Byline: Mark Nelson
I sailed to Avalon for a few days this winter. I have always enjoyed this quaint little town during the winter months — and I kind of feel like I am a “local” when the crowds are gone.
To my great surprise, there were a large number of stores and restaurants closed — far more now than at any time in memory.
I’ve been going to Catalina since 1960 and have seen much change and evolution over the years. With the recent economical ills we all have experienced, it is not surprising to see some of it presented in the reduction of businesses in places such as Avalon.
However, what I witnessed seems far greater than one would expect. So, I did some investigating, asking questions of people who live and work in Avalon. What I learned was alarming, at least to me.
A substantial redirection appears to be in the works. There is a move very strongly toward what looks like a rebranding of Avalon.
Already, Descanso Beach is offering lounges to rent for well over $100 per day. Descanso is beautiful now. The upgrades are well deserved — but $100-plus to sit on a beach lounge all day, covered or not, seems to me to be a bit “over the top.”
The Landing shop area is said to be in need of much physical repair. So, the entire structure will be razed and a “high-end” spa will be built. If it is going to cost me over $100 to sit on the beach all day, then I wonder how much a “high-end” spa will cost me or my wife?
I also learned that the emphasis on dining at local restaurants is shifting toward the high side of the scale. Of course, everything costs more in Avalon because of its island location (and it always has). But when a family of four begins to look for an affordable meal here, will that be possible in the future?
Already, the Avalon Grille offers a $16 classic hamburger. And the upscale Bluewater Avalon restaurant is taking the place of the former Busy Bee restaurant.
If Avalon is to survive as the enchanting tourist burg that it is today, I agree that there certainly needs to be a major investment in its future. My worry is that a business model that is too upscale and “over the top” will ultimately create an overpriced town — not a place for average people who bring their families and enough money to spend an enchanted day or two in Avalon.
One look at the people stepping off the boats at the mole clearly demonstrates that “big spenders” are not the ones who provide most of the support for Avalon, economically. If, after all the proposed redevelopment is done and the well-heeled money is not supporting the investment, where then does the city go for more revenue?