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Prescott Farmer's Market sees a business boost from the Oakland Ballers

Ballers build major league community pride in West Oakland
Ballers build major league community pride in West Oakland 03:28

The Ballers are breathing new life into West Oakland where a big crowd is expected once again for a Friday night baseball game.

Just about a block or so away from the Oakland Ballers' Raimondi Park home, local resident Harvinder Singh sets off on his mission to help rebuild the brand of an Oakland neighborhood.

"Two years ago, if you came and looked at this area, it was in bad shape. None of the streets were paved. There were homeless encampments everywhere," said Singh.

Singh is in charge of recruiting and identifying small businesses for West Oakland's Prescott Farmer's Market, night market, and soon-to-open food hall, the Prescott Market Hall.

"West Oakland is open for business," he said. "The more folks that we invite to come play, the better."

On this day, he headed out to a visit with a business owner on Piedmont Avenue.

"We're going to visit Grace at Tea on Piedmont to see if she might be a potential fit for Prescott Market, and also our night market," he said.

Upon arrival, he evaluated some of her products and business to see how it might fit into the bigger picture of the market. But he was also there to sell her on the future of West Oakland.

"This was not imaginable a few years ago," he said. "It's like, you don't even recognize it. It's happened in such a short amount of time."

One of the leaders of the business used to live in West Oakland, back when it was home to the Wood Street homeless encampment. It was dilapidated area with little activity; before the farmer's market, night market, and before the Ballers.

"What do you think now?" Singh asked her.

"It's kind of amazing," she replied.

Singh says the community has really banded together over the last few years to bring color to what was to many, a bleak picture of the neighborhood. The birth of the Ballers, he says, couldn't have come at a better time.

"The Ballers' existence just catapulted us," he said.

Andrea Mallea, manager of Kilovolt Coffee, a West Oakland staple since 2014, says the Ballers' first homestand did actually bring home more business.

"We do get an influx of people from the farmer's market to begin with, but that usually dies out by noon. I'd say last Sunday, we were busy all the way through close. It was nice," she said.

Over the course of the last two years, she says she's seen the demographics of the neighborhood change, and more foot traffic in the neighborhood.

"I mean, it's a great area. It just needs a little bit more development," she said.

Specifically, she'd like to see more infrastructure built up – such as places to park. She also feels the area lacks sufficient public transit that it will need to thrive.

"It's kind of a dead zone as far as busses are concerned," she said. "I'm hoping to see more routes just to make it easier to get back and forth."

When Singh left Tea on Piedmont, he walked out with pep in his step and a growing sense of confidence.

"I think they'd really be a great fit," he said. "Most of where I'm targeting are Oakland-based businesses. A lot of them are newcomers like Grace, which is great. I'm so happy to support newcomers."

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