Dede Rossi

Dede Rossi has been executive director of the BSBA for nearly a decade.

Dede Rossi gave warning last month as she addressed the VIP party before the Belmont Shore Christmas Parade.

"This is my 10th parade," she said. "It may be my last."

Last week, Rossi followed through, giving notice she was ready to step down from the executive director position. She told the Belmont Shore Business Association board she would stay as long as it took to find a replacement, and would help teach that person the ropes.

"You're not going to replace Dede," BSBA President Mike Sheldrake of Polly's Coffee said. "She's just an amazing woman. The BSBA wouldn't be anywhere near where we are today without her. Her relationship skills are second to none."

Rossi took on the executive director position in June 2010, replacing Brooke Kennard, who resigned to get married and spend time with family. Rossi had retired in 2007 from Long Beach State University, where she was assistant athletic director for development.

"I was ready to do something," Rossi said, "and we had talked about it before, but the time wasn't right. Then it was right.

"I have loved working here. When you get into something and get passionate about it — that's where I was… Maybe a little too passionate sometimes when I was ‘managing the street.'"

Rossi said that Second Street and Belmont Shore epitomized Long Beach's small town feel, with everyone working together to make the community better. It gave the organization and the community a lot of credibility, she said.

Long Beach was in the grip of the Great Recession when Rossi came to the BSBA. Retail was changing, both because of the bad business climate and the rise of online shopping.

"I love the Shore," she said. "I love coming down here, hanging out here. For a long time, Belmont Shore was the shining jewel in Long Beach. But for the last couple of years, well, we don't feel very shiny right now. We aren't the only game in town anymore."

But, Rossi added, the doom and gloom isn't justified either. Businesses close, and businesses open; a cycle Belmont Shore has seen for decades. And, she admits, she is by nature an optimistic person.

"People are all coming together now," she said. "There will be something coming in. The residents want the street to thrive, and we're just so unique."

One of the hardest times of her decade, she said, was when the BSBA, the Parking and Business Improvement Advisory Commission and the city (largely through Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price's office) decided to remake the Second Street median. For most of the summer in 2017, Second Street was one lane in each direction.

"The median rebuild was started when we knew for sure 2ND & PCH was coming in," Rossi said. "We knew we had to do something to spruce it up, make it fresh… It was disruptive for the businesses, and it took awhile, but we all wanted to get it done."

Rossi said Belmont Shore needs to continue to find ways to change and thrive. She noted there are fewer "bar bars" on the street now than there were 20 years ago, and more fine restaurants. Those eateries may be the key to the future, she said.

Events always have been a big part of the BSBA marketing efforts, and she said that while they are a lot of work, they're also a lot of fun.

"I love the big special events," Rossi said. "I love the parade, the car show. It's fun seeing people have fun, and to know you had a little part in that.

"But I've been thinking about it (stepping down) for a while. I think I've done what I could. Maybe someone with a different vision, new ideas… I put my whole heart in it. I will be here as long as they need me."

Sheldrake said he has formed a committee to search for the next executive director, and said he hoped to have someone in place in 60 to 90 days, if not sooner.

"It's not just the mechanics," he said. "There are so many relationships to forge, learning about people and learning to work with them."

After all, the Belmont Shore Car Show is just around the corner (in September). Just ask Dede.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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