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Chula Vista's Quinceañera, Event Industry Readies For End Of Pandemic Restrictions

Mario Urista steams a quinceñera dress at his dress shop, Mario's Boutique on May 11, 2021.
Alexandra Rangel
Mario Urista steams a quinceñera dress at his dress shop, Mario's Boutique on May 11, 2021.
The businesses that cater to these events along Third Avenue in Chula Vista have had a brutal year, but they're starting to see a turnaround as the county returns to some normalcy.

Quiceañera dreams were shattered and some wedding vows were delayed for many who had their special day planned during the COVID-19 pandemic. And for those with a business in the event industry, their livelihoods also took a hit.

The businesses along Third Avenue in Chula Vista that cater to these events have had a brutal year, but they're starting to see a turnaround as the county returns to some normalcy.

Vicky Hernandez, the owner of Illusion Hall, a party venue on Third Avenue, said she has a string of parties scheduled starting this summer.

“I’m happy that I didn't stop. I'm happy that I didn't go bankrupt, but it’s going to take us at least a year or two to go back to where we were before the pandemic,” Hernandez said.

Chula Vista’s Quinceañera, Event Industry Readies For End Of Pandemic Restrictions

As tears rolled down her cheeks, Hernandez reflected on the last 14 months.

“It was so sad,” Hernandez said, "And I was so scared of losing my business, and this is a family business where my kids help me."

Her children were the motivation to keep her going.

“Some people don't know, but I had to make the decision to work as a waiter. I never believed that I could do that, but I was trying to find a job,” Hernandez said.

She also took out a $60,000 business loan.

“When the loans started coming out, I qualified for a loan, and that was my key to continue in this business,” Hernandez said.

After a year of canceled events, Hernandez now has 50 parties lined up.

She marked the turnaround with an open house, giving clients a feel of what their dream day can look like.

Angelo Rocha has a tuxedo shop across the street from Illusion Hall.

He said the reopening of the party halls is a good sign, as he knows people will be looking for formal wear.

“It’s low, but everyday, more people are coming up,” Rocha said.

The majority of Rocha’s income comes from quinceañeras — a celebration of a girl's 15th birthday.

Rocha says 90% of his clients are Latino.

“Quinceañeras are something special for the Hispanic people, it’s very important for the family,” Rocha said.

He said it’s loyal customers that are keeping his business afloat.

Out of 50 events he had scheduled last year, Rocha said only one asked for their money back and the remaining 49 have rescheduled for this year.

“Most of my customers are old customers. I have a customer from 20 years ago. They come back. They do a quiceañera, then they come for their wedding, later on they come for another event,” Rocha said.

Other store owners aren’t as fortunate.

Mario Urista, the owner of Mario’s Boutique, says he has an entire demographic of clientele he hasn’t been able to reach.

“About 30 to 40% of my customers come from Tijuana to look for a dress here. It’s a lot of people,” Urista said.

Urista said he’s had several customers looking for prom dresses, an added bonus he wasn't expecting to see this year with the uncertainty of high school proms.

As the event industry begins to salvage what’s left of this year, Adam Benhaddouch, the owner of Coastal West Limousine, said he’s just grateful to still have his business.

“I’m glad that we’re still alive and we’re still up and running because a lot of businesses went out of business,” said Benhaddouch.

He said prom season also hit him unexpectedly.

“Fortunately, it started right with the prom season, so we are super busy, thank God, and we’re trying to get back on track,” Benhaddouch said.

Chula Vista’s Quinceañera, Event Industry Readies For End Of Pandemic Restrictions
Listen to this story by Alexandra Rangel.