Sometimes It’s The Simple Things

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by Gynae Davalos

A refreshing, warm shower is sometimes the only thing one wants to recharge, rejuvenate, and relieve the body, mind, and spirit. For those in our community with no home in which to shower, Downtown Stockton Alliance provides a free Portable Bathroom Shower Unit (PBSU) right behind St. John’s Episcopal Church on El Dorado Street.

A simple shower can make a huge difference

Monday through Friday starting at 8:30am, anyone needing a bathroom or warm shower can sign up, reserve a time slot, and freshen up. Through generous donations, food, beverages, and clothing are often also available, as well as access to a washing machine and dryer.

SJ Public Health is also on site once a week providing free COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, in addition to other health services.

The PBSU shuts down at 4pm.

“I’m disabled and it has a shower for the disabled,” said Jesse Tora who frequents the PBSU.

DSA staff member Shirley Griffith and her team manage and maintain the unit, providing not only an essential need to the unsheltered community, but social support as well.

“A lot of them are appreciative; they’ll thank us over and over,” Shirley explained.

Music by S.T.A.T.I.K.

“The people are always so nice and respectful – love the fact we have longer time and they don’t play favoritism. They treat everyone the same,” commented Lisa Yoder.

In 2021, the PBSU served 887 individuals who took about 7,444 showers. The unit is funded through a combination of ESG-CV and CDBG grants obtained from the City of Stockton and San Joaquin County. Since 2020, over $350,000 total grant dollars have been secured and devoted to PBSU operation.

“It’s available 5 days a week and it’s convenient for afternoon showering. They feed you and they make sure everyone gets in the shower,” said Yujmon Charles.

It’s easy to take the simple things in life for granted, until they are no longer easily accessible. The Portable Bathroom Shower Unit is just one action Downtown Stockton Alliance takes to support and uplift everyone in our community. Do you have ideas to help make Downtown Stockton the best it can be for everybody?

Best. Job. Ever

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by Gynae Davalos

Getting paid to do what you enjoy is a lifelong goal for many. But what happens when you actually DO reach that goal? Well, I just got this job and I’m freaking out.

What’s this place? Who owns this building? What was this before? Is it for lease? So many questions. . . .

I have to show and tell how awesome Downtown Stockton (and subsequently the whole city) is. I have to give reasons why everyone should come downtown more often. I have to encourage entrepreneurs, investors, and businesses to open or expand their companies downtown. I have to reassure the public that downtown is safe. I have to shine some light on businesses and services that may be on the brink of going out in hopes of possibly saving them. I have to inspire and motivate ideas to fill all the empty buildings and spaces speckled throughout downtown. I have to harness enough energy through my adventures to help revitalize all of downtown as soon as humanly possible.

But I only get 5 hours a day.

Good thing I’m on skates.

My trusty Riedell R3s

I’ll do the best I can do Downtown Stockton, but let’s help each other out! Events, meetings, celebrations, announcements, specials – I need to hear about ALL of it. PLEASE send me an email, a direct message, call me at the office, hand a DSA Safety Ambassador a flyer to give to me – however digitally or physically I can retrieve info, the sooner I can share and let everyone know about all the cool happenings downtown and continue to show and tell how awesome downtown is and is becoming.

I was born in Stockton and I’ve spent the majority of my life here. The grass is NOT greener on the other side. Everything we need to grow and flourish is right here.  And I hope everyone rolls right along with me to help Downtown Stockton and the rest of our fine city continue to blossom and thrive. Because this is the best job ever and I love it here!

The Waterfront. From here, you can go anywhere.

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.

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.

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. 

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

Here’s A List of Some Good Things Happening Downtown

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The past few months have certainly been life changing. Living during an ongoing pandemic spanning the globe means we have to face many challenges as we learn to adapt to these unprecedented times. The future may still seem uncertain, but there’s one thing that is for sure: we’re all in this together. Thank you for doing your best to stay safe and for keeping those around you safe. 

In today’s blog, we want to remind you of the good that is still happening in our community- how working together (safely and with social distancing in place) uplifts our local businesses, organizations, and community members. So, we made a list of some of the good things happening downtown. 

Stockton Community Kitchen at BellaVista

You may have been to BellaVista for a delicious dinner with your friends and family or you may have attended one of their exciting rooftop events (that view though!), but did you know about BellaVista’s partnership with the Stockton Community Kitchen (SCK)? The SCK was created to assist underprivileged entrepreneurs with dreams of launching food-related businesses. During this pandemic, the SCK at BellaVista prepares and delivers hundreds of meals a day to those in need in the community, including struggling families, the elderly, and the homeless.

The Stockton Community Kitchen will also be holding classes for a few weeks starting in August, where they will provide mentorship, skills and business expertise for aspiring food entrepreneurs. If you’re a food enthusiast looking for help to start your own business, here’s your chance! For information about the classes, visit their website.

Revitalization and Beautification of Chun Wah Lane

This July, the DSA’s maintenance crew began work on the planned revitalization and beautification of Chun Wah Lane. Look forward to seeing fresh coats of paint on the poles, new arches, fresh greenery, and an update to one of the most recognizable features of the lane: the fierce, fire-breathing dragon mosaic! We’re excited to show you the progress on the space as we reach the completion of the project to revitalize Chun Wah Lane, so make sure you’re following us on Facebook and Instagram to see our progress photos!

Homeless Facility in the Works 

The former Alutzia Hotel and Restaurant, a popular downtown spot in the 1920s, is currently undergoing renovations to become a homeless facility for homeless women and children. Once completed, it will be one of the largest housing facilities of its kind in the nation. The Gospel Center Rescue Mission purchased the building in the 1980s and started raising funds for the project in 2016. The facility’s expected completion is in the fall of this year. 

Outdoor Dining Available for Some Businesses

Temporary closure of indoor dining operations mean local businesses need your support more than ever! You can help by placing takeout orders and delivery orders though various food delivery services (DoorDash, Uber Eats, etc.). Additionally, some downtown businesses now offer outdoor seating for visitors to enjoy. Here’s a list of the downtown eateries still open for takeout, delivery, and outdoor dining. Thank you for continuing to support our local businesses!

Outdoor dining area outside of Casa Flores.


Do you have any other good news or stories about downtown to share? If so, please email Jessica Nguyen, DSA Marketing and Communications Director at [email protected]

Via Ventures

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By Jessica Nguyen

Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur hoping to launch your dream shop in Downtown Stockton, a current business owner in need of a workspace, or looking for the perfect space to hold your next program or event, Via Ventures can help you do just that! One of downtown’s most recent additions, Via Ventures is a coworking office and community event space dedicated to creating a safe, supportive, and welcoming environment for all members and visitors. To learn more about Via’s vision and services, we spoke with Jasmine Leek, Co-Founder and CEO of Via Ventures.

How Did Via Ventures Start?

Jasmine Leek, a Stockton native, has always been very involved in the revitalization of the downtown community. The former Executive Director of the Huddle Cowork and founder of the Third City Coalition, Jasmine continued her passion for uplifting the community by working together with co-founder Leonel Castillo to bring Via Ventures to life. Jasmine and Leonel envisioned a community space, “where you can come to explore ideas,” that also addressed the holistic needs of entrepreneurs. Thus, Via Ventures isn’t just a physical space, but also a welcoming atmosphere that fosters community connections and provides tools to help members’ reach their community-based goals and dreams (and of course, the office is equipped with high-speed Wi-Fi!). Curious to know how Via got its name? Jasmine explains that the letters represent Values and Envision, Ideas and Initiatives, and Assets and Action, respectively.

Interested in Becoming a Member?

Via Ventures offers several services and memberships (community and coworking memberships), each with unique offers and opportunities. There are even concierge services, which their website states can, “help you tackle life with personal task and referral services.” Via is armed with passionate and knowledgable staff who can answer your questions and help you design and launch your ideas. Additionally, the flexible space is available to rent for events. Its bright, airy, and modern-styled interior is the perfect setting for seminars, business meetings, workshops, or anything in between. Sound too good to be true? Come see the space for yourself! Your first visit to Via Ventures is completely free and you can get all your questions answered by any of Via’s team members who will be more than happy to assist you.

On March 20th (which also happens to be the International Day of Happiness and first day of spring!), Via Ventures is hosting a formal launch event. The event is open to the public, and they’d love to see you there!

Why Downtown?

Via Ventures is located right next to downtown’s beloved Trail Coffee Roasters, who they have a great working relationship with. After all, like Jasmine says, “good coffee and coworking go together!” She also reveals that Downtown Stockton was prioritized in discussions concerning Via’s location, as the area provides a, “great opportunity to make your mark!” Although Jasmine shares that they would eventually like to expand to more locations, Downtown Stockton will always be Via’s original home.

Quick Three with Jasmine!

Favorite Lunch Spot and Coffee Shop?

Xochimilco Café for lunch, and of course, Trail Coffee for coffee! (She gives high praise to the Golden Milk — now I’ve gotta try it!)

Describe Downtown in One Word:

“Blooming.”

What is Downtown Stockton’s Spirit Animal?

Jasmine and Leonel both agree on a Phoenix, because of its, “spirit of renewal and resilience, but also because of its symbolism of balancing light and darkness.”

To learn more about Via Ventures, visit their website at: yourvia.co.

All About DSELF

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By Courtney Wood

Did you know that the Downtown Stockton Alliance (DSA) administers loans from $25,000 – $65,000 for small businesses in the downtown area through the Downtown Stockton Enterprise Loan Fund (DSELF)? Read on to learn more about this useful economic development tool.

What is the DSELF?

The Downtown Stockton Enterprise Loan Fund (DSELF), a 501(c)3 existing under the umbrella of the DSA, is a “non-profit, multi-bank community development corporation created to facilitate economic development in Stockton’s economically under-served central city.”

This successful loan fund exists due to the 2006-2007 initial contributions of $172,000 from the following lending institutions:

  • Bank of Agriculture & Commerce         
  • Bank of Stockton          
  • Community Bank of San Joaquin
  • Guaranty Bank
  • Oak Valley Bank        
  • Wells Fargo Bank                      

Over the last 13 years, through the administration of loans to businesses like Juice it Up!, Chitiva’s, The Campus Downtown, J. Rusten Furniture Studio, and The Deliberation Room, the fund has grown to over $216,000!

How is the DSELF structured?

As a 501(c)3 non-profit, the DSELF is governed by a board of directors who provide policy oversight. The loan application process is guided by the DSELF Administrator, currently Courtney Wood of the Downtown Stockton Alliance, while the pre-approval scoring and loan recommendation is performed by the Business Loan Manager, currently Steve Lantsberger of the SJ Economic Development Department and Revolving Loan Fund.

Why is the DSELF important?

DSELF funds are used to provide much-needed capital to small and mid-size downtown businesses who typically “lack sufficient up-front equity and historic profits for conventional financing,” at an interest rate of prime + 2% (DSELF Mission).

Through the DSELF, businesses who may not meet a bank’s loan criteria still have the opportunity to access capital to open or grow their enterprises – and create jobs! – without being gauged by exorbitant interest rates that cut into their profits.

Since the DSELF isn’t a bank, is it easy to get a loan?

Although the DSELF is aimed at non-traditional borrowers, because the loans are considered “high-risk” there is still a detailed approval process which must be completed in order to approve a loan and protect the fund.

What is the application process like?

This year, the DSELF Board revamped the DSELF loan process and procedures. In addition to changing the loan range from $5,000 – $50,000 to $25,000 – $65,000, they decided to break the loan approval process into the four phases outline below:

  1. Pre-Qualification, which entails the initial application and non-refundable $200 fee, a credit score check, the submittal of an executive summary, and an interview with the DSELF Administrator
  2. Pre-Approval, which involves the submittal of 19 items outlined in the pre-approval checklist. These items include things like a business plan, financial statements, tax returns, description of collateral to be pledged, and resumes of the business partners, etc.
  3. DSELF Board Interview, which allows the board to ask an applicant questions regarding their application, business, loan request, etc.
  4. DSELF Board Vote, which makes the final decision regarding approval of a loan that has made it through the previous stages.

In Phases 1 & 2, a rubric is used to determine an applicant’s score and whether they proceed to the next stage in approval. In Phase 4, a majority vote is required to grant final approval.

The brevity of this process depends upon how quickly the applicant can submit all required documents to the DSELF administrator. It is recommended that applicants submit everything required within 90 days from the initial application date to ensure information being reviewed is up-to-date and accurate.

Who can apply?

The DSELF’s mission is to provide loans to businesses which fall within the Downtown Stockton Alliance PBID District. Apart from being located in downtown, to even be considered, applicants must be running or intending to run, completely legitimate operations.

What can a DSELF loan be used for?

Fortunately, DSELF applicants can use their loans for a variety of business expenses, from space renovations/buildouts to marketing materials. A few of the most common eligible uses are listed below:

  • Inventory   
  • Working capital for rent, utilities, telephone, insurance, etc.  
  • Equipment                           
  • Production of sample lines
  • Product development 
  • Initial advertising/promotion campaigns
  • Office supplies
  • Building and leasehold improvements

Is DSELF taking applications for new borrowers at this time?

Yes! The DSELF is looking to lend out additional money within the next year. Apply!

Where can I go for more information?

If you or someone you know has a downtown business and you want to learn more about the DSELF, call 209.888.8630; email [email protected]; attend a DSELF board meeting – held the 2nd Tuesday of every month, at 12:00 PM in the DSA offices; click here to view the application; or click here to view the application guide.

This page has additional information about DSELF.

Take advantage of this amazing resource only available to downtown businesses!