grilled Cheese Spot had closed temporarily while it was relocating to the 4th Street Market. When that opened, I scoured the mix of restaurants located there, looking for my favorite grilled cheese sandwiches. I didn't find them.

Last month, I came across Phil, who told me that he moved The Grilled Cheese Spot because of the better location of the 4th Street Market and that he seized the opportunity of the move to try a different format, which he named The Stockyard Sandwich Company. The Stockyard offers a variety of sandwiches, poutines, soups, and salads. The tuna melt on the menu is fortunately reminiscent of the grilled cheese sandwich with tuna from the Stockyard’s predecessor.

Planning and economic development often focus on, to paraphrase Daniel Burnham, the big plans and projects with magic to stir people’s blood. The big plans are important and provide guiding principles. But sometimes economic development occurs on a much smaller scale. Stores and restaurants move a few blocks. New, locally owned retailers open up one at a time. Sometimes it’s necessary to engage with property owners, tenants, and developers directly, which RSG is doing for several clients. Sometimes economic development occurs one grilled cheese sandwich at a time.

Written by Dima Galkin who is a Senior Analyst at RSG.