Entrepreneurs make headway in downtown Tulare resurgence

(Rigo Moran)

Individuals involved in Tulare’s downtown revitalization effort make moves as three new businesses open their doors to the public in Kern Avenue Square

TULARE – Entrepreneurs Jocelyn and Michael Lemus are happy to see progression in their own piece of the Tulare downtown revitalization puzzle as partial renovations on the old Elks Lodge building have come to a close and storefronts have opened.

Over the first weekend in November, the last of Kern Avenue Square’s four storefront shops opened their doors to the public. Following DriveBox Golf Lounge’s grand opening on Nov. 1, Studio Eleven photography studio has opened up shop as well. The two new businesses are joining Uh La La Organic Coffee, which opened about two months ago, and Barbers Inc., which has been in the building for seven years.

There is still work to be done on the old Elks Lodge building, but having these spaces filled is a good way to show residents that downtown is making a comeback. The city of Tulare has also been a huge help to the Lemus’ in addition to others who are working to build up the downtown.

“I think people are looking to be in downtown Tulare again and that’s exciting,” Jocelyn said

The Lemus’ were a recipient of the Downtown Rehabilitation Grant from the city, a reimbursement program in which the city set aside $1 million for the purpose of helping individuals breathe life back into downtown Tulare. Jocelyn said the help from the city has been tremendous considering the magnitude of their project.

“(The grant) is a huge help in getting more of the needed retrofits done,” Jocelyn said. “We’ve been working closely with (city staff) on all our plans, running potential tenants through site plan review, etc., and they’ve been so patient while we figure everything out.”

With no previous experience, the Lemus’ purchased the old Elks Lodge Building that was built in 1927 with a desire to be a part of the growth of downtown Tulare. As the couple began to make changes, they started with the first floor by removing and updating some renovations made in the 1970s. Their goal for the building is to restore it to its original form, which is not an easy task. In efforts to help the process, the entrepreneur’s are in the process of getting the building on a historical register. 

Now that the Lemus’ have completed the four storefronts, there is a basement as well as a second floor that needs major renovation. One task the duo has been working on is refinishing the original wooden windows that span across the second floor. Though Jocelyn said it is a bit of an aggressive goal, their hope is to have the tenants throughout the whole building within about a year and a half.

“We’re hoping to have the basement ready for a tenant within the next six months, and then the upstairs; honestly it’s probably going to be about a year or maybe more,” Jocelyn said.

Currently, the goal for the basement is to fill its walls with a bar or pool house again. As for the second floor, nothing is set in stone, but as far as coding and best use of space, Jocelyn said she thinks a venue would fit the space best.

As the Lemus’ are new to the renovation of historical buildings game, they have had tremendous amount of help from George Sandoval with Valley View Construction out of Elderwood. Jocelyn said he has been extremely helpful as they have big goals and he knows how to narrow their focus. The building has received a new roof in addition to the various other renovations.

The two are documenting their findings, renovations and all else on social media. Anyone can follow their story at “kern_avenue_square” on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.

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