By John Ramos


BENICIA (KPIX 5) — Last Tuesday, a Bay Area city was named a finalist in a competition to win a downtown business makeover as part of a national TV show. Now people are voting to put Benicia in the national spotlight.

The TV series “Small Business Revolution” usually focuses on Middle America towns suffering tough economic times. The hosts–Amanda Brinkman and renovation expert Ty Pennington–devote half a million dollars to help five struggling businesses improve their physical and financial situations.

But if Benicia wins the season 5 vote competition, it would be a change of pace for the city. Mario Giulliani, Benicia’s Economic Development Manager, says the town isn’t struggling to survive, it’s just trying to come out of the shadows.

“People, even in the Bay Area, are familiar with Benicia as that community they drive by,” he said. “But we want them to get off the freeway and come visit our downtown and see our waterfront.”

Benicia already has a lot to offer, such as a waterfront promenade with restaurants and antique shops in its charming downtown.

There’s also the One House Bakery. It’s only been open since October, but on weekends the lines are out the door. Owner Hannalee Pervan emigrated from Canada to become the bread chef at the famous “French Laundry” restaurant in Napa County. But she moved to Benicia because of how it felt when she visited.

“We came to Benicia and walked dEown and people were saying hi and smiling and as a Canadian it was, like, this is what you think of as small-town America,” she said. “Everybody was happy and it was wonderful.”

Across the street, Jennifer Negrete opened her “Collektive” boutique in a building that had been red-tagged since the 2014 Napa earthquake. Now she can sell trendy clothing and craft accessories for a reasonable price because she’s not getting killed by the high rents of the big city.

“I’m excited that I got in when I did and was one of the first to open a new shop,” said Negrete. “But I am definitely happy to see more businesses, even businesses like mine, come to town.”

The city already feels like it’s on the rise and by winning the vote contest and being featured on the series, it would gain national attention, which would stop Benicia from being such a well-kept secret while protecting its small-town feel.

People can vote once per day per device, with voting closing at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 21. The winner will be announced on Jan. 28. If you would like to help, you can vote at smallbusinessrevolution.org.

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