Ashley Moreno, owner of Viva Boutique, a clothing and accessory store in the Dewitt Building on Pollasky Avenue, says that one of the attractive features in opening up a business in Old Town Clovis is the feeling of safety. Photos by Frank Lopez
Written by Frank Lopez
A cowboy would feel at home moseying the streets of Old Town Clovis.
That’s thanks to the hospitality of women business owners who make up about half of the entrepreneurs in one of the Valley’s most famous downtown business districts.
That’s according to Carole Lester, executive director of the Business Organization of Old Town (BOOT.
Clean, walkable and safe are some of the adjectives used to describe Old Town — making it an attractive area for women to open businesses.
“Young women are entering fields where there have always been, predominantly, men,” Lester said. “The doors are opening for jobs across the spectrum for girls in general. Women love to shop, and so they know what people are looking for and what they like, and they have a knack for it. I think that would attract a young woman going into business as well.”
With most businesses in the area tending to remain operational for years, Lester said most of the storefronts are always occupied, with a vacancy rate of 1% or 2%.
Foot traffic in the area has been going up in general over the last few years, but Lester noted that they are seeing more families visiting Old Town, and also more women.
There have also been more salons, boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants opening up in Old Town in the last few years.
Old Town allure
“I think there are a lot of women [business owners] down here because it’s a safe area,” said Cora Shipley, owner of Scoops, Soups and More at 433 Pollasky Ave. “Clovis is known to be safe. Old Town especially is known to be an area that a woman can run a business and not worry. I think that’s why we have so many young people now. That means a lot of mothers pushing strollers, and senior citizens walking around.”
Shipley grew up in Fresno, and moved to Clovis in 1970. In 1989, when the Old Town Clovis farmer’s market first began, she set up a small food booth and thought that if she ever opened up a business, it would be in Old Town.
In 1990 she opened up an antique store. A year later, she started a gift shop. She always wanted to own her own building, so she took the chance in 2002 when one came on the market — an ice cream shop she expanded to become Scoops, Soups and More.
Along with the ice cream shop, which also sells hot items including soups as well as sandwiches, Shipley still runs the gift shop, Heart’s Delight, on Pollasky Avenue.
Shipley said that within the last seven years, she has seen more foot traffic, affirming BOOT’s goal to bring in businesses that would attract a more diverse and younger crowd to keep the area viable.
Antique shops, which used to dominate the district, have given way to more boutiques, Shipley added.
Inside the Dewitt Building at 453 Pollasky Ave., Suite 107, Viva Boutique offers jewelry, women’s clothing and accessories, and variety of gift items.
Owner Ashley Moreno has been in the Clovis location for the last two years. For five years prior to that, beginning in 2012, she was at Fig Garden Village.
Moreno worked for the owners of Viva La Vault at Fig Garden Village, which was the fashion jewelry division of The Vault Fine Jewelers, when they wanted to sell the “viva” portion. She bought it.
Moreno said that beside the sentimental value attached to the area where she grew up, she wanted to move the business to Old Town because of the close-knit community and the safety.
She said the Clovis Police Department is quick to respond to calls and takes proactive measures by visiting businesses regularly to maintain communication with the owners.
A sense of community has been built between the business owners of the Old Town, and Moreno and other woman business owners support each other.
“I have a good relationship with a lot of the other businesses,” Moreno said. “We all want each other to do well. We’re all cheering each other on, which is a rare aspect when you have similar types of stores.”
Moreno’s advice for a young woman wishing to start her own business: “If you work hard you can do it. You have to put everything you’ve got into it. Surround yourself with other people who have been through it, and know what they’re doing. Always be around people that are smarter than you. That is the best way to grow.”
The local feel
Revival 23, a boutique clothing and accessories store at 416 Pollasky Ave., was founded by Teresa Pries in 2014, and also has a second location in downtown Kingsburg that opened last year.
Pries was drawn to Old Town Clovis because she liked the small town feel and the idea of shopping with local merchants. She also grew up in Clovis.
Although there is a sense of mutual support between the woman business owners of Old Town, Pries said that they are all too preoccupied with their businesses to spend time with each other.
“You would think that a bunch of women would have time to sit down and gossip, but we are all very driven,” Pries said. “We are all busy working. It’s not a social thing, all the age groups of women working down here.”
Early on in her career, Pries said that because she was a woman, she felt that she wasn’t always taken seriously, or that people would look to men she was with, like her husband, to ask them “what is she doing,” but she said that she has proven herself since then.
Pries said that she is encouraging her own daughter, who is a public relations major at Fresno State, to one day take over the business, and is giving more responsibility to the women that work in her stores so that they could learn more and grow in their careers.
Kimberly Woertendyke-Alvarez, co-owner of A Secret Garden floral shop at 522 Pollasky Ave., bought the business from her mother, who started it in 1988. She started working in the shop in 1994, and bought the store along with another employee in August 2018.
Woertendyke-Alvarez said she has also seen more foot traffic in the last year, and that new restaurants and breweries are bringing a different crowd of people.
Woertendyke-Alvarez hopes for her business to keep growing and stay in touch with trends. She also wants the community to know that she is listening to them, and that just because the business has been around for 30 years doesn’t mean it’s stagnant.
For a business of these times, Old Town Clovis is a good place to be.
“It’s got that nice, family type of atmosphere still, but it’s becoming not just an antique destination — it’s becoming really trendy also,” she said. “It become very eclectic, with the old and the new.”