Operating a small business during a recession poses its own unique challenges, but the Encantada Gallery of Fine Art has just gotten a hand from a storefront makeover from the Small Business Renovation Project. The project hopes to make local mom and pop stores more enticing to window shoppers.

Encantada Gallery owner Mia Gonzalez in her store.

“It’s hard to keep this kind of business going,” said Mia Galaviz de Gonzalez, the owner of the Mission gallery and store at 908 Valencia St that sells  Mexican folk artisan crafts and fine art pieces.

Inspired by the cable TV shows “Design on a Dime” and “Top Design,” the program provided $2,000 grants to 12 local businesses in the Fillmore, Mission and Bayview districts for a window display makeover. Some San Mateo County businesses were also included.

Teams of visual merchandising students from the City College of San Francisco, led by their instructor, Durand Guion, consulted with merchants and then “scoured the flea markets and discount stores to purchase props and furniture,” according to Diane Green, Chair of the Fashion Department at City College.

“I didn’t want props I couldn’t move,” said Gonzalez about her shop’s makeover. Gonzalez’s store is the only participant from the Mission District.

In keeping with the reality TV theme, a team of judges composed of designers and Wells Fargo representatives also selected the winning design —Marcus Books— for a “very cozy” front lounge area.  The team, which will share a prize of $500,   used couches and chairs to create a space that could be used for browsing books or to host events.

Encantada’s display won second place.

“I like the cleverness of what they did,” Gonzalez said, looking at the new display in which students used a stone fountain, floor tiles, a trellis, lights and pieces of art from the gallery to develop a garden-like feel.

Green said the idea for the makeovers was developed by Denise Miller, vice president and community development officer for Wells Fargo, who was inspired by numerous cable home and business makeover programs. Wells Fargo provided the funding while SF Renaissance and Urban Solutions found eligible makeover candidates. Marcus Books in the Fillmore District, one of the oldest African-American bookstores in the city, also got a makeover.

Along with the grants and makeovers, the 12 businesses were also enrolled in a four-part advanced marketing class at SF Renaissance at no charge. Wells Fargo marketing consultants gave each store free one-on-one consultations.

“It was very nice to have,” Gonzalez said of the consultation, at which they discussed outreach and advertising, as well as new ways of marketing her products such as  “packaging” her products into events. The advanced marketing course at Renaissance will begin next week.

An overhead look at the front window display set up by students from CCSF.

Gonzalez, who has operated the shop on Valencia St. since opening 11 years ago, had to close her next door gallery space after the economy tanked.  The space, which used to host Chicano and Latino artists, is now the Room 4 vintage furniture and clothing store.

“I have to be a little more innovative,” she said, but thinking of ways to improve her business is one thing, “to be able to get the financial support is another.”

The $2000 grant focused on the window display, but the students also used extra cash to purchase an espresso machine and vacuum for the store.

While Gonzalez is happy with the new window display, she would have also liked new and better signage, improved lighting, and a digital camera to take pictures of the works she has for sale.

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Armand is a photojournalism and multimedia student at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and is originally from Baton Rouge, La. His work history includes being a paper pusher in Los Angeles and a youth program coordinator in Ramallah, and is currently a student editor at Mission Local, which means he gets to read a lot of news and tell people what to do.

He also waits for the day when bacon and buffalo sauce combine on one plate.

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  1. I would like to buy a Oaxaca Madona in grotto like setting to hang on my wall. Or in metal, painted or not. Do you have any photos to show me?

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