Pat Barr, Urban Salvage
On downtown: “They thought that no one would come down here, but people are coming now.”
Meet Pat Barr. Pat and Janet Sangster currently own Urban Salvage in the Cultural Arts District in Downtown Fresno. Urban Salvage is a relatively new retail store filled with second-hand treasures, mostly decor.
Pat has lived in Fresno since 1981. Before then she was a teacher in LA and also lived in Pennsylvania, New York and Wisconsin.
THE BEGINNING OF A BUSINESS
Pat comes from a family of artists. When her father retired he became an active art collector. “I had a big background in collecting, but not in business,” Pat explains, “but Jane has the business mind.” And when Pat and Jane found themselves with so many things in their backyard their business was born. “It was either move or see what we could do in regards of restoring what we had.”
Before Pat and Jane opened Urban Salvage in October they faced great difficulty finding a location. They tried to figure out what was going to happen in potential areas in the next few years. Eventually, they chose downtown Fresno. “We asked ourselves, ‘Will people who normally don’t come to downtown come to downtown?.’” Pat predicted this would happen and picked her current location also because she appreciates the young people who live in the Iron Bird Lofts, there are several artists in the area, they like their landlord and they drafted a good lease with the help of the people from Creative Fresno.
Although Urban Salvage has only been opened for eight months, the business has progressed quickly to what Pat Barr thought would take more than two years to accomplish. “Without a big advertising budget, we have grown every single month,” Pat said.
Pat owes her success mostly to word of mouth. Pat is grateful for the young people of Fresno for writing about her business through newspapers and blogs, such as I Heart Fresno. “The young people running these things locally are our greatest customers.”
Pat also believes what has made her business successful is her insight into the community. “They thought that no one would come down here…but, people are coming now.”
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
Pat is already anxious to bring more people to downtown by using the abundance of space she has near her store. For example, she plans on leveling the vacant yard next to her store and hosting an arts and crafts fair for local artists to sell their work. She is also working with the city to block off the street outside her store and have an antique fair in the fall.
Most importantly, Pat is focusing on getting through the next couple of years with the business. “I think Janet and I are better at starting businesses and getting the ball rolling,” Pat says. As a result, she is thinking about possibly selling the business and the inventory to someone younger in the future and starting a new business. “I get slightly bored,” she says. “I need the challenge.”
PROS AND CONS OF OWNING A BUSINESS
The greatest thing about owning a business in Fresno, for Pat, has been meeting new people in Fresno and coming across beautiful finds. Her favorite find, so far, was a set of two saloon doors in excellent shape. She sold it before she had the chance to return home. Other great finds have included diaries from the Great Depression and old photographs.
More difficult, she says, has been keeping track of the inventory.
In general, Pat believes that downtown Fresno offers great incentives for business owners. As part of the Empowerment Zone, businesses receive tax incentives. Also, the strict building codes that kept business owners from downtown before have become less strict.
ADVICE FOR BUSINESS OWNERS
From the beginning Pat has learned several things about owning a business. “Pricing is really important,” she says. “If you always market that you’re having a sale, your items lose value in people’s eyes. It shows that you are really desperate.” For her business, Pat makes sure that her prices are fair to begin with. “We want these things to find a home,” Pat explains. “If you listen to them, which I do a lot, they tell a story.”
Pat also stresses for business owners to plan for the long term. “Write a five year plan,” she says, “and have enough money saved up to last you for the next two or three years.” She believes this is what most new businesses in Fresno ignore.
OPINIONS ABOUT FRESNO
Working in downtown Fresno has made Pat appreciate that Fresno is composed of two different cities: North Fresno and Downtown. “When you get up north, there are several people who have never been to downtown.” Pat thinks this is due to the fact that residents pay too much attention on expanding Fresno. North Fresno wants to have big venues like the Save Mart Center when downtown Fresno has had them all along. “It sucked the air out of Downtown,” Pat says. Instead, she thinks that people should renovate old buildings or build in vacant lots in downtown and focus on the infrastructure.
However, Pat does believe that the local government is very gung-ho about revitalizing downtown. In regards of the Cultural Arts District, she is convinced that it will be completely different in next 18 months due to plans for more lofts, a food court and more retail. “We’re on our way,” Pat says.
Urban Salvage is at 1515 Broadway St., Fresno. Store is open Thursday-Saturday, 11 am-5 pm.
Pat Barr: (559) 905-1836
Janet Sangster: (559) 930-0286
Check out more photos of Urban Salvage
Have a lovely day in Fresno!