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Food Hub Revitalizes Vacant Lot

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A new international food market near City Heights aims to launch new culinary businesses.

By Tarryn Mento
Logo for K P B S San Diego

A new international food and craft market at El Cajon Boulevard and 44th Street featured games of cornhole and freshly prepared Salvadorean pupusas. For City Heights resident Mireya Galvan, the outdoor eatery is an opportunity.

The new space known as Fair at 44 is also an incubator for San Diegans to pursue their dreams of launching a culinary business. For Galvan, a single mom, that dream is selling Mexican tortas like she used to in Guadalajara. She connected with La Maestra Community Health Centers’ microcredit program and is now working with a group of City Heights nonprofits to start her operation.

“This is a big milestone,” Galvan said in Spanish at the market’s Wednesday kick-off. “Thank you to everyone who has helped me.”

Those who’ve helped her include the City Heights Economic Development Collaborative, which is funded by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and comprised of City Heights Community Development Corp., El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association, the City Heights Business Association, the Karen Organization of San Diego, the International Rescue Committee, Media Arts Center of San Diego and Horn of Africa.

Galvan attended the Fair at 44’s soft opening but still has a few steps to complete before adding her stand at the weekly event.

City Heights CDC’s Maly E’k-Doungpanya is helping Galvan and other aspiring entrepreneurs go through the process.

“We’re starting her from a business license, fictitious name, health permit, insurance, you know liability insurance, the … food handling card, so it’s like from A to Z,” the workforce development program manager said.

Avital Aboody was formerly the economic development manager at City Heights CDC and helped with the initial planning of the event. She said one of the market’s goals is to tailor the incubator to the needs of the community.

“We know in City Heights and a lot of immigrant communities there’s a lot of street vendors, there’s people selling at different events, festivals here and there. But there’s not really a lot of avenues for them to establish their business and help it go to the next level, to help it maybe become a storefront,” said Aboody, who traveled from the Los Angeles area to attend the market’s opening.

The fair also makes use of a once-empty lot that the collaborative and volunteers transformed into a community space.

Galvon expects her stand to open next week.

“To everyone who comes here, come enjoy the tortas at La Portranca Tapatia,” she said.

The name of her stand “La Portranca Tapatia” translates to the filly — as in female horse — from Guadalajara. She chose the name because it symbolizes the strength she had to overcome challenges in her life.

The Fair at 44’s grand opening is Oct. 26.

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