By in Business

Transformations of Commercial Spaces by People Who Saw Possibilites

One commercial space can have many different uses. When I walk into a store, I see just what's there. I don't often think of what might be there instead. I have lived in the Paso Robles, California area for about twenty years now, and have watched my community change. I've seen commercial buildings change their uses completely.

One of the most prominent examples is our local art hub, Studios on the Park. I'm sure I'll be writing more about that later, but in a nutshell, a large auto parts store that occupied a huge building in the downtown area, was converted into a community of artists with open studios there. It took a special person to see the possibilities for that space. What a difference that conversion made to the downtown area! The photo above, which you can expand with a right click and choosing “open image in new tab” from the drop down menu, shows the interior of Studios on the Park during an exhibit of handmade lamps. You can see into many of the studios through the open doors. What a change from an auto parts store!

A long-empty historic building that had been The Farmer's Alliance building back when Paso Robles was a major almond grower, has become part of Derby Wine Estates. That transformed a historic eyesore into a vibrant business. Smart and Final had actually purchased the building first, but they could not make it work for their purposes because of the requirements the city put on them to maintain the original historic structure. Finally our friends Ray and Pam Derby bought the building and turned it into a wine making and grape processing plant. The story of the transformation is told in the December, 2013 issue of the Paso Robles Magazine and you can read “ Resurrection ” online in PDF beginning on page 18. You can read about the completion of the project and the opening of the tasting room in the Paso Robles Daily News , April 11, 2014. This was another case of someone seeing the commercial possibilities of a space that needed a new use.

We have been the owners of 2020 East Main Street in Ventura for 24 years. It is just one of what were three commercial units in the building we bought that also included 2016 and 2018 East Main Street. At the time of purchase, the building was owned by the man who was to be our primary tenant for many years. He owned a dental laboratory that filled the entire second story, 2018 East Main. The two downstairs commercial spaces were occupied by a consignment clothing store for women at 2020 and a jeweler who made and sold his products at his store at 2016. For a long time, the only space that changed was the clothing store. That's the one we will talk about most in the rest of this article.

At the time we purchased the building in Midtown , there were many consignment shops for women's clothing in the surrounding buildings. It was the area for women of all ages to shop for used clothing unless they wanted to buy at the thrift stores downtown. Our tenant carried a lot of designer clothes and quality accessories. I couldn't afford to shop there. We still lived in the area then and I shopped at some of the other consignment stores that were closer to my taste and within my budget. But our tenant did a good business until she decided to move. When she left, another consignment clothing store took the space. It was not quite as successful and didn't last as long. I wish I had photos, but I had no idea back then I'd ever be writing about this and want an illustration.

After we moved north, I wasn't as involved with the property management as my husband was. I know we had a furniture store in that space, and then a T-shirt store. We had to evict that tenant because he appeared to be engaging in illegal activities and disturbing our residential tenants in the duplex behind the commercial building. I became involved again when a consignment shop for collectibles moved in. That was also about the time The Cottage, a coffee shop, moved into the 2016 space and the two businesses complemented each other and shared some of the same customers. The owner of the consignment shop ran into some serious health problems and the store wasn't producing enough income to make it worth her while to stay, so she vacated. Attaboy Vintage was the next tenant there.

Meanwhile, the owner of The Cottage was doing a booming business and the upstairs units were empty. She decided to rent that space and use her contacts to make hourly rentals to people who needed temporary office spaces. She tried this for about three months and had lots of takers, but not enough to make her think it was worthwhile. So she stopped that, and the upstairs was vacant again. Then she wanted to expand her business into preparing more foods and ran into problems with the city codes, so she vacated. In 2013, both 2020 and 2016 got new tenants.

We first met these tenants in another article, Off to Ventura on Business . In that article I posted the photo of the shop that occupied 2020 East Main in 2013, attaboy Vintage, an antique and collectibles store. I also showed you the photos of the Sticky Fingers Bakery that now occupies 2016 East Main that used to be the jewelry store and then became The Cottage, and finally Sticky Fingers. In the photo below is what's behind the attaboy Vintage window you saw in the other article.

I took the photo.

Below are additional photos showing the interior of attaboy Vintage. The first one shows a display along the east wall of the front of the store. Almost every store has the front, which the customers see, and a back area, which is used for storage and office space. Attaboy did this differently.

I took the photo.

In the photo below, you see the owners of attaboy, Chris and Adrienne Burko, standing near the back of the front area, near the wall that separates the back from the front. You can also see that the west wall is long and that they used it for display all the way to the back of the store. There is another display room back there instead of an office, and the back patio area was used for more storage. Chris and Adrienne had a desk to the right (out of sight in this photo) where one of them could take care of customers while doing computer and paperwork when the store was empty. They used their space well for the business they had there.

I took the photo.

They finally decided they just weren't making enough to justify renting that much space and they thought they'd do better going to antique shows and selling on eBay, which they could do from home. We were sorry to lose them, but we understand about cash flow. They have a Facebook page where I still follow attaboy Vintage, and I learned there that they now have a space at The Mart Collective in Venice. They also have an Etsy shop. I wish them well.

The business that now has that space is Vapor Connoisseur. They sell high quality E-cigarettes. Quite a different business than attaboy Vintage. And quite a different look and use of space. Here's the outside of their store in the same space to contrast with the front of attaboy in the other article I linked to.

I took the photo.

The interior is also very different. Here is their long counter along the west wall.

I took the photo.

And here is the view of the store you see from the front door as you walk in.

I took the photo.

I did not get out to the back patio, but the Facebook page talks about BBQ events there. There are many more photos of the interior if you look up the address on Google maps. This store helps people stop smoking tobacco so they can quit a habit that may ruin their health. Since I was never a smoker, I've never tried any of these products, but it appears they are very popular.

By now I hope you have seen some of the possibilities for using one store's space. If you want to start a retail business you may find that you can use a space in an entirely different way than the present and past tenants have used it. It just takes creativity and imagination to make it work for you.

Decide what kind of you want. Then think about how you'd like it to look and how much space you need. Think where in your city it ideally would be located for your potential customers to find it. Formulate your business plan to see how much space you can realistically afford. Then go look for it. Lastly, put your imagination to work to turn it into what you have visualized. The possibilities for any space are endless.

Pictures and content are original and may not be used without permission, B. Radisavljevic, Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved

Image Credit » I took the photo

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bestwriter wrote on August 13, 2014, 2:30 AM

Your pictures speak more than words.As long as commercial areas are modified to mee current t demand I am with it but here in India farm and forest land land is converted into concrete jungles displacing flora and fauna. It is pathetic to see this happening here. So many are selling off their property to builders who are putting up high rise buildings. We will never give up ours although that can fetch quite a bit of dough. emoticon :sad:

OldRoadsOnceTraveled wrote on August 13, 2014, 2:31 AM

I love to see entrepreneurs put older stores to new uses. It's so sad when downtown shops stay vacant and fall into decline.

BarbRad wrote on August 13, 2014, 3:03 AM

I also hate to to see centers full of vacant stores while new centers are built over agricultural fields or vacant land.

BarbRad wrote on August 13, 2014, 3:05 AM

The most amazing transformation was the auto parts store to the Studios on the Park. It's across from city park and the other businesses are tourist friendly restaurants and boutique type stores. The downtown was changing, and that auto parts store just didn't fit anymore.

AliCanary wrote on August 13, 2014, 5:55 AM

First of all, very cool article, great pics, wonderful promotion of this worthy artistic reclamation of a seemingly unpromising space, and also WHOOAAAA!! I never knew about the opening image thing--that is SUPER helpful. You rock!

suffolkjason wrote on August 13, 2014, 7:31 AM

Fascinating article, I wish I could hit the like button more than once! E-cigarettes are becoming more popular over here. Wales's National Health Service is independent from England's and could have different policies about E-cigarettes. Wales is considering banning them in public places, England has no such plans. It will be interesting to see what develops. Personally, I think e-cigarettes will help many people to kick the evil weed.

JanetJenson wrote on August 13, 2014, 12:15 PM

Hah! Something else we have in common. I have a tenant whose services I cannot afford either. She is one in a million though and I am very happy to be her landperson.

BarbRad wrote on August 13, 2014, 2:28 PM

Someone else mentioned that in a post, and i was overjoyed, since I often only wanted to use one photo, but I wanted it to be large enough for details to show.

BarbRad wrote on August 13, 2014, 2:30 PM

There are places they are trying to ban them in the US, too. Fortunately California is not yet among them, at least not in the counties I pass through. You'd think with all the emphasis on health they would encourage any safe method to help people kick the habit.

BarbRad wrote on August 13, 2014, 2:32 PM

The whose services I could afford we had to evict for not keeping up with rent owed. Since then my house has never been as clean, since her business is cleaning.

Ellis wrote on August 13, 2014, 3:07 PM

Tried one of AngelSharum s 'reflection pics in the Vapor photo, did you Barb?

paigea wrote on August 13, 2014, 4:11 PM

It is very interesting to see how spaces can be used. I would be hopeless at thinking through something like that!

inertia4 wrote on August 13, 2014, 7:50 PM

BarbRad They are some amazing transformations. I have seen my share of changes here where I live as well. I have seen the neighborhood change over the last 25 years. It is not a good change for me, but for the jewish community it is great. They have many different types of shops, but way too expensive. I go to other neighborhoods to go shopping. I wish I had pictures of this area from them until now. The changes were many and not all good ones. But your pictures tell a wonderful story. And the area you write about sounds and looks amazing.

BarbRad wrote on August 13, 2014, 9:03 PM

I didn't even notice that. I must really love those selfies. Did you see the other on I just posted?

BarbRad wrote on August 13, 2014, 9:04 PM

Me too. The closest I ever got was doing window display when I worked for the Logos Bookstore. I really loved that.

BarbRad wrote on August 13, 2014, 9:06 PM

One of my hobbies is taking photos of the ordinary places in my area so I can make a sort of visual history for the time I've been here that records changes in businesses.

Ellis wrote on August 13, 2014, 9:20 PM

Yep..I think the reflection is the bonnet of your car..

inertia4 wrote on August 13, 2014, 9:20 PM

BarbRad Although I always have my iPone on my, I never takes pictures. I am not much of a picture taker. And to be honest, I never think of taking pictures.

OldRoadsOnceTraveled wrote on August 14, 2014, 1:21 AM

Viewing these photos took me back to a photo walk I did in my home town to blog about. That was fun. I noticed things I'd never seen before, and learned a lot I never knew about the history of the town. You probably remember that photo I took of that statue of two elderly sweethearts that happened to be in the yard of the house my parents rented rooms in when they were first married. I posted it on the other site. A block down from there (the downtown is only two blocks) there are a number of old store buildings similar to those. Some have been turned into boutiques, a flower shop, bookstores, etc., but many of them are sadly empty.

AngelSharum wrote on August 14, 2014, 12:57 PM

That is a nice reflection shot. Very clear. ;)