Around 12 years ago, Jimboy Rabanal moved his family to Yosemite Street Village, a historic neighborhood in Stockton with a rich history of long-established businesses. One of those businesses is Yosemite Meat Market, which has served the surrounding area since 1926. A Stockton native, Rabanal grew concerned when he heard that George Lucas, the market’s owner and his friend, planned to sell the business last year.
“I wanted to find out what was going to happen to the market. I’ve been coming here for years. It’s a staple of Yosemite Street,” Rabanal says. “We’ve been friends for years. They are the godparents to my children. We are like family. I wanted to try (to) convince him not to sell the business.”
Lucas purchased the business in 1991 from the original owner, Howard Stevens. Concerned for the future of the market, Rabanal approached Lucas to find out his plans. During their discussion, Rabanal says Lucas offered to sell him the market. “He told me it would be great if I could take over. ‘You’ve been in the shop, you know what we do, it would be in great hands,’” Rabanal says.
At the time, Rabanal was working in a sales management position. A Sonoma State graduate who majored in marketing, he had no experience running a market. But last November, he purchased it, continuing a recent resurgence of the Yosemite Street Village area. “I’m loyal to the soil,” he says. “I love my city. I want to help make a difference here.”
‘Friends’ Coming Together
As a new small-business owner, Rabanal says he has dived into the world of entrepreneurship and is working to implement ideas without altering the iconic brick and mortar establishment; the inviting ambiance of the market retains that touch of nostalgia locals remember from their childhood.
Along with the responsibility of the market, Rabanal became the local captain under the Business Watch Program. Similar to a Neighborhood Watch Program, business owners in Yosemite Street Village work in conjunction with Stockton police to create a safer environment for their businesses, customers and neighbors.
Rabanal has gained some support from the Friends of Yosemite Street, a grassroots volunteer group formed in November 2018 that oversees neighborhood watch initiatives, schedules public community meetings and organizes cleanup days and other events to beautify the neighborhood. The Friends of Yosemite Street supports 22 businesses on the 900 block of Yosemite Street between Acacia and Poplar streets.
“More doors are opening up for us because of our surrounding community members rallying together,” Rabanal says. “We have a voice. The Friends of Yosemite Street group has created change in our area.”
Julie Contreras, owner of Stockton Floral, played an integral role in forming this group along with founder Miguel Guillen, a community member and former social media manager of Visit Stockton. “We just met up at an open mic at Blackwater Cafe and started talking about what kind of changes we want in our neighborhood,” Contreras says. “Then we had to decide our action plan.”
Saul Serna, a new property owner of The Catalyst Arts and Wellness Studio on Yosemite Street, also played a big role in assisting the group. Serna, an acrylic and mixed-media artist, is well connected in the community. He also has experience coordinating the annual Dia De Los Muertos Street Fiesta in downtown Stockton. “They reached out to me because of the street fiesta and wanted to do something like that on Yosemite,” Serna says. “I told them the Miracle Mile district (of Stockton) has a committee, so find out if businesses would be on board for Yosemite. They did all the legwork to put it together. I just helped push them in the right direction.”
Making a Call to Action
Revitalizing an area in Stockton is no easy feat and setting the idea into motion takes dedication. Last year, the Friends of Yosemite Street issued a call to action targeting business owners and nearby residents that sought input on issues in the area with an emphasis on solutions.
A cleanup day turned into another meeting and interest among business owners and residents grew. “We have people coming to us saying ‘I grew up in this neighborhood, what can I do to help?’ It is a homely feeling around here. There’s a great vibe going on, but we couldn’t have done it without everyone pitching in,” Contreras says.
“I’m loyal to the soil. I love my city. I want to help make a difference here.” Jimboy Rabanal, Owner, Yosemite Meat Market
Additionally, the City of Stockton’s Economic Development Department recently visited several businesses along Yosemite Street to provide information to owners regarding grants and loans, such as the Storefront Beautification Micro Grant Program. These funds help make storefront improvements possible for Stockton businesses to increase visual appeal and attract more customers.
Business owners in the neighborhood have also found a new source of support and camaraderie. When Contreras’ original floral shop in downtown Stockton burnt down, entrepreneurs offered refuge for her business. “Saul and (his wife) Sonya were so amazing by offering part of their space to me. I am so thankful I can come back for a second round with my business,” Contreas says.
The Sernas offered part of their property to Contreras as they continue preparing the front end of their main space. “I see it as a hall space. A space for creatives. A pop-up venue for art or any type of event,” Serna says. “There is a lack of venue space here in town for artists and musicians. I want to provide a platform for those individuals.”
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