A very, very long time ago in what seems like a galaxy far, far away, there was a unique concept called a full service gas station. Friendly uniformed attendants would fill your tank, wash the windows, check under the hood and inspect the tires as a courtesy. Gasoline was around 23 cents a gallon, and unleaded fuel and electric battery charging centers were futuristic concepts seen in sci-fi movies and TV shows.

The era of self-serve has replaced those bygone days of filling the car up for under $5.00. It's strange that we have adapted to serving ourselves (even my Mom filled her own tank), while paying more to do it. Curious!

Recently, the City of Benicia's Office of Economic Development released the 2015 1st Quarter Sales Tax/Benicia Industrial Vacancy and Overview of the Economic Development Program. As the City continues to provide full services and maintain costs, revenue from sales tax told an interesting story. There has been a decrease in sales tax from the Industrial Park, the largest contributor to the City's general fund, of 16.5%. Other retail centers like the downtown, Columbus Parkway and Solano Square are maintaining or showing increases in tax revenue.

What I found fascinating is that gasoline stations in Benicia provide a whopping 10% of overall revenue, coming in second after heavy industrial business. That means that filling up in Benicia at one of the ten stations around town helps the overall economy and maintains the quality of life we have come to expect and rely on.  

Another eye opener is that restaurants come in third place for their 9% contributions to the economy. I counted 62 restaurants, including food and beverage purveyors, on visitbenicia.org. Half of these are located on First Street, generating 75% of total sales tax receipts downtown.

Supporting small business in Benicia keeps our town vital, maintaining the heart of the community. For years, our message has been to shop locally. Here are my top ten reasons to shop Benicia first:

1. Very cool merchandise that you can’t find just anywhere.
2. Friendly customer service. You know the name of the owner, and more importantly, they know yours. They actually ask you if you need help.
3. Convenience. Downtown Benicia is only a few miles from anywhere in the city.
4. Free gift-wrapping in most stores, with perfect bows.  
5. Civilized shopping with few lines and seldom a crowd.
6. Free, convenient parking. And you won’t forget where your car is parked! Save $5.00 immediately by not using a bridge. If you do have to leave town, fill up first here in town, or go electric and charge up at the city hall "Fast" charging center.
7. Over 40 spas and salons that can revive the most ardent shopper.
8. Event shopping! This town knows how to throw a party.  Stores get into the act with special holiday promotions that really help shoppers get into the mood.
9. Sixty-two restaurants and bars, each offering a unique experience from casual alfresco dining at one of the cafes, to a leisurely meal at one of the many diverse restaurants throughout Benicia.