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Call Santa’s Hotline

There’s no need to sit on his lap — just leave Santa a voicemail.

Santa’s Hotline, a free service offered by Long Beach-based company FreeConferenceCall.com, allows youngsters and kids-at-heart to leave voicemail messages for Mr. Claus so that the big man knows what to leave under the tree.

Parents: If your little ones use a cell phone to call the hotline, Santa will send you a text so that you can play back your child’s message and share it with friends and family.

Thinking beyond the more traditional letters to Santa, FreeConferenceCall.com opened the hotline in 2009 and the popularity of the service quickly ballooned from a few friends and family members calling in to millions of annual calls.

Company officials said people of all ages call in asking for anything from baby brothers to hot blondes to store bought presents.

Reach the North Pole at (319) 527-2680.

Forbidden City Gone

A popular Chinese and Japanese dining destination in Marina Pacifica closed its doors last week after doing business for eight years.

Forbidden City, founded by owner Gao Yan and general manager Michael Brausen back in 2010, took over a large restaurant space at 6380 E. PCH that they decorated with an elaborate 66 tons of fung shui materials.

Brausen and Yan, who have since gotten married, could not immediately be reached for comment, but the restaurant’s social media feed confirmed the closure last week with the post: “Forbidden City restaurant close business. No longer open from today.” People responded with dozens of comments lamenting the loss.

Saturday Happenings

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, known among holiday shoppers as Small Business Saturday, mobilizes many area mom-and-pops to offer special events and discounts in-store.

Among those making Small Business Saturday their own, Prism Boutique and other shops along East Fourth Street are coordinating their third annual Local Holiday Block Party from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Prism owner Dayna Mance said the event centered at her shop at 406 Termino Ave. is an opportunity for shoppers to meet local designers, hang out with business owners and get shopping done early, with “satisfaction that you supported independent makers.” Attendees can expect vendor pop-ups as well as coffee, kombucha, artisanal bread, crafts for kids and more at Prism Boutique, Pop Society and Flux Art Space. Visit PrismBoutique.com/shoplocal for details.

The Streets shopping center downtown also is hopping on the Small Business Saturday bandwagon, joining the Downtown Long Beach Alliance's Shop Small Campaign.

Many businesses at The Streets, including Burgerim, The Pie Bar, Loiter Galleries, and Romeo Chocolates — which is home to the Willmore City Heritage Association's gigantic gingerbread village on display now — are offering specials on November 24.

DLBA officials are creating "Loopville" at The Loop public art installation at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Pine Avenue, activating that area with photo opportunities with The Grinch, entertainment, crafts and themed food and drinks. Free trolleys will take guests to various locations downtown for shopping and dining.

 “The DLBA has created a great opportunity for us to join in their Shop Small promotion to help promote small business throughout downtown and at The Streets,” said Tony Shooshani, managing member of Shooshani Developers. “The Streets is uniquely positioned in the heart of downtown and offers a range of retail and dining options for holiday shoppers."

Also, happening in Belmont Shore, shoppers can enjoy free two-hour metered parking during Shop Small Saturday.

Further north, Bixby Knolls businesses are participating with a wide range of freebies and specials. They include everything from a free 30-minute workout at Commit 2 Fit to a free "basket of goodness" from EJ's Pub to anyone with a receipt from a Bixby Knolls small business.

Cargo Volume

October cargo traffic broke records for the second consecutive year, according to officials with the Port of Long Beach.

Volumes increased 5.4 percent compared to the same month in 2017.

October’s numbers also reflected the third-busiest month in the Port’s 107-year history, officials said, noting that marine terminals handled 705,408 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs, the standard cargo measurement).

Inbound containers increased 7.4 percent, while exports experienced a 5 percent decline, and empty containers shipped overseas grew 8.5 percent.

Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said the results illustrate the evolving effects of the U.S.-China trade war.

“Our higher import volumes suggest some retailers expect U.S. consumers will be big spenders this holiday season,” he explained. “Other importers are rushing shipments to beat escalating tariffs. At the same time, the trade war has clearly slowed American exports to China.”

Through October, the port has moved 6,727,542 TEUs this year, which is 7.9 percent higher than cargo movement during the same time period in 2017, when the Port broke its annual mark for cargo volume.

“We are on track to once again break our full-year record,” Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President Tracy Egoscue said.

For monthly cargo numbers, visit POLB.com/stats.

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