San Jose’s The Alameda reawakens to sounds and tastes of Second Saturdays
Patrons of Hop & Vine enjoyed live music with their food and drink during Second Saturday. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

A crowd sat at tables outside Hop & Vine on The Alameda enjoying tapas, craft beer and wine on a warm fall evening, while musician John Vicino played guitar and sang Prince’s “Raspberry Beret.”

The Alameda, a historic three-mile stretch of road that links downtown San Jose to Santa Clara, is adding some flair and spice to it’s 200-year-old history with Second Saturdays every month.  The brainchild of the Alameda Business Association, it was designed to create a neighborhood social hub that will bring foot traffic to businesses through music and art.

“I think it’s great,” said Dana Yeats, who recently moved to the area with her husband, Russell. “It definitely gets people feeling cheerier. When people are walking and see live music, they stop and hang out. It will draw families with kids.” 

Inside True Brew, Gaby Castro played guitar while singing folk songs. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

The Alameda Business Association, governed by an 11-member board, has served the district for more than 25 years. It received a one-year grant of $14,000 through the city’s Abierto Program to create Second Sundays. The program aims to build community by bringing public spaces to life through the arts and events. Its $1.4 million funding comes from the Mayor’s Budget Office for use citywide.

Dana Harris Seeger, president of the Alameda Business Association and co-owner of Visual Philosophy, said having live music on the street and artwork showcased at local businesses engages the public. She hopes The Alameda will become a thriving district with people frequenting the eateries, enjoying art and keeping the businesses bustling.

“We’re hoping this will kick-start something as lively as First Fridays,” said Harris Seeger, referring to San Jose’s monthly event in the SoFA district. 

The Alameda includes upscale and casual dining from Tee Nee Thai Cuisine and Zona Rosa to Crema Coffee Roasting Company and Greenlee’s Bakery. It was repaved and renovated with landscaped medians to slow traffic down and make it more walkable—a nod to its past, when people residing in San Jose pueblos walked the three-mile distance to Mission Santa Clara on Sundays. 

In April, businesses along The Alameda participated in Safely Social San Jose, a grassroots campaign to empower businesses during the pandemic. A scavenger hunt, vibrant murals and innovative window displays brought life to the quiet streets. This next effort hopes to enliven the neighborhood permanently.

David Johnson, owner of True Brew San Jose, said businesses are energized to try anything that’s going to bring life back to The Alameda, especially when it focuses on the art and music scene.

Douglas Cookerly, owner of Hop & Vine, said Second Saturdays is a great way to expose folks to The Alameda Business District from mom-and-pop restaurants to unique businesses. He said people appreciate what small businesses offer the neighborhood.

Artist Jemal Diamond created new works and engaged with residents during Second Saturday on The Alameda. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

In front of True Brew, artist Jemal Diamond made mixed media art while chatting with patrons. Inside, Gaby Castro’s guitar playing and folk songs filled the taphouse. 

“Having more art and music helps revive the area,” Diamond said. “Bringing people into the process to see what we do as artists lets people have a shared experience and gives them a reason to talk to each other and not be isolated.”

Further down the street at Whole Foods, jazz music and freestyle rap performers Francis Experience Quartet drew out local resident Sasha Toth.

“I think it’s fantastic. I definitely like this,” Toth said, adding that she plans to frequent Second Saturdays.

Nicola Stela showcased his detailed sculptures at Visual Philosophy during Second Saturday on The Alameda. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

The bronze sculptures and oil pastel drawings of artist Nicola Stela fascinated viewers at Visual Philosophy. In addition to displaying the culmination of a year’s work, he was busy creating new pieces. Bystanders like Manuel Corral and his son, Emilio, watched Stela work. 

“This is so cool, people creating stuff,” Corral said. “I’m definitely going to spread the word to my buddies to check this place out.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

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