A new Subway sandwich shop in west Fresno was celebrated Tuesday for more than its sandwiches, or the usual economic boost a new business can bring.
For many at its grand opening, it stood for something bigger: Hope for a brighter future in one of Fresno's poorest neighborhoods.
The Subway on Fresno Street, just west of Highway 99 next to the Arco gas station, is a beacon for how community revitalization is supposed to work, said Fresno City Council Member Oliver Baines, who attended the grand opening.
"Some are looking for some major projects to fall out of the sky, but really revitalization takes place exactly like this," Baines said. "You get local business owners, local investors, small business owners taking corners and pockets of our community and investing in them, almost one corner at a time ... It happens in stages, just like this."
The Subway owner is another reason for celebration, speakers said. George Marcus has lived in west Fresno with his family for about 50 years and owns another Subway near Edison High School which has served the community for 11 years in the Marcus shopping center, also owned by his family.
His family previously owned a number of other businesses in the neighborhood. Marcus said they lasted through the "hard part" for west Fresno, and over the past five years the area has been bouncing back with more people and businesses moving in.
It would have likely been easier to leave the neighborhood and do business elsewhere, Marcus said, but he was determined to stay -- encouraged by his father, who is no longer alive.
Marcus' new Subway, which opened last month, employs eight people, with another four planned.
More than 41% of west Fresno residents are considered to be living in poverty, and a third receive low-income food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission.
Marcus received a business loan of about $200,000 from a subset of the Fresno commission -- the Fresno Community Development Financial Institution.
"We want to develop these underserved communities," said Aaron Hill, business development officer for Fresno CDFI.
The institution awarded more than 50 business loans in underserved communities last year, Hill said, with an average of about $45,000 and up to $250,000. Entrepreneur Marcus was a "perfect match" because of his business experience and investment in west Fresno.
"It's a good deal," Hill said. "We are very proud of that one."
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