SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A pilot program in the Sacramento area is offering up free rent for a year to small business owners by one of the nation’s biggest retail operators.

Kimco Realty says it’s seen a lot of mom and pop stores in their shopping centers fail in the weak economy. So, they’re hoping to attract new mom and pop stores by telling them they don’t need to worry about their rent check.

Sarah McGuire, who opened her gym, New Fire Fitness, a year ago, knows just how difficult it is to be a first-time business owner.

“It was stressful at times, and a little bit scary,” said McGuire.

Her landlord didn’t offer a free year, but she did get a three-month break on rent.

“That three months went by really, really fast,” said McGuire. “Without it, I don’t know how we could have gotten started.”

“Tony’s Deli and Catering in downtown Sacramento has managed to keep its doors open for 20 years, but Jacob Silhi, who works at Tony’s, says he’s watched many mom and pop stores quickly fold.

“A lot of places open up, they don’t last a year, and they shut down,” said Silhi.

Kimco Realty saw it too, and that’s when the retail realty company came up with the idea to offer free rent to first-time business owners.

The investment is to attract innovative entrepreneurs who could potentially sign a four-year lease after the free year was up.

“I’ve heard of a couple months of free rent. I’ve never heard of a whole year of free rent,” said Silhi. “I’d take it.”

McGuire says she can attest to the stress of a startup business, and how free rent helped keep her open.

“I don’t think we could’ve really done it without that,” said McGuire.

A spokesperson for Kimco Realty couldn’t tell CBS13 how many vacancies the company has, but he did say it has more than 100 shopping centers in California. They’re looking for aspiring entrepreneurs who have a business plan, the funding, and the experience.

The pilot program is already being launched in the bay area and in Southern California. If it works out, Kimco Realty says it’ll move the program east.


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