Association hears from merchants in Covenant

RANCHO SANTA FE — One of the things the Rancho Santa Fe Association hopes to do this year is to invite local business people to their meetings to talk about their successes and challenges of working in the Covenant.
“We want to introduce some of the merchants. Meet them, see what they do and how they do it,” said Jack Queen, Association president. “When you have the right knowledge of business, good things happen.”
Tim Cusac was invited to speak. Cusac is the owner of Caffe Positano, which has a location in the village and another at the Del Rayo Center near Fairbanks Ranch. He is also the owner of Rancho Sandwich in the village.
He told the board his challenges are the same as most village merchants — lack of parking and high rents.
“Would more parking really have an impact on your business or would it just be nice?” asked Association Director Dick Doughty.
Cusac said that after opening in the Del Rayo Center, he asked his customers if they knew he had another coffee shop in the village.
“They tell me, ‘Oh! I never go to the village. There is no place to park,’” he said.
The other major challenge for small businesses is how much it costs to set up shop.
“People come here thinking the streets are paved with gold,” he said.
“The rents in the village are quite high. It keeps out small businesses,” he said.
Cusac said the Association could help merchants by reminding residents what businesses are in the village.
“I have people tell me all the time, ‘I didn’t know you were here,’ after we’ve been here eight-plus years,” he said.
Cusac told the board he started his own business after working in the high-stress, high-tech corporate world.
“After 17 years, I chose to work for myself,” he said. He bought Caffe Positano in 2005.
“I bought it knowing nothing about the business other than I liked coffee,” he said with a chuckle. In July 2006, he opened Rancho Sandwich.
“Mostly I needed the space,” he said. He opened his Caffe Positano in Del Rayo Center in 2008. He now has between 14 and 18 employees.
Other than coffee and sandwiches, Cusac said his businesses are a sort of community channel for local information, because each day between 100 and 300 people pass through his doors.
These people have conversations that reveal how they feel about a certain issue or news of the day.
He said 50 percent of his customers are residents of Rancho Santa Fe and that 90 percent of them are regular customers.
“It offers a sense of tone about what’s going on in the village,” he said. “It’s like being a bartender, but at a different time of day.”