Barney Santos – Cultivating the Montebello Community

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Episode 077

Vision in Gentefy-ing the Local Community

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About Barney Santos – Cultivating the Montebello Community

Barney Santos is the entrepreneur and founder of Gentefy Inc, BLVD MRKT, and Alchemy Craft. His mission is to inspire & empower the entrepreneurial spirit; one person, one business, one community at a time. It is his belief that through the platform of business, the use of creativity, and the strength of human empathy it is possible to accelerate innovation in all aspects of life to make a lasting impact in a community.

Barney has spent the past decade building and managing new business ventures in the for-profit, non-profit, academic, and corporate sectors.

He uses his expertise to develop new products and services that address underserved Latino neighborhoods in order to increase entrepreneurial activity and foster local economic empowerment. BLVD MRKT is such a venture, it is an artisan food hall in Downtown Montebello that incubates new restaurant startups, help revitalize the Downtown Corridor all the while igniting local economic development, and foster community engagement.

Barney earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Entrepreneurship from Cal State LA, a Master’s Degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from USC, and a Doctoral Degree from the School of Hard Knocks. As a way to give back to his alma mater, Barney was the Head of the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Cal State LA where he developed the entrepreneurial ecosystem and worked with faculty & staff to create new academic programs that increased entrepreneurial activity among students and faculty.

Instagram: @barneysantos

Socials (IG, Twiiter, SnapChat, TikTok): @blvdmrkt

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“We were really inspired by his model of how to invest in community, and what that does to impact the development of a community.”

“Most entrepreneurial people do; they just say, that sounds like a great opportunity. Let’s learn. Let’s pursue it. They just learn by doing.”

“How do we prime people to build themselves and their family? That is where my heart and DNA is at anyway, so it made sense for me to go in that direction.”

“We deserve nice things for our community. Not to say that legacy businesses aren’t nice; they are amazing. But I also know the needs of millennials aren’t being met currently.”

“Our first year was mostly getting punched in the face daily and trying to get used to it and ultimately creating policies, implementing people like a property manager we trust, getting them fully onboarded. Believe it or not, our biggest hurdle was getting a [consistent] janitor.”

What is Barney’s Connection to the San Gabriel Valley?

Barney has lived in Montebello for the past ten years and owns a business with his wife and their partners there.

One of the first projects that Barney started in SGV was BLVD MRKT (Boulevard Market) which was a food hall right in the heart of downtown Montebello. They also own a beer and wine bar, Alchemy Craft.

It’s a shared kitchen concept.


Where was Barney born?

He was born in Maywood, Los Angeles. He’s spent the majority of his life on the east end of Los Angeles.


How did the concept for Boulevard Market Come About?

The idea was a combination of multiple people. After college, Barney and his wife traveled a lot. They paid attention to how Mexico and Europe model building community.

There was a unique model done in Las Vegas, and the owner, Tony Shay, invited the couple to see how it works.

This helped inspire how they could develop a community.


Where did Barney Go to College?

He went to USC, and he got a Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. This helped teach him the models of impact investing and venture capital.

Between college and Boulevard Market, Barney accepted an offer to run the center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Cal State Los Angeles.

Barney is an educator at heart, and he felt he would be able to do a lot of good by jumping on this opportunity. Unfortunately, not long after this, the Dean didn’t see eye to eye with the school, and the program was shut down.


How difficult was it to get the community to invest?

In Barney’s opinion, the community was always responsive. Before BLVD MRKT opened, they spent about a year or so talking to the community about the problems and city-wide issues.

They talked to multiple community members, organizations, and city leaders, and they discovered there was a massive disconnect.

There were legacy spots that were extremely important but had difficulty evolving and staying relevant for younger crowds.

This leads to community members and younger folks leaving the community because the businesses are not meeting their needs or preferences, which leads to a massive gap. So, the solution was to create places in the community where they feel represented and want to actually hang out.


How Does Barney Go About this?

For the Latino community, Barney strives to create a Latino experience and environment without going over the top. It was authentic and elegant without hamming it on their heads that it was intentionally designed for the Latino community.

The music and playlists are intentionally curated to provide the experience, such as R&B and hip hop. Neighborhood orchestras and DJs are selectively chosen. It is intentionally designed without being blatantly thrown in their face.

Barney considers murals, food, music, designs, and more when cultivating his environments for the Latino community.

How many restaurants are in BLVD MRKT?

There are six food concepts in BLVD MRKT, some coffee, and the bar Alchemy Craft.

alchemy craft in Montebello, CA

What has the first year been like with BLVD MRKT?

There was a lot of building and growing, which Barney loved. But, also a lot of operating strategies which were completely new and different.

At the same time, he was building Boulevard Market, which also encapsulates Alchemy Craft and Gentefy Inc.

Honestly, for Barney, it felt like getting punched in the face daily, trying to get used to it, and trying to implement processes. One of the biggest hurdles was getting a consistent janitor, believe it or not.

All of the unemployment benefits made it hard to find consistent workers. So, it was all about stabilizing.

They opened in August, so it was still summer, and everyone came out, and it was great. However, it was all outside still, and as soon as winter hit, it hurt traffic.

They were constantly tinkering and updating, and fixing methods and policies.


What is the demographic of BLVD MRKT now?

The target demographic was initially expected to be a college-educated 30 to 35-year-old Latina. All of the designs and aesthetics were with “her” in mind.

The idea is that if they design it for “her,” she will bring her friends, she will bring her family, and the guys will naturally follow.

However, now they see a lot of families, kids, and older folks too. It’s turned into a family environment.


The SGV 3

1 Tokyo Fried Chicken

2 Cook’s Tortas

3 The Hat in Monterey Park