El Cajon Boulevard Night Market Expanding
First they reclaimed an old strip mall on El Cajon Boulevard. Now, young business owners are reclaiming Utah Street in San Diego's North Park neighborhood.
Their monthly BLVD Market will take over the street with food and cocktails starting at 6 p.m. Friday.
Since October, the market has brought food vendors, music and residents to a strip mall parking lot on El Cajon Boulevard. Once nondescript, the commercial center — like much of the boulevard — has experienced a rebirth. An artisan butcher shop, juice bar and mattress store that doubles as an art gallery moved in.
And the center's night market has gotten so popular it's expanding onto adjacent Utah Street.
"More and more people are coming out and bringing their neighbors just from blocks away," said Beryl Forman, marketing director for the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association, which puts on the event. "We felt summertime was a great time to actually expand into the street."
Forman said the city has approved permits to close Utah Street between the boulevard and Howard Street every third Friday of the month through December.
Friday's market will feature everything from Maine lobster to Mexican-style hot dogs to Neapolitan pizza. Snake Oil Cocktails and Greenbar Craft Distillery, which specializes in gin, will build out a temporary cocktail lounge.
Javier Ortega of City Heights has been selling empanadas inspired by his childhood in Queens at the market since it began. He said the market acted as an incubator for his business, Spanglish Eats, and now he's looking for a restaurant of his own.
"That is because of small market venues like the El Cajon Boulevard Market, which is just wonderful for the small business owner because we don't necessarily have all the opportunities or all the capital," Ortega said.
He's looking for a space nearby, where other entrepreneurs have helped change the corridor's reputation from dingy and crime-ridden to fresh and up-and-coming.
The boulevard's business association plans to start a similar market down the road in City Heights in the coming year, Forman said. The Little Saigon district there has wanted a night market to showcase its Vietnamese-owned businesses.