In the last 12 months, the focus on First Street has been an increase in the visibility of food, fashion and even more salons and spas. The addition of Bela’s neighborhood market, the relocation of Rosanna's Bakery, Randy Ramos's return to 907 First, (formerly Sahara Mediterranean Cuisine) and Rookies Sports Bar, are complimenting the 20 diversified restaurants downtown. Foodies can indulge in gourmet selections from home accessories, art and gift stores as owners diversify their inventories with chocolate, olive oils and other savory tastes.

There have been several new openings of spas and salons with upto- the-minute trends in skin care, hair blow outs, organic nail treatments and pampering for the overstressed holiday body. First Impressions has moved to the old Ace Hardware/ Urban Alternative spot, and renovated the space into a luxurious day spa with a hip, harmonious, urban loft atmosphere. It was worth the wait and a welcome addition to the over 40 spas and salons that line the street.

Fashion took center stage October 8, during Benicia Main Street's Fashion Weekend outdoor runway show, featuring the Fall 2011 collections from five downtown retail stores: Be Chic, Christina S, Piccolo, Miguelena and
Studio 41.

Downtown salons PS Hair, Luxe, and Bombshell Hair and Ink transformed local women into supermodels with their expertise in hair and make-up design. Benicia Resident and KTVU (channel 2) newscaster Claudine Wong was the guest announcer who introduced the show and lineup, and provided professionalism in keeping the show on track. The theme, "Legends to the Future," showcased three up-and-coming designers and a special tribute to international fashion icon Betsey Johnson.

Designer Samuel Formo opened the show with his futuristic-themed clothes made from recycled materials. Kathleen van der Spek specializes in black and gray-toned knits. Her collection is wearable for women who love an understated, pulled together look.

Richard Hallmarq, whose designs are receiving international notice, showcased dramatic jersey dresses and tunics that are contemporary and age-defying. Ashley Houston, local fashion stylist, was able to convince Betsey Johnson to show her runway collection, which had just been presented at New York Fashion Week. Ashley coordinated the segment with model friends, some of whom attended Benicia High School. It proved to be one of the highlights of an hour-long show featuring over 150 outfits and 45 models.

One of the models was Lluvy Gomez, who competed on America's Next Top Model, projected fashion cool in everything she wore. It was a gorgeous evening, with the drama of the moon above the runway, and the pulsating beat of the latest techno music. The food, catered by First Street Café, was delectable and beer and wine from The Chill made for a relaxing evening of entertainment and style. Guests came dressed to impress in their own take of fall fashion with accessorized, pulled together ensembles.

Downtown Benicia continues to attract entrepreneurs and future stars that are putting Benicia on the map as a destination for fashion, food and beauty.