Category: Tourism

‘Upscale’ hotel and conference center could be coming to Oakhurst

The Madera County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote next month on a $20 million project that would bring an upscale hotel and conference center to Oakhurst.

Component Coffee Lab brings big city flair, community values to Downtown Visalia

University researchers say coffee can help people achieve better scores on math tests, if they do this with it. Buzz60

Jonathon Anderson and Greg Amend had one mission opening Component Coffee Lab in Downtown Visalia: “To pour the best cup of coffee in town.”

The jury is still out on whether the business partners have succeeded, but if their consistently full parking lot and seating area — a behemoth 1,500 square foot industrial space on 513 E. Center St. (just off of Santa Fe Street) — is any indication, the Visalia natives are doing something right. (Component also has an entrance from Main Street through its patio.)

Amend and Anderson bring over a decade of combined coffee experience to Visalia. Anderson spent years as a Starbucks barista, while Amend won accolades as one of Fresno’s leading coffee luminaries with his Slow Train roasting operation.

They’re joined by fellow co-owners Miguel and Mikayla Reyes, who started Quesadilla Gorilla, another fixture of downtown dining.

Together, the four are serving specialty coffee and eats the likes of which Visalia has not yet seen, with an inviting atmosphere to match.

The shop’s signature drink, for instance, is an espresso tonic: Topo Chico topped with a lightly roasted Peruvian espresso shot. It’s a bold but simple concoction that’s particularly refreshing on a sweltering summer day.

Component have all the traditional bases covered, too, with Americanos, sweet lattes, fresh drip coffee, and an assortment of teas.

“We source high quality beans from sustainably operated farms, who are paying their workers above-average wages, throughout Central and South America,” Amend said.

This concept applies to all of Component’s ingredients. Their eggs and fruit come from the farmers market, for example, and their milk is delivered fresh from Tulare’s Top O’ The Morn Farms.

Amend’s roasting expertise is matched by the establishment’s cutting edge espresso machine, the Slayer 17. This Seattle-built beauty allows Component baristas unprecedented control over critical brewing variables such as extraction, pressure, time, and weight.

Geekery aside, the result is a smooth cup of joe that even those who don’t identify as coffee snobs will appreciate, for prices comparable to big chains like Starbucks.

Prior to Component’s late-June grand opening at the Center Street location, Anderson and Amend could be seen carting their fancy Slayer 17 espresso machine around the Downtown Visalia Farmers Market, serving drinks to curious shoppers.

“We wanted to build hype and give people in the community a chance to see what we were all about,” Anderson said .

The gambit paid off.

Amend and Anderson were unprepared for the success Component’s physical location saw right out of the gate. They attribute their success to their “focus on executing one idea very well.”

This single-minded devotion applies to the kitchen, as well. Miguel and Mikayla translate their monomania from quesadillas to donuts with predictably delicious results.

“We had a layover in Portland last year, so we chanced a visit to Voodoo Donuts, and they were amazing,” Miguel said. “We realized Visalia had no place like it.”

In February, the couple returned to Portland for what sounds like a dream vacation: A donut tour of the city. Upon returning, however, they went to work in the kitchen to perfect a variety of eclectic and classic flavors.

Miguel can arrive as early as 4 a.m. on busier days to prepare an assortment of donuts, including current favorites strawberry and raspberry mint.

Beginning in September, Component will offer a seasonal donut menu that changes with each month. Patrons can look forward to a PB&J donut with house-made plum jam — just in time for the back-to-school crowd.

Component also offers a weekend brunch menu from 8 a.m.to 11 a.m. featuring staples  with a unique twist.

The Reyes’ take on a breakfast burrito, for example, features sunny-side up eggs instead of scrambled and a chipotle sour cream. Their Nashville-inflected fried chicken and waffles, meanwhile, comes served in a waffle cone with maple whiskey syrup drizzled on top.

The four co-owners met through attending Radiant Church just next door to Component. Though they barely knew each other at the time, Anderson had attended the Reyes’ wedding five years ago. The party favors? Amend’s coffee beans.

This week, the Reyeses celebrate both the birth of a new child and a successful second Downtown Visalia venture.

“It’s all come full circle,” Miguel said. “We couldn’t be happier.”

Anderson hopes Component can be a hub for the community, similar to the role the church has played in his own life. He envisions people of all faiths — or none — united around a great cup of coffee.

It’s a vision that seems fully realized only two months out from Component’s launch: snuggling couples and frazzled students share tables with Kaweah Hospital employees and retired schoolteachers; oil paintings from staff and community members line the interior walls; music from a personal record collection fills the room.

“I don’t just come for the coffee,” said Danny Sciacqua, a recently retired Porterville College professor and Component regular.”I’m here for the atmosphere, the ambiance and the staff, who are all polite and fun to talk with”

“But the delicious donut holes and pour over don’t hurt, either.”

https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/life/food/2018/08/29/component-coffee-lab-brings-big-city-flare-downtown-visalia/1114176002/

Burger boom hits Visalia, Tulare

In America, the hamburger is king.

In Tulare County, that has never been more true.

New burger joints have been popping up across Visalia and Tulare — and these aren’t just your run-of-the-mill burgers either.

Restaurants have been turning the burger on its side and residents are up for the change.

Here are some new places to grab a quick burger around town.

Burgerim

New spot Burgerim, located in the Kohl’s shopping center, has 11 different patty options and dozens of ways to customize your burger.

The menu includes several types of beef, turkey, salmon, chicken and lamb patties. For those who don’t eat meat, the restaurant also offers veggie and falafel burgers.

Rose Oganesyan, who owns the Visalia location, said she fell in love with the restaurant when she first tried it in Los Angeles.

Her favorite? The garlic aioli fries.

The made-to-order, 3-ounce burgers are bigger than a slider but smaller than what American tastebuds are used to.

Perfect for those concerned with portion control, Oganesyan said.

The store also offers family and party boxes for larger families or events and beer and wine.

Don’t want to wait in line? Soon, the Visalia restaurant will also offer Uber Eats delivery services.

Other than burgers, customer favorites include the milkshakes and chicken wings, Oganesyan said.

“Customers say they like the atmosphere,” she said. “Everyone says they like it because it’s something different in Visalia.”

The store is one of only 40 open in the United States. The chain restaurant was started in Israel about seven years ago and made its way to America in 2015, Oganesyan said.

More than 270 locations are in the works across the country, including just a few miles down the road in Tulare.

Oganesyan is currently working to open a Burgerim next to Bravo Farms at the Tulare Outlets.

For those who are overwhelmed with the menu, Oganesyan said to just ask for help.

“The first time may be a challenge, but we will try to help you and offer suggestions,” she added. “We’re new to town, just give us a chance.”

Wimpy’s to land in Visalia

Wimpy’s Hamburger, one of Tulare’s most beloved eateries, has set its eyes on downtown Visalia.

The burger joint will take over the former Gumbo Express on Court Street.

The restaurant’s owners plan to refurbish the location and expect to serve Visalians their tasty fries and burgers by next year, co-owner Willy Espinoza said.

Opening the location in Visalia will bring an additional choice for those who frequent the vibrant downtown scene and will fill the void Checkers left when it closed, Espinoza said.

“We have always liked downtown Visalia,” he said. “It’s a place where there are a lot of people walking around. There’s nothing like this in the area.”

With the downtown Visalia location, Wimpy’s Hamburger will have three locations. A location in Dinuba opened in December.

More meat in downtown

Well-known developer JR Shannon is leasing a former antique store at 531 E. Main to a local burger maker. Kingsburg’s Stacked Bar and Grill will be offering their “humungous” burgers here this summer after the 5,500 square-foot building is remodeled.

The restaurant will be open for lunch, dinner and late night snacks.

More: Rumor has it Visalia is booming with new restaurants

Todd Asajian and Noah Murguia, the owners of Stacked just celebrated their 1 year anniversary at their downtown Kingsburg location. Asajian also owns and operates multiple Deli Delicious stores in Visalia and Kingsburg.

Like its neighbor, BarrelHouse Brewing, Stacked will feature a backyard patio.

“This is the third new venture I am doing along East Main since the new brewery district was formed” said Shannon.

Burger of options in Tulare

Tulare burger connoisseurs will have plenty of options to grub on in the next few months.

Two new burger joints will be opening their doors to Tulare residents: The Habit Burger and Wayback Burger

Construction is well underway for The Habit Burger located on Prosperity Avenue.

The burger restaurant, which also has a location in Visalia, took over the spot that long-housed fast food restaurant Long John Silvers.

Not too far from The Habit Burger, construction crews are also hard at work to open Wayback Burger along Tulare Avenue near Tulare Union High School.

City officials foresee the burger joint being a hot spot for students.

“I think it’s a lot better to have a hamburger restaurant so close to the high school,” said Jeff Killion, Tulare planning commission chairman. “I am glad to see that change.”

Tulare Associate Planner Steven Sopp said Wayback Burger will only take about half of the current 5,300 square-foot empty building.

Also, Wayback Burger can be a place millennials consider their third spot, what’s described in marketing as the place to go after home and work.

“Kids have money to spend. If they want to patronize the downtown businesses, it’s good for business,” he said. “This is going to be an upscale meeting place. It is going to be a different type of atmosphere.”

According to its website, Wayback Burger was founded in 1991 in Newark, DE. Currently, the hamburger chain has 142 locations in 28 states, including restaurants in Firebaugh and Tracy in the Central Valley.

Wayback Burger also has locations in Argentina, Malaysia, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

Hometown favorites

While trying new things is great, sometimes a good old-fashioned burger from your favorite hometown hangout is all you need.

Here are some of Tulare County’s best burger places, according to readers.

  • Woodlake Drive Inn, Woodlake
  • In-N-Out, Visalia
  • Mama K’s Diner, Visalia
  • Buns and Torts, Visalia
  • Rainbow Drive-In, Farmersville
  • Docs Drive-In, Visalia
  • Buzz’s Drive Inn, Goshen
  • Juicy Burger, Porterville
  • Sno-White Drive-In, Tulare
  • Pita Kabob, Visalia
  • Good Times Cafe, Visalia
  • Martha’s Mexican Food, Orosi.

https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/entertainment/dining/2018/08/30/burger-boom-hits-visalia-tulare/882303002/

Tulare Meat Locker earns top prize at national competition

Calley Cederlof,

Aug. 1, 2018

For the second year in a row, Danny Mendes, owner of Tulare Meat Locker & Sausage Co., took home several wins at the American Association of Meat Processors’ American Cured Meat Championships, held in Kansas City.

Except this go around, he came home with even more “hardware” to showcase at his Tulare shop.

Mendes won awards for five different meat products, one of which earned grand champion: his hot link sausage.

The sausage, which he recently dubbed the “Kansas City Red Hot” is the shop’s newest item on the menu. The sausage beat out 15 other competitors for the top spot, including a Kansas City local.

He is the first to win in the category, which was introduced this year, he said.

“I’m pretty proud of that,” Mendes said of the win. “Here I come from California and come out with grand champion.”

Danny Mendes, Tulare Meat Locker owner, took home top honors in several categories during the American Cured Meat Championships in Kansas City. His crew has been working on the selections for months.
Danny Mendes, Tulare Meat Locker owner, took home top honors in several categories during the American Cured Meat Championships in Kansas City. His crew has been working on the selections for months. (Photo: Eric Woomer/ Visalia Times-Delta,)

The hot-link is a regional item known mostly in Oklahoma and Texas, said Jon Frohling, past American Association of Meat Processors president.

“For a California boy to go down there and win that — it’s a big deal,” Frohling said. “Especially when you’re not eating it every day.”

Other awards earned by Mendes include reserve grand champions for his bone in ham and braunschweiger — a German liver sausage. His boneless ham won champion and his country dry cured bacon was crowned reserve champion.

Mendes said he is excited about the wins.

“It’s been great, especially in with the bone-in ham (category),” Mendes said. “That’s one that I’ve really been wanting to master.”

In total, Mendes brought 22 products to the event, which flew with him on the plane packed in ice.

This is only his second year at the competition. Last year, he earned grand champion for his smoked bratwurst sausage and reserve grand champion for his andouille sausage.

At the competition, products are judged on a 1,000-point scoring system. Judges score based on several factors including internal and external appearance, color, aroma and flavor — the most important of all, Frohling said.

“If you win at that show, you’ve got a great product,” he added.

Tulare Meat Locker & Sausage is one of only two shops in California to take home awards at this year’s event and is the smallest shop competing.

When he arrived home on Sunday, he was celebrated with family, friends and customers. It was also extra special, it was his birthday.

Danny Mendes, Tulare Meat Locker owner, took home top honors in several categories during the American Cured Meat Championships in Kansas City. His crew has been working on the selections for months.
Danny Mendes, Tulare Meat Locker owner, took home top honors in several categories during the American Cured Meat Championships in Kansas City. His crew has been working on the selections for months. (Photo: Eric Woomer/ Visalia Times-Delta,)

“My kids had signs that said, ‘welcome home Daddy,’ and we met up with family the next day,” Mendes said. “I got a lot of calls and texts. It was a warm welcoming for sure.”

Mendes also posted the news on Facebook, where customers and friends flooded him with congratulations messages.

“Not surprised because your meats are amazing and deserving of every one of these awards,” wrote Steven Jorgens.

Tulare Meat Locker & Sausage Co. offers custom butchering of livestock and fresh meat that isn’t sliced until ordered. Sausages, snack sticks, hams, tri-tip and linguica are also available.

In February, Mendes also took home 11 awards at the California Association of Meat Processors convention.

He’s already planning ahead to next summer when the national compeition will be held in Alabama.

For more information, call 688-2047 or visit the shop at 1531 E. Bardsley Ave. in Tulare.

https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/news/2018/08/01/tulare-meat-locker-takes-home-top-prize-national-competition/872651002/

FRESNO AIRPORTS ECONOMIC IMPACT PEGGED AT $788.5M

Published On August 2, 2018 – 1:52 PM
Written By The Business Journal Staff

The Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) system, including Fresno’s Chandler Executive Airport (FCH), generates just shy of $1 billion in economic punch, according to new data.

The annual business activity report examines the revenue and jobs contribution of both airports, which are owned by the City of Fresno but operate as independent enterprises.

Some highlights from the study include:

Airport activity, including the visitor industry and non-aviation real estate tenants on airport property, brings an annual direct contribution of $788.5 million to the regional economy.

Employment at both airports generates 9,307 direct, induced, and indirect jobs in the Fresno area.

Business revenue including salaries, purchases and taxes, and including the visitor industry and non-aviation real estate tenants on airport property, totals $559.8 million annually.

Re-sending and Consumption, which regards the purchase and services of goods produced locally, generated $228.7 million annually.

Out of the $788.5 million, business and tourism visitors arriving through FAT spend $184.2 million annually in the region.

Since the Great Recession in 2010, FAT has grown 36 percent in passenger traffic, and in the first half of this year, has experienced a 12.7 percent increase in passenger volume.

“As a major driver of regional economic activity and jobs, it is important that we invest in the future and plan for the continued growth of both airports,” said Director of Aviation Kevin Meikle. “The completion of Master Plan Updates for both airports will provide the framework to ensure future travel needs are met to further support a growing and prosperous economy for the region.”

https://thebusinessjournal.com/fresno-airports-economic-impact-pegged-at-788-5m/

Fresno Food Expo opens with plenty of fancy food, drink and new name

Downtown Hanford fills up

Finer Thingz
Jeanette Tackett, owner of Finer Thingz, shows examples of custom gifts available at her shop.

HANFORD — After years of seeing empty buildings and storefronts, downtown Hanford seems to be going through a transformation.

“We’ve kind of had a surge of businesses interested in opening in downtown Hanford,” Michelle Brown, executive director of Main Street Hanford, said.

Brown said it’s a great time for downtowns everywhere, not just in Hanford. She said she believes people are really starting to see the uniqueness of downtowns and the benefits of shopping small businesses.

Several changes can be seen in downtown Hanford, including these new businesses:

  • The Ivy Boutique & Home Décor, 201 N. Douty St. – specializes in women’s apparel and also carries gifts for any occasion.
  • Habitat for Humanity of Kings/Tulare Counties ReStore, 415 W. Lacey Blvd. – sells donated items like cabinets, doors, windows, plumbing, electrical supplies and more. Proceeds go toward the organization’s home ownership programs.
  • Board & Brush Creative Studio, 207 N. Irwin St. – this business will celebrate its grand opening on July 26 during Thursday Night Market Place. Board & Brush Creative Studio is a place for creating unique wood decor projects from scratch in an instructor led atmosphere.
  • Hop Forged Brewing Co., 106 W. Seventh St. – this will open in the fall and be the first brewery located in downtown Hanford. Hop Forged is a family-run business and each batch of beer is hand crafted in small batches right here in Hanford. The taproom will serve its own in-house-brewed beers, starting out with up to 10 options, with hopes to expand that selection to 20 within a couple of years.

Another business that has opened is Finer Thingz, located at 331 W. Seventh St. Owner Jeanette Tackett said the shop has been open since June 1 and things are going well so far.

Finer Thingz shares a space with Tackett’s other business, a print shop called J.H. Tackett Marketing. Tackett uses her printing skills to personalize and customize gifts, like mousepads, frames, cups, cutting boards and pretty much any other thing you can think of.

“The idea is to be able to create and customize and give a unique gift,” Tackett said, adding her products can work for any person or organization.

Tackett, who owns the building her businesses are in, said she loves being a part of bringing downtown Hanford to life.

“I think it’s a great place to be and grow,” Tackett said. “We just love being able to serve and putting smiles on people’s faces when they get that custom gift is priceless.”

Speaking of the Vendome building, three new businesses will open there soon:

  • Lab Artistry, 215 N. Irwin St. – offers services including lash extensions, lash lifts, body waxing, brow shaping, micro blading and make-up for special occasions.
  • Employee Benefits, 221 N. Irwin St. – this business specializes in health and life insurance, has been around for 34 years and is relocating to downtown Hanford.
  • Beautifully Damaged, 219 N. Irwin St. – specializes in hand-painted furniture and vintage home décor. Instructor-led paint classes for all ages will also be offered in the store.

When all three businesses open in early August, Brown said the Vendome building will be completely filled up.

Brown said she has spoken with lots of interested business owners and the only issue is finding the right location for that particular business.

“We’re running out of spaces for people,” Brown said, adding she hopes new restaurants will start to pop up as well.

As far as vacancies are concerned, Brown said 100 W. Seventh St., 118 W. Seventh St. and 210 W. Seventh St. are still open.

Brown would love to see businesses locate in these vacancies and said when they do, Seventh Street will be completely filled up, which has not been the case for many years.

Brown said she hopes this new surge of businesses will bring even more positivity to downtown Hanford and convince people to make their way to the area to shop.

“These business owners are part of the community,” Brown said. “We need to spread the word and show our support by shopping small.”

https://hanfordsentinel.com/news/local/downtown-hanford-fills-up/article_f9edf024-00d6-53b4-9071-6316f0ff160c.html#tracking-source=home-top-story-1

Three new-to-Fresno restaurants to bring Korean fried chicken, giant sandwiches, more

July 09, 2018 

Berkeley winery finding success with Lodi winegrapes

By Nora Heston Tarte

Jeff Morgan’s company Covenant Wines purchases grapes from Lodi’s Mettler family for its wines.

LODI—This area’s reputation as a profitable region for winegrapes, especially zinfandels, is no secret.

So, when Jeff Morgan, winemaker and co-owner at Covenant Winery in Berkeley, wanted to add a Lodi zin to his lineup of vinos, he turned to Mettler Vineyards in Lodi.

“The Mettlers are the classic, good-natured American farmers,” Morgan said. “You know that a handshake from a Mettler means as much as any legal document.”

Morgan was familiar with the Mettlers before he moved his Napa wine operation to Berkeley in order to achieve an urban offering in a more populated area. For many years he enjoyed a career as a wine journalist for Wine Spectator magazine.

“My job was to know who the best growers were,” Morgan said. “The Mettler’s reputation proceeded them.”

The move also allowed Morgan and his team to ditch the custom crush facilities they were using for production and begin offering more brands under the Covenant aegis.

Today, Covenant Wines makes 18 wines on seven labels under the Covenant umbrella, including an Israel brand, Covenant Israel. All wine by definition is kosher, but Covenant goes the extra step, assuring every bottle produced by Covenant is handled in the cellar by only Sabbath-observant Jews.

Jeff Morgan, co-owner of Covenant Wines stands with a load of Mettler-grown grapes that are used in making the company’s wines.

Three of the brand’s wines are made exclusively from Mettler grapes. Two of those varietals, the zinfandel and the roussanne, are part of the Mensch label, a Yiddish word meaning a really nice person. The third wine, a chardonnay, is part of The Tribe label also sold under the Covenant umbrella.

Morgan, his wife Jodie Morgan and Covenant co-owner Leslie Rudd source grapes from other regions, including Napa Valley and Sonoma County to make many of their wines, but the only Lodi grapes used come from Mettler Vineyards.

Covenant produces 7,000 cases annually out of its Berkeley facility, plus an additional 3,000 cases in Israel. Mettler wines make up about 20 percent of total production for Covenant in the U.S.

“The wines that we have made with Mettler grapes have done quite well with the wine critics,” Morgan said, adding it’s not just the zin performing well.

Larry Mettler, owner of Arbor Vineyards and Mettler Family Vineyards, said the partnership with Covenant is going well. Every year the Lodi farming family is able to meet Covenant’s needs and orders have grown since the initial 2013 bottle Covenant produced using Mettler grapes.

“We know a little bit about the needs of wineries and small wineries because we are one,” Mettler said.

With 1,600 acres of wine grapes on farmland either owned or rented by the Mettler family, Mettler Vineyards has access to a lot of grapes, boasting 15 different varietals. Popular choices are cabernet sauvignons, zinfandels and petite sirahs.

Lesser-known varietals are also abundant, including pinotage, mourvedre and grenache, as well as whites such as chardonnay, which Covenant buys, and albarino.

Lodi’s climate is responsible for the variety. Grape availability is high because the climate and soil are both conducive to growing several varietals.

“If wineries are looking for product, Lodi is a good place for them to look,” Mettler said. “We can always supply the grapes in the highest quality because we can get them ripe.”

In all, 90 percent of the property’s grapes are sold to other wineries throughout California. The Mettlers have an estimated 12-15 buyers in all.

The other 10 percent is used to create the wines Mettler sells under its own label—Mettler Family Vineyards.

Mettler said word of mouth brings in most of the vineyard’s customers and the mid-range price in Lodi helps. A small brand may start with as little as one ton of grapes from Mettler, but larger wineries like Gallo and Constellation take more.

“We’re all across the board as far as size and volume,” he said.

Morgan cited the price point as one reason the Berkeley-based urban winery decided to shake hands with Lodi farmers. Once known for its Napa Valley cabernet, the Morgans were aware their wines came with a hefty price tag.

In order to reach a larger audience, they wanted to make more accessible wines that didn’t lack quality.

Their first attempt was with a Mensch zinfandel because the Lodi region is best known for its zins. After they found success with one, Covenant expanded to the other two varietals, both whites.

“They’re light, they’re fresh and they’re eminently quaffable,” Morgan said. “As we all know, wine is made in the vineyard, so we attribute that to the quality of the grapes.”

The first year Morgan purchased five tons of grapes from Mettler Vineyards, enough for 250 cases of wine. Today, annual orders range from 30-35 tons.

“Its been a good relationship,” Mettler said.

Berkeley winery finding success with Lodi winegrapes

Historic Merced hotel to be repurposed

Central Valley Business Times

June 5, 2018

  • Hotel Tioga getting improvements under new owners
  • “This can be the foundation for the revitalization of the

Downtown that everyone is looking for” An icon of downtown Merced, dating back to the years when

Herbert Hoover was president, has been sold and is expected to be renovated The Hotel Tioga will be offering fully renovated and updated market rate apartments in downtown Merced.

The historic building, which opened in 1928, will have commercial spaces on the first floor.

PCG Commercial of Roseville is marketing the building. The property was purchased in April by Hotel Tioga Investors LLC and will be redeveloped by the same firm.

The city says the fully renovated Hotel Tioga will bring additional multimillion dollar investments to downtown Merced and will add to the major economic impacts of the El Capitan Hotel and Mainzer Theater projects that are currently underway.

“The Hotel Tioga was a huge boost for the town 90 years ago, and the sale and work that will be done shortly will once again be transformative,” says Merced Mayor Mike Murphy. “This is another big step forward for Merced and the Downtown.”

Mr. Murphy says the renovated property “will promote nightlife, and a diversified center that will include retail and hospitality.”

“This is an exciting time for Merced,” adds Merced City Councilwoman Jill McLeod, who represents Downtown area.

“The sale of the Hotel Tioga, along with the renovation of the El Capitan and the Mainzer will bring so much new life and energy to the Downtown.”

A Downtown Icon

The historic building, opened in 1928, has been an icon of downtown Merced and a social and business hub. Adding the additional market-rate housing to the downtown housing scene adds a new dimension to the work/life potential in the city’s core, city officials say. Economic Development Director Frank Quintero says a key element is having a strong residential base.

Hotel Tioga is strategically located close to the Merced Transportation Center and the University of California, Merced’s Downtown Administration Building on N Street between Main and 16 streets.

“Bringing this much housing to the Downtown will help attract the restaurants and other kinds of businesses that people keep saying they want,” Mr. Quintero says. “This can be the  foundation for the revitalization of the Downtown that everyone is looking for.”

He adds that once revamped, the Hotel Tioga will provide another option for living in downtown Merced. “Currently, the vacancy rate in Merced is under 1 percent, so the Hotel Tioga will create new opportunities,” he says.

 

The Renovation

When renovated the apartment units will feature new kitchens, countertops, light fixtures, and flooring. The 73,670-square-foot building will offer a mix of studio, one-bedroom, and two bedroom units.

The architect for the project is Page & Turnbull, a full-service architecture, design, planning, and preservation firm. Founded in 1973, the firm has offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. It brings together architects, planners, architectural historians, and conservators to take existing structures and adapt them to meet contemporary needs.

Nine decades ago when the Hotel Tioga was built it was aimed at Yosemite tourists. Visitors could drive up the “all-weather” Highway 140 or take the Yosemite Valley Railroad train to enjoy the natural wonder.

An Historic Building

The building, which cost $250,000 to build, is now on the National Register of Historic Places. In its prime it had a ballroom, handcrafted tile floors, art deco ceilings and the Merced’s first neon sign on the roof that could be seen for miles.

Also on the roof were two penthouses with legendary views of the Sierra and the Central Valley.

The guest registry is a blast from the past: John Kennedy, Calvin Coolidge, Eleanor Roosevelt, King Albert of Belgium and  Archduke Otto of Austria stayed in the six story building. Screen legends including Marilyn Monroe, Gary Cooper and Mary Pickford stopped at the Tioga. Natalie Wood used the hotel as her residence while filming “Bombers B-52” at Castle Air Force Base. John Wayne called the Tioga home when he came to the Central Valley to hunt. Richard Nixon was photographed under its awning during his run for California’s governor seat in 1962.

Merced’s first radio station, KYOS, began broadcasting from the Hotel Tioga in 1936. And during World War II the U.S. Army Air Corps took over part of the building for office space.