STOCKTON (CBS13) – An unusual business is investing in Stockton’s downtown, breathing new life into the once-struggling city center. And now, other business are following in their footsteps.

It may have boarded up windows and empty storefronts on the outside, but inside the historic Trethway and Mansion House buildings on Weber Avenue, a major renovation project is underway to convert the old structures built in 1873 into new live-work spaces in Stockton’s struggling downtown.

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“You can see all brand new cabinets,” said John Richey, Bearpaw general counsel. “I would say there’s probably about half of the units that are fully remodeled now

The business behind the buildings’ Facelift?

“We have what we call Bearpaw equities,” said Richey.

It’s a boot company based in Citrus Heights that in recent years expanded into real estate and other ventures.

“The owner of the companies, Tom Romeo, has several apartment complexes he’s been running for several years,” said Richey. “This is just our first foray down into Stockton, so it’s very exciting.”

Like Bearpaw, first tenant Marie Pease, who opened the Freckled Moon about a month ago, sells jewelry, artwork, and just about everything you can think of.

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Pease is hoping to drive more foot traffic to the area.

“Get downtown hopping again because on the weekends it gets dreary down here. I feel like people don’t come down here because they don’t think there’s a lot down here, but we’re starting to bring that back,” she said.

She says she was drawn to Downtown Stockton because of its old architecture.

“Downtown Stockton has beautiful buildings. Some of them…are falling apart a little bit, and for people to come in and see the potential and make it look beautiful again is just awesome,” she said.

A nearly $5 million upgrade from a shoe company is kicking the concept of a dead downtown to the curb.

“Tom’s family has ties to Stockton. His brother went to UOP and played football. There’s a lot of opportunity for development and growth here so we thought let’s take a chance on one of these projects and see where it goes,” said Richey.

The architecture of the Trethway Building earned it a spot on the national register of historic places. Just a few blocks away on California and main, Bearpaw bought another building. It will be converted into lofts under the name CalMain.