Written by The Business Journal Staff
Construction on Retro Junction, a new convenience store celebrating the ‘50s and ‘60s eras, is nearly complete and a grand opening, which will welcome local hot rodders and city officials alike, is set for Sept. 17.
Residents fueling up at the station on the northeast corner of Cedar and Herndon avenues will soon be able to step back in time.
The Retro Junction will be reminiscent of the ‘50s, complete with a checkerboard floor and classic Coca-Cola and Pepsi memorabilia on the walls. Beyond the theme, Retro Junction will also have offerings not typical of your average convenience store, such as nostalgic candy choices and milkshakes available at the counter. A deli—complete with a 1957 Chevy windshield acting as a sneeze guard—will also be the prominent feature of the convenience store.
John Shehadey and his sons Jim and Steve co-own between 20 and 30 convenience stores and gas stations throughout the Central Valle, but wanted to make this particular location unique.
“We all talked about it and we thought, let’s not make an ordinary,” John Shehadey said. “We want it to be something people talk about. We’re going to have ice cream and milkshakes and stuff you normally can’t get in a convenient store, old time candies and enough old stuff to think you’re not in a normal place — it’s all retro.”
Before being acquired by the Shehadey family, the location used to house an oil change company. Once they purchased it, John Shehadey said bringing in a Starbucks was a natural choice to occupy half the space and the other half gave him and his sons a place to get creative.
The spot, he said, is the perfect location for a ‘50s and ‘60s inspired store because the neighborhood serves an array of businesses, churches, schools and residents, which makes for an interesting mix of people. For the older folks, Shehadey said Retro Junction will obviously evoke nostalgia, but the younger generations will enjoy something fun and different as well.
“It’s like a homecoming for me, he said. “I graduated from Fresno High in 1957 and my classmates and I still get together and have reunions and they all like to go to these types of places. I think the young people will enjoy it too. The ‘50s and ‘60s were a good, happy time.”
Retro Junction’s convenience store grand opening celebration will be 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 17.
Valparaiso Café brings a taste of Chile to Downtown Fresno
The sweet aroma of clove, the spice of cinnamon and the nuttiness of nutmeg combine to create the unique flavor profile found in Cola de Mono, or Monkey’s Tail, the signature Chilean-style coffee available at Downtown Fresno’s new Valparaiso Café and Roastery.
Located inside the Bitwise South Stadium building, the cafe’s menu offers something for every caffeine-crazed entrepreneur, businessperson and downtown visitor, from the standard cup of Joe to exotic blended beverages.
Valparaiso is owned and operated by Mario Vargas, Phillip Subia and Gary Christiansen. All three met while working at Café Corazon, a Tower District coffee house that recently closed.
Subia is the experienced barista in the bunch and his passion is creating unique drinks with the best tasting ingredients.
“We try to make all our syrups in house so people do get a different experience and try new ingredients,” Subia said. “For example, the vanilla bean paste we pay way more than we could have, but we really like the brand and the flavor that it gives the vanilla latte. “
In addition to hunting for the best syrups and spices, Valparaiso only uses beans roasted fresh on the premises.
“Roasting our own beans is a must because coffee flavors are most prominent for two to three weeks after roasted, and after that the beans go stale and the aromas fade over time. For us we have to roast to make it unique,” Subia said.
While Subia’s passion is coffee, Vargas said his passion is people.
“I don’t believe in treating people like a client or customer. I think you should get to know them and get to know their name and create a personal relationship,” Vargas said. “That is what separates one business from the next. You can get a cup of coffee anywhere, but we want to make this place special, and we do that by creating fresh roasted coffee and above and beyond customer service.”
Vargas is the man behind the Chilean-inspired beverage and the name Valparaiso—the name of his hometown in Chile. Vargas said he is grateful for the opportunities he’s had in the United States, but doesn’t want to forget his roots.
“Valparaiso is where I’m originally from Chile; I was born there and moved to this country when I was 10,” Vargas said. “Ever since then I’ve been working toward the American dream. I was very motivated coming from a third world country because we struggled just to eat and have a roof over our head. When you come out of poverty like that you can go one of two ways, you can continue that route or try to make something of yourself. I was fortunate enough that my mother came to this country and got me started. The reason it is called Valparaiso Café is because it reminds me of where I came from and the struggles I had as a little kid and certain things I don’t want to go through again. The name itself is a motivation for me to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Since opening in August, Subia and Vargas say they have received great support from the Downtown Fresno community.
“The overwhelming support that people have given us, old customers from Café Corazon and people in the building, it just made us feel so welcome,” Subia said. “It is exactly what we wanted and why we got into the business, to have something that gets people excited.”
And the excitement will only continue when Mabel’s Kitchen opens next door, allowing people to get food to go with their coffee. Bitwise is also creating a grab and go snack station separate from Valparaiso and Mabel’s, so workers in and around the building will be able to get their coffee, meals and snacks all in the same place.