Entrepreneur Emerald Austin’s dream is to one day open a brick-and-mortar for Royal Gourmet Cookies, and she’s getting a two-week glimpse of what that would be like as she sets up shop at The Corner Pop-Up.
Austin, 38, who currently runs Royal Gourmet Cookies out of her home kitchen, will be the first business owner in Long Beach to temporarily occupy the corner space on the ground floor of the historic Palace building at 2640 E. Anaheim St., bordering Ohio Avenue.
Through a partnership with the city, Pacific Gateway (a public workforce agency) and LINC Housing, the 1,000-square-foot retail area is being offered to Austin at no cost from Thursday to Sunday for two consecutive weeks, starting in late October. Then, the space will be available for other businesses to use to sell their products, test experimental concepts and market their brands.
“We are constantly looking at ways that we can remove barriers to start up businesses,” Long Beach Economic Development Officer Seyed Jalali said last week at a ribbon cutting for The Corner Pop-Up, where Austin shared cookies and glasses of milk.
“We wanted to create a no-cost space for businesses to showcase their product in the heart of the community and use that as a launching pad for their business,” Jalali said. “We are taking this vacant storefront and allowing these businesses to come showcase their product.”
Erick Serrato, deputy director of Pacific Gateway, shared similar sentiments.
“This is an incredibly special project and an incredibly special place,” he said. “If you’ve got a great idea and drive and at least a few customers who will follow you, we will give you the keys to a beautiful space to realize that dream, to scale up and to hire people. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Chief Operating Officer of LINC Housing Suny Lay Chang, who grew up in the neighborhood around The Corner Pop-Up in Zaferia, said she’s excited to see how small business owners activate the retail space.
LINC Housing developed the former Palace Hotel starting back in 2010, completing the more than $6 million project in 2012. In doing so, LINC transformed what had been a run-down eyesore (that offered rooms to rent by the hour) into a community resource.
The historic two-story building’s upper floor now serves as 14 units of housing for youth aging out of the foster system. And now, the downstairs retail space, too, is being put to good use as it is activated with pop-up shops, Chang said.
Hopefully, someday soon, Chang added, the youth living upstairs will be able to partner with incoming pop-up shopkeepers and gain valuable work experience downstairs.
In the meantime, Austin, a mother of six, said she’s ready for the debut of Royal Gourmet Cookies at a storefront — even if it’s only temporary — in her hometown.
“I’ve been baking all my life. I love it,” Austin said about why she officially started the business back in January out of her home. “Eventually, I want to get my own place and some cookie trucks.”
Entrepreneurs interested in using the space should email Serrato at Erick.Serrato@longbeach.gov.