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Investing in downtowns future
Remodel transforms visual feel of Main Street
Crystal Downs in front of the stylish remodel of the buildings in the 200 block of North Main Street that now house The Framery and her State Farm Insurance agency. - photo by HIME ROMERO


• WHAT: Manteca Chamber of Commerce’s free monthly mixer
• WHERE: Crystal Downs State Farm Insurance & The Framery in the 200 block of North Main Street.
• WHEN: Thursday, Aug. 20, from 5 to 7 p.m.
• MORE INFO: Call the chamber at 823-1621

A glimpse of Central Manteca’s future can be seen in the 200 block of North Main Street in earth tone hues accented with brick, old-fashioned barn lights, and awnings.

State Farm Insurance agent Crystal Downs took the former Bill’s Mower & Saw and the adjoining building that has housed everything over the years from a real estate office to Three Rivers Indian Lodge’s administrative offices and literally transformed them from a sow’s ear to a silk purse.

It is part of a Renaissance of sorts taking part in the central district in the past year that started with Vinnie Bhan’s transformation of the northeast corner of Lincoln and Yosemite avenues into the handsome brick home of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and adjoining Deli Depot and included Leo DeGroot’s new commercial complex just up the block that’s anchored by Coldwell Banker Crossroads Real Estate.

“I feel like this building is a statement of the potential for a high quality (downtown) and represents the high quality of (State Farm Insurance),” Downs said.

It certainly has made a statement that is strong enough to garner not only unsolicited compliments but walk-in traffic from people who are impressed with the the transformation and who often end up bringing her new business.

She believes downtown Manteca has the potential to become a place where people want to walk the streets and browse stores and dine much like in Lodi and Pleasanton. Making the buildings in the central district eye pleasers is the best way to get the ball rolling.

Downs said she was inspired in part by the design and colors of DeGroot’s project that dovetailed well with her vision that was executed and improved upon with suggestions by building consultant Ben Cantu and Steve Martinez of CAS Construction.

“It is important that you listen to the professionals,” Downs said as she flipped through a book of photos documenting the transformation of what once were two tired, aging storefronts and interior spaces into stylish and warm places of commerce.

A number of reasons for buying, remodeling
Downs had a number of reasons for looking for a new home instead of renting space as she had for years on East Center Street near Wells Fargo Bank.

She wanted to continue building the agency on the solid foundation created by George Azevedo and expanded upon by Frank Machado. She wanted a high exposure location. She wanted to demonstrate her pride in Manteca. She wanted to invest in her future and that of Manteca. And she wanted something that served as an effective “billboard” for her business without being obtrusive.

She managed to accomplish all of her objectives in one fell swoop without breaking the proverbial bank.

Downs said it didn’t cost that much more to dress up the facades and interior, noting that she believes it doesn’t make a good statement when a merchant won’t invest in making the environment they conduct business in as pleasing as possible.

Pricewise, the decision to purchase and remodeling came out to just about the same as other alternatives she was considering that included long-term leases at the Manteca Commerce Park on Moffat Boulevard and Meridian Pasic Business Park at Winters Drive and West Yosemite Avenue.

Downs noted many people didn’t tell her they thought she was crazy but they often gave her “the look” that said as much when she told them what she wanted to do with the two older buildings.

Downs fell in love with old building
She said she fell in love with the open space in the old Bill’s Mower shop where The Framery is now located as she saw the potential. The building next door was more of a challenge as it had been added on to three times and was a hodge-podge of sorts. The finished product makes the two flow together while being distinctive separate buildings.

In the process of planning and building Downs discovered things she knows to be true of insurance shopping to also apply when looking for consumer and remodeling products.

“Like everyone else, I thought the best deals were on the Internet,” Downs said.

For everything she needed to make the buildings look just right, not only did local “brick and mortar” vendors have what she wanted but they were competitive in price as well.

“It is important you can deal face-to-face with people,” Downs said.

It is something that has served State Farm agents like herself well in competing effectively with internet sites that proclaim they are low-cost but often aren’t once you start exploring actual needs.

“Don’t be afraid of your insurance agent” is advice she gives those looking for insurance just as she has found not to be afraid of listening to professionals she hired to help her transform the two buildings.

“I guess I’m just at the point of life where I’m comfortable listening to others and taking their advice,” Downs said.

As far as those who believe there isn’t adequate parking to make a go of it in downtown, she noted the 200 block of North Main Street has a tremendous amount of parking spaces between the public lot at the FESH Hall, Manteca Presbyterian Church parking that they allow the public to use during the day and parking off the alley.

Downs - who was the Manteca Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Award winner for 2009 – is hosting a free mixer for the business organization on Thursday, Aug. 20, from 5 to 7 p.m. to show off the remodeling and her business.

“I hope (by remodeling the buildings) that I have made a difference,” Downs added.