Murals Making Moves in Downtown

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New Mural! Find it on the side of 707 E. Main St

It’s the colors and size of a mural that easily captures our attention roaming anywhere downtown. And the latest installment up at the side of 707 E. Main St. is no exception.

This giant work of art is to honor Devone Boggan, CEO of Advance Peace, an organization dedicated to ending cyclical and retaliatory gun violence in American urban neighborhoods. For all his endless work enriching young people’s lives, he was named an Ashoka Changemaker in 2021 and was named a recipient of an Irvine Foundation Leadership Award this year. The James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards recognize individuals advancing breakthrough solutions to critical issues facing California. 

John Horton is the multidisciplinary artist selected to create and produce the mural. He’s titled it: Transforming Lives. A resident of Sacramento, John’s Instagram profile showcases his awesome artistry of digital graphics, canvas work, and other commissioned projects. He’s been creating murals all over the state for about 6 years and he really likes our downtown.

“I like the architecture and the pace of it here. It’s pretty cool.”

John has very simple advice on how to put your art out there and have your work commissioned: “Be involved in your community and opportunities will arise from that.”

With so much work to be done to keep our downtown moving, John had a great suggestion, “Everything starts with the youth. So any programs that can inspire the next generation, that’s the only way you can get good change for longevity.”

Want more murals in Downtown Stockton? All you have to do is ask. [email protected]

Downtown Stockton’s “Bourbon Street”: Dreaming Tomorrow’s Downtown

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by Shaun Chatrath

Throughout the 21st century, Downtown Stockton has improved substantially, in large part due to the many businesses, people, and organizations who have helped revitalize this area.

Since the 1990s, the Downtown Stockton Alliance has played a massive role in marketing, informing, and giving life to Downtown. Through this effort, many projects, such as musical events and the restoration of Mun Kwok Lane, have seen the light of day.

With that said, we have only scratched the surface of Downtown Stockton’s potential.

We believe that Downtown Stockton one day can become one of the premier landmarks in the state of California.

This belief is due to the picturesque port that flows across Downtown, the convenience of Stockton’s geography, and the vast amount of land Downtown suited for businesses and entrepreneurship.

To reach Downtown Stockton’s full potential, why not look at the following American cities for inspiration: New Orleans and Reno?

Like Downtown Stockton, New Orleans has rich architecture and history, many of which oversee a body of water that cuts through the city (Mississippi River).

According to the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism, 58% of tourists to New Orleans tour these historic sites and architecture.

In that same study, they found that tourists to the city of New Orleans spent an average of $50 more than the average tourism spending in the United States.

Thus, growing the economy of the local area. elements of New Orleans into its urban planning, we’d be drawing from a proven foundation of success and establishing a tourism-friendly culture for Downtown.

Now obviously, the area size of Downtown Stockton is significantly less than New Orleans, but that’s where a town such as Reno comes in. Reno, Nevada, is billed as “The Biggest Little City in the World.”

Like Las Vegas, the city has several casinos and shows such as Circus Circus Resort or Atlantis that draw visitors each year. According to a study by Travel Nevada, Reno has seen a $95 increase in average tourism trip spending between the years 2016-2019. Las Vegas has seen an $88 increase in the same time period.

Reno is a successful mini–Las Vegas.

To entice tourists, Downtown Stockton needs its own mini–Bourbon Street or North Virginia Street. A stretch of road where food, history, music, and most importantly, people gather at every corner together to celebrate.

What features would make Downtown Stockton the next tourist hotspot? Which street could be our Bourbon Street?

SOURCES

Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism 2019-2020 Study: https://crt.state.la.us/Assets/Tourism/research/documents/2019-2020/2019%20Louisiana%20Visitor%20Profile.pdf

Reno 2016 -2020 Travel Nevada Study:

Reno-Tahoe-Territory-CY16-20.pdf (travelnevada.biz)

Las Vegas 2016 -2020 Travel Nevada Study:

Las-Vegas-Territory-CY16-20.pdf (travelnevada.biz)

Downtown beautification adds new color and art in Stockton

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by Ben Sanchez

Brighter days.

When I boxed up the buttons my intern designed in preparation for the diversity ceremony this month, I realized the work my team developed for this project would be coming to a close.

My intern, Ayaana Williams, wrapped up button and flyer designs for the project during her final week at the office. I picked up the camera for the first time in a long time. The camera felt heavy in my hands as I walked past the new Superior Court of California downtown. There is a small walkway between the old and new courthouse buildings on Weber Avenue. I heard swishing water past the steps where people were walking in and out of large, windowed doors of the courthouse. The bustling crowds moved swiftly through the walkway to approach the building.

Skies were clear today with sun rays beaming down on the open space behind the courthouse. The ceremony was scheduled before noon. I slip past the crowds, preparing my attempt to capture moments with the camera.

I have made this walk numerous times with my team in downtown. Jason and I filmed downtown shots of the Fox theater and the old Bank of Stockton building. We snapped photos a few blocks away at the redeveloped Chung Wah Lane. But today, at that moment, I am the one looking down the lens this time. This space is different now. Ayaana compiled before and after footage of this outdoor area. We both watched this outdoor space transform over the past four months from Hunter Square to Diversity Plaza.

City of Stockton team members pose for the selfie.

Diversity Plaza.

Once called Hunter Square, the new space is now named Diversity Plaza. The Spire, an art piece designed by Glen Mortenson, was originally located in this outdoor space (Passerbyers will now see the Spire at the newly developed Miner Avenue roundabout).

Michael Huber, Executive Director of Downtown Stockton Alliance, explained he wanted to celebrate Stockton’s diversity for this project, hence the name change for the area. “For our 2021 beautification project, we chose the back half of Hunter Square, which is now Diversity Plaza,” says Huber.

During the winter months last year, our maintenance team assisted with the landscape development. Flag poles were painted and placed across the plaza. Each flag is designed by Ayaana with these words: Unity, Equity, Pride, Inclusion, Diversity, and Respect.

The short video footage she put together will give you a sense of the work and transformation over the past year.

You can watch the video below.

Behind the lens.

The camera felt heavy today. Heavier than usual. The crowd walked across the lawn into the sunlight where rows of chairs waited to seat their visitors. I look through the camera lens to capture the art on utility boxes near Diversity Plaza. The outdoor space was utilized in our other video when we introduced Ayaana on our YouTube channel. I went ahead and operated the camera when we captured video of her walking past the flags during construction. You also can watch that video on our YouTube channel.

Ayaana was a great photographer. She captured a lot of the Diversity Plaza photos you see on social media. The material she developed was an integral part of the design process for marketing going forward.

Speaking of design and art, Sam Majeed (@dopaminecolors) created the art you see at Diversity Plaza. This collaborative effort toward this project is not his first project in downtown. He created a mural in the Courthouse Plaza parking lot along the east wall of the building. People approached him in the crowd. His large coat had a colorful art design across his back. When he turned to address the people acknowledging his artwork, I squeezed the button on the camera to capture it.

Sam Majeed greeting the public.

Celebrate Diversity.

Diversity Plaza ceremony

Two large polished art statues stand behind a circular, iron gated area. These statues and gates round out the art ensemble at the plaza. City of Stockton officials, public figures, and community members gathered for the presentation of Diversity Plaza. When Huber addressed the crowd introducing Harry Black to the microphone, everyone took a seat. Each speaker approached the microphone to say a few words about the work being done in downtown before presenting a certificate to Huber.

Chamber representatives were asked to approach the microphone to speak. The Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce, San Joaquin County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Central Valley Asian American Chamber of Commerce offered their appreciation for the beautification efforts in downtown. People lined up for photo ops by Tim Ulmer as they exchanged greetings before the camera clicks to snapshot the moment. Majeed took a candid photo standing in front of his work (Striking a pose to capture his coat in the shot). With people saying their goodbyes, I pop the cover back on the lens before I head off to the next venture.

The crowd dispersed with a snapshot of Diversity Plaza. I hope the public can make their way to visit this hidden space. Hopefully, this will be one of many upcoming beautification projects within downtown Stockton.

Fun Fact:

Ayaana Williams designed the flags and buttons for Diversity Plaza. She also created the highlight video and captured photos during the development process downtown.

Check out businesses in previous vlog episodes on our YouTube channel!

Subscribe now and catch all new episodes in downtown Stockton.

Live music returns to downtown Stockton for new series

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by Ben Sanchez

The Downtown Sounds music series launched this past month with some amazing rockin’ sounds from Haywired. While their weekly music set is coming to an end, we had a variety of questions regarding this new, outdoor music event downtown. We wanted to take all your feedback and answer as many questions you have about Downtown Sounds. We all know you are curious about who is performing next in downtown. Let’s take a look at how this event has evolved over the past year.

What is Downtown Sounds?

Last year, the Downtown Stockton Alliance hosted a series of music events downtown with local musicians. The open space in Janet Leigh Plaza was a great opportunity to present a free outdoor event for the community. In May 2021, University of the Pacific’s Patrick Langham Jazz Sextet was the first group to appear in Janet Leigh Plaza performing live jazz outdoors!

The first outdoor music event was dubbed ‘Jazz in the Plazz’ and throughout the month had more attendance every Tuesday. With the success of the outdoor music series, two more monthly events would appear in 2021. The Mike Torres Jr. band would play in September for Torres Tuesdays and Phillip Bailey Moncrease appeared in October to bring more amazing sounds to downtown.

Initially, the music series did not have an official name tied to each monthly event downtown. Each musical performance was tied to a different, monthly title. This year, we wanted the music series to fall under one title as we introduce Downtown Sounds in 2022. With more performances planned throughout the year, you will want to follow our social media platforms to stay updated on who is playing live on Tuesday nights.

When is Downtown Sounds?

Our music series is every Tuesday night at Janet Leigh Plaza.

Live music starts at 6 PM and will run until 8 PM.

Is there a charge for this event?

No. This event is FREE to the public.

Jazz in the Plazz highlight from 2021.

Will I need to bring a chair?

Plastic chairs will be provided. You may bring your own chair to this event. The plaza has plenty of space for you to sit and enjoy music.

Who has performed this year?

We reached out to Haywired, a “Rockin Americana” style band with dynamic vocals that are welcome sounds to downtown Stockton. With a versatile musical style, this band is inspired by country, rock, pop, folk, R&B and blues.

Haywired performing downtown

Will Jazz in the Plazz return to downtown? 

Absolutely! We heard all the feedback from the community and are happy to announce that Jazz in the Plazz returns in May for our Downtown Sounds series. Langham, Professor and Program Director of Jazz Studies at the Conservatory of Music at University of the Pacific, is excited to perform for our community in downtown Stockton. You can catch live jazz downtown starting on May 3rd at 6 PM.

Mike Torres Jr. band

Are restaurants open during the live event?

Yes! All restaurants in the surrounding area of Janet Leigh Plaza will be open. Grab food during the show! Drinks are also allowed outdoors! Here is a list of restaurants in the plaza serving tasty food on Tuesday nights.

Grab food and drinks at the Plaza!

Share your #DowntownStockton experience 

While you’re exploring downtown – snap a photo and share it on social media with us! Be sure to tag us in your photos at @Downtownstockton and use the hashtag #DowntownStockton for the chance to be featured on our social channels. 

Check out the downtown vlog episodes on our YouTube channel!

Subscribe now and catch all new episodes in downtown Stockton.

Miner Avenue a catalyst to highlight improved downtown Stockton

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by Ben Sanchez

Cut your ribbon.

A buzzing sound lingered in the air near San Joaquin Street and Miner Avenue in downtown Stockton. I took a brisk walk from the office to find people gathering for the Miner Avenue Complete Streets ribbon-cutting ceremony. I can hear the sound grow louder as I round the corner off Channel Street. Days before, the Economic Development Department (EDD) dropped a flier on Instagram noting that on Wednesday, March 16, the community was invited to the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The buzzing sound of a drone flying above the streets captured the new roundabout at the intersection. Standing in the middle of the roundabout, The Spire. A historic art fountain that once occupied Hunter Square was designed by Glen Mortensen. The new plaque on the base of The Spire bathed in sunlight. I bet you have seen Mortensen’s architecture in Stockton. More specifically, Burns Tower at University of the Pacific and the School of Pharmacy.

Mayor Kevin J. Lincoln arrived on scene along with several public figures presenting short speeches to the public. A row of easels showcased the before and after photographs on a long time project coming to the finish line.

What a long road it has been for Miner Avenue. Jodi Almassy, City of Stockton Director of Public Works, addressed the crowd explaining the “labor of love” that went into the project. Since 2008, the complexity of the project achieved funding from six separate sources with Siegfried Engineering as the lead design firm.

I navigated the crowd, saying hello to fellow community members and business owners who attended the event. We all stood together watching the mayor grip giant scissors. He lifted them into position awaiting the signal to cut the ribbon. Cue a short pause for the photo op moment. Looking at all the development in this area, I think back to last year when the team and I would film vlog footage near Miner Avenue.

Jodi Almassy addressing the public.

Transitions.

Throughout our walks of downtown, Miner was one of those areas with constant construction over the past winter. We veered and maneuvered our way past construction vehicles and workers who made progress block by block. The crew made us aware of the safety precautions along the sidewalks as they worked around the weather to pave streets.

Part of the footage can be viewed in our vlog episode 4 here (Or you might spot it in a reel on Instagram). You might remember sidewalk construction along Miner or certain cross streets shut down during this process last year. New bike lanes were installed with reduced traffic from four lanes down to two (Siegfried Engineering tells me this is called a road diet or lane reduction).

The impact on commuter traffic in downtown increased at this time as people discovered new ways to navigate their parking spots. Businesses along Miner started to view the transformation roll out over 2021. I know Beas Auto Sales kept customers aware through their popular Instagram stories. Their awareness to the situation at hand assisted customers who ventured downtown throughout construction times (Also their selection of lo-fi music used on Instagram is inspired by yours truly.)

The right time.

With businesses adjusting to downtown development, the question on everyone’s mind is, ”What is happening in downtown?” 

A question I am most certain Eric Alvarez, City of Stockton Deputy Director of Public Works, is asked frequently. Alvarez jumped on a Zoom call to talk to the Downtown Stockton Alliance about his role with the city. Several months before the ribbon cutting, Alvarez gave an overview of several projects throughout the city. You can watch his full interview here.

When asked about the Miner Avenue Complete Street Improvements project he said, “It’s taken a long time — Miner is a large project in terms of its length. But with anything, the driver is money. You have to have the money to see it through.” 

He noted a lot of minor details (see what I did there?) in his discussion about the project. Timing was everything when applying for funding on this project. Once grant funding was secured they had to find an ideal time to get to work with weather conditions and other challenges ahead. 

“It took 10 years to get from the idea to finishing the work,” says Alvarez. Throughout their continued efforts to improve Miner Avenue several agencies were involved in the process to complete the project including Siegfried Engineering, Salaber Associates, and George Reed noted as key consultants and contractors.

Hometown.

During the ceremony, I stood next to Chris Kay, Marketing Manager and Business Development at Siegfried Engineering. I am sure you know of Chris Kay. His accolades within the community speak volumes throughout the city. A family man, entrepreneur, leader, broadcaster, and overall just a wonderful human, he set aside some time to answer my questions about Miner Avenue. He shakes a lot of hands as people come up to greet him. Kay spoke about the key points with this project and how he worked directly with Alvarez and his team. “The city is an extension of our staff — it truly is a collaborative effort,” says Kay.

Over the course of conversation, Kay revealed this was a complex project that started years ago. “Our company was involved from the very beginning,” says Kay, “We assisted with grant writing and preliminary designs, and were the lead design firm on this project.” This is another significant milestone for the company. The northern and central California engineering firm has an incredible portfolio of roadway projects and improvement projects throughout California. Their expertise and insight offered the city a new perspective when designs were finalized (Remember that road diet we talked about).

As we gazed toward the Spire I asked him what his thoughts were with his firm bringing this idea to fruition. “To see it finished is amazing,” says Kay. “The long standing project complete is incredible to see in our hometown.”

Fun Fact:

You might not know this, but the development project on Miner is considered a ten block corridor. From the railroad tracks all the way to Center Street.

*Photo courtesy of Siegfried Engineering.

Check out businesses in previous vlog episodes on our YouTube channel!

Subscribe now and catch all new episodes in downtown Stockton.

Caffeine Dreams: Amazing locally roasted coffee on my mind

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by Ben Sanchez

This month, I ventured out with my intern to visit more spaces in downtown Stockton. From the Waterfront Warehouse to the spacious Sycamore venue, we wanted to share the local coffee spots here in downtown.

Coffee at Trail

Which one is your favorite?

Did we miss a coffee shop downtown?

How did you hear about the coffee shops?

What is your go-to coffee order?

Inquiring minds want to know!
Here is a quick recap of coffee runs with my team in downtown.  
 

Legendary Coffee & Books.

Always be legendary.

Located inside the historic Waterfront Warehouse, the well-lit, relaxing atmosphere is a great space to visit for Temple Coffee and local pastries. We dropped by during our vlog in episode 3 to try some coffee and taste the wonderful Gunther’s ice cream from Sacramento. You can catch Renee and I sitting at the table and chatting inside their lovely shop on the vlog episode here.

Since then, I have stopped by on a few occasions to get coffee and peruse the books along the shelves. For the unique photo op, the space has a nice wall with the vibrant “Be Legendary” font stretching across a leafy green backdrop. Every customer would snap a picture to share from their favorite spot to support the awesome people who serve us coffee in the morning. I took a photo just outside the side entrance by the fountain. If you are in the area, step inside the warehouse and grab your coffee fix.

Trail Coffee Roasters.

Blazing trail.

A large, open café in the renovated historic Owl Drug Store building on California and Main Street, Trail Coffee is another local favorite with multiple locations in Stockton and Lodi. With large display windows, an outdoor patio, and a well-positioned roaster room, there is plenty of space to sit back and enjoy coffee and scones.

Mentioned on the latest vlog episode, Matt and I recalled the days when Trail roasted beans behind the building on San Joaquin where Huddle started. We would ride bikes on Miner Street and swing around the alleyway with large art murals following the scent of coffee. You can read and watch our conversation on the latest vlog episode here.

You can find their coffee at a small shop on the University of the Pacific campus in Stockton, and a new location in Lodi. I’m more partial to their hot chocolate (good hot cocoa is hard to find), even back during the days of Huddle 1.0. The new spot downtown is spacious with tables, chairs, and a merchandise area to take home those lovely Trail mugs and shirts.  

Bonus: You can catch us hanging out on the outdoor patio at Trail with Amy Sieffert, owner of Goodstock Productions, in episode 4. Her team will sometimes work out of Trail in downtown Stockton.

Plaza Perks.

Tiny coffee shop.

Tucked away inside the Courthouse Plaza, this small café serves Cat & Cloud Coffee out of Santa Cruz, California. From sandwiches to breakfast burritos, every purchase goes toward helping a foster child in need. Throughout our adventures downtown, we delivered pizza to the staff, visited the arcade, and tried specialty drinks off the secret menu (I added tater tots in the breakfast burrito!)

I end up running into several community members and business owners here in this quaint hub. An iced white mocha is my drink of choice, but I advise heading to the Plaza before the crowds line up inside during the lunch hour. Every time I visit the cafe, their friendly staff always makes me feel welcome.

Empresso Coffeehouse.

Stockton staple.

Empresso Coffeehouse has not just one, but two locations in the downtown area! The longtime “staple of Stockton” serves locally roasted coffee near the IMAX movie theater in Janet Leigh Plaza. If you venture further downtown on N. San Joaquin Street, you will find a second location. Both locations offer indoor and outdoor seating. Empresso offers a variety of specialty drinks. For a quick breakfast sandwich, I stop by for an egg sandwich on a bagel with cream cheese and avocado. Sandwiches are made to order and come with several options. Each Empresso space is great to work out of the office for the day if you like that coffee shop vibe. 

Arte del Café.

Art and coffee blend.

The latest coffee spot to open inside the Mexican Heritage Center, this café is a place where people can explore a large, open gallery space displaying local art. My intern and I recently stopped by to check out the space. The gallery behind the cafe rotates art once a month and is open to the public. With vibrant colored art painted across the walls, the cafe specialties are Mexican style lattes and desserts. Visually stunning art encompasses the west wall with stairs leading up to a loft type area. Large display windows embrace a small stage for open mic events they host during the month. If you are curious about this space on Market and Sutter Street, stop in early to grab some fresh pan dulce before it’s gone!

Red’s.

Cozy classic.

The tiny espresso bar on San Joaquin Street is nestled right next to The Golden Rose Barbershop. The large A-frame sign points customers to the red frame door, where you can order fresh roasted, fair-trade coffee. With amazing photography hanging along the walls, many Stocktonians reference Red’s as their “early morning spot.”

If you are up and about in the early hours heading downtown, this is the spot people talk about when it comes to coffee. The owner is incredibly friendly as he serves the community downtown. Cold brew and dark roast are key recommendations from the community members who frequent Red’s. Drop by, grab a cup, and say hello to another local small business.

Coffee spot.

Share your #DowntownStockton experience 

While you’re exploring downtown – snap a photo and share it on social media with us! Be sure to tag us in your photos at @Downtownstockton and use the hashtag #DowntownStockton for the chance to be featured on our social channels. 

Check out businesses in previous vlog episodes on our YouTube channel!

Subscribe now and catch all new episodes in downtown Stockton.

Vlog Series: New Year, New Vlog

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By Ben Sanchez

This year, we brought Matt Amen to take part in our vlog series for a unique perspective of life in downtown Stockton. I remember meeting Matt at Huddle x Launch Pad to talk about the direction of the vlog for the new year. We discussed the idea for a few episodes based on someone who lives in the downtown area. Matt was instantly onboard with the idea of highlighting his normal routine in downtown Stockton. Whether he rides his bike or walks to work, he allowed us to film and talk about his life experience in downtown.  

“Let’s do a walk and talk in downtown!” he says. 

Matt Amen.

I joined Matt for a “day in the life” on his travels in downtown. Along the way, we dropped by Trail Coffee Roasters for coffee, dropped off laundry at Riteway Cleaners, made an appointment with The Golden Rose Barbershop, and then visited the new popup spot, DryCleaners. I learned a lot about some of the businesses here from Matt and the amount of knowledge he shares about each one. 

He loves downtown. He loves Stockton.  

He points to different art murals, filling my brain with information on the artist and concept behind these incredible visuals seen on the side of tall buildings. We stopped at Trail, chatting about scones, cruffins, and coffee. His vibrant red shoes tap against the floor. The unique, owl mosaic art greets our feet while we wait and chat about downtown. The coffee shop now occupies the historic Owl Drug Store building on the corner of California and Main Street. With a couple of warm cups of coffee, we venture off to The Golden Rose Barbershop to get a fresh cut. (Well, Matt gets a haircut anyway!)

A tiny detour.

On our walk down Main Street, across from the Chase building, we wandered into a building undergoing renovation. The dimly lit area stretches far back with random pillars and areas of paint beaming across the walls in vibrant orange, yellow, and purple colors. A business used to be here. “I heard it was called Disco Azteca,” the construction worker explained as we walk across the space. The building had been purchased by an investor with plans to begin work throughout the year.  

Every location has a story that Matt keyed in on. His energetic smile is contagious as the worker happily shares information about the project. “It was really great talking with you two investors,” said the construction worker. With a puzzled look on our faces, we both look at each other, sip coffee, and casually head for the door. Matt laughs as we exit the space. “Don’t you love little detours like that?” he exclaimed.  

Coats and Cuts.

I compliment Matt on his wonderful, pine colored coat. I drop a pop culture dialogue reference from Frank Miller’s Sin City. As the character Marv would say, “That’s one fine lookin’ coat you are wearin’ there.” Matt smiles, telling me the story behind the coat. His Uniqo tote bag, with a DSA teal beanie inside, hangs over his right shoulder as we enter the barbershop. The vintage shop, complete with several wide mirrors stretching across the walls, capture angles of human faces as they swivel in leather barber chairs. The giant scissor art chases a rose on the display windows lined with bulbs emitting a dimly lit glow into the shop. There is over 100 years of barbering history here. Something old, something new.

The previous customer steps off the chair and spent time chatting with us momentarily about video games before the snipping of blades was heard near the barber’s chair. Matt never missed a beat. His jovial expressions are seen from the mirrors as he talks to Stephen Herder, owner of Golden Rose Barbershop. Between cuts, my intern films the experience on a quiet day in downtown Stockton.

We lucked out with the weather, which can be quite windy as we walk down San Joaquin Street. The Golden Rose Barbershop has two locations, one downtown and another space on Miracle Mile (The latter space used to be Cal-Pine Barbershop on Miracle Mile). 

Once Matt finished in the chair, he sprung up to check his hair in the mirror before we ventured off to Shop DryCleaners. Cue the teal beanie reappearing from the Uniqo bag.

Shop Local.

Just one block from the barbershop, the DryCleaners sign is propped on the corner to greet the public. DryCleaners is a vendor popup selling sustainable clothing, plants, jewelry, and vintage items (Also a mini fridge with specialty drinks from Cuco Etc.) Matt is particularly proud of this because of the collaborative efforts between Huddle x Launch Pad, Cast Iron Trading Company, and DryCleaners. Located on the first floor of the historic Belding Building, DryCleaners popped up next door at Cast Iron before moving over into a bigger space.

“This is really exciting! We are bringing some new vibes to the block,” he says. 

The first floor is filled with a variety of products and items from vendors across California. With monthly scheduled events, and local musicians stopping by to perform at Cast Iron, the positive energy on the block is a welcome vibe for downtown.

He explained the collaboration with Oliver Opus, co-owner of DryCleaners, is bringing life near his area of downtown. Matt has always been an encouraging individual, inspiring Oliver and many others to continue their entrepreneurial venture regardless of the setbacks. “Sometimes it is easy to give up. I want them to succeed… I want to assist them anyway I can,” he says.

I hope you catch a glimpse of that when you watch the new episode of the vlog. 

What’s Next.

Regarding the future of the vlog, I am happy to announce that Matt will come back for another episode to highlight the night life downtown. We had fun exploring some of the businesses he frequents in downtown Stockton. I hope everyone will enjoy the episode when it drops in March 2022. If you like our video, be sure to share it with others to see the amazing places downtown.

Sometimes it is easy to give up. I want them to succeed… I want to assist them anyway I can.

Matt Amen

Businesses

Watch previous episodes on our YouTube channel!

Subscribe and catch all new episodes from Downtown Stockton Alliance.

Local co-op offers sanctuary for small businesses

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by Ayaana Williams

In the heart of downtown Stockton lies a hidden gem that is a symbol of local fashion, diversity, and creative influence for the adaptable nomads of the Central Valley.  

DRYCLEANERS, is an LGBTQ+/POC-owned co-op store that offers local vendors and creators an opportunity to network, showcase, and sell their goods/art. 

“The overall goal is to activate downtown and bring everyone together. We have lots of different communities here,” said Oliver Opus, co-owner of DRYCLEANERS. “We have the queer community, we have POC, we have the streetwear community, we have crafters and creators and musicians and drag queens, and this is a space where all of those people can co-mingle and experience each other’s worlds.” 

In terms of activating downtown, DRYCLEANERS aims to invoke liveliness and connection to bring excitement and opportunity to such an underappreciated part of the city. 

DRYCLEANERS is locally owned by long-time friends Ruschawn Williams and Oliver Opus, who met in Atlanta prior to moving to Stockton. 

“I moved here a while ago and I didn’t really have a place in Stockton for myself,” said Opus. “I didn’t have a place to meet people like me or express interest that I have, so I decided to create it myself.” 

Opus and Williams founded DRYCLEANERS after hosting several pop-up shops at Cast Iron Trading Co. and other local entities, using social media as an advertising ground. 

A pop-up is a temporary shared retail space where small businesses can sell goods and services. 

“Eric (Lee) next-door at Cast Iron was kind of one of the first people to allow me to venture into this,” said Opus. “He gave us the opportunity to do our first pop-up and that was really successful; and then we went on to do a second one here with Launchpad and that was so successful that Launchpad and Cast Iron had this idea to set up shop here, so we did.” 

DRYCLEANERS has visitors and vendors travel from all over Northern California. 

“Not only does this help us, but this also helps the community,” said Opus. “We do have people from San Francisco, Sacramento, and Oakland setting up shop here, but they don’t have to come here to sell their products; we have a system where we do that for them.” 

Vendors pay a booth fee of $5-$15 a day and DRYCLEANERS keeps track of each individual sale with 100% of sales profits going back to the vendor. 

Part of their goal is to support and uplift local artists by providing a platform to create passive income and build friendships that strengthen the community. 

“We typically have an application in our bio, and we don’t turn people away,” said Opus. “We wanted to create opportunities for vendors to make money during a pandemic and it’s really hard to come across funds.” 

People can find DRYCLEANERS on Instagram @shopdrycleaners as well as visit the storefront to meet the owners, vendors and local artists on San Joaquin St. in downtown Stockton. 

“Chairing” is Caring: A Look Into J. Rusten Furniture Studio

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By Jessica Nguyen

J. Rusten Furniture Studio in Downtown Stockton is a place where woodwork is brought to life. Jared Rusten, founder, owner, and creative mind behind (and in!) the studio, utilizes rare and natural materials to handcraft unique furniture pieces that effortlessly elevate any space they’re placed in. Jared’s talents are so recognized that he was even featured on Buzzfeed’s “Worth It” series. We wanted to know more about the man behind the popular California-shaped table and his studio, so we asked him a couple questions.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

“I grew up in San Jose, CA in the 80’s and 90’s, skateboarding, playing in bands, and generally trying to create as much cool stuff as I could⁠—whether that meant hammering together ramps or fussing over craft projects to try and get a girl’s attention. Pursuing education and opportunities, I’ve lived in Arizona, Los Angeles (where I did most of my woodworking apprenticeship), New York, Oakland, and San Francisco. Along the way, I exhibited furniture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, built a bar with an architect friend while also teaching woodworking in Brooklyn, and got to work on a variety of interesting projects for movies, companies like Google and Levi’s, and for many cool clients who have become friends. In 2015, my wife Emily and I weren’t enjoying living in San Francisco any longer. We were tired of paying SF rents, and we wanted to find a community that we could contribute more to. We found Stockton, purchased a 100-year old warehouse building downtown, and moved the design studio here while we continue to slowly renovate the building.”

2. How did your passion for woodworking start? Where do you get inspiration for your pieces?

“My first exposure to “fine woodworking” as a teenager was watching PBS shows like The Woodwright’s Shop, and The New Yankee Workshop. I started checking books out from the library about woodworking, timber-frame construction, and Japanese joinery. There was barely any Internet at the time, and Youtube was still 10 years away, so most of my initial education came from books and bothering older craftspeople with lots of questions.”

“I knew my career was going to be something creative and design related, and the further I got into the craft, the more I knew there was nothing else I would be happy doing than to explore form and utility with wood as a primary medium. My early pieces were mostly inspired by the joinery-heavy work of Japanese temple builders and the luminaries of the American Arts & Crafts movement like Greene & Greene. But, in the early 2000’s my aesthetic shifted to a cleaner, more “modern” style where the wood is allowed to demand more attention than the way it is put together. These days, I try to pair compelling silhouettes with pretty wood—most of it salvaged from local hardwood trees that had to be taken down for whatever reason. Some of my favorite pieces were built from walnut orchard trees that had outlived their nut-producing years.”

3. What are a few of your favorite pieces/which are you most proud of?

“Even though it’s not the most technically demanding piece, I have to acknowledge my series of California-shaped tables for paying the rent for many years. For a long time, I sold at least one or two a month. But, it’s probably the “Modern Rocking Chair” that I’m currently the most proud of. Each one takes almost a month to build, and its design and construction engages all the skills that I have developed over the last 20 years. It’s really more like a piece of functional sculpture than just a chair, but there’s no way to say that without sounding pretentious.”

To explore these (and other) pieces, visit: jrusten.com

4. What was it like to be featured in Buzzfeed’s “Worth It” series?

“Honestly, I wasn’t familiar with Buzzfeed’s programming or it’s “Worth It” series when they called me. I was a little dubious since my rocking chair was going to be featured as the highest priced option, which is often reserved for some pretty obnoxious, ridiculously opulent things. And, I knew some people would consider my chair ridiculously opulent, and obnoxiously priced. But, I thought the editing was very complimentary and the entire Buzzfeed team could not have been more cool or fun to spend an afternoon with. After the shoot, I was stoked to tell the hosts and production staff a little more about Stockton while we walked down to Cast Iron Trading Co. to enjoy a great lunch.”

Watch the video!

5. Why did you choose Downtown Stockton for the location for your studio?

“When Emily and I were looking for a place to settle outside of San Francisco, we had a set of criteria and Stockton checked all the boxes. Some of these were:

  • Not too big, not too small⁠—with a walkable downtown. 
  • Affordable enough to buy a property. 
  • Warm summer nights (we were tired of the fog and chilly year-round wind in SF).
  • A rich history, with lots of remaining historical structures.
  • A welcoming attitude among local folks.
  • Opportunities to get involved in the community.
  • Close proximity to a variety of different California landscapes⁠—the delta, vineyards, Sierras, foothills, etc.”

“The other thing that really excited us about Downtown Stockton was the sense that it was a blank canvas. The downtown felt like it had been abandoned by most Stocktonians years earlier⁠—leaving a playground of civic potential. We’re definitely proud that we have been able to take a derelict, ugly, boarded-up warehouse and contribute at least one better-looking property to the landscape of the city.”

6. What do you like most about Downtown Stockton? What are your favorite lunch and coffee spots?

“I think the scale of Downtown Stockton is perfect. From our studio we can easily walk to the waterfront, the arena, two great theaters, tailors, painting supply stores, dry cleaners, and a bunch of great restaurants. And, I love seeing all the vintage architectural details that remain. We appreciate all of the businesses that have chosen downtown⁠—both the legacy businesses and the friends who’ve opened in the last few years like Cast Iron, Trail Coffee, The Deliberation Room, etc. We try to spread out patronage among all of them as best we can.”

Although Jared’s studio isn’t open to the public, feel free to email him at [email protected] to set up an appointment if you’re interested in seeing or purchasing any of his pieces. Additionally, you can view and learn more about them on his Instagram account: @jrusten.

Port City Mercantile

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By Jordan Rosales

Discovering his passion

Although he moved here from Hollister when he was 20, Theodore Armendariz considers Stockton his one true home and feels lucky to be part of the Downtown Stockton community. Theodore’s road to becoming a business owner hasn’t been an easy one. About four years ago he was suffering from depression and turned to alcohol to help him cope. His alcoholism had already caused him to lose two jobs when he started working for his friend, Danny Burgess. Burgess told him he would also have to fire him but offered to take him to rehab and help him turn his life around. Looking back, Theodore now recognizes that Danny’s tough love is what helped save his life and without the support of Danny and his wife Chris, he’s not sure he’d even be alive today. After he left rehab, he moved in with his parents who were extremely supportive of his recovery and fundamental to his success. It was while living with his parents that he developed his love of creating art. His mom was always a collector of antiques and he started noticing that her collectibles were falling apart. This led him to coming up with creative ways to fix her antiques and sketching up ideas on how to repurpose them. He then started creating pieces of his own. Creating art saved his life, it helped him stay sober, and gave him a creative and positive outlet for his soul.

Sharing his art

Once he started posting his art to Instagram, it really started taking off. People would message him asking to buy his pieces which led him to selling at the Stockmarket and eventually setting up his own store. Port City Mercantile opened its doors for the first time in late January this year. Theodore sells unique, one-of-a kind pieces of furniture, like lamps and tables, and art made from upcycled and recycled material. He scours flea markets, garage sales, and everything in between for his materials and turns them into special creations. Because of this no two pieces are ever the same. One of Theodore’s core beliefs is that we should always be giving back, whether it be to our community or earth which is why he uses the materials he does. He utilizes what he already has instead of buying new materials and creating more waste, going on to say “the earth already has so many great materials to work with. The earth is good to us so we should be good to it.” Theodore gets his inspiration from his surroundings and by taking note of what’s missing in people’s lives. He hopes his art can act as conversation pieces in people’s homes. Noting that it’s hard to have a conversation about an Ikea lamp that everyone has, but it’s easy to talk about a unique piece of art that you are proud to own.

Like all non-essential businesses, Port City Mercantile is closed right now but will be open as soon as it is safe to do so. When we’re able to gather again, Theodore plans to host community events like open mic nights and art shows for other artists as another way to give back to the community.

Supporting the community

Theodore said he knew Downtown Stockton was the perfect place because he always loved an underdog. He wanted to start his business in a place that was under-utilized and do his part to help develop it. He went on to say that Stockton is a growing place and it really reminds him of San Francisco in many ways. His philosophy is that you can’t complain about an area if you’re not going to actively try and make it a better place, further clarifying that, “People always complain that there’s nothing to do. There’s plenty to do here but you actually have to go out and do it, it’s not gonna just come to you.” But perhaps most importantly he loves the community that he’s in, specifically shouting out Red’s Coffee and Golden Rose Barber. “Stockton shaped me into a more cultural person because of how diverse it is. It feels like a small town but it’s still a city, like a mini San Francisco.” Theodore is extremely passionate about the Downtown Stockton community and hopes the current situation will help it thrive when businesses are up and running again. His advice was, “Right now is showing us the importance of small business, if you buy from amazon, you’re just making a billionaire richer. We should support each other now more than ever. We need to keep supporting local even after this, learn from this and don’t go back to the way we were. We can build a stronger community and be better than ever. It’s really a numbers game, if more people shop downtown less people will be afraid to check it out. Like they say, if you bring light into the darkness the evil will go away.”

Theodore believes that sharing his story is important because there’s such a stigma around alcoholism that tends to force people not to talk about it. He hopes his ability to live openly can help at least one person speak out and seek the help they need because sometimes people don’t even know how to ask for help themselves. He wants to show that you can move forward and find healthy outlets like he has with his art. 

Fast 3

What animal do you think represents the essence of Downtown Stockton?

A lone wolf because we were kind of abandoned. They developed everywhere else like Weston Ranch and 8 Mile but they should’ve started here and built from the inside out.

Describe Downtown Stockton in one word

Inspiring

What’s your favorite downtown eatery?

Cast Iron

Notes

Check out Theodroe’s work on Instagram at @Art_By_Theodore

Theodore plans on changing the store’s name from Port City Mercantile to Theodore’s Mercantile in June when he renews his business license.