Lodi. Who are we? Here’s an official snapshot. The city has 66,571 residents, according to the 2020 census. Over 14% of us are aged 65 and older, 27.8% are younger than 18, and 51.3% are female. About 18% of Lodians are foreign-born, and 3,156 of us are veterans. Over 52% of us live in homes we own. There are 23,142 total housing units in Lodi (as of 2019), and there are 2.81 persons per household. Lodi is slightly above the national average for Internet access, with 85% of residents saying they are connected. Ninety percent of households have computers. However, Lodi lags behind the national average when it comes to education. Only 19.2% of people 25 years and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 32.1% nationally. Lodi’s median household income is $58,763, compared to $62,843 nationally. The per capita income for Lodi is $28,815, compared to $34,103 nationally. Lodi’s poverty rate is above the national average at 15.4%, compared to 11.4% nationally. So that’s who we are, officially.

CLOSED: Pietro’s Trattoria and Woodbridge Crossing restaurants have announced on social media that they will be closing “over the next few days” just to play it safe, in light of the spike in COVID infections. “We will return as soon as we can, stronger than ever!” they both said. Pietro’s was perhaps the first restaurant in Lodi to close in early 2020 as virus infections became serious. The state mandated closures for most indoor activities shortly thereafter. … The Corner Scone Bakery has apparently been closed since Christmas. A message taped to the front door says their “lobby and retail division” will be closed until further notice, but wholesale ordering is still available. The bakery’s Facebook page has also been mostly wiped clean. What’s most sad is they used to make killer cinnamon rolls, considered by some sugar addicts to be the best in town. They were planning to open a second site next to Papapavlo’s on School Street, but then the pandemic hit and they ultimately pulled out of the deal.

UPDATES: Despite signs having been removed, owners of the Valley Food Market in the Woodlake shopping center insist that the store will open, eventually.

The project has been in the works for nearly a year now and neighbors are very excited to see a grocery store open there. We reported a few weeks ago that work started last summer without proper permits, which likely caused delays. The owner has said they would open sometime early this year. They aren’t saying much beyond that. … The Sunset Theater reno project continues to plod along. Owner Terry Clark says weather permitting, they will soon begin site work and pour the slab for the new bakery. He says the commercial building will probably be done before the theater because it’s new construction and it will be made of steel and glass.

He also says the city may allow functions such as “educational and professional” meetings to be held in the renovated theater. He hopes to develop after-school programs there when the theater’s transformation is complete. … Umpqua Bank has apparently closed its branch office in Lakewood Mall. Now it’s an “ATM Only” location, according to the bank’s website.

SEE THE LIGHT: Seems everyone in Willow Glen is anxious to have a signal light installed at the intersection of Turner and California. It has been on residents’ wish lists for decades.

As we reported earlier, a light is planned for that corner. The $600,000 project will be engineered this fiscal year and built the next, probably within the next 18 months, says Public Works Director Charlie Swimley.

BOUNDARIES: Want to help draw the new city council district map? Here’s your chance. With the 2020 census data now in hand, the city is inviting citizens to participate by submitting their suggested boundary lines. Various free mapping tools are available on the city’s website.

BIG PLANS: He’s only been in office for less than two years, but Lodi Police Chief Sierra Brucia has ambitious plans for his department.

Brucia detailed a few of his projects to a recent visitor. First off is a new computer-aided dispatch and reporting system, which was due to go “live” at the end of December. The system upgrade cost about $1 million, he says. He indicated the new CAD system is better all around.

He also has plans to build a new animal shelter, which he estimates to cost about $6 million or so. The current facility opened in the early ‘60s and is so woefully inadequate that Brucia says he’s embarrassed to walk through the place. He says he wants to move forward with plans sometime this year.

By far his biggest project is to build a new outdoor firing range and regional training center at White Slough, along Interstate 5. He says such a facility could cost as much as $10 million and would probably require partnering with other local agencies to get it done.

Brucia says the city council has so far been very supportive of the idea and has appropriated funds for initial plans to be drawn. The chief also says the current indoor range in the old police department building across the street is in dire need of renovation.

He says the range is used almost daily by his officers, and the project will cost about $350,000 to complete. Further down on his want list is something called “live 911,” which would enable his officers to hear 911 calls as they are being answered by dispatchers. While hopeful, he says all the projects are subject to funds being available, of course.

FLASHBACK: It was 30 years ago last month that Victor Fine Foods (Goehring Meats) closed their doors for good, laying off about 300 employees just before Christmas. The company was sold by the Goehring brothers in 1988 to Fletcher Fine Foods of Canada.

The layoffs and sudden plant closure took everyone by surprise. In fact, it allegedly violated state law that requires companies to give employees 60 days notice before closing. As it turned out, employees were only given 10 days notice. The closure came at a particularly difficult time for job-seekers with the county unemployment rate then sitting at 10.8 percent.

A $2 million class action lawsuit was subsequently filed against the company by former employees. The company eventually went bankrupt. Goehring’s was started in 1952 by Phillip John Goehring. Most of his sons would join the family business, which grew to be the largest processor of fresh pork in northern California.

The last of the Goehring brothers died last year.

REMEMBRANCE: We note the passing of Merna Davis, 94, who worked for the JC Penney store in downtown Lodi for 27 years, beginning in 1963. That’s back when the city’s retail section and social hub was downtown.

Merna worked her way to up to be merchandiser manager after starting part-time at the store, years earlier.

She was a familiar figure for many Penney shoppers back in the day. She was married to Marvin Davis, a longtime city employee. Besides that, Merna was a great mother-in-law.

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Steve is a former newspaper publisher and lifelong Lodian whose column appears most Tuesdays in the News-Sentinel. Write to Steve at aboutlodi@gmail.com.

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