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What's the story?
My gallery on the west end of town has sustained itself for five years – evidence that homeowners in the area are savvy collectors and supporters of local businesses. But there have been more and more empty storefronts in Lafayette, and that’s during a healthy economy! The Chamber of Commerce, City Council, city residents and I have been very concerned. Were high rents driving away small businesses? How to turn this trend around?
A Mastermind Convened
Our City Council began to look into the matter by holding a retail workshop in Summer 2018. They invited commercial property owners and developers in Lafayette to answer some questions and help uncover the heart of the problem. But the answer was not simple. Read more It has a lot to do with property owners looking for the right tenant, even if it means an empty building. To many of us, that seems like a big waste of space. Oftentimes the surrounding businesses feel the blight and depression from the lack of activity on the block. It’s not good for local business owners or the residents. And clearly the answer isn’t filling store fronts with the wrong tenants.
An Opportunity Arises
Part two of the retail workshop convened two months later. City Council invited owners of Diablo Foods, Sideboard Lafayette, Blodgett’s Flooring, and me. We answered questions and gave input on an ideal business climate. We also reported on what is working and why we love doing business in Lafayette. Read more Near the end of the workshop, before the group, City Council member Mike Anderson asked me if I had ever considered contacting any property owners about running a pop-up gallery in an empty storefront. I replied that I had, of course, thought about it but had not heard back from anyone I contacted.
And now, just three months later, one of Lafayette’s property developers has stepped up and said, “What did you have in mind?” Kudos to Steve Cortese and his partners for doing so. And thanks to City Council for putting me in touch with Cortese Investors. Thank you to Chamber of Commerce for their constant support and drive for small business vibrancy in our city. JPG @ The Bank will counterbalance the eyesores of empty storefronts with something interesting, diverse, and vibrant – something all of Lafayette can enjoy. I promise it will be worthwhile, if not memorable and, of course, beautiful.