Gabriel Dillard

published on July 11, 2019 - 2:00 PM
Written by Gabriel Dillard

One of the funnest parts of my job is going through The Business Journal’s archives. Here’s a look at some of the top local business stories for July from 10 and 20 years ago.


In TheZone
TheZone Sportsplex at Cedar and Dakota avenues was expected to begin construction more than 18 months prior to releasing a revised plan to include a theater and possible hotel, along with outdoor volleyball courts, soccer fields, softball diamonds and a rock-climbing gym.
Milt Barbis, president of Fresno based Wall to Wall Indoor Sports Inc., remains a key force behind the project. He told The Business Journal the project would be developed at little or no cost to the city.
TheZone Sportsplex would eventually be renamed Granite Park, and was eventually developed at great cost to the city, named a $5.2 million guaranteed loan that was defaulted on by Barbis.

River Park branches out
Business was booming for Fresno’s River Park development, so much so that construction had just begun on the 10-acre River Park Crossings site across Blackstone Avenue. Tenants for the new development include Bed, Bath & Beyond and Bennigan’s Grill & Tavern.
Back at the original River Park site, a two level parking garage with 1,000 stalls was close to completion, along with the five-story tall IMAX theatre.

Sears on a come up
The Hanford Mall announced that Sears would be opening an expanded store consisting of more than 56,000 square feet of selling space and creating 50 new jobs. The Hanford Mall was one of 19 new stores the retailer planned to open in 1999.
The picture for new stores wasn’t as rosy for Sears in October 2018, when it filed for bankruptcy protection.


Foreclosing on The Met
The Fresno City Council voted to take over the financially challenged Fresno Metropolitan Museum, assuming The Met’s $15.5 million construction debt and becoming its landlord. The city had originally guaranteed the construction loan.
Then council member Lee Brand said he had reservations about his “yes” vote, which was unanimous with members Blong Xiong and Andreas Borgeas absent, but it was better than the alternative of bankruptcy.
“The rational part of me knows we really have no option here on The Met,” Brand said.
The city still owns The Met building today. The nonprofit CMAC organization, which provides the public access to video production resources, operates there.

Gottschalks’ last gasp
After 105 years of operations, the last of the local Gottschalks locations were winding down their liquidations. The Gottschalks stores at Fashion Fair Mall and River Park were set to close July 12, along with locations at Sierra Vista Mall in Clovis and the Visalia Mall.
Stores at Fresno’s Manchester Center, Oakhurst and Hanford had closed the month prior.
Unable to find a buyer to keep the chain alive, Gottschalks had filed for bankruptcy protection and eventually liquidated its final 61 stores.

Rumble in the council chambers
Fresno promoter Rick Merigian outlined a proposal for the City of Fresno to lift its ban on cage-fighting events at Woodward Park, offering a $7,500 rent fee for the use of the Rotary Amphitheater or 10 % of gross ticket sales. While Fresno Mayor Alan Autry had attended one of the first such events — dubbed Rumble in the Park, Mayor Ashley Swearengin maintained the park was not an appropriate venue for such events.

Guaranty goes kaput
Guaranty Bank, with two branches in the Fresno area, was on the brink. The Texas-based bank announced it was seeking assistance from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to stay afloat. It would eventually fold as one of many financial institutions shuttered during the Great Recession.

Bone dry
A report from the agricultural commissioners of Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties estimated losses from drought conditions and regulation of nearly $800 million, with Fresno County facing the lion’s share at $730.1 million. The losses relate to acres not planted or anticipated yield reductions. An estimated 325,000 acres of land in the counties had been idled due to water shortages.

Vine goes bye-bye
Vine Global Solutions, an e-commerce solutions provider and winners of the $250,000 “Start It Up Entrepreneurial Challenge” in 2008, announced it was leaving the area to be closer to a key client in Arizona.
Founder Marc Raygoza packed up his Downtown Fresno office — part of the contest winnings — for Scottsdale, Arizona.
Vine Global specialized in allowing international consumers to buy retail goods from U.S.-based websites.
The business plan contest was a collaboration between the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Fresno state and the City of Fresno’s economic development department, the Fresno Redevelopment Agency, the Craig School of Business and Table Mountain Rancheria.

Today, Vine Global is known as


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