Katie Gong and Brett Walker, owners of Get High on Mountains, are hard at work to establish their own woodworking and photography businesses at 276 Golden Gate Ave., but they've got another project in the works as well: renting out studio space to other local artists inside the Tenderloin space.
Brett and Katie received guidance from Juan Carlos Cancino, project manager of the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development’s Invest in Neighborhoods Central Market program. The program is focused on helping improve the streets in Mid-Market and the Tenderloin while still preserving the area’s uniqueness and existing community.
“Juan Carlos has pushed us harder than we ever knew we could work,” Katie said, “but it has been totally worth it.” Cancino and Iris Lee, who is currently a real estate officer at San Francisco for Small Business - Working Solutions Microloans, helped Katie and Brett negotiate a 10-year lease on the building, so the annual rent increases are already known and agreed upon. This allows the studio spaces to be rented out affordably, and artists can know ahead of time what to expect each year, Katie said. Lee also helped them write up the subtenant leases, she noted.
“It's important to us to provide affordable spaces for artists in San Francisco, because so many of them are having to leave ... we want more cool people to be able to stay,” she said.
In the wake of the Ghost Ship tragedy in Oakland, the question of artists' spaces is top-of-mind for Katie. "Too many artists in the area are having to sacrifice safety to live here, and we want to do our part to help protect our community," she said.
“Get High on Mountains is the group name,” for the studio space, Katie said. It was just a working name initially, but after watching so many people in the neighborhood struggling with drug abuse, it seemed fitting to suggest there are other ways to achieve a high, she said.
The two also received an SF Shine grant that will go towards sprucing up the outside of the building, which includes Morty’s Delicatessen and the Earl Hotel—a bonus which should help brighten up the neighborhood, she added.
Get High on Mountains is offering year-long leases for 11 spaces, four of which have been filled. One studio is rented out to "4 Your Mind, Body and Spirit” soap maker Ted Stanton, who had previously been making soap in his SRO room but grew his business so much that he needs more space. Nettle Studios, a clothing designer, will also be working in the space, as well as a couple of ladies who do leatherworking. And Nosotros Hat Company will be running a custom hat-fitting business from its studio. They are also currently in talks with a floral designer, Katie added.
“We are putting in doors [to studios] as we rent out the spaces,” right now, Katie said. Each tenant is able to make their space their own. Nettle Studios has painted its floor and started building tables in its space, which is close enough to the soap maker to always smell good.
There will also be a store at the front of the building that's designed to look like a cabin, to match the Get High on Mountains brand. The goal is to always have an open door once the store is up and running, Katie said. For now, as long as someone is working in the building, people can stop by.
The store is expected to open by the end of January, and Katie and Brett intend to host an open house on January 26th.
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