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City Heights international market, event space reopens on El Cajon Boulevard

On busy El Cajon Boulevard, a pop of color breaks up the scene of constant cars and small businesses. The vibrant lot is called Fair@44 — a business hub for local entrepreneurs and community events.

It just reopened after being shut down for half a year due to nearby construction.

“Being able to be back in the trailer is a great time. On so many different levels it means so much,” said Tayari Shorter of The Dojo Cafe.

Jacob Aere
A banner for Fair@44 hangs on a trellis in City Heights. April 27, 2022.

Shorter and Keysean Weaver were excited to get things back up and running at their on-site café at Fair@44.

“A lot of the people in the community were kind of sad to see that this place was shut down,” Weaver said. “But now that we're open back up, and we're getting the word out to people that we're back up and running, we're starting to see more foot traffic and more street traffic as well.”

Tootie Thomas is the Executive Director at the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association.

They see the reopening as “Fair@44 3.0.” The original version opened five years ago, but there were two shutdowns over the past couple of years. The first was due to the pandemic and most recently, construction on either side of their lot.

“We have a market on Wednesday with the IRC that is all immigrant- and refugee-owned and run. And a Sunday market which will have more of a mix of made in the Mid-City items,” Thomas said. “We’ll also have entertainment and a barbecue.”

Jacob Aere
Tootie Thomas helps to set up the international market at Fair@44, April 27, 2022.

Another vendor team at Fair@44 is mother and daughter Linda Garcia and Luz Maria Clayton of Arte De Luz.

They were able to open a brick and mortar store in City Heights during the pandemic to sell their art and clothing, which is influenced by their Mexican heritage.

“We’re getting more people coming in,” Maria Clayton said about their storefront. “They'll come to the shop to pick up a little gift. We do hear people saying ‘we really needed some cultura,’ some culture, in this kind of regard in this neighborhood.”

Jacob Aere
Linda Garcia of Arte De Luz admires a hat she made. San Diego, Calif. April 27, 2022.

The twice-weekly marketplace of start-up entrepreneurs prioritizes immigrants and refugees, like Prince Shamamba.

He’s a tailor by trade who’s originally from Congo, but was a refugee in Uganda before coming to San Diego.

Shamamba now runs a company called Huruma Clothing Co. that sells Ugandan textiles, with 100% of proceeds going back to the women who made them.

“These are made by some women back in Uganda,” he said, gesturing to his jackets for sale. “So the way we do it: they make them, we sell them here and the revenue goes back to them.”

Jacob Aere
Prince Shamamba of Huruma Clothing Co. talks about his Ugandan jackets for sale, April 27, 2022.

To buy products from small businesses like The Dojo Cafe, Arte De Luz and Huruma Clothing Co., Thomas said the Fair@44 market is open on Wednesday and Sundays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

They also said the location serves as an event space on Fridays and Saturdays.