Holidays at Mission Marketplace Carry a Deeper Meaning in 2020
A family dons matching pajamas for the Nov. 28 drive-in showing of “The Polar Express.” Courtesy Mission Marketplace.
Santa parachuting in from the sky, live reindeer, real snow - these annual activities make the holiday season very special at Mission Marketplace in Oceanside. While coronavirus restrictions have put those celebrations on hold, the shopping center is doing what it can to keep holiday traditions going in a year where magic is needed the most.
“We truly become part of the communities that we serve and there’s a lot of families that are really suffering through this pandemic,” said Cynthia Gonzalez, Mission Marketplace’s Senior Marketing Director. “Some families don't have the extra funds to buy their kids Christmas gifts and at least they’ll get a gift from Santa when they visit.”
How do children safely visit with Santa in the age of COVID-19? Mission Marketplace has it figured out. Old St. Nick will be at Santa’s Village Tuesdays and Thursdays through Dec. 17. Visits are free and guests can register via Eventbrite. Masks are required and temperatures will be taken upon check-in. Kids can get their picture taken with Santa from afar and he will slide a small age-appropriate gift to each child through a festive chute.
A family visits with Santa in Santa’s Village at Mission Marketplace. Courtesy Mission Marketplace.
Mission Marketplace also arranged breakfast with Santa at Sprouts, as well as a lunch with Santa sponsored by McDonalds where kids receive free happy meals. The season’s festivities culminate in a drive-in double feature screening of “The Grinch” on Dec. 19. Guests can expect free hot chocolate and an appearance from the furry green character.
Spreading joy and cheer started in April at Mission Marketplace when Gonzalez launched a “Waves of Kindness” campaign after the pandemic hit. The team worked with local homeless shelters providing hundreds of toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand sanitizers, and prepackaged meals. They distributed meals to frontline healthcare workers. They made gift baskets for seniors living in a nearby retirement home. Just before Thanksgiving, Gonzalez and her team paid for people's groceries at Sprouts and gave out over 50 turkeys to different shoppers.
Mission Marketplace team handing out turkeys at Sprouts. Courtesy Mission Marketplace.
Some families couldn’t believe their luck. Gonzalez said a woman told her, “I’m unemployed and I really don’t have the money to buy a turkey or a whole meal for my family so this is a huge blessing.”
The Mission Marketplace Sprouts is making it easy for shoppers to give back by offering “Grab ‘N Give” bags for $9.99 at checkout, filled with pantry staples. The grocery store typically donates the bags to a local food bank, but this year they decided to partner with the Veterans Association of North County on Mission Ave. The nonprofit not only works with retired veterans, but active military too, particularly important with neighboring Camp Pendleton.
Mission Marketplace property management purchased 150 Sprouts “Grab ‘N Give” bags for the veterans. Sprouts’ Store Director, Edith Lee, said the center’s generosity couldn’t have come at a better time.
Mission Marketplace’s Managing Director, John Hickman, describes relationships with tenants such as Sprouts like family. “When they have kids and their kids go to college, you hear it. We try to do the best we can to help them be successful,” he said.
These days that means creating temporary parking spaces for curbside pickups, putting up signage advising people to wear masks, and stickers indicating where to stand six feet away. They deploy a “wipe crew” that disinfects all the handles and doors at the center throughout the day. They’ve created more outdoor seating, provided space heaters and tents, especially for restaurants.
“We’re trying to give these restaurants a fighting chance to keep connected with their customers and keep their businesses open,” said Hickman.
Iris Ramirez’s family-owned restaurant, Ohana Hawaiian BBQ, has called Mission Marketplace home since 2005. The holidays are Ohana’s busiest season, especially for catering orders to give an assist to those who don’t like to cook. Ramirez is hopeful that this year will be no exception. Ohana is set up nicely for to-go business so they haven’t had to close since the pandemic began, but it hasn’t been easy.
Ramirez’s dad, Jose, passed away in August, and she said memories of watching him work hard and never giving up during the 2008 recession keep her going. The Ramirez family is determined to open another Ohana location and build upon her father’s dream. They say they are grateful to Mission Marketplace for setting them up for success by bringing customers back into the center after lockdowns.
“Most shopping centers don't have events and interactions with the neighborhood on Mission Marketplace’s level,” said Michelle Geller, Oceanside Economic Development Manager. “The property managers put significant energy into figuring out the needs of merchants and their customers.”
“The moment people step foot in Mission Marketplace, especially during the holidays, they experience a feeling of celebration and giving that cannot be dimmed by coronavirus,” she said.
For information about Mission Marketplace, go to www.missionmarketplaceoceanside.com.
For tickets to Mission Marketplace’s free holiday activities, go to Eventbrite.