A walk on Second Street for her morning coffee hasn’t been a straight line for Dede Rossi for the past decade: She detours to pick up trash, crosses the street to say hello to friends and reminds a shopkeeper that it’s past time to take down the holiday décor.
In her part-time role as the executive director of the Belmont Shore Business Association, many shopkeepers describe Rossi as the tireless full-time caretaker of Second Street. But after 10 years — the longest run for any BSBA executive director — Rossi announced last week that it’s time for her to move on.
“I haven’t decided what I’ll do next, and that’s exciting,” the 62-year-old Long Beach native said, adding that she’s looking forward to fewer phone calls and being able to fully enjoy Second Street and its many events as an attendee with her husband and two grown children.
She’s agreed to stay on until a replacement can be found, but replacing Rossi won’t be an easy task, according to longtime BSBA board member Dave Shlemmer of Shlemmer Investments.
“Dede keeps everything straight around here,” Shlemmer said. “She does it because she loves it. She loves the Shore.”
Eric Johnson of Legends said Rossi’s departure is bittersweet.
“You’re happy for her, but you’re sad,” he said. “This was never just a job for Dede; she took a real personal approach. She really cares about the community, both the residents and business owners.”
BSBA President Mike Sheldrake of Polly’s Gourmet Coffee said Rossi’s dynamic leadership, passion for Belmont Shore and ability to get things done have kept the association successfully moving forward.
He said her background, having worked for 20 years in fundraising and marketing for Cal State Long Beach’s athletic department, made her uniquely qualified for the job, especially her knowledge of event planning and her ability to connect people and build relationships.
“Belmont Shore won’t be the same,” he said. “I truly appreciate everything she’s done for us and every time I got to have contact with her.”
Sheldrake praised Rossi for overcoming the additional challenges of taking on the role during the recession and navigating what was — at the time — a new world of social media marketing. Online shopping trends, too, have since changed the business climate of the Shore.
The evolution of the Shore, Rossi said, is as ongoing as ever, noting that Pandor Artisan Bakery and Café closed earlier this week. She’s seen many trends through the past decade, and she remains an optimist.
“We have too many vacancies, but there are some commercial real estate people really coming together and we have some new things coming in,” she said. “I believe the key is nice restaurants and that’s happening.”
The message she hopes the community understands about Second Street is that it cannot exist without the people who care about it spending their money there.
“Bottom line, people need to support the businesses here,” she said. “I love the Shore. Look at it, it’s wonderful… Belmont Shore is a special place.”
Sheldrake and other members of the BSBA agree, and they said Rossi is a big part of what makes the Shore that special place.
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