Wanted: Your Best Ideas for Re-imagining the Mingei

Published Sunday, January 29th, 2012 by Dave Woods

During Think Grand's first year, numerous participants like you cited Grand Avenue as one of your favorite things about Escondido. However, many of you also lamented the fact that Downtown Escondido is, frankly, a ghost town during too many hours of the week, and you expressed a desire for TG to focus its energies towards solving this problem.

Picture of Mingei Museum property

As a result, the recent news that the vacant former Grand Avenue home of the Mingei Museum has been put on the market is an opportunity too great to pass up. Consider the following:

  • This is one of downtown's largest vacant properties. It offers a unique two-story layout that could likely accommodate at least 100 customers at a time, perhaps many more.
  • It's located on the same block as long-time established businesses like Filippi's, Champions, Vincent's, Delight of France, Downtown Deli, and Pounders. The block has begun to see even more activity with the recent additions of The Grand, California Avocado Grill, and The Grand Tea Room.
  • The new Maple Street Pedestrian Plaza, scheduled to open later this year, will be located literally just across the street.
  • Should a hotel eventually be built next to the Center for the Arts, the business inside this property will literally be the very first impression hotel guests have of our downtown as they exit the pedestrian plaza.

As the founder of Think Grand, I can tell you this is exactly the kind of opportunity TG was designed and intended for. No, Think Grand isn't looking to buy the property and start a business there. But there is something we can do...

The key to starting any successful business is to know your market. If your business concept isn't inline with the needs and desires of your potential customers, then that's a big problem, and you're probably going to fail. We've seen that storyline play out too many times in Downtown Escondido, and we can't let it happen again to a property as critical as the Mingei.

As Think Grand participants and Escondido residents who love downtown, we are the market and the potential customers for whatever venture might set up shop in this location. So, we're going to help potential buyers and entrepreneurs to better understand our needs and desires by offering our best ideas for re-imagining the Mingei in the comments section below this article. If we get enough comments and ideas, and reach a consensus about the ideas, we may then post a second article in this topic containing a survey. Either way, the comments from this article and/or the results from a follow-up survey will be shared with city hall, the listing realtor, the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Business Association, and whoever else may be able to help bring our ideas to life.

Here's the bottom line: Whoever buys this property is going to be holding a big key to the future of downtown in their hands. If they succeed, it may be just the catalyst needed to start a domino effect of revitalization. If they fail, it's yet another shuttered business and empty storefront, and none of us want that. It's time to truly "think grand." Share your best ideas here:

Join the discussion! 23 comments so far...

  1. I'll get the ball rolling... As a 30 year old young professional, I can tell you that a real sore spot amongst people my age is a lack of gathering spots and nightlife downtown. Also, I'm a believer that downtown needs to offer more restaurant and retail options friendly to families with kids. There are enough hours in the day, and enough empty storefronts downtown, to accommodate both groups plus existing customers without conflict. Here are three options for the Mingei that could benefit either families, young professionals, or both:

    Bring back T-Bird Diner: Longtime Escondido residents may recall this classic 1950s diner with the pink Thunderbird in the middle. Could there be any better place to reboot T-Bird Diner than Grand Avenue, the home of Cruisin' Grand? I can just picture the retro music blaring and a classic T-Bird in the open space at the middle of the building...

    Convince Port Brewing Company to open a new Pizza Port location: Anybody who has been to Pizza Port in Carlsbad or Solana Beach can tell you the food and atmosphere are amazing, and the prices are affordable. A Pizza Port on Grand Avenue would be packed every single day of the week, just like its coastal sister restaurants, thus generating tremendous foot traffic on Grand. Best of all, during daytime and early evening hours, the place would be perfect for families with kids. As the night goes on, the venue would naturally transition to become a popular spot for young professionals. Sounds like a win-win...

    Establish a flexible venue able to accommodate both dancing and live music: The open second floor that looks down to a central open space on the first floor makes this building ideal for entertainment. If the first floor was configured properly, you could have a flexible and spacious center area that would accommodate either a DJ and dance floor, or live bands and performers. The entertainment line-up could be diverse with pop / hip-hop nights, country music nights, Spanish language nights... the combinations are endless. To maximize the space, the venue would also double as a restaurant with a full kitchen and traditional restaurant seating against the outer walls surrounding the center floor. And perhaps given our warm climate, the rooftop could also be utilized as an open-air rooftop lounge with cabanas and fire pits? North County has virtually no venues like this, but to think that could change AND it could be located right here in Escondido...

    Comment by Dave Woods on January 29, 2012 at 11:06 PM

  2. With the trend of Grand being more of a hangout spot, I definitely think that a brewery/restaurant would be a best solution. They could provide food for families during the day and stay open late for the night owls out there. I can see the open area in the middle as the central bar and the rest of place seating for the restaurant. They could even put a stage in the middle, with the bar built around it, so that bands can play and people can just hang out.

    Comment by Jheswin Montoya on February 7, 2012 at 8:13 PM

  3. I love the idea of a brewery/restaurant with dancing. Let's take a lesson from Stone and Pizza Port brewing!

    Comment by Cassie lieurance on February 7, 2012 at 9:00 PM

  4. Although I find the Maple Street Plaza a pointless investment, the Mingei Museum is a prime location for something new and different.Although I am glad the city managed to build a movie cinema withing the vicinity, Grand has been suffered with a lack of entertainment venues, CCAE still suffers from being a second-rate concert hall ever since the Casisnos claimed all the big-ticket performers in North County. Escondido as a city certainly lacks an evening destination, there are some fine restaurants scattered throughout the city, but we do lack evening recreation properties ever since we lost Boomers and Palomar Lanes. The Mingei property should be used to fill this void.

    I would love to see a new bowling alley, especially if it's within walking distance from Regal Cinemas. I have never gone into the building before, so the only way I could envision the dimensions was through the property listing video on You-Tube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Y7FG4WvS3o). The property can also hold other entertainment features, perhaps a laser tag complex, arcade station, and/or billiard lounge on the second floor.

    I know we have North County Tavern + Bowl at the mall, but I have have heard about the ridiculous waiting time for the lanes, the city could use an alternative destination with more lanes to serve.

    Comment by JD Eibaf on February 8, 2012 at 11:07 AM

  5. As another young working professional, I agree with a lot Dave said. I think something along the lines of Pizza Port would be a great addition. Whoever decides to move into this prime location, it would be ideal if they were to draw in business day and night, serving as a place families could go during the day, and a hangout spot for the 21+ crowd in the later evenings.

    Comment by Celeste Coleman on February 21, 2012 at 6:29 AM

  6. Do you know the square footage of this building? If the space were large enough, what do you think about a haunt themed attraction? See http://www.RaycliffManor.com, http://www.Facebook.com/RaycliffManor and http://www.Facebook.com/RaycliffManorWestCoast to get a better understanding of the concept/idea. I appreciate any and all feedback and I love that you are working to promote downtown revitalization in Escondido!

    Comment by Kelly Allen on February 22, 2012 at 1:09 PM

  7. THese ideas are awesome. Obviously downtown draw usually involves food/alcohol acitivities. WHen I think of other cities I've lived in and the places I'd frequent, it always goes back to unique food experiences. I am asking for something somewhat intangible. I would not want any kind of chain to set up there, but preferrably and original food idea or experience a la Peterson's, Lourdes, that draws people to Esco because its so original and awesome and delicious.

    my two cents. WHo's got capital and some sweet unique recipes?

    Comment by Daniel Magos on February 28, 2012 at 12:54 AM

  8. We thought, if the space is big enough, a small car museum that includes a bar and restaurant would be great, again following up the theme of Cruising Grand. (There's also that new funky car accessory shop farther up Grand) This could be an expansion of the T-Bird Diner idea. Escondido has a long history and there could be large format historic photos featuring automobiles (and buggies before that) through the years. The atmosphere would appeal to families, history buffs and car aficionados and their companions. There are probably other related memorabilia that would fit in. Maybe the menu could reflect history as well -- a section of favorite foods from each decade? How about tailgate picnics?

    Perhaps there could be a small cover charge to help finance the museum. There may not be a readily available car collection for something like this, but perhaps a changing display with cars loaned for a period of time from private owners? People do like to show off their cars.

    Comment by Mike and Barbara Crowley on March 16, 2012 at 5:01 PM

  9. I think it's important to look at other cities in San Diego that have been successfully gentrified like North Park, Southpark and Golden Hill. All of these cities added modern cafes that emphasize sustainability, serve local farm food, and local beer (San Diego has the best local breweries in the world). These areas also have a lot of alternative school choices as generation X is socially progressive. I think the Pizza Port is a great idea because they serve local micro brews, however, I think a farm to table restaurant would be amazing due to our proximity to so many sustainable organic farms. Escondido needs community, sustainability and variety in order to survive.

    Comment by Ashleah L. Brack on April 11, 2012 at 9:11 PM

  10. OK - I love the Pizza Port idea. But we have lots of restaurants in town. That's one of the good things already in Escondido. (Though I would love to have a PP...)

    But what about this: what if we could have a music venue like House of Blues? How awesome would that be to deck out that space for smaller concerts by bands those of us sort-of youngsters would want to see? We could get some good music in town. (Look at HOB web site for examples.) So my vote is for a HOB North.

    This might require the building of a parking structure nearby (but so would an anchor like PP). I have seen two-story parking structures that are not ugly and offensive to the surrounding space. Maybe that could be done at the lots on 2nd - between Maple and Broadway. Just a thought.

    Other ideas - Buffalo Exchange, Urban Outfitters, Z Gallery, make it into a swing dancing night club (band in the center, dancing all around on two levels...sweet!)

    Comment by Jessica Petrencsik on April 25, 2012 at 10:04 AM

  11. BTW, I've been in there. I am SURE it can hold more than 100 people. Way more. We should get a more accurate assessment if we get serious about presenting anyone with a proposal of any sort.

    Comment by Jessica Petrencsik on April 25, 2012 at 10:10 AM

  12. A brewery would be so great. A microbrewery really fosters a creative, local and craft environment. I'm just curious what the challenges would be for a brewery downtown. Are there water and waste water issues that the city might see that would make something like this not feasible. What other challenges would a prospective tenant face in using that location? Is there a way they could be remedied?

    Comment by Suzanne Schaffner on April 25, 2012 at 10:48 AM

  13. OR...model the music venue after Hotel Cafe in LA. Perhaps there could be an HC South?

    What I'm thinking is a place where we can see live music of good musicians - established or up-and-coming - for $10-$35 a ticket. No Ticketmaster fees. No over-the-top prices. The establishment would sell alcohol, but would not be THE place to go get smashed. More mature than that. People in their 30's could go and not break the bank (as many of us, especially those of us choosing to live in Escondido, have small children at home requiring the expense of babysitting). I wanted to see Chaka Khan at the Lexus venue, but $125 a ticket ($250+ for my husband and I to go out) is completely out of range for us.

    Hotel Cafe tix are $10-12 with a $2.50 service fee.

    HOB Gospel Brunch (on Sundays) - adults $37.50, children (6-12) $17.50

    HOB Concerts - $20-40 - gen adm, $40 reserved seating (depends on band - lots of free admission events as well)

    Comment by Jessica Petrencsik on April 25, 2012 at 10:51 AM

  14. The brewery idea is great. I am curious, though, as to how many microbreweries an area can support. Someone is planning to put one in further down Grand. I just read about another microbrewery launching a retail space in Esco - not sure exactly where. I have no idea how this industry works, but I wonder...can we get so much of a good thing that competition drives one to close its doors? Would we do better (as a town) by adding variety to the downtown area? (e.g. not another restaurant or microwbrewery if, indeed, we have at least two more coming in). I don't know the answer to that, obviously. Just posing the question...I ain't no beer hater!

    Comment by Jessica Petrencsik on April 25, 2012 at 10:55 AM

  15. I LOVE the idea of a music venue! I agree, we have enough restaurants but not enough entertainment. Anytime I have ever seen a concert it has been out of the city. I think something like the Belly Up in Solana Beach would be awesome. Small venues with local and or indie bands is something that would definitely attract lots of locals and people from other cities. And of course they can always have daytime reestaurant hours. I do like te idea of a sustainable, green, Eco friendly establishment. I am 27 (today!) and I have been a vegetarian for about 11 years and it would be amazing to have a vegetarian restaurant here with local foods. That would go hand in hand with the green, sustainable idea, and it wouldn't have to be exclusively vegetarian/vegan but it could offer a considerable vegetarian/vegan menu.

    Comment by Belinda Rojas on April 25, 2012 at 10:56 AM

  16. Thanks for getting the discussion started Dave. I also would like to see a music venue, maybe something like Anthology. One person mentioned water & waste water issues with a brewery - that's a huge issue for Stone so maybe touch base with Greg Koch or the city. A restaurant would be great (with a large bar area) but I don't think there is a kitchen & certainly no liquor license currently. What of the roof - is that possible to use? What a fun area with a fire pit & over looking Cruising Grand. Restaurant day - music night, maybe even dancing tho that requires another license.
    Whatever happens I hope they keep the wonderful art piece on the outside wall.

    Comment by Jan Bourgeois on April 25, 2012 at 12:53 PM

  17. I really like the live music venue idea with plenty of room for dancing. I am a country music fan, and the only places I know of to dance are in Temecula and Mission Valley.

    Comment by Everette Scott on April 25, 2012 at 8:36 PM

  18. I would like entice a Ruby's Diner here-good track record and perfect for Cruisin' Grand and families.

    Comment by Sharon I Fry on April 26, 2012 at 8:54 AM

  19. My daughter lives in LA County and she says there is a gourmet hot dog place that has a line out of the door. Everything for your hot dogs-.The gelato place is great, by the way

    Comment by Sharon I Fry on April 26, 2012 at 9:00 AM

  20. Ooooooh, Anthology. Like, like, LIKE. (Don't know if we have enough folks into jazz here...but perhaps we would draw people from Temecula/Fallbrook/Murrietta?)

    Comment by Jessica Petrencsik on April 26, 2012 at 8:53 PM

  21. I was looking for a baby-children's resale store just for Maternity/ Baby Items/ Kid's Furniture like they have in El Cajon. Besides hopping from bunch of different thrift stores. It would be nice to see the prices b4 walking into the store on Fbook. They have a FB page where they advertise new arrivals and will put a hold on it for u for a week if u call/ or Fbook them to hold the items. It will be nice to have more foot traffic in that part of town that hardly gets any from SAHM's or even children..

    Comment by Soon Song on April 27, 2012 at 4:58 PM

  22. Gourmet hot dogs may be too small an establishment for this particular space, but that would be something great to bring up for one of the vacant spaces further down Grand. I'll bet it would do really well here! Great idea, Sharon!

    Maybe we could get a diagram of all the vacancies on Grand and TGers could propose what businesses might do well in which spaces. Like...let's say something musical did go in at the Mingei, we wouldn't want to lose some of the other ideas. Many of them would work in other spaces. Just a thought.

    Comment by Jessica Petrencsik on May 1, 2012 at 3:17 PM

  23. An established Community Oriented 501 (c) 3 non-profit with special focus on sustainable indoor and rooftop agriculture oriented to urban environments. Refurbished to "Gold" certification and structure its power grid to be predominately if not entirely clean energy through: solar, wind, and largely man-made.

    This 501(c)-3 would be able to become a harbor for the weekly farmers market and could redistribute food to other charities. This establishment could act as a storefront for the local seed bank, as well as locally produced organically grown food, done on the premises and through connections and contracts with local farms.

    Comment by Michael Baur on August 15, 2012 at 12:06 AM

Sorry, comments are closed for this article.