By Sal Pizarro Mercury News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) SJ Made, which supports local artisans through shows and pop-up boutiques, recruited the first four retailers -- all run by women -- which offer a variety of items including plants, apparel, artwork and next-gen women's undergarments.
Last year, Angie Chua quit a decade-long career in digital advertising to pursue her dream of running her own business, Bobo Design Studio.
The South Bay native had been connecting with customers online, selling everything from pins to bags and shirts featuring her designs, but it was tough going.
"To gain any kind of market share online is getting more difficult. It's such a crowded space," she said. But now, Chua -- along with three other female entrepreneurs -- has a space of her own at MOMENT at San Pedro Square, the new pop-up retail incubator in downtown San Jose.
Chua said she was feeling grateful as customers browsed through her 400 square-foot space. "To be able to give back to my community and showcase my work -- to have downtown San Jose want to support artists -- it's hard not to feel romantic about that," she said. "It's just a great community."
And it's a community that gave up a dozen parking spaces in the San Pedro/Market Garage to make MOMENT happen.
Three years ago, the Knight Foundation awarded a Cities Challenge grant to the San Jose Downtown Association's concept of creating four mini storefronts on the garage's ground floor. (The idea's actually been floating around for at least two decades, according to San Jose Transportation Director Jim Ortbal).
With a wildly popular block of restaurants and bars on the other side of the street, and a farmers market every Friday until fall, this is probably the only stretch of sidewalk downtown with enough foot traffic to give the idea a chance of success. A late-stage addition of a parklet extends the sidewalk in front of the shops and provides welcome seating.
SJ Made, which supports local artisans through shows and pop-up boutiques, recruited the first four retailers -- all run by women -- which offer a variety of items including plants, apparel, artwork and next-gen women's undergarments: Fractal Flora, Blooms Privé, Sea Señorita Studios and Bobo Design Studio.
"We want to change the narrative of the San Jose experience being seen as a male-centric experience," SJ Made Chief Strategist Kevin Biggers said. "Specifically for MOMENT, we saw this incredible opportunity to create a set of tenants for women in the neighborhood to feel safe and to feel engaged and to be inspired by the four incredible women-owned businesses launching in the space."
SJ Made founder Marie Millares also recruited artist Anabella Piñon to paint a colorful mural on the back of the shops that face the garage interior. These four shops have leases until August, which will give them time to test their concepts and possibly build up enough of a customer base to move into larger spaces elsewhere.