'Vacant to Vibrant': SF program expands to help more pop-up businesses fill downtown vacancies

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Tuesday, June 11, 2024
SF program expands to help more pop-up businesses fill vacancies
San Francisco initiative Vacant to Vibrant helps pop-up businesses set up in downtown vacancies and is expanding to 11 additional businesses.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- At Rosalind Bakery, business over the past year has been good.

Last year, owner Matthew Kosoy says the bakery was chosen to be a part of San Francisco's Vacant to Vibrant program.

It's an initiative that helps pop-up businesses set up permanently in the city with the help of things like free rent and grant money.

Matthew credits the program for helping him expand his business from Rosalind's factory in Pacifica to a cafe in the heart of San Francisco.

"Being present in San Francisco has provided more exposure for my company's name and ultimately my business," he said.

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Matthew says he signed a five-year lease back in January for a cafe in San Francisco's Embarcadero Center, one of several Vacant to Vibrant businesses who have done so in the area.

Those original Vacant to Vibrant businesses are set to be joined by even more.

This year, the city has selected 11 additional businesses - including a florist and art shop - to sponsor starting this month.

Matthew says the help will be greatly appreciated, given the ever-increasing cost of running a small enterprise.

"We've seen all of our costs go up," he said. "Labor costs are at an all-time high. All of our ingredient costs are at an all-time high."

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But the Vacant to Vibrant program is only one way San Francisco is attempting to help small shops.

In addition to reforming the tax system, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce says the city is actively trying to cut red tape.

"The city of San Francisco has really worked hard to try and streamline the permitting process for small businesses that want to open up," said the chamber's president, Rodney Fong. "And the Chamber of Commerce and other folks have been really helpful in creating a pathway and help people navigate what is a complex system in opening a business."

They are working to help one of San Fransico's most struggling neighborhoods get back to its pre-pandemic glory, while also improving the lives of everyday people.

"It's been very helpful," Matthew said. I would not have been able to open up a second retail location for my business if it wasn't for Vacant to Vibrant."

The second group of Vacant to Vibrant businesses will open their doors on June 18.

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