SAN FRANCISCO - For the first time in its history, the Valencia corridor in San Francisco is lit up.
The lights are temporary and meant to help bring customers back to the area.
For the small businesses, the lights are a symbol of putting the pandemic behind them.
Valencia Street was known for its vibrancy before the pandemic and merchants say business is starting to pick up.
The new lighting of Valencia Street Friday night signals a renaissance.
There was a ceremony celebrating the event.
"To show the community that Valencia is back. To spread some joy, some love when we really need it as we emerge out of this extremely difficult and dark year," says Manny Yekutiel of Manny's Cafe. He's also a board member of Valencia Corridor Merchants Association.
Live music from a Mariachi band and a blessing by Sister Roma with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were part of the program that provided a festive atmosphere as the new lighting was launched.
The lights will be on every night. They are strung along a ten block stretch from 14th to 24th Street to attract foot traffic.
One street performer says he recently returned to San Francisco after moving out of state when the pandemic hit.
"Things are coming back, so you know, it's nice," says Alexander Park, who performs as a flame eater.
Ornot, a cycling apparel store, reopened Thursday for in-person shopping, the first time since the pandemic.
"Now, there're just more and more people vaccinated that it just seemed like it was just the natural time to come back in here and open up," says Matt Quann, owner of Ornot.
Owning a small business was
Romy Dee-Sell-Lover-Sally's dream since she was a little girl.
She and her boyfriend signed a five year lease and held their grand opening last weekend.
The Bay Area native says her service in the military helped her take on the challenge of opening a new business during the pandemic.
"My time in the navy kind of sets you up for success. You roll with the punches," says Deselover-Sallie.
And the lights are a reflection of that resilient spirit. A project the merchants association says is completely funded by donations.
"We learned out of this pandemic if we want to put our minds to something we can all work together as a unit to get through something very, very difficult," says Yekutiel.
The lighting ceremony drew hundreds of people.
The plan for now is to have the lights up for a couple of months.
Depending on community feedback, merchants say it may become a permanent fixture.