Category: Logistics

MAGIC TOUCH: $3M ONLINE FRESNO BUSINESS BRINGS ILLUSION TO THE WORLD

Written By David Castellon

Paul Gross is vehement in stating his opinion on magic.

“There is no such thing as real magic. I can’t make you disappear for real,” the 63-year-old said.

That may seem an odd stance, considering the Fresno resident founded and owns Hocus Pocus, among the most prolific online vendors of magic tricks, props and paraphernalia in the country, selling everything from trick playing cards and how-to books to the various swords, escape boxes, restraints and other items used by amateurs to professional magicians.

What Gross doesn’t believe in is actual magic — love potions, spells, totems, the occult, etc. — that some people mistakenly believe his business can supply.

Gross’ stock in trade is illusion, in which the seemingly impossible is done through sleight of hand, mirrors, diversions and hidden compartments that all are explainable, if you know how the tricks work.

Gross believes in that sort of magic strongly, so much so that he has dedicated most of his life to it, first as an amateur turned professional illusionist by his teen years, then going into in the retail side of magic, initially opening a magic shop in Fresno in his late teens and a couple of decades later converting to a mail-order business and then to an online vendor of supplies, props and memorabilia with sales last year totaling about $3 million.

“If it wasn’t for the Internet, this business wouldn’t be where it is,” Gross said, noting that the vast number of YouTube postings and other online sources teaching people how to perform illusions has magnified the public’s interest in buying magic supplies and to see magicians perform, both of which benefit Hocus Pocus.

“We’re in a 30,000-square-foot building whereas we used to be in 500 square feet.”

Even the larger space in a nondescript Fresno industrial building barely has room to contain all of the items for sale.

The back portion of the building is a veritable museum to illusions, because besides selling new supplies and books, magicians, their families and their heirs often sell their old props and supplies to Hocus Pocus or consign the business to sell the items for them.

Need a guillotine or a basket to impale with swords after an assistant shimmies inside of a mock mummy’s tomb or a strait jacket or a big wooden box and saw for sawing a lady in half? Hocus Pocus might have one or more any given week and be able to pack and ship it to you.

Hollywood is a frequent customer, with studios often buying thousands of dollars worth of props and other magic-related goods to use in movies and television shows.

Gross’ magician clientele has included Mark Wilson — a staple of 1960s and 1970s television — Criss Angel and Shin Lim, last year’s America’s Got Talent television show winner. Hocus Pocus also sells the magic supplies Lim endorses.

“We’re open every day of the year, 24 hours a day, and we never close, and we have such a wide base. Thirty five, almost 40 percent of our [orders] go overseas,” Gross said. “We probably have an active member base of maybe 60,000 online members.”

A Fresno native, Gross began his love of magic at the age of 8, when his grandparents took him to a movie theater — back when they put on vaudeville-style acts before matinees — and he saw his first magician.

“He did three tricks, which I still remember to this day — got my grandfather up to help him [with one], and that was it. I got bit,” Gross recalled.

Back then, there were no magic shops in Fresno, so Gross ordered tricks and instructions on performing illusions via mail-order catalogues and later via trips with his parents to a San Francesco magic shop.

“I bought every single trick until I opened my own business,” said Gross, who got skilled enough that between the ages of 12 and 18 he worked paid gigs as a magician between school and working at the furniture store his father ran.

After high school, his father co-signed a $2,500 loan for him to open a magic, gag and novelty shop in 1973 in southeast Fresno, and while it did well, Gross closed it 15 years later because he had to take over running the furniture store his father had opened after he fell ill to cancer.

Nine months later, Gross said, he reopened the magic shop in Clovis, “and we ended up getting out of the furniture business, because it wasn’t my cup of tea,” after four years of running it.

In the years that followed, Gross changed locations and his business model, converting from a walk-in magic and novelty store to adding a side venture as a mail-order magic supplier in the late 1990s.

But that wasn’t a particularly fruitful change, as business by mail order went so badly that “we might have gone out of business after that first year.”

But that changed in 1999 after a friend introduced Gross to his first home computer, and he decided that online ordering and offering an online catalog bigger than what any other magic and novelty suppliers were offering on the Web was the way to go.

Business since then has been good, so much so that Gross stopped operating a walk-in store to sell just online.

“We probably have a thousand people a day visit our site. When we had a retail store, we probably didn’t have that many people visit us in a year.”

But Gross never forgot his brick-and-mortar roots. With no other magic shops in the Fresno area, people often walk into Hocus Pocus looking for tricks or advice from Gross or his son and partner, Max Gross, 26, who has never performed magic professionally but is skilled in many of the tricks the family business sells.

The two also spend a lot of time speaking with customers calling in for advice, “But they don’t always listen to me,” the senior Gross noted.

“It could be a thousand-dollar item, but what good is it going to do me to sell that to you if you’re going to get it and you’re not going to use it?”

https://thebusinessjournal.com/magic-touch-3m-online-fresno-business-brings-illusion-to-the-world/?utm_source=Daily+Update&utm_campaign=a5cecd36c1-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_01_30_09_09&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fb834d017b-a5cecd36c1-78934409&mc_cid=a5cecd36c1&mc_eid=a126ded657

 

New distribution center coming to Visalia’s industrial park

Visalia’s industrial park continues to grow.

MilliporeSigma, a Massachusetts-based life science company, provides research, process, and applied solutions to scientists and engineers.

A spokesperson confirmed the company plans to lease a soon-to-be built facility along Riggin Avenue, near Plaza Drive.

“This site was chosen due to its central location and easy access to transportation routes,” said MilliporeSigma Spokesperson Karen Tiano.

It will serve as a west coast distribution center for Millipore Sigma’s life science products.

Tiano said the center will create around 30 new jobs.

It’s expected to be open later this year.

UPS TO PULL TRIGGER ON NEW VISALIA HUB, 600 JOBS


Image via flickr.comPublished On December 5, 2018 – 1:11 PM
Written By John Lindt

United Parcel Service (UPS) is moving forward on plans for its new Visalia distribution hub this month.

Blueprints call for a 425,000 square foot facility expected to employ 600 people.

Mayor Warren Gubler said he and City Manger Randy Groom met with UPS representatives about a month ago. ”They told us they want to build their plant next year and it will bring 300 more jobs to Visalia,” Gubler said.

UPS bought 58 acres last year at the northeast corner of Plaza and Riggin avenues, the first development that would be north of Riggin in the industrial park.

Asked about the plan, a UPS spokesman said they had no comment.

But local Teamsters, who have a contract with UPS, say they have been advised of the plan.” UPS Visalia has about 274 employees now and they have told us they want to add 300 to 400 more,” says Teamsters Local 948 Secretary Adam Ochoa.

”They want to start construction right away” adding that UPS wants to be operating in time for next year’s busy holiday season.

The UPS Visalia facility is expected to be the new Central Valley regional hub for ground shipments with room to expand if necessary. UPS is expanding its logistics hubs all around the country as they struggle to handle the ever-increasing demand from online shopping.

Community Development Director Nick Mascia says the city is working directly with UPS and their contractor on a plan that would place the new distribution facility on the north end of the property with vehicular access from both Riggin Avenue and Plaza Drive.

UPS has a smaller 40,000 square foot distribution center on Goshen Avenue they will no longer need once the large new highly automated facility opens. Mascia says in their building design process they are working first on a design for the conveyor systems to handle packages at the new Visalia plant.

And business is brisk. Nationally UPS package volume has increased 4.9 percent in the second quarter of this year even as their domestic revenue was up 8.1 percent.

UPS investment in new facilities and technology appears to be paying off as they compete to deliver on time.

UPS delivered 98.3 percent of packages shipped during Thanksgiving week on time, according to ShipMatrix Inc. Last year during the same week, 89.2 percent of parcels shipped through UPS Express were delivered on the day they were promised, meaning about 3.3 million packages a day arrived late.

The Wall Street Journal say UPS has added 22 new or retrofitted automated facilities in the U.S to handle the crushing volume of packages arriving at our front doors.

In August 2017, UPS purchased the 58 acres in Visalia’s industrial park. The big block of land was bought from developer Central California Logistics Center who had available some 480 acres of land north of Riggin Avenue on both sides of Plaza Drive. With UPS in place, demand for the remaining 400-plus acres should pick up.

Because of UPS’ plans, there will likely be more of these hubs sprouting along what has been open-range land on the sparsely populated northwestern edge of Visalia.

With little congestion and plenty of land available, UPS made a decision to invest in this property with their distribution hubs in Fresno and Visalia. Those hubs have been very busy and highly impacted by nearby development that has boxed them in — thwarting any kind of future major expansion.

For years, Visalia has promoted its center-state location and the presence of a major UPS transportation hub with access to 98 percent of California’s population via overnight delivery — 95 million consumers.

This presence is also credited with attracting scores of other distribution centers that use UPS for overnight shipping, claims about which both Visalia and Fresno boast.

One company, Diversified Development Group of Fresno, has invested heavily in buying land and developing “spec,” — or speculation — buildings before firm commitments. DDG has three developments within a block of the new Visalia UPS complex and expects more deals as large as 1 million square feet.

Recently, power toolmaker Hilti Inc. leased a new 166,000 square foot warehouse just built by DDG next to VF Corp. on American Avenue at Riggin Avenue. DDG also has plans for a new 700,000 square foot set of four “spec” buildings expected to break ground in 2019 at the southeast corner of Plaza and Riggin avenues.

Helping to highlight the location of these properties is the completion of the new $36 million Betty Drive interchange, less than two miles away at Highway 99. This will speed truck traffic in and out of the Visalia Industrial Park.

HERE ARE THE VALLEY’S FASTEST GROWING COMPANIES

Published On November 9, 2018 – 7:00 AM
Written By Donald A. Promnitz
The past three years have been good to the staff at Lee’s Heating & Air in Fresno. In fact, at a 128 percent rate of growth between 2015 and 2017, the firm has become one of the fastest growing companies in the Central Valley.

For more information on the fastest growing companies in the San Joaquin Valley, please see The Business Journal’s annual list on page 10.

According to Tom Howard, the owner of Lee’s, this uptick in business can be largely attributed to customer service and reputation, along with upgraded software to connect with customers. Another big factor, however, has been the improvement of the economy, both nationally and locally.

“It allows homeowners to make upgrades that they haven’t been able to make before,” Howard said. “I think that the economy is doing a lot better in the Central Valley than it was in 2009 and 2010 — that definitely helped fuel the growth.”

Howard isn’t alone in his observation. According to Fresno State economist Ernie Goss, the Central Valley — which has previously lagged behind the rest of the state — has been making rapid progress in recent years.

“Now the catch up is really [sped] up, meaning the rate of growth has been positive for quite some time,” Goss said. “But the rate has definitely increased and relative to the U.S., it’s certainly stronger.”

In Goss’s research, he found that overall job growth in the Central Valley over the past 12 months has been 2.6 percent compared to the national average of 1.7 percent. Howard said that his own company has expanded its employment roster from approximately 26 in 2015 to about 50. Meanwhile, expanded business has given Lee’s the ability to pay tuition for his employees who are in college, along with their books.

Goss added that construction and manufacturing are two other sectors to watch. Construction is surpassing the national average with 8.3 percent job growth in the region, while in manufacturing, its 5.1 percent. Delano Construction, LLC of Fresno, which currently has a roster of 26 employees, saw a revenue growth of 208 percent.

The last three years have also proven successful for the solar companies in the region. Topping this industry has been Energy Concepts Enterprises, Inc., which went from revenues of $4.2 million in 2015 to $9.8 million in 2017, a rate of 132 percent. SunPower by Quality Home Services also saw growth of 90 percent in the same time frame, while in Visalia, CalCom Energy was up by 47.46 percent. According to Ryan Gutierrez of Energy Concepts, this has largely been the result of higher utility bills.

“Rates are continually going up,” Gutierrez said. “Solar offers a way for a customer to avoid rate increases by covering their own quest for energy.”

Goss said that tariffs on imported solar panels would further help domestic manufacturers.

Meanwhile, a law passed earlier this year mandating solar panels on new homes could also be good business when it goes into effect in 2020.

For some companies, however, growth isn’t necessarily facilitated by a growing economy. For example, BCT Consulting, Inc. of Fresno, provider of technology solutions, tends to be busier when there’s a dip in the market. This is because their company deals in the outsourcing of technology and helping clients find solutions that are more cost effective.

Nonetheless, BCT has grown by 27 percent. Eric Rawn, president and founder, credited this to acquisitions and mergers, along with community outreach and customer service.

“We don’t want to grow just to grow,” Rawn said. “We want to grow because it makes sense for everyone involved.”

In the months and years to come, Goss added that he has optimism for the future of the San Joaquin Valley. Though he stated concerns about immigration and the agricultural exports being impacted by the current trade war with China, he said the region has become increasingly appealing to the rest of the state.

“So there is the ability of some of those companies coming to Fresno and enjoying many of the benefits of California, but not many of the costs that we’re seeing in San Francisco, for example,” Goss said.

https://thebusinessjournal.com/here-are-the-valleys-fastest-growing-companies/?utm_source=Daily+Update&utm_campaign=612a341302-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_11_20_09_19&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fb834d017b-612a341302-78934409&mc_cid=612a341302&mc_eid=a126ded657

New Industrial Building to Be Built at the Tejon Ranch Commerce Center

Tejon Ranch Co. and Majestic Realty Co. form a new joint venture to construct a 580,000-square-foot Class-A industrial facility

TEJON RANCH, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Nov. 2, 2018– Tejon Ranch Co. (NYSE: TRC) announced today a third joint venture agreement with Majestic Realty Co., the nation’s largest privately-held industrial developer, this one to build an approximate 580,000-square-foot speculative industrial building at the Tejon Ranch Commerce Center (TRCC).

The new building will be located next to a 480,480-square-foot building Tejon and Majestic built in 2017 and subsequently leased to Dollar General and L’Oréal USA in 2018. Dollar General’s lease effectively increased its footprint at TRCC by 40-percent, as it currently leases more than 600,000-square feet in a separate building located on the west side of Interstate 5. L’Oréal USA is moving its SalonCentric operation from a facility in Valencia, about 40 minutes south of TRCC.

“Given the success with our most recent building, and with the demand we’re seeing out of Southern Californiaand elsewhere, we wanted to move as quickly as possible to bring another new building online,” said Joseph N. Rentfro, Tejon Ranch Co.’s Executive Vice President of Real Estate. “Whoever occupies the space will find an abundant and high-quality labor pool to draw from and the opportunity to apply for tax incentives through the County of Kern’s AdvanceKern initiative, as did L’Oréal USA, which was approved for $2.3 million in tax rebates.”

“There continues to be a very tight market in terms of both available product and land available for the development of large scale distribution centers in Southern California,” said Majestic Realty Co. Senior Vice President, Brett Tremaine. “The Tejon Ranch Commerce Center features turn-key sites for distribution, manufacturing and e-commerce operations that allow users to serve southern and northern California, as well as all 11 western states, from one location, and as we believe many more companies currently located in the Los Angeles basin, like SalonCentric, will want to avail themselves of the Tejon Ranch Commerce Center’s strategic location and outstanding labor pool, it’s important to have a building ready for them.”

The building’s 34-acre site has more than 2,000 feet of frontage along the east side of I-5, just a half-mile north of the I-5/Laval Road interchange, providing almost immediate access to California’s principal north/south highway, with the ability to serve nearly 90% of California consumers within a single day truck turn. The Class-A cross-dock distribution facility will feature a 36-foot clear height, ESFR sprinkler system, 62 dock high doors, 177 trailer parking stalls and 327 vehicle parking stalls. A 180-foot wide truck court will allow for maximum efficiency and maneuverability.

Construction is expected to begin later this year or early 2019, with completion anticipated in the third quarter of 2019.

Tejon Ranch and Majestic also jointly own a fully-leased 651,909-square-foot industrial building within the Tejon Ranch Commerce Center on the west side of I-5, adjacent to IKEA’s 1.8 million square foot distribution center.

John DeGrinis, SIOR, senior executive vice president of Colliers International will serve as the listing broker for the new development.

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20181102005085/en/

Kern proposes $3 million hiring incentive for Amazon

Amazon would receive $3 million in local tax rebates in exchange for employing 1,000 Kern County residents at the 2.6 million-square-foot distribution center the retail giant is building next to Meadows Field Airport, according to a proposal released Thursday.

The incentives package, scheduled for a vote Tuesday by the county Board of Supervisors, would give annual refunds to one of the world’s most valuable companies in an amount equal to half its combined property, sales and use tax bills — an estimated $575,000 per year before the rebate — for an estimated 11 years.

In exchange, Amazon would be required to create 1,000 new jobs for Kern County residents with an average annual wage of $31,000 per job. At least 900 of those positions would have to be filled by October 2021.

The offer would expire in 30 years if the rebates have not been used by that time. The county could rescind the package at any time if Amazon does not meet and keep up its job-creation obligations under the agreement.

“The strength in the incentive being proposed is the time-bound nature of the job creation, coupled with the requirement that these are NEW jobs for Kern County residents,” county spokeswoman Megan Person said by email. “We have the ability to ensure our residents get these jobs, get paid a sustainable wage and they do it by a specific date.”

The incentive, if approved, would be the second time the county has used the Advance Kern Incentive Program the board created in 2017. The first, approved by the board in August, offered L’Oreal USA $2.3 million in tax rebates in exchange for the company’s pledge to create 155 new jobs at the distribution center it plans to open at the Tejon Ranch Commerce Center south of Bakersfield. No other Advance Kern incentives are currently under negotiation, Person wrote.

County officials confirmed in September Amazon’s plan to open a “fulfillment” center just north of Bakersfield at the 138-acre Landings Logistics Center LLC just north of Merle Haggard Drive. Industry observers have said the center might ultimately employ up to 2,000 people.

Amazon has not publicly confirmed its plan to open a distribution center in Kern. A company representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the incentives package.

John Cox can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf.

South Valley Industrial Summit

Join us Wednesday, November 14th for the
optional pre-summit workshops offered free of
charge to industry partners. Come and learn about
new technologies and processes.
Thursday, November 15th is designed to be a
full-day event that will feature vendor booths,
keynote speakers, and various breakout sessions
offered by industry experts and practitioners.
Keynote Speakers
 President & CEO, California Dairies
 Faraday Future
 Surf Ranch, Kelly Slater Wave Company
NEW! Optional Pre-Summit Workshops
Nov. 14
 Lean Principles
 ABB Inc in Robotics
 Variable Frequency Drive Basics & Control Methods
 Intro to Machine Vision
 Safety Solutions: Introduction to Automation Safety

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Amazon will build second fulfillment center in Stockton, with 1,000-plus jobs

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