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Pomona embraces local businesses

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Esther Garcia of Pomona hand makes and sells her original jewelry, made from beads and leather. Mercado Artisano and Sopa was held Saturday at the dA Center for the Arts in coordination with “Shop Small.” Small business owners sold handmade pottery, jewelry, clothing and food. / photo by Dorothy Gartsman

Esther Garcia of Pomona hand makes and sells her original jewelry, made from beads and leather. Mercado Artisano and Sopa was held Saturday at the dA Center for the Arts in coordination with “Shop Small.” Small business owners sold handmade pottery, jewelry, clothing and food. / photo by Dorothy Gartsman

Arturo Gomez-Molina
Assistant Editor

The Pomona Cultural Arts Commission worked for the last two years to bring awareness to locally owned shops in the downtown and arts district area. This year, they decorated 30 businesses with blue and white balloons outside their doors to participate in Small Business Saturday.

The tradition was introduced by American Express in 2010 and is dedicated to support community shop owners rather than big-name corporate stores during Black Friday weekend.

Mayoral appointee commissioner Joshua Swodeck set up a booth across the street from the Glasshouse music venue, full of “Shop Small” bags, stickers, pins, pens and information for shoppers to pick up.

“There is a lot of development happening and set to happen so we want to prepare our locally owned businesses for a possible economic shift,” Swodeck said. “We are trying to brace for the possibility of the gentrification of our city and we want to do what we can to keep the local economy growing so we don’t see a lot of stores here close down.”

Just around the corner on Main Street, the dA Center for the Arts had their “Mercado Artisano and Sopa” event in full swing.

The gallery usually holds small theater shows, open mic nights and art exhibits, but they used their space for local artisans to set up a small flea market Saturday.

“We coordinated this event with Small Business Saturday so people can enjoy some food and shopping while experiencing our current ‘Aztlan’ exhibit,” dA center president and co-founder Chris Toovey said. “It is important that we come together as a community because it took nearly 10 years to get the art district to where it is today and we don’t want to lose that sense of strong community.”

Along with menudo — a pork based Mexican soup — served in the back of the dA, two local women, Gladis Chavez and Soya de Leon, sold homemade food and drinks.

The two said they heard about the artisan event from a friend while volunteering for the Pomona Unified School District.

Chavez sold cafe de hoya with tacos de canasta and de Leon sold champurrado and agua de pina.

“I’m not sure how to describe the flavor but I guess they taste like tamales,” Chavez said when describing the tacos de canasta. Champurrado is a Mexican hot chocolate made with corn dough, which makes it thicker than the American version of the drink. De Leon’s agua de pina, or pineapple water, was served on ice out of a clear plastic barrel.

“I’m glad there is a day and space dedicated to the ones who work from home to support themselves because we need to come together to bring each other upward,” Chavez said.

Six booths were set up in the museum’s biggest gallery filled with an array of ceramic art, homemade jewelry and clothing.

Ceramic artist Rose Calderon had the biggest table spread in the gallery, with three connected tables full of jewelry, plates, cups, mugs, candle holders and greeting cards all created by her.

“I was a fine arts major in college, but decided to start creating my pieces two years ago when I retired,” Calderon said. “This is my first time at this market space and I’m really happy to see how much people are enjoying mine and everyone else’s products.”

Outside the museum doors, people walked among the shops equipped with “Shop Small” bags.

“I usually like to take a morning stroll through here on my bike and I just so happened to land on Small Business Saturday,” Pomona resident Jesse Campos said.

“I think pushing for Shop Small is a great idea because people need to remember that the big-name stores were once mom and pop stores too. We need to help each other and make sure the stores we love are still here tomorrow.”

Swodeck said the fight against gentrification is not easy, but it is something Pomona hopes to prep its local shop owners for.

Arturo Gomez Molina can be reached at arturo.gomezmolina@laverne.edu.

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