Colorful displays of toddler clothes and princess backpacks line the remaining vendadoras' (saleswomen's) stalls inside the huge buildings that house San Ysidro's only indoor swap meet. Almost half of the stalls are empty, but those that remain are still selling men's and women's clothing and footwear alongside children's clothing and toys at reasonable prices.
But the vendadoras know that change is coming to the swap-meet buildings on Calle Segundo, a short dead-end street off Calle Primero, a half-mile-long rambling road parallel to Interstate 5 just northwest of the San Ysidro Boulevard exit.
"Oh yes, we all know it will close at the end of the year," says Leticia Robledo, who leases a large space in the southern building. "I don't know what I will do after that, but the Lord provides."
Goodwill Enterprises purchased the two buildings — with about 76,000 square feet of space under 23-foot ceilings on four acres — in May.
"Maybe I can get a job from them," Robledo says. "I've been working here for 30 years already."
Robledo isn't the only saleswoman who has been working out of the swap-meet building for a long time. Shopkeepers at several other stalls said they've been at the site for 15 to 20 years. None of the people I talked with had plans for what they will do next, and none had hard feelings toward either Goodwill or the former owner, Herb Barrack. (Calls to Barrack at home and at the swap-meet office — as well as those to Joe Garcia, who established the swap meet — were not returned.)
The buildings are in a relatively isolated location, on the north end of Calle Primera. The street dead-ends about 400 yards northwest of Via Segundo.
"It's a problem that there's very limited access on a road that's heavily trafficked," says Michael Freeman, chairman of the San Ysidro Planning Group. "The community plan had a road connecting it to Camino de la Plaza, but we learned it would go through sensitive habitat, and we've been negotiating with the California Coastal Commission ever since."
Goodwill already has a retail store on Front Street, east of the 805/5 merge. The charity plans to move its retail and outlet stores to the swap-meet buildings and set up a job center at the Front Street location, according to Goodwill spokeswoman Darlene Cossio. The retail store and outlet store will each have their own building on Calle Segundo.
The nonprofit, which funnels 98 percent of its revenues to programs already has employment centers in Vista, Point Loma, Chula Vista, and Escondido, Cossio said.
"The job search can be very intimidating; creating a résumé can be very intimidating," Cossio said. "We customize our program to meet your needs and you will be assigned a job coach right away."
That coach works on shaping up a résumé and practicing the interview, among other things. People can enroll in computer classes, communications classes, and conflict-management classes.
Of the county's 1300 Goodwill employees, almost 47 percent are disabled or had another barrier to finding jobs.