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Daniel Martinez, “Buddy” and Justin Taylor enjoy a game of chess outside of the Empresso Coffeehouse on Stockton’s Miracle Mile. For 90 years the unique stretch of Pacific Avenue has been the ideal...


POSTED May 19, 2012 1:53 a.m.

STOCKTON – Daniel Martinez settled into his chair and eyed the clear pieces on the chess board.

With his loyal golden retriever “Buddy” on the ground near his feet, Martinez chatted with Jason Taylor while exchanging moves on the patio outside of Stockton’s Empresso Coffeehouse. A small radio played a Sublime album and the two sipped coffee and joked while the mid-day turned to evening.

It’s the kind of scene that you’d expect to find at an alternative coffee shop in a major city like San Francisco or Seattle.

But thanks to a coalition of merchants that want to retain that unique community feel, that scene is very much alive on Stockton’s “Miracle Mile” – a stretch of businesses, restaurants and night haunts that border iconic Stockton neighborhoods and bring that urban feel without all of the problems that come with it.

“It’s a cool place with cool people, and there are a lot of things to do here – we have this and then Valley Brew is just up the street,” Martinez said. “It’s a little far for me to walk, but the No. 40 bus drops you off right up the street so if you want to come do homework or hang out you can.

“They also have an open mic here that I like to come to in order to hang out with my friends. There are things to do.”

The rich history of one of Stockton’s main drags

Tucked away just blocks from the University of the Pacific on Pacific Avenue, the vibrant community includes everything from restaurants and diners to salons and coffee houses.

And at any point during the day there are people milling about the unique district – shopping, eating or just enjoying the sights and sounds of old Stockton.

“I really enjoy the intergenerational environment that you see down there,” Lowery said. “There are teen and young adults and seniors all mixed in together in one place.”

“Whether they’re strolling, skating or walking as a group of seniors on the open sidewalk, it’s a great investment by both the businesses and the city.”

The idea of blending a mixture of businesses near a residential area – tree-lined streets grace the neighborhoods that are within walking distance – came from a developer who copied the idea from Los Angeles’ famed Wilshire Boulevard.

But preservation of something that many feel is one of Stockton’s biggest assets takes a heavy commitment.

The Miracle Mile Improvement District

While other communities have relied on their city government to cover the cost of upgrades and maintenance to boost and maintain business – the argument over how to handle Downtown Manteca has raged for years – the business owners on the Miracle Mile took a unique approach.

They decided to handle it on their own.

By forming their own improvement district and levying an assessment on the businesses that reside within the boundaries things like upkeep, security, maintenance and promotion become a top priority.

“The unique thing about it is that all of the commercial areas – independently owned stores and properties – bonded together,” said Miracle Mile Improvement District Executive Director Denise Jefferson. “And we’ve gotten incredible residential support about how it’s a walkable neighborhood – people can walk to their Yoga center, to get ice cream or home from the bar.

“It’s different and offers a level of uniqueness that you aren’t going to find very many other places. People find it incredible.”

Friends Taking Care Of Friends

Mya Lilly wrapped her arms around the wide bucket of lilies that she had just picked up from the San Francisco nursery more than a block away.

The local psychic and medium at Dragonfairy – who also does massage work – is getting married on the Miracle Mile’s Valley Brew and was busy getting everything together.

Shopping locally, she said, was something that was important to her, and she’s recognized that most of the other business owners follow suit as well.

“I just love the sense of community down here and the people and the way that everybody knows everybody,” she said. “I look forward to coming to work and being able to walk down the street – there’s something special about this place with the college kids around and the campus right there.

“The business owners support one another. I’m trying to get everything for my wedding right here from these businesses and I see other owners that come in for services and massages.”

Cristal Jones, who was just out for a walk, said that with the campus just up the street and some of the gorgeous old houses just behind the businesses it’s a place that lots of people should really come down and try out.

“It’s peaceful and it’s fun and there’s a little something for everybody,” she said. “I love the Miracle Mile, and I think that other people will too.”

And one of the biggest draws to the Miracle Mile – the Farmer’s Market that used to pack the streets – could eventually return if all of the logistics were to be worked out.

The cost of closing down the street, Jefferson says, is cost-prohibitive but if the district were able to work something out with the city then the popular event could be brought back.

Regardless, she said, the district is thriving.

“There are a few empty storefronts, but the businesses we have are doing very well,” she said. “That’s what we’re hoping to do here – bring people down here and show them what a gem the Miracle Mile actually is.”



209 staff reporter

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