Terry and Toni Clark are the mystery buyers of the Sunset Theater and Alexander’s Bakery buildings on Lodi Avenue. Escrow is due to close around Dec. 5.
The family sold Clark Pest Control in May and were looking to reinvest back into the community, says Terry. And they have grand plans for that corner, pending all the city approvals, of course. The couple envision making the old bakery building into a parking structure with limited retail and office space on the ground floor. The parking will service the theater, which they hope to renovate and convert into a multi-use entertainment and meeting center. Terry envisions keeping the theater’s stage, but flattening out most of the main floor to accommodate parties and group functions. He also hopes to build an outdoor patio upstairs, overlooking Lodi Avenue. He says the parking structure will be done in phase 1, with the theater following shortly thereafter.
The Clarks’ main motivation is to “bring joy to Lodi” by saving the buildings, preserving an important part of Lodi’s history, and turning the structures into useful enterprises. They are also doing it for their two young children, who they hope will someday feel proud of what is being done. So how much is all this going to cost? Terry didn’t want to say within earshot of his wife, but he whispers it will cost between $6 and 7 million to get ‘er done. No worries, both my readers can keep a secret.
FIRE LINE: Lodi Fire Chief Gene Stoddart says the city dispatched an engine to the Kincaid fire near Sonoma over the weekend. You’ll recall last year the department sent reinforcements to help with the Paradise fire and crews came back with truly harrowing tales of hero-worthy accomplishments.
CLUB NEWS: Last year at this time the Lodi Boys and Girls Club was on the brink of extinction. The loss of two major donors — General Mills and proceeds from a private endowment — left a gigantic crater in the club’s finances. Bills went unpaid. Maintenance items didn’t get fixed. Indeed, it was financially month-to-month, board members reported at the time.
A year later the club is in dramatically better condition, says new Executive Director Roger Coover. Over the past year the past-due bills have been paid, the payroll has shrunk and maintenance items have been repaired, he says. Coover is also working with the city in an effort make the Grapeline bus routes easier for kids to get to the club. All it takes is money and a willing city council, of course. Donors who were reluctant to contribute to a sinking ship are finding the organization has found new life. Coover is former San Joaquin Media Group president and publisher of the Record newspaper, and evidently the right guy for this job.
MOVING ON: Sentinel writer\reporter Maggie Creamer’s last day at the paper was last Friday. Former editor Rich Hanner says of Maggie, “She was a real stalwart at the LNS and knew many people in town. (She was a) former city hall reporter who spearheaded the News-Sentinel's low-profile but very successful alliance with the San Francisco Chronicle. A fine journalist and wonderfully bright and buoyant personality.” Maggie and her husband are moving to South Lake Tahoe.
DAMAGE REPORT: If you haven’t visited the newish St. Anne’s Plaza outside the front door of the Catholic Church on what used to be part of Walnut Street, it is beautiful. However, a few months ago an “angry troubled person” took a hammer to one of the Stations of the Cross that adorn the plaza and “hammered out the face of Christ,” according to a church member.
The crime was captured on surveillance video, which was handed over to police. However, before the perpetrator could be apprehended, he returned the next night and damaged more. A reader wonders if this is actually a hate crime. St. Anne’s Father Brandon boarded everything up until a permanent way to protect the artifacts is found. The crosses are imported and each one is hand-painted, we’re told. … St. Anne’s isn’t the only church to experience vandalism lately. The sign in front of First Baptist Church on Mills and Lockeford was sprayed with graffiti by vandals recently, but the damage didn’t last long. Students from Millswood Middle School next door made it a class project to clean up the graffiti, according to seventh-grader Ashlyn Michaels. The clean-up squad posted a temporary sign reading, “Choose Kindness.” … And speaking of kindness, across town Lori Heyd reports that Larson School has started a Kindness Club, spearheaded by teachers Merrie Mettler and Lindsey Vaccarezza. The point of the voluntary after-school program is to teach students to “do something kind for people, just because.” Animal Friends Connection came to one of their recent meetings with some of their adoptable pets, which resulted in thank you notes from the kids and two pet adoptions, says Lori. Good news is where you find it.
BEAR FACTS: After much anticipation, Lodi’s Black Bear Diner is open for business on Kettleman Lane, where Coco’s used to be. After a recent visit we can report that the place lives up to the hype. The food is good and the portions are generous (their plates are the size of platters). The service is outstanding. The prices aren’t cheap, but that’s the case all over town, right? If you go, try the pumpkin spice pancakes. They are worth the trip. … If you like breakfast burritos, you probably won’t find any better than those at the La Campana Taqueria. The burritos are about the size of a small child (that’s an estimate) and, needless to say, they make for a meal in themselves. They’re made with tortillas the size of a truck tire. One of the best parts is the price: only $5. The place is very modest, located in the industrial area off Stockton Street on Maggio Circle. They make other stuff, too, but the breakfast burritos are among the best we’ve tasted. … Cherokee Lane used to be part of Highway 99, but that all changed around 1960 when what is now 99 was built, bypassing Lodi. There are few remnants left from that era, but one of them is the Hollywood Café. About the only thing that’s changed there is the ownership over the years. Ok, and maybe the prices. A recent visit revealed that the food is still excellent, the service friendly, and the menu offers what you’d expect from a breakfast-lunch diner. The portions are generous and the crowd of locals make you feel right at home. … Down the road a piece is the Richmaid Restaurant, another legendary local eatery with one foot in the past. It is a popular dining spot for both locals and travelers. Like the Hollywood, the food continues to be excellent and the service very friendly. The place has quite a history. The late Henry Hansen made his locally famous Richmaid ice cream on the premises, and it was a favorite stop for motorists traveling the 99 corridor. These two icons are examples of a bygone era that continue to serve customers a slice of nostalgia with their hamburger, fries and shake. … Construction of Guantonio’s Wood Fired Pizza, “a beer and wine eating place,” on the corner of California and Lockeford (across from California’s Al’s) is going fast and furious, with an estimated opening date sometime in early January, says the owner.
REMEMBRANCE: Lodi said goodbye to two fine gentlemen this past week, Rich Shook and Duane Simpfenderfer. Rich was a longtime local banker, having worked for Central Sierra Bank, among others. He was a dedicated Lions Club member who was always willing to help. His ready smile and gentle spirit were his hallmark. Duane was a hometown boy and a basketball stand-out at Lodi High School. His smile and outgoing personality were as big as he was tall. He generously gave back to the community with his time and talents, all the while battling a chronic illness. Both were “salt of the earth” citizens who gave more than they consumed.
Steve is a former newspaper publisher and lifelong Lodian whose column appears most Tuesdays in the News-Sentinel. Write to Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.