STOCKTON, Calif. — In their first year open, Drycleaners Co-Op owners Oliver Opus and Ruschawn Williams found themselves faced with a string of break-ins and thefts at their window-bound storefront in downtown Stockton.
The business — created to give local artists, creators and sellers a space as passive retail vendors — suffered thousands of dollars in damage and lost merchandise. The community rallied behind the owners to help replace the broken window just two days after opening.
Months later, Drycleaners experienced two more break-ins resulting in the decision to move to another location in downtown with less windows, according to Opus.
"I would go to bed crossing my fingers like, 'Please, I do not want to wake up to another break-in!'" said Opus. "That's how frequent it was."
Now, a local nonprofit is stepping in to help restore the faith of downtown business owners like Opus and Williams, and revitalize the district bringing people downtown.
The Downtown Stockton Alliance (DSA) allocated $50,000 from San Joaquin County ARPA funding to create a program to reimburse businesses in downtown for the cost to replace broken, old or cracked windows.
"I know some of the businesses and properties down here have large plate glass windows and that they can be very expensive," said DSA Director, Michael Huber. "We're here to help you."
Huber says the DSA's goal is to help business owners rest easy and to restore infrastructure in downtown to make the district a desirable retail location.
Businesses that have replaced windows since Jan. 1, 2023, can receive a full reimbursement from the DSA with a receipt -- no questions asked.
"Whatever the reason might be, we're happy to because we don't want plywood boarded up over windows, because that looks like blight," said Huber.
The program started at the beginning of the year and will run until the allocated funds have been used over the next few years.
As a business owner who previously dealt with his share of broken windows, Opus says he feels comforted knowing he and other business owners in downtown can rest easier.
"I think that the program will bring some sort of relief to other businesses. It's one [more] thing they don't have to think about so they can focus on their business and focus on how to get people here in downtown," said Opus. "It's much needed in this area."
Stockton has continuously dealt with high crime rates over the years, but DSA and community advocates like Opus are looking to change the perspective of downtown and encourage others to see its potential.
"There's a really cool, vibrant community here and just to get people down here has been a struggle," said Opus. "The Downtown Stockton Alliance has helped make this a place where people want to come."
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