Letter from the President: Downtown is full of stories of resilience and overcoming adversity

Editor’s note:  For the SJDA Annual Meeting on Oct. 13, Alan “Gumby” Marques, owner of Heroes Martial Arts, offered the following statement as his two-years of volunteer service as SJDA Board President comes to an end at the end of the year.

When I came back for my second run on the San Jose Downtown Association Board, it was during the pandemic and I wasn’t in the best shape in any sense of the word.  While I’m as tired of talking about the pandemic as much as everyone else, I’m certain most of you can recall the sense of frustration and hopelessness with the situation, and as much empathy as we may have had for one another, we were also met with certain personal challenges that came along with that.

At that point I called up my good friend Scott Knies (former SJDA CEO), because while I was down, I certainly wasn’t out, and the SJDA was one place where I could fight and make a real difference for people like myself and like all of us!

Today, I’m not only standing up here as your outgoing President of the SJDA, I’m happy to say my business not only survived, but we’ve even expanded from our original downtown location, to working on the Eastside, then to Campbell and I’m looking at a fourth academy opening soon.

As Friedrich Nietzsche said: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

But that’s just a fraction of my story.  If there’s something I’ve learned in my time here, it’s that there are thousands of stories in downtown San Jose.  All of them are unique. All are special.  I understand that Mayor Mahan has commented that downtown San Jose hasn’t figured out how to tell its story yet — I’m going to take that as a challenge.  And I’m going to issue a challenge to every person to go out and tell your story in the downtown of San Jose.

I hate the cliche:  “It takes a village to build a village.” But I want to point out that we got to where we are on the basis of a collaborative effort. What makes a city unique comes from all sides — our leadership, our developers, our landlords, our arts community and non-profits, our business community, large and small.  I have my biases, but I really think it’s our small business community that helps make downtown stand out — and I’ll continue to fight for and with you.

Thanks to all of you for making downtown San Jose great. It wasn’t just a catch phrase that I said at the beginning of this meeting, but I really do love you all and appreciate every single person here.

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