Downtown Hollister offers a variety of things to do, see and eat offered by business owners with strong ties to the community.

Sweet music

Right in downtown Hollister, at 360 Sixth St., Joe “Mr. O” Ostensen teaches music at his Academy of the Arts, and then practices with musicians from 12 years of age to talents in their mid 70s with Mr. O’s Jazz Band. 

Retiring after 45 years of teaching music at the Hollister School District, in 2012, Mr. O and his wife, Frances, opened the Academy. At first, there were only young students that came to learn, then, to their surprise and joy, folks in their 60s and 70s — who had never played an instrument before — came by and started learning and playing.

“The students have become quite good,” says Mr. O. His favorite part about teaching is seeing his earlier students involve their children in music. Sometimes, his students become music teachers themselves. Mr. O believes music builds community and seeing his students’ family grow and play music together always brighten his day.

Just breathe

Across San Benito Street, and down one block at 217 Fifth St., Ila Foley opened a yoga and massage studio called Breathe San Benito. She started her business with the money she earned from raising and selling hogs while in 4H. 

“Yoga builds strength and flexibility,” says Foley, who said she is happy to return home from West Virginia and to share her training in health and well-being. 

As a teenager, Ila had no idea that she was saving up money to give back to the community. She said her favorite part of teaching is seeing her students become stronger and gain confidence. She also likes seeing the socializing that happens after classes, and encourages her students to walk around downtown. 

Mexican cuisine

If anyone was hungry, just around the corner, back on San Benito Street, is a delicious Mexican grill called La Catrina. Before opening the restaurant at 449 San Benito St, the Gonzalez family was already using that kitchen to bake Mexican cookies for supermarkets. Wanting to venture out and serve their favorite family recipes to customers, and to create new recipes, mom, dad, daughter and son, Gustavo, opened La Catrina in 2014. Unique flavors with fresh seasonal ingredients is their goal.  

Through the restaurant, the Gonzalez family has become more involved with the community. They’re said they are glad that their restaurant can make a difference in bringing more foot traffic to the downtown neighborhood and be the venue for fundraisers that help causes in the community. 

Stylish options

After a yummy lunch is a good time to sit back and get your hair done. Tim Borges, who has been cutting and styling hair for more than 30 years, owns Delux Hair Salon on San Benito Street between Sixth and Seventh. Having been a downtown newspaper boy at 10 years old, Tim says he’s been “around the block.”

The trend that Tim sees is young adults moving back to Hollister to raise their families. Several of his hairstylists are examples, with one of them having been his student. Tim’s favorite moments are seeing his stylists prosper. It’s about building relationships, he said. Tim was just at one of his client’s 80th birthday party and loved seeing many friends/clients at different ages celebrating together.

In the bullpen

From friends to superheroes, Bill’s Bullpen on Fourth and East streets is a great place to see the transformation. The baseball cards, comics, and sports novelty shop started as a hobby store 28 years ago by Bill Jr.’s dad. Bill Jr. joined forces after the first year. In 1989, the original store on the 400 Block of San Benito Street was demolished by the Loma Prieta earthquake. Bill Jr. said a “bad thing turned to be a very good thing.” He said he’ll never forget how the whole community came together and helped him move everything to his current location at 207 Fourth St. 

Bill’s Bullpen was awarded 2015 “Retail Business of the Year” by the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce. Mifsud said he is proud of the recognition and also loves moments when parents tell him that comic books have helped their children read. It’s pretty special when customers who were 8 years old when the store first opened are now returning with their children, he said.  “That’s our small town.”

Upcoming downtown events

  • Saturday, Oct. 29, Mr. O’s Jazz Band will present Music in the Park at Dunne Park (corner of Seventh and West streets)  1-3 p.m. Info: 831-636-3813
  • Saturday, Oct. 29, La Catrina will celebrate Dia de Los Muertos, a Day of the Dead event with costume contest, prizes, live music and much more. Starts at 9 p.m. Info: 831-313-0905
  • Saturday, Oct. 29, Halloween Comic Fest. Bill’s Bullpen will be giving away free comics from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. as supplies last. Batman, Supergirl, and Spiderman are scheduled to meet fans from noon to 2 p.m. Info: 831-636-1180
  • Breathe San Benito, Yoga & Massage, offers a $1 class on the first Friday of each month at 217 Fifth St., Hollister Info: 831-313-1505
  • Delux Hair Salon is open six days a week at 625 San Benito St. Info: 831-637-0567