By Kate Merrill

NEWTON (CBS) — The pandemic led to vacancy signs in many downtown storefronts around Massachusetts. But a new program is changing that and giving entrepreneurs, many of them women, the chance to bring their businesses to the world of brick and mortar shops.

The collaboration between the city of Newton and “Up Next” founded by Allison Yee is called Project Pop-Up.

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It matches open store space with the right owner.

“It has meant the world to me to bring other female entrepreneurs into these spaces,” Yee said. “To offer them a platform for getting their word out, but to also really collaborate with one another.

On Washington Street in Newtonville, Shabranae Patton has opened up “Anchor’d Inc.” It’s a home décor boutique that specializes in ocean-themed goods. Patton is a survivor of domestic assault and uses some of her proceeds to donate to domestic violence support groups.

She said she was inspired when she stared out on the ocean and spotted a ship bobbing in the waves. “In that moment, I really had a big epiphany. I’m really anchored to this cause.”

Over in Newton Centre, three female entrepreneurs share one retail space.

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Tonya Winston, the owner of B. Royal Boutique, said the shop has been great to form bonds with customers and her fellow business owners.

“We all have the same dream in the end. Different products, different experiences come into it, but at the end of the day, we were all excited to have the opportunity to have our business front and center in a brick and mortar where people can come in and we can interact,” said Winston.

Cristina Garcia owns GarciaCristina and sells jewelry. She was born in Mexico, and though she enjoys living here, she said the shop has made her feel at home.

“It’s made me more of a townie. I’ve met a lot of people from Newton and made good connections and it’s been nice,” Garcia said.

Patton is happy to have the opportunity for success and gives credit to her colleagues and Yee.

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“We weren’t always given these options. Figuring these things out with someone who understands where we’re coming from in terms of building a business as a woman, it’s been amazing to say the least,” she said.

Kate Merrill