Some businesses see steady flow of customers while others feel effects of paid parking

PASO ROBLES — Following the rush of the holiday season, January has historically been a slow month for retail businesses. Paso Robles Press spoke with some downtown merchants to get a pulse rate of how they are faring during this time of year. 

Dan Pankratz, buyer and merchandiser for Alliance Board Company on Park Street, said despite the late snow season, the surf and skate shop had a good holiday season. “We had a pretty solid holiday season aside from the snow business being a little slower because of the weather,” he said.

Adding that business felt comparable to previous years for December, the trend seems to be continuing in January. 


“Speaking highly of Mike, the owner, he is running a great business here, and he puts a huge effort into making sure the inventory levels are proper for the sales,” Pankratz said.

Not only is keeping inventory flow important for the business, but Pankratz said the customer service offered at the shop and listening to customer needs is what prepares them for slower days down the road and also keeps a steady flow of loyal customers. 

“The local business is very supportive of us, and we try to support them as much as possible,” said Pankratz. “Our customers seem to be here, and they are loyal to us year-round.”

However, other businesses have a different story to tell. 

Bijou on the Park owner Camilla Burns says the holiday season was not like years past, lacking the usual influx of travelers during the holidays. And the slowing trend has continued into January.

“There’s definitely been a slowdown as far as fun and free-spending,” said Burns, who said that while people are not verbally saying they are budgeting, they are quick to talk themselves out of a sale. 

Between the political climate and talk of an economy taking a downturn, Burns says the moods of people have been down compared to during the COVID years when people were eager to get out of their homes and support small. 

But specifically talking of Downtown Paso Robles, she says, “I think people are soured from the whole parking situation.”

For months, the city has gone back and forth with the community regarding paid parking in the Downtown area. Despite an outcry of disapproval from residents, in November 2023, the council approved $1 per hour from minute one of each parking session, and signage and kiosk operations were to be improved for clarity. These changes will come to Downtown in early 2024. 

Burns said locals are heading to Atascadero for days out to avoid paying for parking. 

“What [locals] think is happening is that they think they are hurting the city, but really they are not; they are hurting us by not shopping,” said Burns, who is also a Paso Robles Main Street Association board member.

The snowball effect, she said, has the potential to be devastating to downtown businesses. 

Burns, who makes it a point to be in her store during the week to build a relationship with local shoppers, said, “In a perfect world, I would like to see it [paid parking] go away because we rely so heavily on our local people coming in to sustain our businesses.”

Soon the Main Street Association will be meeting to collaborate and brainstorm for how to bring locals back into Downtown said Burns.

“I just think that the city is not in tune with the citizens of Downtown. They don’t listen,” she adds, “People needed to be reminded that we can easily go away.”

This is a continuing story. Follow Paso Robles Press as we continue to monitor the Downtown Paso Robles pulse.

Feature Image: Bijou on the Park owner Camilla Burns stands in front of her shop in Downtown Paso Robles. Burns said she believes the city’s paid parking policy has hindered business in the area. Photo by Camille DeVaul