Southeastern San Diego residents are responding to the closure of Magnolias Restaurant, whose failure at Market Creek Plaza I wrote about last week.

The San Diego Central Black Chamber of Commerce will host a town hall meeting Wednesday evening at 5:30 p.m. at the Black Contractors Association at 6125 Imperial Avenue.

Anita Lofton, the chamber’s president, said Magnolias’ closure had renewed concern among southeastern San Diego’s business community about Market Creek Plaza’s small business failures and prompted the meeting.

Eddie Price, chairman of Diamond Community Investors, a group of residents who invested between $200 and $10,000 in Market Creek Plaza, said the meeting will be the first time business owners and community residents get together to talk about Market Creek Plaza away from property owned by the Jacobs Center, the nonprofit philanthropy that developed the retail center.

He said tempers may flare, especially among close observers of Market Creek Plaza who have watched small business after small business close down and be replaced by national or regional chains.

“The community needs a session where it can let off some steam,” Price said.

He said most discussion about Market Creek Plaza and its progress in fulfilling a vision of promoting locally owned businesses had been conducted at the Jacobs Center. That may have discouraged community residents from openly airing frustrations about the retail center’s local business failures, he said.

That is a concern multiple community residents have expressed to me about the Jacobs Center’s relationship with residents of the Diamond neighborhoods clustered around the intersection of Euclid Avenue and Market Street, where the organization does much of its work.

People who plan to attend, including Magnolias’ former owner, Charles Johnson, said they hope the setting will encourage residents to speak honestly about the impediments to business development in southeastern San Diego.

Jacobs Center administrators have said that the economic downturn and the vulnerability of small restaurant businesses have been primarily to blame for the shuttered small businesses at Market Creek Plaza.

“There are going to be those saying all those businesses didn’t do the right thing in the first place, customer service or whatever,” said Abdur-Rahim Hameed, president of the Black Contractors Association. “But when you see five businesses fall right next to each other, it can’t be all their fault.”

Johnson said business owners at Market Creek Plaza had never succeeded in forming a business association. Since shuttering his restaurant June 26, he has been trying to reconnect with former small business owners at the retail center to discuss why they all failed and whether Jacobs, as a nonprofit committed to promoting small businesses there, could have done more to help them.

— ADRIAN FLORIDO

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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