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Craig Smith

Craig Smith is the executive director of the Downtown Napa Association.

J.L. Sousa/Register

You may have noticed, but the Uptown Theatre has been booking great shows lately, evidenced by the number that are sold out.

General Manager Shelby French says the credit belongs to talent buyers out of Boston, the venue’s enhanced reputation, and especially owner George Altamura.

“George has final approval of every performer,” said French.

Altamura doesn’t rely on his personal tastes and preferences, but books based on what acts are selling elsewhere. Sound like a “Duh” formula, but many venues don’t follow it, and pay the price. Visit and check out the line-up.

All about me…

Today marks 20 years that I’ve worked to promote businesses downtown.

The board members of the Napa Downtown Merchants and Professional Association, as it was called in 1996, decided that it was time to take the next step and hire their first executive director.

They advertised for a candidate who had experience in the retail and nonprofit worlds. The kicker was that they also wanted someone who had worked with city councils crafting local ordinances.

The position was 20 hours a week, which, at that point in my life, suited me just fine. I had exactly the background they were looking for, and can’t imagine that anyone else did.

I got the job. My new employers and I both thought I would be around for a year, tops, to at least get the ship moving in the right direction.

The problem with that plan is that I really liked the job. Loved it, actually, and it was obvious that, if tackled as a full-time job, the organization could become a valuable and needed part of downtown’s growth.

Fortunately, the board felt the same way, and within six months, the position was full time. Over a few years, we grew from an organization with a budget of $80,000 to a budget of just under a million dollars.

What a great ride it’s been. I’ve been privileged to work with amazing people who love this town, and who have worked relentlessly to make this the best place to live and work, period.

We’ve been through floods, earthquakes, hard financial times, and more, always coming out stronger. Occasionally, I have a good idea, but for the most part, my job has been to make sure that downtown restaurants and retail stores get as much recognition and promotion as they deserve for the incredible businesses they run.

I started this job with brown hair and high ideals about what a difference I could make.

The hair is now gray, and I recognize that my job is to promote a downtown that is full of great shopping and dining for locals and visitors, and to hold and advance the vision of an even better place to shop, dine, work and play.

Time won’t allow for another 20 years, but I’d sign up for it without reservation. Next to marrying my wife, Denise, and moving to Napa, working here has been the best decision I’ve ever made.

See you downtown!

Craig Smith is the executive director of the Downtown Napa Association. Reach him at 257-0322 or


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