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Local communities still aiming to revitalize the region
business incubator pic
Eclectic Charm owner Susana Love arranges a custom guitar on display at her shop in 2010, which was located in the Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association business incubator. - photo by Journal file photo

Turlockers can still find sweet treats at Frost Bakery’s Modesto location, but the business recently closed the doors of its Monte Vista Avenue shop.


Frost’s original location was on Main Street in downtown Turlock and the bakery was one of a handful of businesses that benefited from one of the Downtown Property Owners Association programs, the Downtown Entrepreneur Center, that worked as an incubator for new start-ups in the rough post-recession years.


Created in 2010, when vacant properties were a common sight in downtown Turlock, the program was formed to encourage interested individuals to occupy the vacant shops with new businesses. After presenting a business plan that was approved, the Center helped new business owners with marketing resources and a temporary space in the building, which is now occupied by antique and collectibles shop Treasure Hunters, with the expectation that within two years the businesses would set up shop in one of the vacant downtown spaces.


“We all kind of supported one another. It felt like I wasn’t on my own,” recalled Turlock Direct owner Jaime Cimoli of her time in the Downtown Entrepreneur Center, where she began her business.


Cimoli started Turlock Direct towards the end of the Center’s livelihood in downtown in 2012. However, she stayed in the space for six additional months with the approval of the new owner.


Cimoli has maintained a nomadic business model since her time in the incubator program as she often works out of clients’ businesses when developing their advertisements or coupons for Turlock Direct, which is mailed to Turlock residences.


While the incubator program was engineered towards economic revitalization in the downtown, several of the businesses like Frost and Cimoli and since moved away with new restaurants and shops taking their place. However, the Downtown Entrepreneur Center has served as a precursor to similar programs that are still operating today throughout the region.


The City of Merced has a Small Business Incentive Program targeted at filling commercial spaces within the city limits by providing candidates with approved business plans $1,000 in cash before they open their doors. Originally targeted at revitalizing the downtown, roughly three months ago the program expanded to include all of Merced.


“The purpose is to encourage people that are maybe in a home-based business to rent a property downtown, or somewhere in the community, and the $1,000 could help with advertising or overcoming tenant improvements for example,” said Stanislaus Business Alliance Small Business Development Center Director Kurt Clark, who also helped facilitate the Turlock incubator program.


Modesto has also followed suit as well with its Downtown Modesto Partnership program. With retail businesses that are open Monday through Saturday qualifying to receive cash and a refund on local sales and mill taxes for their first year of business, it is clear there is a concerted effort in the region to invigorate the economy that has recovered at a slightly slower rate than other parts in the state.


“It is kind of the next iteration of these programs aimed at helping businesses and the economy,” said Clark.