For a monthly $1 fee, Ontario gives businesses the chance at downtown pop-up retail space

Eva Grello-Nakas working on a storefront display
Eva Grello-Nakas works on a storefront display for Craft Collective in Ontario.
(Courtesy of Eva Grello-Nakas)
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Some Ontario retail vendors who started selling their merchandise at swap meets and art markets now operate their own storefronts downtown for just $1 a month, thanks to a city pilot program.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Steve Alvarez and his friends Jonathan Marcus Anaya and Roberto Corona started selling vintage clothing and sneakers at the Rose Bowl, Kobey’s Swap Meet and other flea markets throughout Los Angeles County.

In the last four years, Alvarez said their business, Street Culture, grew from a part-time gig to a full-time job that they promote through social media. Alvarez said customers wanted more — a store that they could visit.


When the Street Culture trio first heard about the city of Ontario’s pilot retail pop-up program that would allow small business owners like themselves to lease a retail space downtown for $1 a month, Alvarez and his friends couldn’t believe it.

The program has two goals. The first is to reinvigorate downtown by occupying storefronts that were previously vacant. It is also intended to help local merchants navigate operating a storefront for the first time without all the overhead costs associated with a brick-and-mortar facility.

From left, Jonathan Marcus Anaya, Steve Alvarez and Roberto Corona
From left, Jonathan Marcus Anaya, Steve Alvarez and Roberto Corona get ready for the ceremonial ribbon cutting of their storefront Street Culture in Ontario.
(Courtesy of Eva Grello-Nakas)

The six-month $1 lease for a city-owned downtown storefront includes utilities and WiFi, said Dan Bell, communications director for Ontario.

“It’ll help these business-folks really feel what it’s like to be a business owner and get a taste for that as they move forward in their entrepreneurship,” Bell said.

Business owners can opt to stay in the pilot program for another six months after their first term is up. After the cumulative 12 months, the city will assist in connecting the business owner with a broker so they can lease another storefront and continue their venture.

“These are young people that went through the local schools, live here, have family here and we want to give them an opportunity to stay here,” Bell said.

Street Culture’s neighbor Craft Collective is a business owned by Jonas Nakas and his wife, Ontario native Eva Grello-Nakas. The couple, who are also artists, would sell their work at art markets but Jonas said it took a lot of effort to transport their items across the region.

“We were kind of all over the place and always wanted someplace near home where we could sell our art,” he said.


The Craft Collective now partners with 80 artists and vendors to sell their work on consignment. It includes jewelry, clothing, photography and homemade instruments.

Artists and galleries already existed in the area, but they tended to be scattered all over and not centered in the downtown area. Nakas said having a storefront has brought a little more exposure to local artists by being on Euclid Avenue, in the heart of downtown.

The pilot program is also bringing more shoppers to the downtown area who will eventually become return customers as well, Bell said.

The efforts are all part of Downtown Ontario Activation, a strategy to transform the city’s downtown into the cultural and entertainment hub of Ontario.

The city is accepting applications until June 24 for a third available storefront. Once the program term is up for the current tenants, those spaces will become available for lease to new occupants.