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A battle for business

July 22, 2002

Christine Carrillo

As the 110th Orange County Fair enters its final week of

operation, business owners surrounding the fairgrounds find

themselves having to readjust to the usual summer crowds and summer

lulls that have, for the duration of the fair, been pushed aside for

the yearly rush in business -- or a much despised drought.

However, despite the history of difficulty and success thrust upon

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local businesses, this year's fair has not entirely followed the

notion that history repeats itself.

In fact, since the 2002 fair so far has drawn smaller crowds than

last year, the effect it traditionally has on local businesses hasn't

spanned out nearly as far as prior years.

One thing remains the same. Those businesses with products in high

demand and short supply are surviving, while those that provide

customers with the same thing the fair offers continue to struggle.

The 24-hour access to the neighboring convenience stores and fast

food restaurants continued to bring in business from carnival and

fair workers, as they have in prior years, while the numerous vendors

that participate in the Orange County Marketplace have yet again

faced a three-week deficit. But restaurants farther away from the

fairgrounds haven't met their traditional fair-time fate .

Usually suffering a hard hit this time of year, the family-owned

Newport Rib Co. in Costa Mesa has not felt the pain yet.

"In past years the Fish Fry and first few weeks of the fair hit us

hard," said one of the restaurant's owners, John Ursini. "This year

it didn't affect us too much."

And the reason for that change?

"I guess in this business you just don't ask why," Ursini said.

But for some businesses that usually feel the presence of the

fair, the change seems rather clear.

"Years ago it really affected us, but it's gotten really expensive

in there so it hasn't affected us as much," said Cesar Gallardo,

manager at El Matador in Costa Mesa. "We've been getting a lot of

people from the beach coming in."

With the help of increased seasonal business from Newport Beach

funneling in, Gallardo believes his restaurant has managed to

maintain some normalcy.

Normalcy that the Newport Rib Co. has tried to maintain on its own

ground.

For the last four years, Newport Rib Co. has catered for about 100

carnival and game employees both at the beginning and end of the fair

in an effort to regain some of the loses it suffers during the fair's

operation, but it has not been enough to break even.

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