Small Business, Big Character


Character. It’s engrained in our history.

Back in 1956, five individual townships came together to form the city of Fremont. Now recognized as districts, Centerville, Niles, Irvington, Warm Springs, and Mission San Jose meld together to represent the different characters of Fremont.

Our neighborhoods keep Fremont weird, cool, inclusive, and economically resilient.

By cherishing the rich cultural value that these districts bring, Fremont’s economic development efforts extend far beyond urban zoning and mixed development. We strive to not only preserve, but to celebrate the ethos of these districts’ unique characters embodied in the food scene, mural arts, local music, and one-of-a-kind stores.

Some call it placemaking, others call it weirdification. Whatever you call it, it’s picking up steam in cities across the nation and Fremont’s on board.

While we aren’t exactly trying to get on the same level as “Portlandia,” Fremont claims its own dose of intrigue.

For the nostalgic type, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum is one of the world’s leading curators and preservers of silent film history, memorabilia, and films. For the window shoppers and sweet tooths, strolling down Niles Boulevard discovering hidden antique gems with a lemongrass ice cream from microcreamery Natures and Souls will hit the spot.

Then there’s the whimsical “Dragonfly Market,” tucked away in the heart of the Irvington District that showcases local artists’ handmade goods.

Known to have the best panoramic view of the San Francisco Bay, Mission Peak draws hikers near and far to the Mission San Jose District. Featured in our City logo, this mountain is one of Fremont’s prized “local gems.”

Hungry after a good hike? Head over to the Centerville District for a bite at a family-owned restaurant like Kyian Kyian or Shinry Lamian. Shortlisted by the San Francisco Eater as a top Burmese restaurant in the Bay Area, Kyian Kyian “feels almost like eating in Myanmar.” And tasting Shinry Lamia’s la mian dish is “…like seeing a photo taken by a good SLR camera after liking a hundred smeary low-res pics on Facebook,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.



With these districts as the backdrop, we’ve been cooking up a weirdification strategy for the past few years to attract the brightest millennials to the city. We have the unique opportunity to mix local businesses and new retail development into our historic districts to create an authentically fresh and storied Fremont. We are also building on our distinguishing history by increasing our capacity for local makers to incubate and scale retail production spaces.

Partnering with Recast City, Fremont has already begun to attract and retain small-scale manufacturers that add strength to our community and vibrance to our neighborhoods. Businesses like these bring Fremont’s deep-rooted character into the limelight.

For example, Zeefoods creates Indian-flavored exotic kulfi desserts and ice cream flavors such as pistachio, mango, malai, saffron, and lychee in our Warm Springs District.

Sandwiched between the Irvington and Warm Springs Districts, Das Brew is a local brewery that channels Oktoberfest all year long through the wholesale production of kegs and growlers.

Let’s not forget Fremont’s thriving art scene. Whether it’s events like the Fremont Underground Social Experience, the Pacific Commons ChalkFestival, or rotating art installations like “Space Glow,” Fremont hopes to bring moments of pause to the otherwise buzzing Silicon Valley atmosphere.

What’s Next?

To further enrich Fremont’s culture and weirdification cause, we’re taking a cue from Burning Man — America’s ultimate celebration of wackiness.

Described as an experiment in community, art, and self-expression, there’s a lot that cities can learn from this iconic annual gathering. It’s not the buildings that are important. Burning Man literally begins with an empty desert. It’s a blank canvas. Whatever exists depends solely on the imaginations of its participants, and how they choose to activate that space.

We’re applying that same logic to our Downtown by putting events and people before buildings. “Phase Zero” seeks to activate existing Downtown public spaces such as streets, sidewalks, and parking lots to create energy we can “build on.”

What exactly do people want to see on these streets? We’re turning to the Fremont community to find out. Ideas range from chalk art contests, pop-up beer gardens, food truck parks, and on-street chess tournaments to dance mobs, block parties, and community movie nights.

We’re prototyping these events and getting real-time feedback on the kinds of activities and places Fremont locals want to experience. Whether it’s a community garden, makerspace, microbrewery, or ice skating rink, all decisions are up to you.

Now marry this game plan with Fremont’s character-packed districts and you’re left with a combination of new and old that’s sure to offer something for everyone.

Festival of the Arts Crowd-wide