LOMITA, Calif. – In a time where online sales are thriving, one South Bay city is helping small businesses open its doors.
Nestled between the City of Torrance and Harbor City is a mostly residential two-square-mile city called Lomita. In the heart of the city’s downtown, visitors can find the iconic Lomita Feed Store, Bonello’s Pizza, and much more.
Lately the city has been opening its doors for new small businesses to get their start and revitalize its downtown, honing in on the city’s small-town charm.
Brent Reger is one of Lomita’s newest small business owners.
He owns Project Barley Brewery and Taphouse, one of the two new breweries in town. It has only been about one month since the brewery opened, but Reger quickly realized it is going to take more than just brewing craft beer.
“I went from being a brewery owner and builder to within a few minutes a bartender. Funny note, I had never bartended before, I had never poured from a tap, I had never ran a POS system,” Reger said.
People seem to like the craft beer, but it took Reger a while to find the right place to open his business.
“I had looked around at several different places and it just seemed impossible — the city doesn’t want to work with you and it was a refreshing change when I talked to the City of Lomita and they were all, all for it,” Reger said.
Zoning classifications in the downtown area have changed. The city used to operate by classifying certain zones as specific business types, now, local leaders have broadened zoning into categories, like retail and food and beverage. These are categories that the city is hoping to see more of and so far, they have.
Reger is one of about a dozen small businesses that have opened or will soon be opening their doors in Lomita. The new surge of businesses prompted another business owner to create the city’s newest chamber of commerce to help support and inspire more growth.
“It’s risky to start a business and people are taking a big chance to be successful so if they see other people doing it and they connect with those business owners and they say 'how did you do it?' You know, 'what were the lessons learned?' I think it encourages more people to go for it themselves,” said Heidi Butzine, CEO/President of Lomita Chamber of Commerce.
After four months, Butzine and her partner grew the network to 45 members from the city’s small business community. A quick climb for the two-square-mile city.
“It shows that it’s time and you know and being, being someone, you know who grew up here in Lomita, it’s just nice to see this new energy. And it’s nice to be here to help. That’s our mission to help our businesses,” Butzine said.
Reger said he didn’t know what to expect when he joined the Lomita Chamber of Commerce, but quickly saw the importance of having a place to connect with other small business owners like himself.
“I had some deliveries coming in and it was a very stressful day the first networking event they invited me too and as soon as I got there someone jumped up and gave me a big hug and said ‘Oh my God! I’m so excited that you are here.’ And it was that kind of welcome that made me go, ‘Oh my gosh. This is the right spot. This is where I need to be,’” Reger said.
Through the organization, Reger is partnering with local restaurants to bring food to his customers while they enjoy his latest batch of craft beer. A partnership he hopes to continue brewing for the many years to come in this city.
The next Lomita Chamber of Commerce meeting will take place on September 25 at Project Barley Brewery and Taphouse.