Written by Gabriel Dillard
Time for another trip on The Business Journal time machine, looking at business news of seasons past, from 2009 and 1999.
Dec. 20, 1999
Like the Jack LaLanne of the Central Valley, George Brown debuted his latest health club concept, with a headline in The Business Journal promising you could “check your e-mail while exercising.”
Making its debut in the Parkwood Plaza at the corner of Cedar and Nees avenues was George Brown Sports Club, an updated, upscale version of the former George Brown’s Fitness Center.
The concept — four years in the making — also saw the birth of the “Gb3” logo. The clubs offered valet parking, complementary coffee in a member lounge, a 75-foot heated indoor swimming pool, stationary bikes and transport motion machines with built-in monitors with internet access, big-screen televisions with headphones available, a 3,000 square-foot children’s day care and fitness center.
“It’s extremely innovative, and I think our customers will enjoy the benefits,” Brown said. “The modems allow you to actually sit in front of a computer while you’re getting your workout. It’s terrific.”
Brown has been in the fitness industry since 1972, and entered the Fresno market in 1989 when he opened his first health clubs in Fresno and Clovis.
The DeWayne Zinkin, Sr.-owned Winepress Shopping Center at Shaw and Marks avenues was starting to fill out nicely with the addition of clothing stores Stein Mart and Fashion Bug.
For Stein Mart, it was its second store in California. At the time it had more than 200 stores mostly on the East Coast.
“Stein Mart is the Rolls Royce of discounters, but similar to Ross, Marshall’s and TJ Maxx,” Zinkin said.
While Fashion Bug closed all of its stores around early 2013, Stein Mart remains open at the shopping center, though a Target location is definitely the anchor tenant.
Back in 1999, the big development near the Winepress Shopping Center was the $16 million Shaw and Marks undercrossing, allowing traffic to pass underneath Burlington Northern and Santa Fe trains.
Before the undercrossing, several fatalities involving trains and cars led the state to recognize that area as the most dangerous railroad crossing in California.
The project had just kicked off in 1999, and was scheduled for completion in mid-2002.
Dec. 27, 1999
In a story headlined “Valley residents taking plunge into online trading,” locals talked about their adventures buying and selling stock in the newfangled interwebs. Jeff Crews, senior financial consultant with the Fresno office of Merrill Lynch, said online trading had yet to catch fire in the Central Valley compared to other regions.
“It will not have a large impact, but for the next generation, it may have a significant impact. As technology accelerates, so do clients’ needs and wants,” he said.
Herry Gaykian, senior VP with Solomon Smith Barney, cautioned folks to be aware of the pitfalls of online trading.
“The pros are scared about some of the wild speculations – these companies are like chain letters,” he said. “There’s a lot of false information and everybody’s an expert. You just have to be careful. Like anything else, be prudent.”
His advice for online investors was to use their “Vegas money,” that is, money not needed to run your household.
Dec. 18, 2009
The last issue of The Business Journal in 2009 showed a picture of a bruised and bloodied man wearing a business suit next to the headline “2009 year in review: Down, but not out.”
That captured the mood at the time, as the country was in the grips of the Great Recession. In the Central Valley, that looked like a commercial real estate vacancy rate of 15%, compared to 4% a few years prior. It also meant local community banks were bleeding red ink, with some needing a government bailout and others closing. Much like today, retailers were also hard hit, with chains such as Payless Shoe Source, Zales, Blockbuster and Starbucks closing hundreds of stores nationwide. Loans guaranteed by the Fresno Small Business Administration also reached a six-year low.