Pivoting During COVID-19 Pandemic, MEDA Offers Businesses Revamped Technical Assistance Coupled with a Reimagining of Spaces

MEDA has been strengthening small businesses in San Francisco’s Mission District since 1973, initially providing loan bundling that has now scaled to include free eight-week workshops, one-on-one coaching, technical assistance and access to capital via Fondo Adelante, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) with about 100 low-interest loans in its portfolio. This work has generally been for the building of long-term, generational prosperity for our community members, many of whom are immigrants seeking a better life in this country.

Then the catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic hit. And the community hit hardest was Latinos in the Mission.

MEDA needed to act with urgency.

One major need was to support the eight budding El Mercadito entrepreneurs located on the first floor of MEDA’s Mission neighborhood center, Plaza Adelante. That’s the colorful building you’ve probably noticed at the bustling corner of Mission and 19th streets, with this intersection ready to be transformed to ameliorate the loss of income for these ventures.

The idea is to create neighborhood space — think outdoor, which is safer in a pandemic — so that some revenue can be generated to help these small businesses through the current crisis to ensure they are best positioned to thrive when things get back to normal. Well, perhaps that should be stated as “the new normal.”

MEDA’s Business Development and Community Real Estate teams have been jointly developing a plan for relief — a plan ready to come to fruition via a three-phased approach commencing this week. It should also be noted that part of the strategy will enable some MEDA staff to be able to streamline their direct client services. While that team has harnessed the power of the latest tools to remotely conduct their work, a few gaps remain and will be addressed.

The three phases are as follows: 

Phase 1. As Phase 1 unfolded earlier this week, two of our El Mercadito businesses positioned on the Mission Street side of the building. Two neighborhood favorites, Lourdes Boutique and Café de Olla, will have tables set up for efficient curbside delivery and outdoor dining. Lourdes Boutique’s popular samplings of blankets, quilts, drapes, religious dolls and home adornments will be available; after your socially distanced shopping, grab some nourishment at Café de Olla in the form of fresh Mexican coffee, tamales or breakfast items.

Hours of operation:
Lourdes Boutique: Curbside pickup Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. 
Cafe de Olla: Monday through Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Phase 2. Get ready for a transformation of Plaza Adelante’s 19th Street south-side sidewalk starting late July. The normally blank maroon wall will become a welcoming space, backed by a City permit compliant with COVID-19 public health mandates. More retail will be brought onto this relatively wide sidewalk, complemented by MEDA staff providing vital services for the community. Such services run the gamut from free tax preparation to comprehensive job training.

Phase 3. This final stage of the plan, which has a date dependent upon MEDA’s successful acquisition of a street-closure permit, will be evidenced by the closure of a one-block stretch of 19th Street running from Mission eastward to Capp. Vendor and MEDA services tables will be festooned with colorful canopies and other decorations to create a lively space that, once again, will be compliant with COVID-19 public health mandates. Additionally, neighboring small businesses on the north side of 19th Street will be invited to use the space.

MEDA invites the community to support local small businesses in our reimagined safe spaces. This iteration of our El Mercadito showcases the adaptability of our community and MEDA staff as we all counter the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, while looking to a brighter future ahead.


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