The Saratoga Village Development Council is an eight-year-old networking group dedicated to promoting the merchants of the historic downtown Big Basin Way and Highway 9 area and to building a sense of community among all city residents.
The group includes a “who’s who” of downtown’s 500 shopkeepers, restaurateurs and city residents. The SVDC meets regularly in cyberspace by way of an email listserver and with planning meetings held on the second and last Tuesday of each month.
While many aspects of the group are similar to a chamber of commerce, the SVDC specifically caters only to Saratoga Village.
“The Saratoga Village Development Council is a networking group comprised of Saratoga residents and merchants in Saratoga Village,” said Saratoga’s new Mayor Jill Hunter and the group's chairwoman. “The [Saratoga] Chamber [of Commerce] is a more formal group that represents all business in Saratoga."
The SVDC puts on eight events a year including a Pet Parade in April, a Heritage Day in September and an October “Witchy Walk-A-Bout.”
In addition, the Council works to preserve Saratoga's history. If you check out its website, you’ll learn that Saratoga is one of the oldest towns in the West, founded in 1852 by Irishman Martin McCarty. He named the town McCartyville, but died a few years before the town adopted the moniker of “Saratoga.”
The SVDC promotes the historical significance of various city buildings by paying for bronze plaques, which were placed on five historic structures in Saratoga: the Grover House, Agnes Women’s Apparel, Bella Saratoga, Bell Tower Bistro and the Bank Bar. The council also designed and raised the money for the large Village sign at the entrance to the downtown area.
The SVDC pays for its beautification projects and many events by holding an annual spring fundraiser. The first three were fashion shows held at the Foothill Club in 2006-2008 and currently SVDC holds a Wine & Wisteria event in the Hakone Gardens.
The group wasn’t always called the Saratoga Village Development Group. “Eight years ago there was a group called the Saratoga Business Development Council that was supported by the city to bring more business to the city,” said Hunter. “The city declined to continue to fund the group and it moved to the library to keep it going. I was a member of the group at the time because I was on the planning commission and I thought I could be a help to the group. I was made chair by those at the library meeting and it was decided that the group should focus on the Village because the 70 odd businesses there had no representation. We moved the group to the Village and renamed the group the Saratoga Village Development Council.”
The group decided that its main focus would be to increase foot traffic in the Village, according to Hunter, and to make the unique area an attractive destination spot.
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