From left: Downtown Fresno Partnership Program Manager Jazzmine Young, Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias, Desirae Washington of Grumpy Burger Lady's, Ian Landis of Bone Dry Sober Bar, and Jeremy Brownstein and Gina Perez of Plant Slayer — the winners of its 'Create Here' business grant competition at The Galleria in Downtown Fresno. Photo by Frank Lopez.

published on April 18, 2022 - 2:15 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

Three local businesses will be going to the next level after winning a local business grant competition.

The Downtown Fresno Foundation announced the winners of its fourth “Create Here” business plan competition at The Galleria in Downtown Fresno Monday morning.

The competition first started in 2015 and then was revived in 2019.

The $25,000 cash prize for the competition was split among three winners. Money will be used to take their business plan to the next phase.

Grumpy Burger Lady’s, which would be a late-night dining restaurant and bar, won the first-place grand prize of $15,000.

Bone Dry Sober Bar, a non-alcoholic bar concept serving mocktails and other non-alcoholic drinks, won second place, with a $7,000 cash prize.

Plant Slayer, which is currently run out of a food trailer, won third-place and took home a $3,000 cash prize. Plant Slayer has already leased the former Oriental Express space in the Galleria, with the owners planning to open mid-May, according to co-owner Gina Perez. They are currently getting through the permitting process.

Jimmy Cerracchio, president and CEO of the Downtown Fresno Partnership, said that next steps include getting the winners of the competition help with getting their leases signed, assistance through permitting processes and helping them with loan assistance if necessary.

Originally, around 15 entrepreneurs entered the competition, with that number dropping to 10 finalists. Two of the final 10 businesses dropped out because the owners felt they weren’t ready to go into the next phase of their business.

To choose the winners for this year’s competition, Cerracchio said the judges considered what businesses would have the most local impact.

“We looked at what businesses were going to have the best impact on downtown, whether it was providing a service, or some kind of business that would support the community that’s here—day time workers and people living down here, but also attract others to the area as well,” Cerracchio said.

A big consideration for the judges was restaurants, retail services and nightlife that would increase activity in the downtown area.

Cerracchio said they wanted applicants to produce a detailed business plan, to see that they considered all the financial aspects of running a business for a few years and know who their target audience is.

Typically, winners of the Create Here competition are expected to sign a lease within a year of winning.

Desirae Washington, owner of Grumpy Burger Lady’s, said last year she was planning to operate out of a food truck at Full Circle Brewing Co.’s patio area, but she had larger visions that included a brick-and-mortar location.

Washington was co-owner of hamburger joint Take 3, also in Downtown Fresno, which closed in late 2020.

Washington said the plan is to decorate the restaurant with hamburger memorabilia, to make it a sort of “museum and restaurant” that would be a food destination for locals, and visitors.

The $15,000 grand prize brings Washington about a quarter of what she needs to open. She is currently doing crowdfunding and securing other funding for the location, equipment and décor.

She said the plan is to open up the Grumpy Burger Lady’s restaurant on Fulton street.

“I’m super excited and grateful,” Washington said. “I’m not new to business, but I am new to these types of processes and going through this kind of stuff, so it feels really rewarding to win something like this—its awesome.”

Jazzmine Young, program manager at the Downtown Fresno Partnership, also announced its new business initiative, the “Stay Here” program, which goes online April 25.

The program will provide $21,000 in small business grants. Each recipient will receive around $2,000 to help them expand their business through assistance with leasing, renovations and growth.

The application period for the Stay Here program will be about a month, Young said.

“There are also other programs that do exist, so if there is a way that we could shift them to a different program and get them even more money, we will help them with that as well,” Young said.

Previous winners for Create Here include Hop PK in 2015, The Modernist in 2019 and Fig and Honey Lavish Grazing in 2020.

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