Coworking Spaces

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By Ben Sanchez

On the busy cross street of San Joaquin and Weber, Eric Bodary, Facility Operations Manager for Huddle x Launch Pad, stands at the front of the Belding building expecting packages for clients. As we exchange greetings, Bodary suggests the second floor space for work. “You’ve got everything you need with a break room, bathroom, and conference room on the same floor,” he says. We walk through the lobby and take the elevator up to the main floor of Huddle x Launch Pad.

Conveniently, the mosaic patterned pathway I follow down the hall on the second floor stops at the entrance of the open coworking space. Small painted fingers along the wall point the way to the conference room, lockers, and printers. The large space on the second floor has several tables spread out with chairs, a printer station, and one dark green couch complete with pillows and a coffee table. Geometric painted designs dance across the walls underneath bright dangling light bulbs. This mixture of old and new decor resonate warm feelings that is begging for a rug to “really tie the room together.”

Something Old, Something New.

This month I decided to spend some time working out of a coworking space in downtown Stockton. The Belding Building, built in 1915, is a five-story structure named after Charles Belding, a farmer, businessman, and former mayor of Stockton. Today, the renovated building is quiet on the second floor. I place my backpack on the table and start setting up for work. I find myself at ease when trying to write content, as sunbeams from the window warm my table. Bodary stops by to find out what else I need before I start the day.

The second floor has several windows overlooking downtown Stockton, which only get better as you head to the fourth floor. The photography studio up on the fourth floor offer a room for creatives to capture incredible shots with natural lighting coming from windows along the east and north walls. With a variety of eating spots and coffee shops within walking distance, the location is ideal for running out to grab a quick coffee before heading back to work. Bodary was kind enough to watch my bag as I ventured out to pick up food.

He schedules me into the conference room and within a few minutes, I’m on the calendar for my next Zoom meeting. The large room is more than accommodating for my particular needs. For a team, it is the perfect space to meet with a modern conference table and chairs in the middle of the room. A bright orange bicycle hangs in the corner, as if it wanted to ride up along the wall. White boards have notes scrawled in marker from previous discussions and a large, flatscreen TV can be synced up for digital presentations and Zoom calls. With no one scheduled for the conference room, I had enough time to prepare my set up for a few back to back calls before heading back out to the coworking space.

Flexible.

Each floor offers something unique. I bounced around a few floors to get a feel of what is available. Open space. Private space. Private offices can outfit their space to accommodate their needs. I found lockers in another area for individuals looking to store personal items with their own lock and key. Art and photographs hang on walls on the first floor with a podcast room hiding old vinyl records on shelves and a small neon ‘On Air’ sign. Before the recording studio was developed, I recorded a podcast on the third floor. That episode yearned for a podcast studio, but now the space has one available for individuals to create content. The first floor amenities offer another layer to the already developed space inside Huddle x Launch Pad. The fourth floor lobby greets visitors with art and plant life before the elevators arrive to escort me to the next floor. Buttons light up with a loud ding signaling my arrival back to the coworking space.

Throughout the day, people walk up and down hallways to private offices. Members have keycard access to the building and work out of offices between the 2nd and 4th floors. Delivery drivers and mail carriers drop off items at the front desk. Huddle x Launch Pad can accommodate clients who are not available for pick up and store packages until they arrive on-site.

Did you know?

A new bike rack was installed right outside the Belding Building. This artistic bike rack installation could be the first of many in downtown Stockton.

Award Tour with Matt Amen.

Tours are available to schedule online and most freelancers like to work on the second floor for a day to get acclimated with the space. I’ve only visited a few floors on my visit to Launch Pad, but continue to return for the amenities offered when I need more flexible space or stability on a Zoom call (Dropped calls happen more than you think). Overall, it was a great experience to be back in a coworking environment. Huddle x Launch Pad is relatively flexible with what floor you prefer and I think once the ground floor renovations are complete, entrepreneurs can look forward to working out of another, large coworking space in downtown Stockton.

Vlog Series: Special Delivery

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By Ben Sanchez

Throughout our adventures in downtown Stockton, we prepare to meet entrepreneurs opening their doors on a Friday afternoon. This Friday is different from the normal Friday because it is a ‘Fired Friday.’ Fired Mobile Pizza mysteriously rolls up to the front of the Sycamore in downtown to offer an alternative lunch special to local workers and community members. 

On this particular outing, we thought it would be appropriate to give our intern some practice with the camera. We had him follow us around downtown and capture footage of our walk over to the Sycamore. 

The Sycamore is a venue space with this semi-rustic feel when you step into the building. Located on Weber Avenue, Stockton natives might remember the venue as The Plea for Peace Center that promoted all types of rock shows and community events in downtown. Today, Fired Pizza occupies the parking lot space just outside the Sycamore. Large iron gates roll away as setup begins for the lunch crowd on Friday.

Fired Mobile Pizza.

Jason and I got a message from Daniel Correa, owner of Fired Mobile Pizza, about doing some pizza delivery work. When we arrived at the parking lot, all of us ordered our own Neapolitan Artisan Style Pizza. The truck, like any great food truck in Stockton, has a loyal fan base monitoring their next popup location across the city. 

We introduced Nessie Huffhines, owner of FarOut Foliage, to the pizza spot for the vegetarian options they offer to customers. Once the fire was lit, pies were flying into boxes and prepped for delivery. 

We dropped by two specific locations for each delivery. Uniqo Salon on California Street and Plaza Perks inside Courthouse Plaza. 

None of this was scheduled to be a part of the vlog and happened about 30 minutes before we were preparing to shoot content. 

I love the spontaneity of the vlog. I think this is genuinely the best part for Jason and I because it keeps us on our toes. Creatively, it allows us to develop and showcase the experiences you see downtown in the vlog. 

UNIQO.

Patty Ayala, owner of Uniqo, knew ahead of time we were dropping by with pizza for her staff. Since Jason is a super fan at Uniqo, he dialed up Patty to give her a heads up on the delivery drop at noon.

Plaza Perks.

Plaza Perks had no clue we were dropping off pies. The staff was genuinely surprised and I think everyone that played the part, delivered in spades. I even got to say hello to the Executive Director of Parents by Choice, Tony Yadon. We caught the staff at the right time during a team meeting. I offered some fun facts about Fired Pizza before they opened the boxes to get a whiff of the amazing, specialty pizza. 

Support Local.

I think the importance of these experiences show you the people behind the counter and connect us with entrepreneurs in our community. The key element for small businesses is the people. The clients get a sense of the entrepreneurs behind the brand. You learn who they are and hopefully, you stay to listen to their story. They are trying to build lifelong relationships with you. If I feel welcome at these establishments and get a sense of belonging, I most likely will return to grab a coffee, eat a sandwich, get a haircut, and watch a musician perform in downtown Stockton (Not particularly in that order).

Overall, our experience was positive. When you support local businesses, you do more than just buy a product or service — you help build their dream. These people take risks everyday to chase the dream, develop it, and execute their lifelong plans. Most of the time, we are all along for the ride. I can tell you first hand when I started writing about students at University of the Pacific, I never thought that hands-on experience with the marketing team at Thomas J. Long school of Pharmacy would lead me to the coworking and startup culture. I was honing my craft in small increments and learned about entrepreneurship. Adding skills to the toolkit, as my professor would tell me. My writing would lead to developing small business articles in San Joaquin County. 

Thanks for sharing!

My goal was always to listen, create, and deliver the best story for each entrepreneur. I was merely the passenger working alongside these individuals to get that story to a larger platform. 

They all have stories to tell, we just need to take the time to listen. While all the compliments I received about my work from experienced writers have been positive, the best compliment is directly from the individual I interviewed for the story. The people who struggled to maintain the business. The people who, despite everyone telling them no, went ahead with their plan and did it anyway. The people who followed their passion to develop an idea and push it out into the world. Thank you for taking the time to share your stories with me. Without you, there would be no story. 

Guest Appearances

  • Nessie Huffhines, owner of FarOut Foliage
  • Daniel Correa, owner of Fired Mobile Pizza
  • Patty Ayala, owner of UNIQO
  • Plaza Perks staff
  • Jason Millner – University of the Pacific alumni, UNIQO Top Fan
  • Renee Icasiano – University of the Pacific alumni
  • Ben Sanchez – University of the Pacific alumni

Dealerz Choice: Vibrant Makers

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By Ben Sanchez

Colorful clouds hang from the ceiling inside the Dealerz Choice store tucked away behind the Plaza Perks Cafe on the main floor of the Courthouse Plaza. The cloud colors cycle through blues, purples, and greens.

A projection screen flickers with pop culture content on the empty back wall of the shop. Rows of collectables sit side by side on shelves and vibrant colored custom apparel hang on clothes racks inside the space.

The Courthouse Plaza vibes are different nowadays in downtown Stockton. You can feel it when you swing the double doors open with an aroma of coffee and food lingering in the air. The bleeps and bloops of arcade noises emanate from the lower level. Yes, an actual arcade space is active on the lower level of the Courthouse Plaza with a painted mural on the wall. Random canvas art fills the lobby next to old photographs of downtown. There is a lot of history along these walls.

Businesses are open to sell their wares and services with decals spread across display windows. The hallway pinboard is filled with flyers promoting the latest events throughout the downtown area. A line of people wait to grab coffee to go and others, like myself, just happen to stumble into a unique interior mall structure in the heart of downtown Stockton.

Meet Michael Allen, Owner of Dealerz Choice.

From the outside, you would think walking through the doors lead to one main floor as you enter the building. The plaza is actually a 3 tiered building with lower and upper levels for office and work space. Michael Allen, owner of Dealerz Choice, hangs up new tie dye shirts and hoodies on the clothes rack. “How’s it going?” says Allen. We sat down to talk about the name and concept of Dealerz Choice.

The shop is not just selling collectables. The idea is to provide a platform to makers and artisans who have no storefront and give them a space to showcase their products.

Allen has been an entrepreneur all his life. When he started thinking about a business, he teamed up with local maker/artist, Alexander Garza, to develop an idea for a storefront that encapsulated all of their interests. With Garza creating art, they thought a co-op space for makers would be an ideal choice in downtown Stockton. “We needed a tangible space to show off what we can do — I wanted a space to show what he (Alex) can do. We had something to work toward and build on rather than do everything at home,” says Allen.

What is Dealerz Choice? Watch the video here!

Pop-up shop.

With new ownership at The Courthouse Plaza in downtown Stockton, Allen inquired about a new space opening on the main floor. “The Courthouse Plaza is a really great space — a cool atmosphere being renovated with major changes coming up for the building,” says Allen. Eventually, Dealerz Choice appeared like a rolling cloud, similar to the decor hanging from the ceiling.

Allen shared his vision for the business and along with Garza, they create a positive atmosphere in the downtown scene and within the Courthouse Plaza. “There is a lot of foot traffic happening downtown and we want to help add to that with what we do here in our space,” says Garza. 

The business provides a fresh perspective with the pop-up shop trend. However, the pop-up shop is here to stay. Makers and artisans constantly seek new avenues to locate spaces to sell wares and build brand awareness. A temporary pop-up for a maker can be a great stepping stone to owning a brick and mortar. Now that all the cards are in place, Dealerz Choice can offer the space to makers. “We want to be the place for local artists and vendors,” says Allen. “Vendors pay a monthly fee to utilize the space and we help promote their brand.” The businesses downtown, specifically with retail shopping, continue to see consistent growth in the surrounding area of the Courthouse Plaza. Ideally, Allen is looking to collaborate with as many individuals who are interested in being a part of the revitalization in downtown.

Onomatopoeia.

Customers may inquire about the cloud decor in the shop (they make custom clouds to order), but the logo is actually an onomatopoeia.

It is a jumble of all the things we are into. A little bit of everything.

It is eye-catching.

Michael Allen

Why downtown Stockton?

The Courthouse Plaza was a great opportunity to create a space here for vendors. We have amazing potential for future events in downtown.

How can the community support you?

Reach out to us on social media and stop by the shop. Stay in contact and share our upcoming events and vendor pop-ups.

How did you come up with the name of the business?

Dealerz Choice was kind of a joke at first, but we ran with it. The z is a trendy, retro thing. We were into shapes and the organization of letters. 

There is a lot of foot traffic happening downtown and we want to help add to that with what we do here in our space.

Alexander Garza

Vendor pop-up.

Did you know you could pop-up at Dealerz Choice?

“I want to continue providing a phsyical space for vendors and makers,” Allen says. While Dealerz Choice has only been open a few months, the shop hosted a large vendor pop-up on Stocktoncon weekend, collaborate with artists for a launch party, and continue the momentum by promoting future events at Courthouse Plaza.

Address: 306 E. Main St. STE 208
Phone: 209.353.9004
Hours: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Monday – Friday

Vlog Series: Sayonara

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By Ben Sanchez

As the season changes, the leaves flutter in the wind across downtown Stockton. The air surrounding us shifts as we move in a different direction this month. The last episode with our influencer, Renee Icasiano, comes to an end on the vlog. My original pitch of 7 episodes for a vlog with an influencer was successful only to a point. Renee was only going to be a part of 4 episodes before we moved in a different direction with our final 3 episodes. 

Hopefully, all of you have enjoyed what we put together over the summer. There was a lot of great talent involved creating this project. We did some fine tuning to our introduction and the flow of episodes synced up to create new content for downtown. I picked music that would be copyright friendly (Thanks Otis McDonald!), but also encompass the vibe of what we were looking for with the vlog. In each episode, not only did we highlight small businesses in downtown, we got to meet new people building something great in our city. Before we say goodbye, I want to give you some ‘behind the scenes’ and share a brief story with you about Renee.

Renee Icasiano.

Renee was always my first choice as an influencer because she lived in Stockton, built a great rapport in the community, and continues to be a positive influence with her brand. She checked a lot of the boxes I was looking for not because of her experience in Stockton, but her familiarity in front of the camera as a performer.

Renee and I initially met back in 2009 at University of the Pacific in Communication. Our mutual, late friend, Angela Karim, made the introduction, but we never did cross paths again until 2017. Renee moved on and served in the Army for 4 years right after we met in 2009.

Around 2017, I assisted my artist friend at a local event in downtown Stockton. The event promoted local artists, musicians, and small businesses. One of the performers on stage was Renee. I saw this woman in heels wearing an elegant outfit step onto the stage at Channel Brew Company to perform music. I recognized her voice during the introduction and to my surprise, she started performing hip hop.

After her performance, she purchased some art from my friend and I went to reintroduce myself. Since then, we reconnected and worked on several projects together throughout the Stockton area.

With an elegance and professionalism that is unmatched in the 209, she required little direction from me on how to approach the vlog. She understood the vision of where we wanted to take each episode. I valued her creative input when we reviewed content, and we often had great synergy on the places we wanted to visit throughout our 4 episodes together. 

I brought along a great group of people on this journey. Each of them contributed to what you see on YouTube. This was not a project developed solely by one person. There were roadblocks and challenges we met along the way, but we slowly overcame them in each episode.

Not only do we bid adieu to Renee, but we also say sayonara to Jason Millner. 

Jason Millner.

Jason was the ‘man behind the cam.’ My professor told me once in my studies that certain individuals have the eye for camera work.

You can’t teach it. You either have it or you don’t.

I can definitely tell you after working with a few skilled videographers that Jason has ‘the eye’ for it.

The shift in marketing this past Spring left Jason wondering what type of work the department would produce moving forward.

I still laugh when we had our initial conversation about pitching the vlog, developing reels, and fine tuning the Doorways to Downtown episodes. He told me he thought he would have to ‘carry the new guy’ over the summer.

With only five months of working together, I can say it was an honor to work with Jason on this project. I am not the only one that can say that either.

Several people downtown who got to know Jason and work with him can see the skill and passion he brings to each video project. Many business owners recognized his talent and hired him to help their business. Jason knew the vision of what we were trying to achieve with the vlog and loved helping small business thrive in downtown Stockton.

While he prepares for his next journey, I am excited to see where the camera will take him. He has incredible potential to hone his craft and continue visual storytelling.

Surprise.

For episode 4, I can say it was full of surprises and experiences that happened last minute. Each episode had unexpected turns and natural conversations.

I never scripted anything (Napkin notes).

I never scheduled half of those people to appear in our episodes.

When Renee asked one of the workers at the Waterfront about a new business opening in September, we had no idea the owner was available to chat with us about the business.

We got curious. 

We told the waitress about how great our food tasted at Yasoo Yani, 10 minutes later the owner drops by our table to explain the method of making baklava.

I always pitch “Be curious” to students when I do guest speaking for colleges in Stockton and Sacramento. Out of the ten fundamentals of public relations, curiosity is always my number 1. It opens up dialogue with people. If we didn’t ask those questions or inquire about something specific, how would we know? How would we hear their story? Storytelling is a key component in any form of content you create with a brand. It unfolds naturally in the vlog. I hope we were able to capture that and convey it to you in our content. 

As the director/producer, I have to coordinate schedules and dates for the places we visit. What happens along the way is magic. Who could we meet? What can we experience in that episode? 

I do a lot of improvisation. I might give a general idea of where to shoot it or what to look for, but everything just happens when it needs to. I have ideas for bits, but when we all get together some unexpected event unfolds for us. We brought along friends who felt comfortable with us. I think that is important. How can we get the best story out of you if you feel uncomfortable? We ran into a lot of people who just wanted to talk with us. I bet with all the b-roll, we probably could give you more than 7 episodes! For everyone who popped up in the first 4 episodes, thank you! This project would not be where it is now without some of you agreeing to be on camera. 

Thanks!

With that said, I also want to thank Jason and Renee. Both were a huge part in why the vlog was successful! I hope you can take these vlog experiences with you and tell people about it. Share it with those people who don’t know about Stockton and continue to create positive content in future projects. 

Huddle x Launch Pad: Inevitable Destination

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By Ben Sanchez

The first floor of the historic Belding building on the corner of N. San Joaquin and Weber Avenue has large display windows for onlookers who will spot art hanging on the wall, and one small room with vinyl records on shelves. In the corner of the small room window is an ‘On Air’ sign facing the street.

Modern furnishings and plants populate the room to round out the space with a uniquely woven design of the Launch Pad logo placed along the side entrance wall.

Upon my arrival, a woman waited to enter the appropriate passcodes at another entrance to the main floors of Huddle x Launch Pad. I helped her contact Eric Bodary, Facility Operations Director, who maintains the front desk on the second floor.

Eric Bodary, Facility Operations Director.

We keyed in our not so secret codes and a signal was transmitted up to Bodary, who greeted us through the intercom. “I was expecting you. Come on up, I’ll buzz you through,” he says. The door buzzed and we all walked through the lobby waiting for the elevators to carry us up to the main floor.

Elevators ding on arrival and we took a ride up one floor to chat with Bodary about the coworking space in downtown Stockton. Bodary grabs mail for the woman and we say our goodbyes before venturing off on a tour of the second and fourth floors.

When I asked Bodary about Huddle x Launch Pad and how he explains the concept of coworking to people unfamiliar with it, he says, “We are like a rental office on steroids — we offer more than just a rental space.”

What is Huddle x Launch Pad? Watch the video here!

What is coworking?

For anyone unfamiliar with the term, coworking is a shared, professional workspace. However, several cowork spaces offer additional services including kitchens, meeting rooms, photo studios, private offices and more. Huddle x Launch Pad provides all of this within the coworking space downtown making it accessible for entrepreneurs in Stockton. 

The unique element about coworking is the people working in the space. During my time in coworking spaces across California, my experience with freelancers opened up a collaborative avenue of information and ideas. It creates a community.

There is something special and meaningful behind it that inspires your work. The people may not be familiar with you or the scope of work you do, but in a short period of time, the conversation is filled with high energy. A vibrant atmosphere encourages any freelancer renting a space for the day. It feels rejuvenating to meet others in the field working on similar problems. The unique interconnection between people creates a wave of positivity to discover solutions to those problems. The entrepreneurial spirit courses through the veins at these facilities with a modern feel, but containing an element of nostalgia within the historic framework of each building. This theme is similar to other cowork spaces I’ve visited from Sacramento, San Francisco, Tracy, and San Jose. 

Let’s make magic.

While we waited for the Community Manager, Matt Amen to arrive, Bodary shared his insight on being a part of the space where he met Matt in 2016. “I actually started at the original location on the first month they opened,” he says. “I signed up as a member, shifted over to helping out until finally being hired on.” Bodary is the guy working in the background, where Amen typically handles the front end of the business from tours to speaking engagements. The duo created magic by bringing more people into the space through events and community gatherings.

With the Stockton coworking space gaining national recognition for their work, Launch Pad reached out. The team partnered with Launch Pad over 2 years ago, and their grassroots efforts set the stage for expanding into the first floor of the Belding building. “Launch Pad was created out of New Orleans in a need for small business space after Hurricane Katrina,” Bodary says.

Matt Amen, Community Manager.

We head back down to the first floor just as Amen rides up on a bicycle. The timing was impeccable. “This is exciting,” he says. “I’m excited for what we can do in this place.” The small podcast room is readily available for entrepreneurs ready to dive in and create content on the first floor. While the conference room is still being prepared, furniture is placed and ready for entrepreneurs to start their dream. 

Amen has been busy in the background working diligently on providing a comfortable space for small business owners and entrepreneurs. “I wanted to help build a space I felt comfortable in and that the community can feel comfortable in,” he says. “I got to see this place grow and be a pillar in this community, especially our entrepreneurial community.”

Why downtown Stockton?

Downtown has a rich history. There are wonderful buildings and people here.

How can the community support you?

Check out our space. People are looking for something historic and new at the same time.

I wanted to help build a space I felt comfortable in and that the community can feel comfortable in.

Matt Amen

Create.

Did you know Huddle x Launch Pad has a photo studio on the 4th floor?

“We are calling it Studio 419,” Amen says. While the studio has only been open a month, the feedback from people who used the space has been positive. With incredible natural lighting and additional equipment for photographers on-site, the studio and first floor expansions are key milestones for Huddle x Launch Pad.

Address: 110 N. San Joaquin St.
Phone: 209.323.4389
Hours: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Monday – Friday

Vlog Series: Explore Possibilities

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By Ben Sanchez

Superior Court of California

When I initially thought about presenting the idea about a vlog for marketing, I needed to develop a style on how to highlight multiple individuals rather than have a vlog centered around one person.

Traditionally a vlog follows an individual experience through weekly content. I knew I needed to find a way to capture the human side of people downtown, but how could I accomplish that goal? 

The vlog is not a new idea. Around the mid 2000s, people were already experimenting with video content and how to deliver it to the world. I realize this project is a radical departure from previous content posted by the organization. My goal is to create relatable, authentic content to bring more awareness to the downtown area. This is a time to step into a fresh, creative space and implement different, collaborative ideas from people who are supportive of this project. By exploring downtown through video content, we can showcase a new perspective on the life and culture happening in the downtown area.

My name is Ben Sanchez, and I am an alum from University of the Pacific. My co-worker in the Marketing department, Jason Millner, also an alum from University of the Pacific, works on the vlog project. Here are my thoughts on how and why we developed this project for downtown Stockton.

Featured Photos

Check out our latest video!

Vlog Thoughts

What is a vlog?

A vlog, short for ‘video blog’ or ‘video log,’ is video content uploaded to a video platform by a group or individual on a set schedule. The content varies based on the creator, but will typically highlight aspects of their life. This “day in the life” style of documenting content is generally unscripted and natural. With a wide variety of topics from traveling, cooking, and technology, followers can subscribe and watch ‘vloggers’ discuss and experience their thoughts through a series of video content.

While vlogging follows one individual, we decided on a hybrid style of filming with multiple people in front of the camera rather than having one person consistently appear and address the viewers. We switch between phone and camera footage, blending a style utilized by several content creators on major video platforms.

What is the difference between a vlog and a blog?

The main difference is the format. A blog is informal, written content that the audience has to read in an article or story on a website. A vlog is visual content with a story told through videos on YouTube. Although not limited to just YouTube, you can distribute vlog content across several social media platforms. 

When did you develop the idea for a downtown vlog?

I watched vlogs on YouTube for the past two years and through my research, I discovered a few I really enjoy. After speaking with Jason, we bounced around some ideas, and shared YouTube channels that would inspire us to develop a vlog that would work for us. To be honest, I never intended on developing a vlog for downtown. We just tossed around the idea and how cool it would be to do it. It was interesting to hear Jason’s perspective about the idea of a vlog. He was already thinking about a vlog during his time as an intern, but he felt no one would grasp that concept. I kept hearing ideas on what other people wanted to do, but never implement them. I took all of the scribbles from our notes and ran with the idea.

I did not mind directing the audience and putting myself out there to help navigate episodes, but I needed more people involved to explore downtown. I planned for a monthly vlog of 7 episodes in 2021. I pitched the idea back in May and we started filming randomly throughout downtown.

What is the vision for the vlog?

Patty Ayala, owner of Uniqo Salon, speaking with performer and entrepreneur, Renee Icasiano.

I think my overall vision was to find a way to capture moments in downtown and create a video archive. I knew it had to highlight a little bit of everything. Architecture, business, art, and entertainment — we have to change the narrative into something positive.

If we put together a video series, we could consistently have video content for people every month.  I did not want to be overly ambitious about where I would go with the vlog. I planned for 7 episodes and only 7 for this year.

The challenge with only two people producing, directing, and creating is how often can we create an episode on top of the other responsibilities we have in our roles at Downtown Stockton Alliance. I have to balance time and resources. I wanted to bring in key influencers that bring a positive presence in front of the camera. We currently showcase entrepreneurs and business, but I want to expand on other avenues of downtown if our vlog gains momentum. Ideally, I would love to bring in more artists and musicians to showcase the work they create downtown. 

Why create a vlog about downtown?

Why not? The organization has never done anything like it. They were slowly rolling out a new video project, but Doorways is very specific on what it does. I needed content that could cover a wider spectrum of downtown. The sustainability of the vlog has the potential to cover behind the scenes on small business, events, art, venue spaces, and other aspects of downtown people might not be familiar with. Once I had an idea about who I could approach for the vlog, we started to capture places and people. People get their information from different sources on a daily basis. Is there a demand for video content? Absolutely. Could you over saturate your channel? Never. You can never have enough content. We all know the saying, ‘content is king.’ 

The YouTube platform for the organization was not active and I knew that going in when I reviewed the channel. We need something more entertaining on the channel. In order for this project to be successful, I needed to establish good working relationships with business owners who feel comfortable behind the camera. Without the people and culture of downtown, our project would not be possible.

What is your goal for the vlog?

Nessie Huffhines, owner of Farout Foliage.

I want to show the ‘humanness’ here in downtown. Let’s highlight the people who are building something here. I keep talking about authenticity. Sometimes, I feel that is a lost artform.

When you look at everything pushed out to social platforms… what feels genuine? What feels authentic? What is real?

If I can bring a real sense of awareness to one person and get them curious about a key business or venue downtown — I know our project made a connection. I read comments on our Instagram from people who want to know more about these businesses. Where are they located? What do they sell? We have to build a connection with entrepreneurs and my goal is to help establish a sense of familiarity in how we can create storytelling through video.

The first idea was always ‘behind the scenes.’ I wanted that bit to be authentic and for the audience to see another side of entrepreneurs behind the camera. We never get our other video project (Doorways to Downtown) on the first take. Not all of us are performers or are prepared to be recorded — we have anxieties in from the camera.

That particular project felt rigid and formatted in a way that just goes through the routine. Here are generalized questions covering very specific aspects of a business. For that project, I feel it works. But you will never see any outtakes. You might not see us laughing about fumbling lines or general banter about everyday life. For the vlog, I want it to feel unscripted, natural, light-hearted, and on the fly. We have to be agile and think on our feet, similar to how entrepreneurs approach their ideas. If we evoke certain emotions, and create a way to have fun, people will become comfortable with us. This is what we need to achieve and I hope you will feel that when you watch our vlog.

Do you have any past experience with vlogs?

I have no experience working on vlog projects, but Jason and I have worked on several video projects over the years. The vlog is fresh, ‘off the cuff’ improvisation in front of a camera. Jason has a passion to create and tell stories through videography. We connected on this level when we discussed ideas about the vlog. He did his own personal vlog for a short time. I developed an entrepreneur video podcast at a local nonprofit radio station several years ago. I’m familiar with being in front of the camera hosting my own show. With Jason behind the lens working his craft, we both explore spaces downtown. Our passion to chase this idea allows us to bring people along for the ride as we capture these experiences. It has been an incredible collaborative effort with everyone who appeared in the first two episodes.

What about your Instagram reels and stories? How are those being developed?

Amazing specialty coffee drinks from Grinding Grounds truck at the Waterfront in downtown Stockton.

I approached it from a video game perspective (first person) in storytelling. From the eyes of the viewer, you see what I see walking downtown — pushing elevator buttons or opening doors to businesses. I want to give you the feeling that you are right there with me. Every block, every step. This is one method to tell a story and then creatively develop a reel.

During the editing process for other vlog content, there is a review process and material is cut. Some of that material will never see the light of day. I created another way to compile it and push it out into reels. 

With the implementation of reels on our Instagram account, we found a process that works for us based on the results we receive from viewers. To date, this is the most active form of engagement we have seen with the Downtown Stockton Alliance Instagram account. What impressed us is the interactions and views we get with this content. I’m thankful people were able to make time to watch and offer feedback.

Wall 2 Wall Fashion: You will find it all

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By Ben Sanchez

Hanging signs emit flickering lights to grab the attention of people passing by on South San Joaquin Street in downtown Stockton. A row of mannequins line up outside a storefront showcasing a unique fashion style to passersby peering inside a large display window. The spinning disco ball glimmers above the historic doorframe architecture, now occupied by a new small business.

Wall 2 Wall Fashion by Santana, is hand-written on the whiteboard sign outside the shop. An arrow points to an old vintage door at the storefront. The large audio speakers emit a soulful sound as I ventured into the space. I noticed the high ceilings and immediately understood why the shop is aptly named Wall 2 Wall. Sante Gayle, owner of Wall 2 Wall Fashion, greets us behind the counter. “Welcome to Wall 2 Wall gentlemen,” says Gayle. He reaches for a high-reach garment hook to place clothing along the wall. “I can display all of these unique pieces from wall to wall in this retail space — that’s where the business name originated from.”

The clothing is vibrant and seasonal with an array of women’s designer clothes that customers can view up to about 30 feet. From accessories, shoes, and jewelry, you can “find it all at Wall 2 Wall,” says Gayle. Along with men and women’s apparel, he does custom orders for clothing designs to accompany the accessories inside the shop. With neo soul beats in rotation playing from his Xbox One, we got to vibe with Gayle on how he started his business, the vision for Wall 2 Wall, and a brand new storefront opening soon in downtown.

Meet Sante Gayle, owner of Wall 2 Wall Fashion.

Gayle, born and raised in Stockton, lived off of American Street. He spent a majority of his life in Stockton before he went to college, played basketball, and traveled the world with AND1. While he toured to other countries playing basketball, Gayle had conversations with his uncle about his experience as an entrepreneur.

After completing his basketball journey, he started researching how to build a small business in downtown Stockton. “I decided to take a step toward being an entrepreneur here and building something where I live,” says Gayle. ”Downtown is nice because of the people — I wanted my store here to help my people and beautify my city.” 

Design and Inspire.

Throughout his experience, Gayle sold a variety of clothing from hats to jerseys. He developed a plan to start his business before launching Wall 2 Wall Fashion last year during the pandemic. With insight and inspiration from his uncle, he continued forward, studying fashion trends and learning what it takes to operate a successful business.

From casual to dress apparel, Gayle originally stocked inventory with a more uniform, work savvy look, specifically for women in business. However, that trend has shifted toward a sexy, sophisticated, and intelligent style. “Women come in for seasonal fashion designs. Lingerie or a swimsuit look during the summer is what they look for when they visit my store,” says Gayle. “We give people a personal tour of fashion — they can pick and pull from any kind of idea to design something unique.” 

Why downtown Stockton?

Downtown is about the people. Beautifying my city is exactly what I want to do.

How can the community support you?

The best way to support us is to come down and experience Wall 2 Wall.

What is different about Wall 2 Wall?

There hasn’t been a shop like this in downtown for a long time. Our location, clothing, accessories, and customer service with clients offer a welcoming experience for people who live near the downtown area. We offer women and men’s apparel, along with plus size clothing.

Our walls go 30 feet up to give people an optimal view of the designer clothing in our space downtown.

Sante Gayle

Make it unique.

Did you know Wall 2 Wall Fashion carries limited designer clothes?

Gayle works closely with his clientele to assist in their fashion choices, offering a unique custom look for any season.

While he manages several businesses, Gayle is actively involved in his community coaching at local schools and programs passing on knowledge from his experiences playing basketball around the world.

Address: 31 S. San Joaquin St.
Phone: 209.313.8811
Hours: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Open 7 days a week

Farout Foliage: Plant Paradise

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By Ben Sanchez

As sunlight starts peeking into the large windows at Farout Foliage, an array of plants soak up the sun on a breezy day in downtown Stockton. The window displays on East Market Street feature a variety of plants that line the floors, shelves, and tables inside the storefront. Before opening the door, you are greeted by more succulents placed along the sidewalk. Each row of plants gives off this feeling as if they are trying to reach out to you. Large, leafy plants sprout up from containers hoping clients will pick them up to take home. A woman gently wipes each leaf, arranging the intimate space before opening hours. “Hey there! Thanks for stopping by,” says Nessie Huffhines, owner of Farout Foliage.

Huffhines offers a warm welcome to her first storefront establishment in downtown Stockton. In 2019, she operated a small pop-up space at Weberstown Mall. “I was in the mall for half a year in 2019. After December, I felt confident enough to expand. I eventually found this cute place downtown,” she says. “We have been here for about a year now, coming up in July.” The storefront opened in early February of 2020 until the pandemic forced small businesses to close. During this time, she planned accordingly in order to adapt through the pandemic. “It was difficult and stressful, but gave me time to think about strategizing my business accordingly with the new space,” she says.

Art prints of Léon: The Professional lean against the wall waiting to be framed for the shop. The art prints spark a memory from my recollection of the film. She vividly describes scenes from the film, specifically with Léon and his plant. “Do you remember that movie? He always had the small plant with him. When they moved to each hotel, he would carry it and care for the plant throughout the film,” she says. Her pop culture reference exudes a passion and friendship to spark our next conversation about the surrounding plant life she submerges herself in on a daily basis. We sat down with her to talk more about the business, her vision, and day trips to California nurseries.

Meet Nessie Huffhines, owner of Farout Foliage.

Throughout her travels, Huffhines has collected 500 plants for her own personal collection. Born in Torrance, California, she moved to Stockton around age 11. “I’m an L.A. girl… but I grew up in Stockton,” she says.

While she never intended on building a business around plants, her husband suggested investing in something you are genuinely passionate about for your business. “I knew I wanted to start a business. My husband said to focus on the plants. It was spontaneous — plants were the last thing I thought of.” she says. “Now it has evolved into something I never imagined.”

With the collection of plants growing at home, Huffhines curiosity for exotic succulents extend across California. She planned trips to southern California visiting nurseries in San Diego for cacti before venturing off to Folsom, Daly City, Vacaville, and San Ramon. In between researching nurseries and developing the business, she juggled different names for the shop before deciding on Farout Foliage. “I was working another job at the time… I had a coworker who was a big hippie lady. She was awesome! She always said ‘farout’ when she thought something was cool,” she says. “I thought about that moment — I felt it went with my theme for the business.”

Plant Life.

Her passion for the preservation and presentation of each plant is evident inside Farout Foliage. “I’m always learning and growing. When I visit nurseries to pick up plants, I inquire about the details and learn from others’ experiences with each plant,” she says.

Although the storefront is limited, the space emits a relaxing aura that is a great escape from the frantic, fast paced life. “It is a very cozy, welcoming environment,” she says. “I always look for lush, healthy plants to display. I want to find something people would want to take home and brighten up their day.”

Nestled between a few midsized plants, one small plant on the shelf with interesting leaf patterns captured our attention. She calls out the plant name without hesitation. “That’s a string of turtles!” she says. Each plant, accompanied by handwritten labels, offers a small insight to the nature and origin of the plant. As we observe the space, Huffhines can name every plant across the room. Whether it is a snake plant, Monstera, Zebra Haworthia or Blue Torch cacti, each unique plant needs a different type of care from the owner. “Almost all the plants in my shop I own at home. I share my experiences with customers on how to care for each of them,” she says.

What’s the best advice someone has ever given you?

Always be honest. Be honest with your customers and be more of a friend to them. 
What is more comfortable than being with a friend? 

Why downtown Stockton?

I have always been interested in where I live and what it has to offer. I wanted to be part of the movement.

What is your favorite plant?

Right now I’m really in love with my begonia maculata! 

Always be honest.

Be honest with your customers and be more of a friend to them. 

Nessie Huffhines

Hang in there.

Did you know one of her services is interior plant design for home and office space?

Huffhines knowledge of plants extends beyond her shop, visiting other businesses and clients to evaluate what type of plant arrangements would thrive in interior spaces. From plant care to placement, her consulting advice and ideas can bring more life to your work or home space!

You can inquire about plants, maintenance, and additional services by contacting her via phone or social media. See a plant featured on her social media? Send a direct message to custom order.

Address: 239 E. Market St.
Phone: 209.313.8811
Hours: Monday – Friday | 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday | 12 – 4 p.m.

Martinez Tailor Shop: From Mexico to California

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By Ben Sanchez

On the walls of Martinez Tailor Shop inside the Courthouse Plaza, next to a dressed up male mannequin bust, hang photographs of a young boy dressed in a suit. A small frame propped on the counter showcases a picture of a man on the phone dressed in a suit. Ignacio “Nacho” Martinez points to the photo on the counter. “Did I tell you I’m working on a short film?” Martinez says. His shop is tucked away in a corner of the plaza, just past Plaza Perks coffee bar. “I always wanted to be a secret agent,” he says, looking behind the shop door at a photograph of himself dressed in a James Bond suit. “I loved Sean Connery — he was the best James Bond.”

The well-suited young boy in the photograph is now a professional tailor, entrepreneur, and accomplished mariachi. Upbeat music blares from his smartphone with YouTube playing the trailer for his next project, The Case, starring Nacho Martinez. The trailer shows a montage of Martinez training in martial arts.  “I practiced Taekwondo when I was young. In my city of Uruapan, there were two brothers that taught me,” he says. Martinez can now add acting to his repertoire of skills. Along with music on Spotify, and music videos on YouTube, Martinez spent time talking about the tailoring trade, adventures in Mexico, and his journey from Pleasanton to Stockton.  

Meet Ignacio Martinez, owner of Martinez Tailor Shop

Ignacio Martinez began his tailoring journey with needle and thread at an early age in Uruapan, Michoacán. His mother suggested he start learning at six years old. By the age of 12, Martinez had all the tools he needed to apply his tailoring skills for the people in town. Hemming and sewing a variety of clothing out of his home, he started building a clientele in Mexico.

During this time, Martinez ventured around the town and found a mariachi band practicing for their next performance. The band asked Martinez if he would like to sit in during practice and try singing with the music. Martinez discovered he had a natural talent to sing. With support for the mariachi band, Martinez acquired his charro suit (traje de charro) and performed for crowds in Mexico. 

Martinez pursued his passion for singing and traveled to California, where he refined the love for both of his crafts. He spent over 15 years in Pleasanton working for Nordstrom doing alterations to clothing, suits and dresses. In 2004, he moved to Stockton to apply his craft with several shops throughout the Central Valley before opening his own shop in downtown Stockton. When he is not behind the sewing machine, Martinez suits up to perform with mariachi bands throughout California and Mexico. With natural charisma and talent for tailoring, he continues to build clientele serving the community throughout San Joaquin County.  

Alterations & Services

“I always tell my customers anything that a machine can sew, I’ll do it!” Martinez says. “I do garments, shirts, coats, and dresses for ladies.” While general alterations are popular with dresses and suits, he explained that leather is a specialty. This particular skill sets him apart from other tailor shops. “There is only one chance to do the alteration — leather is more complicated, but I specialize in leather and they (clients) can come in for that service,” Martinez says. For inquiries, you can contact Martinez by phone or through Facebook. He accepts walk-ins and is currently open from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. in downtown Stockton inside Courthouse Plaza, 306 E. Main Street, #209.

“I always tell my customers anything that a machine can sew, I’ll do it!”

nacho martinez

Beas Auto Sales Corporation, 30 Years in Downtown Stockton

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Beas Auto Sales Corporation is a family-owned and used car dealership that exclusively offers Electric Cars, Plug-In Hybrids, and Hybrids to build a cleaner and healthier community. Located at 744 E. Miner Ave in Downtown Stockton, they’ve been proudly serving San Joaquin County for 30 years. This month, we sat down and spoke with Humberto Beas, Vice President of Beas Auto Sales Corporation, to learn more about this environmentally conscious business that has called Downtown Stockton home for the past three decades. 

Meet Beto

Humberto “Beto” Beas, is Vice President of Beas Auto Sales Corporation (not to be confused with Humberto Beas, his father, who is the President of Beas Auto Sales!). Beto grew up in Stockton and attended elementary school, high school, and college here, before completing his degree in Chile and soon after attaining a Masters Degree at the University of Nevada, Reno.

While pursuing an education, Beto was always interested in the car business. After amassing significant experience in the car industry and spending a few years teaching elementary school Spanish, Beto came to work as VP at his family’s dealership in 2010. In addition to his leadership at Beas Auto Sales Corporation, Beto is also the current president of the Independent Automobile Dealership of California, which is an organization that represents all independent car dealers in the state. There, he’s helped pass important legislation and ensure that independent car dealerships’ voices are heard.

What Makes Bea’s Auto Sales Unique?

Beas Auto Sales strives for quality, integrity, and honesty. Their mission is to provide the highest quality preowned vehicles on the market, and they work to, “build a healthier community, one driveway at a time.” Beto shares, “independent dealers get a really bad rep, but I’m most certain our dealership is distinguished because we do right by people. There’s a reason we’ve been in business this long.” Additionally, their selection of exclusively electric and hybrid vehicles sets them apart from other car dealerships in the county.

Because of ongoing construction on Miner Ave., Beas Auto Sales Corporation is currently closed. Despite the temporary closure, which has been in place for the past few months, Beto is excited for the new and improved look of Miner Ave., stating that it’s turning out to a be, “a beautiful, beautiful place” and that the area, “will be vibrant. Whole new street, whole new downtown!”

During the 2020 pandemic, Beas Auto Sales adapted to the challenging times by transitioning to home deliveries. Recently, 70 to 80% of their business is done through delivery. Visit their website to learn more about how this works! 

Why Downtown Stockton?

Bea’s Auto Sales first opened in Downtown Stockton on October 16th, 1991, and have been a solid piece of the downtown community ever since. Why Downtown Stockton? Beto answers, “Downtown’s always been a historical and important place.” He continues, “we’ve always loved downtown – there’s something about it that never died out – it’s only going to get better.”

30-Year Anniversary Celebration

This upcoming October, Bea’s Auto Sales will be hitting a huge milestone – their 30 year anniversary! To celebrate, they’ll be hosting a 30 Year Anniversary Party, and you’re invited! Stay tuned for more details. Make sure to follow them on Instagram and Facebook to stay updated and to be the first to receive important news.