National City entrepreneurs struggle to keep business afloat during COVID-19 pandemic (with podcast)

A combination of high COVID-19 cases, surging unemployment hinders Highland Avenue’s smallest businesses

By Katia Pechenkina, Vicky Pineda, Gabriel Schneider, and Susana Serrano

Before the pandemic, family-owned Rodeo’s Meat Market and Catering in National City operated a local store and restaurant while serving food for large group gatherings and big businesses scattered across San Diego County.

Scrolling on its Instagram account, photos showed Rodeo’s served tacos, aguas frescas and other Mexican dishes to Costco employees, faculty at San Diego City and Southwestern colleges and even San Diego Chargers fans tailgating in the parking lot of Qualcomm Stadium.

Then came March 2020.

Stay-at-home orders by state and local officials went into effect and gatherings of all sizes were prohibited. The only option for Rodeo’s was to offer to-go orders.
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National City has been hit disproportionately hard by both high COVID-19 infection rates and unemployment throughout the pandemic. The owners of small businesses on Highland Avenue talk about their recovery after the lockdown.
In this special City Speaks episode, Gabriel Schneider looks into the gap between small business owners and San Diego County’s second-oldest city’s administration.
Listen here
Stories in English
Stories in Spanish
The Highland Avenue Project

Highland Avenue consists mostly of small businesses. The 1.5-mile stretch serves as National City’s downtown, starting on Division Street to the north and running all the way down south to the Sweetwater River at the city’s border with Chula Vista.

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About the project
A team of student journalists from San Diego City College spent the spring semester reporting on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on National City’s smallest Latinx-owned businesses as part of the Democracy and the Informed Citizen Emerging Journalist Fellowship program.
Learn more

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