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New Program Serving City Heights Businesses And Residents Hit Hardest By Pandemic

A colorful pillar in City Heights identifies the San Diego neighborhood.

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: A colorful pillar in City Heights identifies the San Diego neighborhood.

Jose Nuno is the owner of La Surtidora, a party supply and convenience store in City Heights. Like so many others, he feared for his livelihood when COVID-19 first struck.

“I was like, ‘How am I gonna survive if people stop coming in?’” he said.

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Reported by Joe Hong , Video by Mike Damron

Few San Diego neighborhoods have been hit as hard by the pandemic as City Heights. And though Nuno said business has ticked up during the holidays, it still isn’t back to what it was before the pandemic.

But thanks to a new initiative launched by the City Heights Business Association, Nuno is worrying a bit less, both for his store and for his community.

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Earlier this year, the Business Association in collaboration with other City Heights-based organizations raised $300,000 in grants for local businesses struggling amid the pandemic. This month, it raised an additional $5,000 to purchase gift certificates from 50 local businesses. The association then gave those gift certificates to families in need.

“At the same time it’s helping the community and it’s also helping logical businesses,” Nuno said.

The program is currently still in its pilot phase but it will likely grow in the coming weeks.

Enrique Gandarilla, the business association’s executive director, said the gift certificate program could have long-term benefits for businesses in one of the city’s lowest income neighborhoods.

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“The businesses are getting new customers who may have never been there before and are now discovering this business in their neighborhood,” Gandarilla said.

Meanwhile, Nuno says it is clear that the gift certificates are going to those who need them most.

“The people who came in with certificates, I could see, were people in need - what they got is milk, eggs and bread,” he said. “It really gives them a little push in these tough times … I wish it could continue forever.”


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