Posts From July, 2022

January 2022

The Future of Clean Tech Trucking is in Escondido

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The Future of Clean Tech Trucking is in Escondido

Originally posted January 2022

Escondido is making a name for itself as a leader in the clean tech industry, and one of the businesses on the forefront of clean tech is RockeTruck.

RockeTruck is creating zero emission electric power freight trucks that can operate with a range up to 400 miles while carrying the standard maximum capacity 80,000-pound load. President and CEO Michael Simon, who was the principal founder and first CEO of Escondido-based TransPower, a company that developed motor-battery propulsion technologies for big rigs, is now focused on building trucks from the ground up.

RockeTruck President and CEO Michael Simon with the Shell "StarShip" truck, a diesel prototype whose advanced aerodynamic design RockeTruck wants to adapt to battery-electric and fuel cell trucks.  Photo credit Shell Lubricants.

 “We’re trying to consolidate and modernize the packaging of all these components, the batteries, the motors, the controls, in ways that can make it faster, cheaper and easier to put in a truck or bus,” Simon said. “The best way to do that is to start from scratch and build the entire bus or the entire truck around it.” 

The PowerBox(™) design uses compact lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells to power vehicles.

The trucks will be designed with a PowerBox(™), a multi-use building block system that features compact multiple fuel cell and battery configurations. The PowerBox can also be used in mobile fuel cell generators — portable power plants that generate electricity using a combination of hydrogen fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries. By mixing fuel cells and batteries, RockeTruck is creating an energy conversion device that keeps the vehicle or mobile generator operating longer than with an electric battery alone and without the polluting excess of diesel-powered vehicles or generators. 

 “Our goal is to mix and match fuel cells and batteries in different ways,” Simon said. The PowerBox(™) version, shown in the image above, has two fuel cells and a total of eight different battery modules. 

The body of the vehicles is being manufactured by RockeTruck. 

“We are planning to use 3D printing to manufacture as many of our parts as we can,” Simon said. This includes the body, the module that holds the batteries, and the chassis. 

 A sleek aerodynamic design will accompany its innovative technologies. Designer Robert Sliwa, who originally designed a similar prototype for Shell Lubricant Solutions called the Shell Starship has created a sleek-looking vehicle that not only gives the trucks a futuristic appeal, but cuts energy consumption usage by about one-third, adding approximately 120 miles of range to the vehicles. 

Simon believes these new trucks, which are using similar body design to Shell’s Starship truck, will be available by mid-2025. He also plans to develop other vehicles from the ground up including buses and various sized trucks. Commercial prices for the Starship-style trucks and other vehicles have not yet been determined, but are expected to be competitive with the costs of similar vehicles on the market, which can range from $100,000 for conventional diesel trucks to more than $500,000 for advanced technology vehicles. Like traditional combustible engine trucks which have an expected lifespan of 10 years, the battery life of the Starship-style truck is also up to 10 years. However, the batteries are easily replaceable and the trucks themselves can reach a working lifespan of 30 years and 1 million miles. 

In addition to the vehicles, the stacked battery design is also being developed as portable generators that can power these trucks or provide power to large buildings, several small houses, or a hospital. 

“The fuel cell battery box can be transported to any location and uses an electric generator as well,” Simon said. “So we are going after both markets.”

 RockeTruck is one of two recipients out of 15 that has been awarded a $3 million grant by the California Energy Commission to develop and build the mobile fuel cell generators (MFCGs). In collaboration with Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, the MFCGs will be test operated in 2023-24.    

RockeTruck’s team consists of a core team of senior personnel who average 50 years of professional experience in engineering and the clean tech industry. Additionally, nearly a dozen consultants and advisors are working with the team to continue the research and development of these new trucks and generators. 

For the City of Escondido, Simon and his team are a welcome enterprise. “We’re proud to be a home to serial entrepreneurs like Mike, who are changing the world with new technologies,” said Jennifer Schoeneck, Deputy Director of Economic Development. “He and his team are passionate about being in Escondido, and we are happy to have them here and help support their success.”

As with TransPower, Simon continues to grow RockeTruck in Escondido because he feels the City supports a business-friendly atmosphere with accessible City officials who understand business needs and who continue to support local companies.

“The City is particularly interested in attracting and retaining clean tech companies like RockeTruck, so it’s a great fit,” Simon said. “Escondido is also favorably located, with convenient freeway access and a major transit center, along with many quality of life benefits such as the Westfield mall, Zoo Safari Park, local breweries, Grand Avenue restaurants, the Arts Center, and so much more.” 





December 2021

EDCO, a California Leader in Waste Management and Recycling, is Helping Businesses and Residents go Greener in the New Year

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EDCO, a California Leader in Waste Management and Recycling, is Helping Businesses and Residents go Greener in the New Year

Recycling is changing in the new year. Starting on January 1, 2022 all Californians are required to put food waste scraps in their green bins, along with their yard trimmings and other organic waste. Food waste includes, fruit, vegetables, bread, pastas, processed foods, fast foods, and  meat and bones. Additionally, compostable paper such as used pizza boxes, paper coffee cups, tea bags, or other food soiled papers excluding wax or plastic coated papers can now be recycled in green bins. 

The Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling Law (Assembly Bill 1826) was signed in 2014 to help achieve California’s aggressive recycling and greenhouse gas emission goals. Currently, organic waste in landfills emits 20% of the state’s methane, a short-lived super pollutant approximately 84 times more potent on a 20-year timescale than carbon dioxide. When diverted from landfills, this material can be composted or used to produce renewable energy, and edible food can be diverted to feed Californians in need.

Escondido waste collection business EDCO has been planning for this change and the company is helping their customers ease into the change. 

“This new change affects both residential and business facilities,” said Jennifer Schoeneck, Deputy Director of Economic Development. “We are fortunate to have EDCO, a thriving business and active local employer, as a California leader in recycling and waste management, here in Escondido.”

EDCO presents information and detailed videos regarding the new changes in waste disposal on its website. Californians can also learn more about Organic Recycling, and have a better understanding of what can go in the green bins. EDCO also offers a free kitchen caddy so residents can store their waste in their home before they take it out to the bin.


A kitchen caddie for kitchen waste scraps.

Today, EDCO continues expanding sustainable solutions by opening one of the first Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plants in Southern California located in Escondido. This state-of-the-art advanced technology system works like a giant compost bin where microorganisms break down the food waste, green waste, fats, oils, and greases and convert it into renewable fertilizer, compost, and natural gas. The fertilizers and compost will then be used in farming and agriculture while the natural gas will fuel the company's trucks.

Examples of food waste for the green bin.

Recycling at the curb may seem ordinary today, but it wasn't always that way. EDCO was always ahead of its time and grew from just a waste hauler to a waste and recycling collector and processor. One of the first curbside recycling programs in the State of California was launched by EDCO in La Mesa in 1990. EDCO has always embraced and has successfully evolved with changing environmental regulations, which has made the company a leader in the industry. From the development of Material Recycling Facilities (MRFs), well ahead of its time in the early 1990s, to recent conversions of old diesel trucks to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles, EDCO continues its trend of sustainability. 

EDCO was founded in 1967 by Ed and Sandy Burr and has flourished from a business that began from one small trash collection company into a hugely successful business and California's largest family-owned and operated waste and recycling company. In more than 50 years, Ed and Sandy have grown EDCO into a combined fleet of more than 700 collection vehicles and is home to more than 1,100 employees. From one city 54 years ago, they’ve expanded into the current collection service of 21 cities in Southern California.

EDCO has embraced its unique role as a family-owned and operated premier service provider that is firmly committed to its employees and customers. There are currently three generations of Burr family members active in the company with the fourth generation growing up quickly and on the horizon. 

“We are also honored and humbled to have generations of employees working within the company as well,”  said Ed Burr. “The real success has been because of our people. There's actually no other reason. This most essential facet of EDCO has not changed through 54 years of service!”


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Event Center on Grand Avenue Boosts Downtown Economic Activity

The Grand Event Center on Grand Avenue.

The Grand Event Center on Grand Avenue and Juniper Street is a gem in Escondido. The multi-use performing arts venue has entertainment options for people of all ages and can host large or small events and celebrations. Reconstructed in 2019 and opened in October 2020 it includes the Ritz Theater, an indoor theater space, which holds 467 people, an outdoor rooftop entertaining space for 158, the mezzanine banquet center for 250, and six small studio workshop spaces and a Black Box theater, which can hold up to 180 people. Additionally, the center houses the Manzanita Roasting Company, a storefront coffee house that serves premium roasts from independently-owned small farms in Africa, South America and Central America. 

“The Grand Event Center is a great community asset. Its strategic location in downtown adds to the economic vitality to the heart of our City, attracting patrons to local businesses.” said Jennifer Schoeneck, Deputy Director of Economic Development.

The anchor to the Grand Event Center is the historic Ritz Theater, which hosts both public and private parties and live events, movies and much more. 

“The Ritz has quite a rich history,” said Janet Lessnau, Operations Coordinator for the Center. Unlike the Grand, which was recently reconstructed and revitalized, the Ritz Theater has been a long-established theater in Escondido. It was first opened in 1938 and during the 30s and 40s, it hosted live events for the community and thrived. In 1951, a car ran into the building, which sparked a fire and shut it down until 1954. By that time, many had lost interest in going to the Ritz and it struggled to stay open. 

In the 1970s, it was purchased by a Las Vegas management group that turned it into a Pussycat Theater. However, the community fought hard to shut it down and in 1976, it was converted into a Spanish-speaking movie house. That conversion was also short-lived and the theater was vacant for many years. In 2003, it was renamed the Ritz with yet another revitalization that only lasted a few weeks.

Inside The Ritz Theater that hosts events throughout the year. 

The Ritz sat vacant for 18 years. In 2019 the revitalization of the former Arthur Murray Dance Studio and the Ritz started with the intention to create the current multi-use performing arts center it is today. COVID-19 brought a halt to construction for a while pushing the planned early 2020 opening to October. 

Despite the obstacles, the center is thriving today. Since its opening, the studio spaces have been used by community organizations such as homeowners associations, women’s groups, and for private music lessons. The non-profit Restoration Community Arts, who was on the forefront of the restoration as part of their mission to restore theater and provide programs for children, also hosts workshops, classes, camps, and childcare at the facility. 

Guests have been entertained in the larger spaces with concerts, plays, movies and other live events.

“We recently had a Star Wars trilogy event at the Ritz,” said Lessnau. “Then we had a cocktail costume party on the rooftop.”

An evening view of the Grand sign from the rooftop deck.

Several cover bands have played to sold out audiences, in both the indoor theater and on the rooftop deck, including the Ramones cover band Hey, Ho, Let’s Go

“The event sold out,” Lessnau said. “Surprisingly there were many young 20-somethings who came out to this event.”

An Eric Clapton cover band called Clapton Hook, and an evening called Mirage with a Fleetwood Mac cover and a James Taylor cover band have all played there as well. On Wednesday, Feb. 2, The Gilmore Project, a Pink Floyd cover band is expected to sell out.  

For live theater fans, the production company Off Broadway Theater Company performs in the Ritz. Their most recent performance was the musical “Grease.” Other events are also held at the center such as a Sunday service by New Vintage Church, which streams live at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. 

Throughout the holidays, family fun movie nights with movies such as “Elf “and “The Polar Express” were shown. Families enjoyed popcorn, treats and beverages while they watched these classic films. A New Year’s Eve event is in the planning stages. Most public events are open to all ages unless otherwise stated. “We try to stay family-friendly,” Lessnau said. Many events also provide beverages and snacks for sale as well. 

Additionally, private events such as receptions, work parties, and galas can also be booked online

Since its opening and while still under COVID-19 restrictions, Lessnau said that the venue does not require guests to wear masks but it is recommended. She also said each event space is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized after each event. Lessnau wants to assure the community that the Grand is open and that it hosts crowd-pleasing events for everyone. “I really want people to know that The Grand is open to the public,” she said. “There’s something for everyone here and we are open to all ages.”

The Grand is located at 301 E. Grand Avenue in Escondido. For more information, email  or call 760-309-7609. Contact The Ritz Theater at

November 2021

Escondido Celebrates Veterans at Annual VetFest

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Escondido Celebrates Veterans at Annual VetFest

On Saturday, Nov.13, Escondido celebrated VetFest, a day-long festival and parade celebrating Veterans who dedicated their time to serving in the United States military. 

Founded in 2019, VetFest was the brain-child of Mayor Paul McNamara who is a retired Marine Corps colonel. Alongside Escondido’s American Legion JB Clark Post 149 Commander Mike Frank and Nina Deerfield, they recruited several volunteers and sponsors to help organize and fund the event. Title sponsors this year included Cheval Winery, Palomar College, MSE Landscape and Palomar Health Medical Group.

The well-organized and much-anticipated event had a large number of attendees come out to celebrate after events were canceled last year due to ongoing pandemic concerns. 

Grand Avenue was decorated in red, white and blue all along the parade route to embody the spirit of the event. Several merchants throughout Grand Avenue and its side streets participated in the annual Storefront Contest where they decorated their window fronts with patriotic salutes to veterans and the U.S. panel of veterans chosen by the VetFest committee selected the winners which will be announced on its website

The parade marched down Grand Avenue and showcased veterans from past conflicts from as far back as World War II. Local and regional organizations that support Escondido veterans and their families also walked the parade, along with marching bands and other supporters. 

The Esco Alley Art committee came out in support of Escondido veterans and participated in the parade. Esco Alley Art committee member Carol Rogers from Stone and Glass said, “We truly enjoyed the experience, we found it a wonderful way to honor our Vets and bring our community together. We plan to participate again next year.” 

This year’s activities also included an art show where veterans, veteran family members, and supporters of veterans were invited to participate. Like the Storefront Contest, it too was judged by a VetFest committee and results will be posted on the website

Static displays such as trucks and military equipment from Camp Pendleton were parked along the route and information booths from sponsors were set up for guests to wander through and learn more about the many businesses throughout Escondido that support the military and military families. 

A free barbecue provided by the American Legion was available after the parade. 

Philanthropic Patriots

Escondido’s American Legion JB Clark Post 149 was first established in 1919, shortly after the first American Legion held its first national convention in Minnesota. The mission of the American Legion is to enhance the well-being of the country’s veterans, their families, our military, and our communities through a devotion to mutual helpfulness. The organization’s  mission statement is: “The American Legion: Veterans Strengthening America.” As a local service charity, the JB Clark Post 149 is dedicated to the preservation of local historical facts.

The American Legion JB Clark Post 149 is located at 230 E Park Avenue in Escondido.

All branches of the armed forces are welcome to join the organization. The organization is a leader in providing services to the community including veteran services, mentoring youth, sponsoring community activities, and advocating American ideals. 100% of funds raised through the American Legion go back to the community. 


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Escondido Continues to Grow Agricultural Industry

Agriculture helps drive economic growth and innovation throughout Escondido and the region.  San Diego County is the number one producer of nursery products in the nation, the 12th largest farm economy in California, and the 19th largest farm economy in the nation, according to statistics provided by the San Diego County Farm Bureau (SDCFB).

San Diego County Farm Bureau offices are in the AGHub building in Escondido.

“Escondido has a really robust agricultural presence,” said Hanna Gbeh, Executive Director for the San Diego County Farm Bureau. “When you look at the numbers in San Diego County, we contribute $1.8 billion annually to the local economy.”

The SDCFB is a nonprofit membership organization that helps elevate the voice of the local agriculture industry and its farmers. Established in San Diego in 1914, SDCFB is one of the earliest farm bureaus in the state. It helps farmers navigate a complex regulatory environment and advocates for farmers so they can remain economically viable in San Diego County.

Hannah Gbeh (center) and the team at the San Diego County Farm Bureau.

The SDCFB also holds educational events and seminars on new technologies and research that affects farming. Recently its Farm and Nursery Expo held at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido brought farmers from around the county to learn more.

                                                                                                                                                          A roundtable discussion at the Farm and Nursery Expo.
“Escondido has a rich history of farming throughout the area,” said Jennifer Schoeneck, Escondido’s Deputy Director of Economic Development. “It really is a hub for farming in San Diego County.”

One of the most vital components of growing is water, and in a State where water is one of the highest commodities, Escondido is a leader in finding ways to safeguard the supply of water so it is readily available to farmers. 

“Escondido is ensuring long-term viability for agriculture,” Gbeh said. “An example of that is the clean water pipeline they are constructing. This is a national model of how to successfully make sure you can keep agriculture continuing to develop in urban environments.”

Gbeh said the SDCFB is grateful to Escondido for pioneering this effort. She also said that San Diego is a leader in sustainable agriculture and specialty crops. Even though farmers here are challenged with the high costs of water and land, labor shortages, and regulations, they continue to produce high-quality commodities and specialty items. Some of the niche markets throughout the county include guavas, coffee, and industrial hemp. 

Escondido also has a grape market with vineyards that have produced several award-winning wines throughout the city. Agri-tourism has become another way many farmers are finding ways to sustain their farms. Wineries, such as Altipiano in the hills of Escondido, offer wine tastings and accommodations on site for those looking to experience life on a vineyard. 

Altipiano winery in the hills of Escondido

No matter the size of the farm or the product being produced, Escondido is ripe with agriculture that continues to support the community and the local economy. And from seed to table, the SDCFB is there to support the efforts of everyone involved in the process.

October 2021

A Love of STEM and a Dive into Waste Water Regeneration

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A Love of STEM and a Dive into Waste Water Regeneration

Aquacycl headquartered in Escondido is a woman-owned and woman-run wastewater treatment technology company that serves the food and beverage industries as well as oil and gas mediation.

“We are a team of nine and six of us are women,” said Orianna Bretschger, CEO and founder of Aquacycl. “From our CTO to our forklift driver, we’ve got female representation across the board, and we are also extremely grateful and honored to have a tremendous suite of female investors from the San Diego community, who have backed us.”

Aquacycl founder and CFO Orianna Bretchger.

Aquacycl’s BioElectrochemical Treatment Technology offers an onsite water treatment technology that breaks down 80-90% of wastewater and converts some into energy, which fuels the system, and safely disposes into our waterways. This system is mostly being used in the food and beverage industry, including one of the largest companies in the industry. Bretschger has also found that the technologies work well to remove gasoline, diesel and benzene from water. The product is rolling out in Houston next month at a refinery. 

This technology saves companies money on their sewer discharge. Bretschger estimates this savings is somewhere between 30-60% on what they would typically pay for either hauling off wastewater into landfills or the added costs of discharging it into city sewers untreated. Additionally, the electricity generated from treating the wastewater not only creates its own energy to operate the system, it also allows extra energy to the companies that can be used to operate tools such as forklifts or power LEDs in a warehouse.

Aquacycl’s BioElectrochemical Treatment Technology wastewater systems in use on a site.

Aquacycl is celebrating five years in the industry but Bretschger has been working on the technology since 2004. Her path to water waste began when she realized the wonders of bacteria. As a child, she was drawn to science and technology. In college she studied physics and astronomy at Northern Arizona University. It was during her graduate work at USC where she was introduced to the concept of bacteria making electricity. 

“I fell in love with the idea of being able to make microbial processes faster by how we control a resistor across the circuit, basically electronically controlling microbial processes,” she said. 

She received her Ph.D in material sciences and began working at J. Craig Venter Institute before branching out on her own in the wastewater industry.

Being a woman in the wastewater industry is an anomaly and Bretschger knows this. She admits the bar for success is much higher for women and expectations are different for women but she said it’s worth it. 

“We are in a very conservative, male-dominated industry,” she said. “We definitely stand out on a worksite, but you know sometimes standing out is a benefit. As a founder and an owner of a small business, it’s a pleasure to be able to provide equality and increase diversity within the workforce. Hopefully, to get equal representation both in business and STEM in the water industry.”

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Manufacturing is Still Up and Running in Escondido

COVID-19 may have put the brakes on a lot of industries but things are up and running in Escondido. A recent study by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, found that the 78 corridor, which includes Escondido, provides over 40,000 manufacturing jobs and has an annual economic impact of $18 billion. These jobs include computer and electronics manufacturing. The study found this work is projected to rise up to 6% in the next five years.

Two high tech companies in Escondido are proving these statistics to be true.

Escondido Business Offers High Performance Computing Wherever You Go

Computer technology and AI technology encompass most of our lives. From home appliances to personal computers and workstations, we all plug-in in some way. Most of these devices use computing technology such as cloud computing and battery-charged systems.

However, when businesses need high-end technology that needs to be fast, compact and can withstand the elements, they go to One Stop Systems in Escondido.

One Stop Systems displaying their products at a trade show.

One Stop Systems makes high performance appliances for AI transportable and industrial industries. Its Edge Computing systems are high-end computers that are used in airplanes, cars, cargo ships, and military equipment. 

“Our focus is on AI Transportables, which are vehicles or equipment that need the absolute highest performance in a challenging environment on the very edge for AI and autonomous control or driving,” CEO David Raun said.

One Stop Systems is leading the way for this type of technology and the company delivers the highest performance available that can sustain harsh environments such as heat, sand, water and even vibrations.

“We are one of several leaders with the intention and plan to dominate the market over time,” Raun said. “Our advantage is that we will take the absolute latest technology (highest performance) and make it work in the harshest environments.” 

Assembling parts in the factory.

Creating the computer technology takes a team of nearly 100 employees, with management, support, operations, and factory employees located in Escondido and a smaller crew in Munich, Germany. 

One Stop Systems has been in Escondido for more than 20 years and Raun says one of the things that makes Escondido so appealing is that it's a great location to attract employees. Its location is ideal because there is still affordable housing, and for those who live outside of Escondido, it still allows for a reasonable commute. 

The positive culture at One Stop Systems has helped them maintain a very low turnover and the company has grown over the years, expanding to the point that it has taken over an entire building for offices and factory space. 

As the expansion continues so does the company’s need for more employees. The company is  currently hiring in marketing, sales, engineering and operations. One of the perks of working for One Stop Systems is its equity stock that’s provided to all employees. 

Raun said the company is  also looking at work differently. He said opportunities to work from home and shared spaces are options the company considers for many of its employees as COVID-19 has proven that not all employees have to be in the office every day.

“The company has a bright future,” Raun said. “It is well positioned in a market that will be $1 to $5 billion in size a few years from now. We have several very exciting customers and we are building relationships (?). We will likely expand in Escondido.”

Wrap It Up with QP Technologies

QP Technologies building in Escondido

QP Technologies (formerly Quik-Pak) is a leading provider of microelectronics packaging, assembly, wafer processing and other services that help chipmakers get their devices to market quickly. The company — which is one of the premiere US-based chip packaging companies with more than 500 customers throughout North America, Europe, and Asia —  targets a multitude of end markets including RF/5G, power communications.

“We have a long track record of success providing IC packaging services for many companies, both large and small, in the commercial, mil-aero, medical, industrial and automotive sectors,” COO Ken Molitor said. “Being a US-based provider is a big advantage for us, particularly in today’s world, where supply chain concerns are paramount, and our US based customers’ can de-risk their processes by having access to our onshore packaging and contracting services.”

QP Technologies moved from Rancho Bernardo to Escondido where it now occupies a 12,000-square-foot facility where more than 50 employees from manufacturing to engineers, to sales, and customer support all work. 

The company chose Escondido because the leadership wanted to purchase a building that they could configure to ideally optimize their manufacturing processes while also allowing for expansion as the company grows.

“We surveyed various properties around the region and found our ideal building in Escondido,” Molitor said. “Its location allows us to capitalize on the available talent pool in the region while remaining close to our customers in San Diego and Southern California.”

QP Technologies is continuing to grow as demand for their products continues to increase, particularly with the growing movement to bring semiconductor manufacturing businesses onshore.

“We are continuing to add to our headcount in manufacturing, engineering, sales, and customer support,” Molitor said.


September 2021

The Photographer's Eye — Providing a View from a Different Lens

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Business Spotlight: The Photographer's Eye — Providing a View from a Different Lens

The Photographer’s Eye on Grand Avenue.

The Photographer’s Eye — a gallery, photographer’s collective, dark room space, research library, and learning space — is a decades-long dream come true for Escondido resident Donna Cosentino,who opened the space in July 2018. 

What once was a law office owned and operated by Cosentino’s friend and fellow photographer, Carla deDominicis, is now a space for photographers from all levels to learn and hone their craft.

The space has hosted 26 shows since its opening. Even through COVID-19, Cosentino was able to host both outdoor and virtual shows, which were well-received. Since some COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, Cosentino is scheduling shows well into 2023. 

Aside from being the owner, she is the director and curator for the collective, which features 15 professional photographers from the region, who also play a big part in the space. Three times a year, the collective has an exhibition of work. These artists include, Terry Scott Allen, Robert Barry, Barbara Beck, Grant Brittain, Stephen Davis, Carla DeDominicis, Deb Hellman, Bob and Susan Hill, Emily Kim, Andrea Matthies, Brandy Sebastian, Tom Vancisin, Keiko Yamasaki, Bob Younger and Cosentino. 

Members of The Photographer’s Eye Collective.

The Collective members not only show their work in the space, they also volunteer as judges and teachers, and they help with events and promotions as well. “They are really the backbone,” Cosentino said. “They help with everything.”

Cosentino, who taught photography at Palomar College for 30 years, offers classes and workshops at The Photographer’s Eye for everyone from beginners to trained professionals. From landscape classes out on locations such as Death Valley, Carmel, or even Yosemite, to classes on dark room techniques and portfolio classes — Cosentino offers something for everyone. 

Her portfolio class will be starting mid-September at the Athenaeum in La Jolla. This class gives photographers some insight into how to select their best work to show when they are promoting themselves. At The Photographer’s Eye, Cosentino has set up a research library that includes several books by other artists that give photographers an idea how to best present themselves. 

The dark room space is also a bonus to San Diego photographers. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the dark room at The Photographer’s Eye is the only working dark room open to the public in San Diego at the present time. 

While digital photography is the most common form of photography these days, Cosentino said there has been a resurgence of film photography and alternative film processing. “There are a lot of antique processes,” she said. “Many folks are taking a step backwards and doing things like tin types, cyano, platinum, palladiums, and all kinds of historical processes.” 

She added that these techniques are a great way to experiment with digital photography and create really interesting works. 

The upcoming juried exhibition, “(s)Light of Hand,” will feature alternative photographic processes and works that have included alternative photo-based processes. It will be judged by the well-known photographer, Jill Enfield

Cosentino said it is her goal to have a gallery that shows “every kind of photography that you can possibly imagine.”

She has accomplished that with many of her exhibits that bring photography enthusiasts and novices into the space and she feels Escondido is the perfect place for this type of gallery.

“I live here and I really wanted to have a business here,” she said. 

Donna setting up a gallery exhibit.

She is connected to the community, not only through the gallery and her teaching, but is also a member of  MAGEC (Museum & Arts Growing Escondido Culture), an informal group whose purpose is to “grow and develop the goals of its participants by promoting Escondido’s vibrant arts, heritage and educational culture.” 

The Photographer’s Eye also participates in 2nd Saturday events and stays open longer on those Saturdays. 

Cosentino fell in love with photography in the dark room. As an art student in college, she found herself gravitating to the photographers who she felt were having a lot of fun in the photo department. In 1971, she took her first class. “From the moment I picked up the camera, I knew that all my art classes were going to feed into this,” she said.

She said seeing the print come up in the dark room was the moment that had her absolutely hooked on photography.

From there, Cosentino began a career as a documentary and street photographer. She also worked as a photojournalist for the Times-Advocate, shooting for stories and sports throughout San Diego. 

In addition to teaching at Palomar College, Cosentino curated several exhibits, managed the San Diego County Fair photography exhibition, the International Photography Show and ran a gallery in a former camera store in Escondido. 

When asked how she knows when she has captured the perfect shot, Cosentino replied, “You intuitively know when you’ve got it. When I print a photograph that makes me happy, I do a happy dance.”

The Photographer’s Eye is currently in the process of becoming a nonprofit and Cosentino has been promoting events that will help create a fund for scholarships for people who are interested in photography but cannot afford the classes. One event was a swap meet on September 4 that included vendors from around Escondido who sold, raffled and gave away local items to help start the fund. For more information on how to contribute to the fund, contact Cosentino at (760) 522-2170.

The Photographer’s Eye is located at 326 Grand Avenue. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday or by appointment. Appointments and tours can be arranged by calling (760) 522-2170. Follow the Photographer’s Eye on Facebook or Instagram.



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Saving Lives By Thinking About Conservation Differently

To live we must eat. But the two most important ways we get food — agriculture and cooking — are also the two most dangerous activities to our environment and our health, experts say. 

Luckily, the team at Ecolife Conservation are working to find solutions for both problems.The company’s mission is to do conservation work that has an equal and measurable impact on people as it does on the environment.

Founder Bill Toone — a trained biologist and conservationist, who spent the start of his career working for the Zoological Society of San Diego and worked on the California Condor Recovery Program — took a turn in his career that led him to Madagascar. There, he realized that conservation, which typically highlights the needs of animals and environment, needs to include efforts to improve the lives of humans as well. 

Bill Toone in Madagascar with community members.

In Madagascar, Toone was on a biological transect when he met a members of a tiny village. He spent three years with the people and became particularly close with a young child who befriended him. When he left in 1999, the boy’s family asked Toone if he would adopt their child. Knowing it was impossible, he had to leave the child behind. Five months later, the community was wiped out in an enormous storm. 

Toone was desperate to find help for this community, but was met with resistance from all his outlets as they told him they protected animals, not people.  

“So I started looking at how you could do conservation that could include people and could benefit people,” Toone said. “Something that was valuable to the community, rather than a threat.”

In 2003, Ecolife Conservation was formed. One of the first missions was a trip back to Madagascar where Toone found the young boy, now a man, and was reunited with others in the community. 

“I’m very proud to be part of an organization that will not walk away from a child,” he said. 

In trying to figure out how to make the greatest impact on communities while also protecting the environment, Toone explained it is all related to healthy ecosystems. There is a direct relationship in the health of people with the health of their environment. Communities rich in natural resources can thrive, while those without, suffer. Toone has found that by providing resources, even in the most unexpected ways, can help lift communities in enormous ways.

Smoke-Free Cooking

Worldwide, the single largest killer of human beings is from cooking smoke with about 4.2 million deaths — mostly among women and children — each year, Toone said.

Toone and his team found a way to help decrease the impact of deaths caused by cooking smoke while also protecting Monarch butterflies — by using Patsari stoves.

A young girl stands near the Patsari stove in her home.

Patsari stoves are brick-walled ovens with sealed cooking surfaces to keep smoke from leaking out. They also have a combustion chamber and prefabricated chimneys that funnel 90% of smoke outside of the house. These nearly smokeless stoves help protect women and children from smoke inhalation and additionally use 60% less wood, which is not only important to forests, it is also important to watersheds and other local resources including the Monarch butterflies. 

Ecolife found a community from the UNESCO World Heritage site, which is in the Monarch butterfly biosphere reserve to bring these stoves. Working with partners in Mexico, they introduced themselves to the people of these communities using female “promadoras” who helped convince the communities that these stoves were a better alternative to open cooking in their homes. 

To date, Ecolife has installed nearly 9,000 stoves in communities throughout Mexico.Their success is measured by the fact that they have penetrated more than 90% of the communities they have approached and have a 90% adoption rate. The environmental impact has reached 43,000 people, saved 625,000 trees and butterfly habitats and reduced the carbon footprint by 130,000 tons. 

For the women and children, it has relieved them of the burden of collecting wood and cooking throughout the day, which has given many children more time for school and to help their communities in other ways. 

Eco-Friendly Agriculture

Cooking food is one solution that Ecolife has tackled. Growing it is another.

Traditional farming takes a huge toll on our environment from land and water use to the amount of pesticides that affect ecosystems. 

“It chews up more land and places more species at risk than any other human activity,” Toone said.

That is why many are rediscovering an ancient farming technique once used by both Aztecs and ancient Thais called aquaponics, and could be a solution in protecting resources.

Ecolife Conservation Aquaponics farm in Escondido.

Aquaponics uses fish to grow plants. 

“It’s a mini example of how the world works. The fish fertilize the plants, the plants clean the water,” he said. “It’s the carbon cycle, water cycle, reproductive cycle, and production cycle. Exactly how the world functions.”

Ecolife has become a leader in teaching aquaponics as research, for new farmers, and in schools. They have a teaching farm in Escondido off Deer Springs Road, which is open for tours and educational development. Toone added, his team includes some of the best aquaponics people in the nation. They have produced several tons of produce that has all been donated to local organizations such as Interfaith Community Services, Produce for Patriots and other organizations that assist underserved people in our communities.

Ecolife has also created an aquaponics kit that can be used in classrooms or for home growing. 

“One of the things about aquaponics is that you can get a high productivity out of a small space,” said Toone, adding that several restaurants grow their own produce on rooftops. 

Aquaponics kit that can be used at home or as a classroom learning tool.

They are in the process of creating a larger kit called the Modular Aquaponics Response Kit (M.A.R.K.) to give to underserved communities and the same communities that are using the stoves. This tool will not only give communities fresh produce, but it will also allow them to farm fish such as tilapia, which would give the people a rich protein source as well. 

“There’s a tremendous amount of versatility to it because of its compactness and effectiveness,” Toone said.

Aquaponics farming not only saves water, it can grow in any environment, so unlike traditional farming, soil-rich land is not necessary. Toone believes by training this type of farming to new farmers it will someday create a business model that overtakes traditional farming for much of the produce we eat today.

Nonprofit Sustainability

Ecolife Conservation is a nonprofit organization that is funded through its board of directors and donations. Its annual gala is scheduled for October 16 at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. They also host monthly speaking events and an annual trip to Mexico. 

“Escondido is a proud supporter of companies that work to find solutions to world problems,” said Teresa Collins, Deputy Director of Communications for the City of Escondido. “Ecolife Conservation allows the community both education and resources to help be part of those solutions, and help lift our own communities as well.”

As a nonprofit, they are in the final stages of receiving The Gold Standard Carbon Verification for their stove initiative. This honor was established in 2003 to ensure projects that reduce carbon emissions follow the highest levels of environmental integrity and contribute to sustainable development.

When asked what Toone wants people to know about Ecolife, he replied, “I want people to know that there’s a wonderful balance in our organization. It is the most passionate team of people you could run into that is really tempered by data statistics and measures. We are driven but thoughtful.”

August 2021

Celebrate Art and Culture in Escondido on 2nd Saturdays

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Celebrate Art and Culture in Escondido on 2nd Saturdays

2nd Saturday Art on Grand includes an ArtWalk and Artist Pop-Up

Escondido has long been known throughout San Diego County as an arts enclave. Since the early 1980s, the City has been celebrating local artists every second Saturday of the month. This is when Escondido’s art centers, local galleries, and pop-up artists come together to bring special events, showcases, and experiences throughout the city for everyone to enjoy. 

“I am a firm believer that small art shows are a great way to introduce art to the public. Some people may never enter an art gallery but are comfortable approaching art in the street,” said Carol Rogers, who is a member of the 2nd Saturday sponsoring organization Museums and Arts Growing Escondido Culture (MAGEC). 

Carol Rogers (left) and the MAGEC team.

The 2nd Saturday event often brings in audiences who didn’t otherwise expect to participate. 

“Someone who came into town to get their nails done may discover a new artist, or people who have come to visit a particular artist might discover our wonderfully eclectic downtown,” Rogers said.

2nd Saturday events happen throughout the day and even into the evening. They also span different locations around Escondido, and provide viewings of art, educational experiences and hands-on interactive fun in various locations including the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum, The San Diego Archaeology Center, California Center for the Arts, Queen Califia’s Magical Circle at Kit Carson Park and throughout the downtown area.

Rogers gave credit to the Downtown Business Association, which has been a wonderful supporter of the monthly events and continuously gives the group the necessary permits and insurance they need to create the event every month.

Rogers, who also owns and runs Stone and Glass with her husband, award-winning artist James Stone, said she especially likes working with the ArtWalk and Pop-Up Artists on Grand Avenue.

Although it has been happening consistently since the 1980s, 2nd Saturday has seen its ups and downs throughout the decades. The recession in the early 2000s changed a lot of Escondido’s downtown area, shutting down many of the art galleries that once lined Grand Avenue. But in 2016, efforts were made to rebuild and rebrand the event. MAGEC played a big part in the rebranding, which also included making the event more inclusive around the City giving audiences a wider variety of art showcases and activities such as the speaking series, or craft-making for all ages.

Of course, the pandemic put a dent in the event and shutting it down in 2020 with only one showing in November 2020. But as of April 2021, starting with the ArtWalk and Pop-Up Artists on Grand Avenue, 2nd Saturday has been back and thriving. 

A pop-up stand highlights work by Stone and Glass artist James Stone.

“The intent is to bring more visitors back to Grand,” said Rogers, who believes the art shows provide a nice synergy with the businesses, which are also working their way back from pandemic closures. 

Some businesses, such as the local vintage stores, will offer specials on their artwork on 2nd Saturday. Although none have been announced yet, the Downtown Business Association is also working on additional promotions that will tie into 2nd Saturday events.

A young family enjoys an art lesson with a local artist.

To make it even more accessible to the public, the City has allowed the event to use space on Grand Avenue that was originally designated for restaurants and retail businesses as part of the COVID-19 recovery. Restaurants and businesses that no longer use the additional space have allowed the Pop-Ups to use their spaces for the event. Rogers is not sure how long these Pop-Ups will continue during 2nd Saturday events as construction is slated to begin in the near future. The MAGEC team is working with the City to find a space for the Pop-Ups when the current space is no longer available.

However, the City recognizes the impact 2nd Saturday events have had on the community and the importance of elevating the arts industry. 

“2nd Saturday is a wonderful event that features the unique and abundant talents we have here in Escondido,” said Teresa Collins, Deputy Director of Communications for the City of Escondido. “This event showcases our City’s creativity and important contributions it continues to make in the art world. The City supports this event and looks forward to helping make sure it will continue to grow.”

While 2nd Saturday tends to be slower in the summer because of the heat, 2nd Saturday on August14, featured the Phase II unveiling of the Esco Alley Art, an outdoor art gallery in the alley south of Grand Avenue between Broadway and Maple Street that displays art from local artists along a historic 300-foot brick wall for art patrons and novices to view continually. Phase II will add 11 more pieces to the current 12 pieces that have been hanging since spring of this year. 

2nd Saturday takes place every 2nd Saturday of the month. Events schedules and maps can be found here


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New Breweries, Eateries Make Escondido the Perfect Place to Find a Great Meal

Escondido continues to bring residents and guests plenty of choices when it comes to dining. Two new locations prove that our post-pandemic appetites for new flavors and foods can be found in our own backyard.

“The great selection of eateries and breweries in Escondido continues to grow,” said Teresa Collins, Deputy Director of Communications for the City of Escondido. “The City’s support for our expanding food industry makes this a perfect place to open a new restaurant or brewery.”

Brewing a Community Spirit 

The Oasis is highlighted on a City map t-shirt.

In November 2020, Burgeon Brewery opened its outdoor Escondido brewery, The Oasis located next to Escondido Feed and Pet Supply in the former Escondido Brewing Company location, and has had a steady flow of support ever since. 

“We have seen tremendous support from the Escondido community,” said Mackenzie Graham, marketing director for Burgeon. “I think there is a real thirst for craft beer here and we’ve had such a warm welcome from our Escondido community.”

Graham added when the Escondido location opened, owners,  Anthony Tallman, Derek van Leeuwen, and Matthew Zirpolo — who are North County locals and were classmates at La Costa Canyon in Carlsbad —jumped at the opportunity to open here. Burgeon’s main location is in Carlsbad and a new location just opened in Little Italy. 

“It just seemed like a perfect fit,” she said.

Team members and guests pose in front of The Oasis brewery.

Not only is the location perfect, the outdoor setting made it ideal during the unpredictable COVID-19 pandemic .

“I think being outside has been a huge positive,” Graham said. “We have been fortunate to be able to serve on site since we opened because of that.”

What they serve is a 12-tap variety of craft brews from IPAs to pale ales to pilsners and loggers, which are on permanent rotation.

“We are most known for our West Coast IPAs and our hazy IPAs but we are really putting an emphasis on pale ales,” Graham said. “They have a lower ABV and are more of a seasonable beer, particularly in the heat of summer.”


Starting August 20, they will be releasing a new, fruited hazel IPA called Tropical Transport, a POG flavored drink with passion fruit, orange and guava flavors.

Along with the various craft beers, food truck vendors provide savory menu items on a rotating basis that compliment the drinks nicely. The food truck schedule can be found on the online calendar.

Being part of the community is important to the Burgeon team and now that some health restrictions have been lifted, The Oasis will be hosting their Branching Out community events. The first one on August 21 is in partnership with the Escondido Creek Conservancy

“We will be heading out on a project with them to help preserve local wildlife habitats,” Graham said. “This includes fence building and trail clean-up.”

All volunteers who sign up to participate will be rewarded with a free beer or non-alcoholic drink and pizza back at The Oasis after the event. The event is open to individuals ages 8 and over.

For craft beer fans who like to drink at home, The Oasis offers all the fresh releases for take-out as well. “It's a really great spot to just quickly drop by and pick up your favorite craft beer too,” Graham said. 

Burgeon Beer Company’s The Oasis is at 649 Rock Springs Road. Contact the restaurant at  760-814-2548 or email

aMAZEing Street Corn and More 

In the fall of 2019, Marie Alderbert and her partner Gennaro Rodriguez were putting plans in place to open Elote Restaurant on Valley Parkway. It would be the restaurant to compliment their brand, Elote, which already had a successful to-go corn stand in Valley Center.

Elote Restaurant owners Genarro Rodrigues and Marie Alderbert.

They signed the lease on March 1, 2020 only to see the country shut down on March 15. Still, they persisted and a year later, Elote Restaurant opened and has had a growing customer base ever since. 

Elote literally means corn in Spanish, but to many it is the word for roasted Mexican street corn. Elote is one of the signature dishes here, but it is really their fresh, quality Mexican dishes — many made from homemade family recipes — that makes Elote Restaurant a new Escondido favorite. 

“Everything is made fresh,” Alderbert said. “We created the recipes and Gennaro’s mother, Carmella, helped us with the recipes.” 

The salsas, meat marinades, rice and beans are all created from family recipes Carmella helped create. 

Elote Restaurant serves fast casual, customizable entrees giving the customer options to create their meal. 

Elote Restaurant has ample outdoor seating.

“Everything is build-your-own,” Alderbert said. “You choose your dish, pick your protein and add all the toppings you want.”

In addition to the traditional burrito, taco or bowl-style meals, customers can also choose potato or corn as their meal base option. The potato, which is roasted in the corn oven, has quickly become a customer favorite. Like the potato, fries have recently been added to the menu and they too have been ordered often. Proteins such as beef, chicken, pork, or tofu are added next, then the meal can be completed with a variety of cheeses, fresh and roasted vegetables, seasonings, salsas, beans, rice and of course, corn. 

Delicious taco plate with homemade salsas and fresh toppings.

Along with delicious foods, tasty Mexican sodas and homemade Agua Fresca drinks are available. 

As Escondido locals, Aldebert and Rodriguez felt Escondido was the perfect place to open their new venture. Not only were they closer to family, who have been instrumental in helping open their business, but they also felt the Escondido community would embrace their fresh take on Mexican food. 

“We feel very supported here in Escondido, that’s another good thing about Escondido,” Alderbert said. “The community is really open to supporting local businesses.”

Alderbert is also beginning to expand their services into catering. Catering orders, which includes roasting corn, can be made for take-out or onsite. 

Elote is located at 1760 E. Valley Parkway. Orders can be placed by calling 760-533-0974 or online here.

July 2021

Get Your Motor Runnin’ - Cruisin’ Grand is Back!

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Get Your Motor Runnin’ - Cruisin’ Grand is Back!

Grand Avenue is where it’s at on Friday Nights this summer!

After a year-long hiatus, one of Escondido’s most famous and fun summer activities is back and revving to go. Cruisin’ Grand rolled into town on Friday, June 18, and will be parked on Grand Avenue every Friday from 4 to 9 p.m. through September 24. 

The City of Escondido, which typically hosts several events and celebrations, went an entire year without any and the City and its community are thrilled to bring back this popular summer tradition. 

“Cruisin' Grand is really one of the cornerstones of summertime here in Escondido,” said Teresa Collins, Deputy Director of Communications. “It really is a cherished event and it is great to welcome it back.” Collins said families were out in full force opening week and the event has maintained a steady flow of people every Friday night, who come to celebrate the American tradition of cars and cruising - from American-made classics to customs, vintage, muscle, and hot rods.

This summer’s weekly event is slightly different than in years past. Because many bars and restaurants still have outdoor dining that has spilled onto the street with k-rails as barriers, the traditional cruising element has been eliminated from the event for now. Instead, Grand Avenue has been closed off to traffic and the classic and specialty cars are parked along the street next to outdoor diners, allowing visitors the ability to walk freely on the street to admire the scenery.

Grand Avenue is closed for cruisin’ but open for perusing. 

“That has been a great solution and it worked out really well,” added Collins. “Keeping the street side dining and retail is really important as our local businesses are moving into the recovery phase.”

Five City blocks from Escondido Boulevard to Ivy Street are blocked off  for the classic cars to park and show off their unique features. Additionally, the side streets between Second Avenue and Valley Parkway are closed as these streets are where most car clubs traditionally congregate throughout the summer. 

Cruisin’ Grand has been named, “The number one car cruise in the nation,” by Curbside TV and is considered the largest car show in the region. 

Cruisin’ Grand creator and organizer Steve Waldron makes sure it’s a family-friendly event every week. He coordinates each week’s car theme and has both live music and a DJ to celebrate the cars and their era. Awards are given out by car clubs and sponsors to car owners every week as well. Kettle corn and games accompany the event, giving kids even more to do throughout the evening.

The event is also filled with surprises every week. The first week, Waldron managed to get the Grease Lightning car from the movie Grease to show up for the event. Spectators were able to take photos next to the famous car that had been signed by the movie’s lead actress Olivia Newton-John. 

Other surprises from the past include cars from the Pixar movie Cars, Nitro Night (complete with the flame-belching nitromethane racers), model cars from various eras, and Hero Night (a salute to first responders, which runs the Friday closest to September 11). 

Hero Night with responder vehicles from several decades.

“Steve puts a call out to all first responder vehicles both old and new,” said Collins, adding that everything from vintage fire trucks to SWAT cars, and old police cruisers show up, making this one of the event's most popular nights. “Everyone loves it, especially the kids.” 

This year’s Hero Night will be Friday, September 10.

Many Escondido businesses also participate in the event with specials that run on Friday nights during Cruisin' Grand. The Escondido-based food app FabnGrab has many Cruisin’ Grand specials dedicated to this summer’s celebration, including a Two Tamale Combo at Tamales Jovita, Happy Hour Pizza at Bulgogi Fries, a Lunch Pizza at Grand Pizzeria, The Barrel Burger or  Happy Hour Craft Beer at Barrel Republic.

Cruisin’ Grand is maintained mostly through volunteers and sponsorship. Sponsors include O'Reilly Auto Parts, Gosch Ford Escondido, Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, and Brian Habib, Realtor

The calendar of events throughout the summer include:

July 9 - Classic T-Birds And Vintage Corvettes Night
        Sponsored by Rock-n-Jenny's
July 16 - German and British Car Night
         Sponsored by Esco Gelato
July 23 - The Drifters Car Club
         Sponsored by Escondido Coin & loan
July 30 - Grand De Elegance Packard and Pierce Arrow Night
        Sponsored by Tool Shed
August 6 - Country Gents And Little Guys Night
        Sponsored by Free Builders Supply
August 13 - Model T's, A's and Early Fords
        Sponsored by Tom and Patsy Hamlin
August 20 - Heartbeat Classics Night
        Sponsored by The Enlow Family
August 27 - Axle Draggers Night
        Sponsored by C&G Ford
September 3 - C-10 Trucks Night
        Sponsored by HotRod & Custom Stuff
September 10 - Fire Truck Night - Hero's Night
        Sponsored by Escondido Fire Association
September 17 - The Shafter's Night

September 24 - Vintage Racecar Night - NITRO NIGHT
        Sponsored by Correct Carpet

More information on Cruisin’ Grand is available on the Website and Facebook.



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An Alley Becomes a Gallery: Escondido Art Association Brings Art to Everyone

Community members hit the alley for the Phase I unveiling in June.

The pandemic hit the art community hard. However, creative people tend to find outlets even in the most unlikely places. Many local artists and muralists simply took their brushes to the streets and kept busy painting the street barriers that were put up around outdoor eating sites throughout the City.

“One of the ways local artists tried to stay sane during the pandemic was painting as much of downtown as they could.” said Carol Rogers, a member of the Escondido Art Association and co-owner of Stone and Glass, which she owns with her husband and glass artist, James Stone. “One of the things that became a big canvas were the barriers used to extend the outdoor restaurants and retail. Instead of white barriers, local artists would paint them. The artist would decide on the painting and most shop owners gave them the freedom to paint. This went on throughout the pandemic.”

Fueled with the idea to find new and interesting places to give artists more space to paint, Heather Moe of Design Moe Kitchen and Bath realized the 350-foot brick wall — owned and occupied by John Paul Catholic University, which sits opposite the alley of her building — would be a great place for art. 

The Esco Alley committee. From left to right clockwise Carol Rogers, Kati Cowan, Suzanne Nicolaisen, Louisa Magoon, Dan Forster, Heather Moe, Stella, Tristan Pittard.

She began discussing the idea with her art community friends including Rogers, Kati Cowan, Suzanne Nicolaisen, Louisa Magood, Dan Forster and Tristan Pittard. They began creating a plan that became Esco Alley Art

The project is a three-phase project where 8x8 or 4x8 murals are painted on plywood and attached to the building. The idea sprouted in March and a call for artists went out shortly after that. Eleven artists were chosen and the Phase I murals went up on June 12. The team provided the artists with the plywood canvases and a stipend to pay for their supplies. The murals are also coated in a tag-resistant sealer created by Sculpt Nouveau, an Escondido paint and finishing company. 

“The art that came from this is remarkable,” said Rogers. “The only direction was that it would be public so it has to be tasteful.”

All 11 artists have a connection to Escondido with many of them having their art in galleries in Escondido or mural art throughout the City. Each of them has a unique story to tell too. Each mural has a QR code on it that viewers can scan to find out more about the piece and the artist.

For Rogers, she feels the biggest point of doing this outdoor art is to bring art to the people. “We know there are people who will never step foot in an art gallery,” she said. “This is out there to show people that art is accessible to everyone.”The City of Escondido is helping to increase the foot traffic to the murals. They are posting photos to Instagram and asking others to tag themselves when they are there. 

“Those murals are amazing,” said Teresa Collins, Deputy Director of Communications for the City of Escondido. “They’re lovely and you know, being an alleyway, it’s kind of one of those cool discoveries when you find it. So we are helping to push more people to find it.”

The murals will hang indefinitely at this point with 11 more murals coming from Phase II in August and another 11 in October from Phase III. At this point, all the artists have been selected for Phase II and there are still openings for artists in Phase III. Applications can be found here

Eventually, Rogers said the murals will be sold privately and a portion of the sales will go to the Downtown Business Association, the Escondido Art Association, and a portion to the artists themselves. The committee is also deciding how to create and sell prints of the images. The entire project was created with the help of donor funding and the committee continues to solicit donations to continue to advance this unique Escondido art project. Donation information can be found on their sponsor page.

Esco Alley Art is located in the alley south of Grand Avenue between Broadway and Maple. 

Lining the alley, Phase I murals bring a fun and creative vibe to the City.

About the Artists

Mauro Alvarez has a passion for cars and a love for Escondido. He is making a name for himself outside of the City and his mural art can be seen at The Barking Dog Deli as well.

Julia Martinez mixes her Mexican heritage into her work, bringing traditional and folk elements to all her designs. 

Jinx Lennon’s pieces are hung throughout the world. Her piece is uniquely Escondido and was painted while watching people wandering through the City.

Madeline Reich plays with linear lines in her piece as she compares it to the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cindy Peters is an Escondido resident. She too was inspired by COVID-19 in her work and used the sunflowers to represent hope.

Leslie Mayer painted the famous Kumeyaay woman, Hal-ah-wee, later named Felicita LaChappa who helped preserve her culture’s rich history in San Diego. Mayer also has a 180’ wall mural in Escondido called, “The Wall Speaks”.

Daniel Kilgore is a landscape and seascape artist, and his mural contribution gives a spectacular representation of one of many magical San Diego sunsets.

Maya Sorvala is the youngest muralist. At just 18, this is her fourth mural design. She is headed to Vancouver Institute of the Media Arts in the fall to study game art and design. 

Tristan Pittard is a founding member of Esco Ally and runs the website. He is a fan of public art. His contribution is a reflection of the laws of nature and abstract thought.

Brenda Townsend’s piece was originally meant to be the backdrop for a production at the Patio Playhouse Youth Theatre. Townsend is also the director of the Patio Playhouse Youth Theatre.

Katie Gaines pours her life experiences into her work. Her mermaid mural features many symbolic elements that relate to her personally. As a muralist and decorative painter, she has also made a name for herself as a social media influencer.

Natalie J.D. Cuenca (Cachi) incorporates her spirituality into her work. She created a mural filled with meaning for her. 

June 2021

From Applications to Zoning, the City of Escondido Supports New Businesses

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From Applications to Zoning, the City of Escondido Supports New Businesses

The Escondido Arch welcomes commuters into the City.

Looking to open a dream business in Escondido? Whether searching for the perfect parcel, navigating zoning restrictions, making tenant improvements, or getting ready to open the doors for business, the City of Escondido goes above and beyond to support business owners throughout the process.

“We have continued to help streamline our processes and provide digital access in order to make them as user-friendly and accessible for business owners as possible,” said Joanna Axelrod, Escondido’s Deputy City Manager/ Director of Communications & Community Services. “This includes support in searching for commercial and industrial properties available for sale or lease in the City, an online portal for processing business license applications and renewals, a plethora of helpful resources and marketing tools to support business success, and access to staff who can provide individualized assistance.” 

A required element of operating a business is to have a current business license. Every year the City of Escondido receives nearly 1800 business license requests. People looking for a new business license or to renew an existing license can apply online using an easy step-by-step process or visit City Hall to complete their application or renewal in person. The Business License division has created a Business Resource Guide that walks new business owners through the process. It begins with a checklist that new applicants can follow to ensure they have worked through necessary City and State requirements.  

The Business Resource Guide is available at the Economic Development Department and online.

Department Specialist Sylvia Atwan added that the Resource Guide is meant to help answer many questions that the department gets from new business owners when they are starting out. “We act as a one-stop-shop for them to get their business off the ground, and this Resource Guide will help them start out strong.”  

It is a comprehensive guide that includes specific information on required forms, permit information, processing timelines, and other business resources, groups and associations that can be of value to starting a business. “The guide was also created to provide prospective business owners a way to navigate and understand the State, County and City requirements”, said Atwan.

Aside from helping businesses get started, the City has several online resources available to help businesses grow. Recently City staff hosted a digital marketing workshop that brought together a panel of business owners to share strategies for success. Three Escondido companies participated: ManzanitaRoasting, The San Diego Code School, and DayDream Makers Market and discussed web design, branding, hype marketing and more.

Escondido is one of the oldest incorporated cities in San Diego County, and is the fourth largest city by population. Even with its large size, it still maintains a small community feel and welcomes large, established businesses, small mom and pop shops, and everything in between. 

“Every business is important to the City,” said Robert Van De Hey, Escondido’s Deputy City Manager/Director of Information Systems. “We support business establishment and growth by supplying information that can help owners understand demographics to know who their customers are so they can tailor their businesses towards that.” 

Van De Hey explained how finding the right location for a business is essential and that he and his team work with new and existing business owners to find locations that best fit their needs. He also said that the City continues to improve existing locations such as the Escondido Creek Trail to help improve foot traffic and bring more customers to every location.

City staff have also been instrumental in helping new and current business owners navigate the pandemic while making sure that new business licenses could be delivered on time.

 “We try to be very proactive in engaging with our business community,” said Van De Hey. “As the City changes, we reach out to our businesses to make sure they can take advantage of these changes and be successful.”  

Because of Escondido’s diversity, it is the perfect location for retailers and businesses of all types. “The Mercado District looks very different from the Old Escondido Downtown District which is different from the South Side of Escondido or East Valley. That affords us the flexibility to accommodate big box stores and mom and pops. Our diversity makes us very unique and attractive to business owners,” said Axelrod.

Axelrod said she hopes businesses see City staff as a resource that can help steer them to success. “The key takeaway is that we are here to help.”

For more information about opening a business in Escondido, visit the business page.

For information on business updates/workforce, presentations, and Coronavirus updates, visit the business news page.

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Are You Hungry Escondido? There’s an App for That!

They say necessity is the mother of all inventions and these two apps, created by Escondido locals, were both driven by a need. And, they give users some help when it comes to figuring out what to eat, while helping boost business for local restaurants. 

Looking for Local Restaurant Deals and Specials?

Escondido resident Rudy Rodriguez is a software engineering manager at  Northrop Grumman. Using his expertise, he has created an app that allows restaurants to highlight their daily specials and deals while giving users insider deals at special prices. Like apps such as Groupon that give users access to daily specials, FabnGrab gives users access to food specials from local eateries that might often be overlooked or not promoted elsewhere. 

“Our main mission is to help locally-owned restaurants get more foot traffic into their eateries and get more customers,” said Rodriguez, founder and CEO of FabnGrab. 

FabnGrab easy app QR code.

The app launched on April 10 exclusively in Escondido and is currently in its beta phase. Rodriguez is currently working solely with Escondido restaurants to build the app, modify it, and adapt it so that he can begin to grow and expand FabnGrab into greater San Diego and beyond.  By using Escondido as a blueprint for other cities, Rodriguez feels he can really understand the needs and desires that both restaurants and users are looking for in an app. 

Like most businesses, COVID-19 had a big impact on the development and design of this app. “Originally the idea was just going to be an app for lunch specials,” Rodriguez said. “But when COVID hit, we pivoted.”

Now the app includes menu specials that can be purchased throughout the day. It also allows businesses to highlight items that may not be otherwise known. For instance, Cute Cakes, one of the Escondido businesses that is signed up with FabnGrab, has a Mimosa deal on Fridays and Saturdays for diners in the shop's outdoor dining tent.

Another benefit to Escondido restaurants that sign on for the beta phase is there are no fees to join. Rodriguez envisions FabnGrab as an opportunity to help rebuild the community and help get customers back into their favorite restaurants and try new ones. “We are creating a customer experience that will have customers returning to dining and finding deals,” said Rodriguez.

Not only do restaurant owners get the benefit of greater foot traffic but Rodriguez also plans to give them data. “We ultimately want to use data to drive consumer behavior and help the restaurants,” he said.

By knowing their customers, and which specials get the most use, restaurants can target consumers with specials that meet their desires. This information can also be used for holiday specials and celebrations.

Likewise, customers will begin to receive customized push notifications when their favorite restaurants are posting new deals and trending specials.

The FabnGrab team from L to R: Keith Conway, Paul Schaefer, Rudy Rodriguez, and Zack Robb.

Currently, the team at FabnGrab is small, consisting of just Rodriguez, his Co-Founder Keith Conway; Director of Engineering Paul Schaeffer; and Zack Robb, Customer Experience Lead. They also have an overseas team who ensures reach back support. But as developers, the team is able to create, develop, and update the app together without the need for additional developers, which also helps keep overhead low. As FabnGrab expands into neighboring cities, Rodriguez hopes to grow the team. 

FabnGrab hopes to have 50 Escondido restaurants on the app before expanding into other local cities this summer.

FabnGrab can be downloaded on both Apple and Android phones or accessed online

Eating In Made Easy

Hungr, a mobile ordering and delivery service, was inspired by a work trip. The founders were at a convention center in a city they didn’t know and they were hungry. They realized the need for an app that would find local eateries, show menus, and deliver the food to them. From that desire, Hungr was born.

Deliveries come in specialty made Hungr bags.

In 2012, they created a mobile  app for restaurants that allowed customers table-side ordering in lieu of a waitstaff. In 2014, they expanded their app and added a driver network to help deliver food for restaurants that didn’t have their own delivery services. Hungr now includes over 60,000 restaurants throughout the US.

Based in Escondido, Hungr stands out from its competitors as it places its focus on customer service and gives restaurant owners a lower, constant flat rate charge of 12%. “Our percentage rate is one of the lowest of any delivery platform and it includes all credit card processing,” said Aaron Mortensen, a co-founder and Escondido resident. “The way we compete is through our quality of service.”

Keeping food hot and fresh is also a priority. They found that food packing plays a large part in making sure the food gets to the customer hot and fresh. “We spent a lot of time finding thermal bags that have heat packs in them,” said Mortensen. “We also ask restaurants to separate the food if they have different temperatures. So salads go in one bag and steaks go in another.” 

As a result, food keeps its temperature no matter the distance the driver has to go. Unlike other delivery services, Hungr doesn’t have delivery limits. 

“We delivered Perterson’s Donuts to Hemet,” said Mortensen. He explained these were a Mother’s Day delivery for a family that has a longstanding tradition of Peterson’s Donuts on Mother’s Day, but due to COVID-19 they couldn’t be together. 

Escondido deliveries have gone as far as Bonsall, Valley Center, Palomar Mountain, and Ramona. The longest delivery Hungr logged was 150 miles. A wedding ordered 10 dozen donuts from Peterson’s Donuts. Delivery charges to the customer are competitive with other mobile apps. They have a $3 minimum charge for the first three miles or less and an additional $1.10 charge per mile.

To maintain such a high-quality customer service, Hungr trains its restaurant clients to bag the food properly and maintain proper delivery conduct through training videos and manuals they provide when restaurants join the app. Mortensen added, “We make sure that a high customer service level is provided from the beginning to end.”

COVID-19 increased the number of food deliveries which helped many restaurants stay afloat but with dining rooms closed, many still had no work for their servers. The Hungr team found a way to help keep them employed.  

“We reached out to restaurants, whether they were working with us or not, and fast-tracked servers to be drivers,” said Mortensen. Mortensen and his team also launched a Hungr Heroes program during the pandemic, which allowed customers to buy meals for hospital staff, firefighters, police officers and front-line workers. This program has continued and expanded to include the homeless.

“We are a very community-oriented company,” said Mortensen, who strives to maintain a community feel with his company.

He said customers get to know their drivers and realize they are getting the best delivery service with Hungr whether they are in Escondido or anywhere in the country.

The Hungr app is available on Apple and Android devices. Restaurants can sign up online. To become a Hungr driver click here.

May 2021

What’s on Tap? Guests Can Pour Another One at Barrel Republic

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What’s on Tap? Guests Can Pour Another One at Barrel Republic

New on Grand, Barrel Republic pours good times and great taps.

Dave Pike was out dining with his wife one night and sampling some San Diego craft beers at a crowded bar when he had a thought. He told his wife, “Wouldn’t it be nice to sample all of the beer list without having to wait in line every time to try them?”

From that idea, Barrel Republic was conceptualized and created. With four locations throughout San Diego County, the newest one just opened in April on Grand Avenue in Escondido. This unique, family-friendly restaurant and bar experience - with the motto, Freedom to Pour - allows diners to pour their own beverages from an assortment of over 60 taps filled with local and craft beers from around the country, cider drinks, and non-alcoholic drinks such as handcrafted sodas, coffees, teas, and Kombuchas. 

“We have a super venue with super food and our unique way of having our customers try different beers, ciders, and non-alcoholic drinks,” said Pike. “There’s something for everybody.”

At Barrel Republic, the guests are their own bartenders. “Barrel Republic was the first restaurant or bar that did not have a bartender,” said Pike. “It is exclusively self-pour.” 

Attendants are available to answer questions and serve food and the knowledgeable staff is always ready to help guests make drinks or food selections. But when it comes to pouring, it is a self-serve process. 

Guests receive a bracelet when they enter the restaurant that tracks their pours. “You can pour a pint, you can pour one ounce, or do a dash,” Pike said. The bracelet limits alcohol self-pours to 36 ounces to ensure that no one is over consuming. 

Taps provide detailed information on iPad technology.

Each tap also has an iPad located next to it with information about the beverages. It contains information including the name of the beer, its alcohol content, the brewers, and even added details such as the types of notes you can expect to taste when drinking it. 

“You can browse around and decide what to try and have some kind of content to go along with your decision-making process,” said Pike.

Besides giving  guests the ability to pour as they wish, Pike believes this type of atmosphere gives guests the opportunity to discuss the craft drinks with others who also enjoy tasting new flavors.

 “It gives everyone the ability to buzz around the room and socialize,” he said. “It kind of creates a fellowship between the people who have similar interests.”

Of course with COVID-19 restrictions still in place, social distancing protocols are still adhered to. However, there is plenty of outdoor space.

 “We have tons of back patio, front patio, and street seating,” said Pike. “We’re really entertaining a lot of people while still respecting COVID regulations.”

While Barrel Republic only opened in Escondido in April, it was a location Pike had set sights on for a while. “My mom worked across the street at the antique mall for many years so I knew the area,” he said.

Barrel Republic is located where the Avocado Grill used to be, and even though it is deemed a historical location, which came with considerations for remodeling, Pike is glad to be in Escondido. “We feel really embraced by the community and it’s been exciting; it’s what I have hoped,” he said. “Everyone who I have met who works with the city has been supportive and encouraging. I appreciate all  the support.”  

Joanna Axelrod, Escondido’s Deputy City Manager/Director Communications and Community Services, said Barrel Republic is a welcomed addition to the other restaurants and businesses on Grand Avenue.

“Barrel Republic has such a fun and vibrant concept that has already been embraced by the community,” Axelrod said. “It’s a great place to go with friends or with families. There is no question that our locals have welcomed this new bar and restaurant and will frequent it often.”

In addition to the vast selection of beverages, the food menu is also quite tasty. “None of the Barrel Republics have a freezer,” said Pike. In fact, they are all scratch kitchens that make all the food selections fresh daily. 

Guests raise a glass to Escondido’s newest restaurant and bar.

It’s an American eclectic family menu that includes starters, salads, flatbreads, tacos, burgers and desserts. For diners looking for a deal, Monday nights are Burger Mondays. Guests get a Barrel Burger with fresh, hand-cut potato fries for $7.00. This special has been embraced by customers and has made Monday nights one of the busiest nights for the restaurant.

Pike has plans to expand the Escondido location. Phase II, which is in the planning process, will connect with the neighboring property and give Barrel Republic an additional patio space with more seating and an outdoor game space, including cornhole.

Ample indoor and outdoor seating gives guests plenty of seating options.

Pike is glad to be in Escondido and provide the community with a fun, family dining option and hopes the locals will become regulars. “We just want to be part of the community and thrive with the local residents,” he said.

Barrel Republic is located at 136 W. Grand Avenue. For more information or reservations, call, 760-479-7001.

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Local Farmers to Benefit From New Water Filtration System in Escondido

Recycled Water Will Help Save Money & the Environment

Computer rendering of the MFRO facility to be completed in 2023.

In 2012, Escondido officials were faced with the reality that the City needed a new and innovative solution to deal with its wastewater. While the City had been using a portion of the wastewater for irrigation of parks and highway medians, a larger portion was still being processed and dumped into the Pacific Ocean, via a 14-mile pipeline that had been constructed decades earlier and was in need of repair. Repair costs for this pipeline exceeded half a billion dollars due in part to its age, but also because the city’s expansion had begun to outgrow the pipeline's maximum capacity. 

So City leaders proposed another, less costly solution and one that could possibly beneficially reuse the treated wastewater.

That proposal was an MFRO filtration solution that would take more of the water that is already treated to the recycled water standard and further treat it so that it is usable for agriculture irrigation in Escondido. In March, the City broke ground on the new MFRO Facility, which is part of a long-term expansion plan for Escondido’s recycled water treatment and delivery systems. This phase will also include some underground pipes, which will be needed to deliver the recycled water to the farmers who need it.

MFRO stands for Membrane Filtration Reverse Osmosis. This is a system that will be used to treat more of Escondido’s recycled wastewater so that it is usable for agriculture. 

 “The MFRO takes the recycled water that we already produce and puts it through two processes. The membrane filtration process pushes the water through pressurized filters, removing microscopic particles from the water other than salt and very small organic molecules.  Reverse osmosis then removes the salt, which is the key to make the water usable for agriculture irrigation,” said Christopher McKinney, Escondido’s Deputy City Manager and Utilities Director. The Utilities Department is responsible for operation of Escondido’s water utilities, including drinking water, wastewater, and recycled water for the City. 

This MFRO solution - while still expensive - is both financially sound and more environmentally responsible than replacing the pipeline for ocean discharges.  Expanding recycled water use is an excellent investment in Escondido’s future.

Instead of wasting usable water and sending it through a pipeline into the ocean, this water will now be directed back into the City and used by farmers to water their crops. 

“These farmers are a very important part of our economy,” said McKinney, who explained that as much as a quarter of the city’s total water demand is for agriculture and the increasing costs of water have put enormous financial pressure on local farmers. “We have a customer base that is thirsty for more water at a lower cost.” 

According to Grow Escondido, avocado crop revenues/exports have surpassed $40 million, and much of these dollars are spent locally by farm employees and by farms purchasing equipment and services. The multiplied impact well exceeds $100 million per year.

The majority of the farming in Escondido is avocado farms, but nurseries, citrus, and various small farms sprinkle the area as well. The reverse osmosis part of the filtration is the key to making sure farmers can use the water.

 “The removal of salt is critical because avocados are sensitive to salt in the water,” said McKinney.

City leaders and project team dig in at a groundbreaking ceremony.

The facility is located in the industrial area of Escondido on Washington Avenue near Rock Springs. About half of the ten-acre parcel will be devoted to the MFRO project and its planned expansion. 

Like many cities throughout California and other drought prone states that are looking to conserve and recycle water, Escondido has a plan to eventually recycle wastewater into drinking water. “To turn our water into drinkable water, we’d have to put it through yet another MFRO step,” said McKinney, adding that this plan is still 10-to-15 years down the road.

For many cities, expanding recycled water use is cost-prohibitive, but with the looming cost of replacing Escondido’s aging ocean outfall pipeline, the decision made sense. Additionally, much of the $65 million price tag for the project is being funded through State and Federal grants and financial incentives from the Metropolitan Water District and the San Diego County Water Authority. Additional funding comes from low-interest State loans and capital improvement reserves from the City’s wastewater fund. As the farmers pay for the recycled water, those costs will help cover the price of the loans and interest and help pay for further expansion into phase II, the long-term plan to recycle all wastewater into usable and drinkable water.

McKinney is proud to see the project finally reaching the construction phase. 

“One of the challenging parts of developing a series of projects like this is the long haul of planning, seeking approvals, and environmental studies,” he said. “That process can seem lengthy to our planning and engineering staff, and demoralizing to the farming community that is so anxious to get the water supply. The groundbreaking ceremony was very gratifying because the project is now actually under construction!”

Throughout the process, the community has been very supportive of this project.

 “We’ve had great support from both the City Council and the community at large,” said McKinney. “The community is excited about it and understands the incredible environmental benefits this project will provide, including saving water, energy and limiting the greenhouse gas footprint, all while giving farmers water at lower rates.” 

McKinney admits the price tag seems high, but said the benefits outweigh the costs. “I think everybody understands the importance of it and how critical it is to the future of our water needs and the needs of Escondido.”

The City expects the MFRO facility to be completed and running by early 2023. For more information about the project visit

April 2021

From Backyards to Dream Abodes, Escondido is Buying, Building and Booming

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From Backyards to Dream Abodes, Escondido is Buying, Building and Booming

Throughout the nation, people have been using the stay-at-home orders to re-evaluate their living spaces. Many are moving, or improving their homes, and this trend has found its way to Escondido as well.

“In Southern California, supply hasn’t been able to keep up with demand,” said Mike Strong, Escondido’s Director of Community Development. “Escondido is on the forefront of streamlining the residential construction permitting process to help reduce the delivery times so we can support getting housing built as quickly as possible in our City.”

The Community Development Department offers a full range of services related to urban planning and building.  Strong and his team are working with these Escondido companies that are helping residents find new homes or customize their existing ones to their needs.

A Vibrant Community for Every Home Buyer

New homes in Canopy Grove.

Lennar has been building homes across America since 1954 and its Canopy Grove development in Escondido is a uniquely created master plan development with 380 homes, ranging from 1,500 square feet to 3,200 square feet with prices starting in the low $600,000’s to the mid $800,000’s. 

“Our buyer profiles from the first-time buyer all the way up to the luxury buyer in one setting,” said Ryan Green, Lennar’s division president for the San Diego division.

What makes this development stand out is that it provides 14 different floor plans and homes for every lifestyle, he said. “At Canopy Grove, we placed an emphasis on creating spacious floor plans with thoughtful design details to meet the needs and desires of today’s most discerning home shoppers,” said Green.

These homes offer something for couples with or without children, pets, growing families and extended families who need separate spaces while living with the family. It’s rare to have such a wide selection in one area, and the Escondido location adds to the exceptional appeal these homes have for homebuyers. 

“It’s a great location,” added Green. “We have trails, parks, and close proximity to the 15 and 78 for commuters. It’s a great community for a family looking to put down roots and thrive in an unparalleled Southern California location.”

Within Canopy Grove, residents enjoy access to parks, playgrounds, picnic pavilions with barbeques, a private recreation center, pools, a spa, and a fitness center. As the development grows, plans for commercial spaces will also be included giving residents a live, shop, and play environment.

Inside the homes, homebuyers will feel all their design needs and desires are being met. “Lennar prides itself on a signature program called, Everything’s Included ®,” said Green. This provides high-end features and popular upgrades, such as slab-quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances and integrated home automation features all at no additional cost.

These features include state-of-the-art technologies and materials which make these homes feel custom. Some of the trends Green has seen include healthy home features such as purification and air scrub systems, security monitoring, and energy-efficient materials.

While COVID-19 has made home shopping a bit more difficult, Lennar has introduced a safe and simple way to buy a home. Virtual and self-guided tours allow potential buyers to experience the homes from the comfort of their computer or in-person. This gives them time to look at details, see themselves in the home, yet still have the ability to ask a sales associate questions after they have completed their tour. 

Currently, 66 homeowners are residing in Canopy Grove and an additional 77 homes have been sold. Despite the pandemic, Green said now is a great time to buy a home and Escondido is a prime spot.

When asked if Lennar would be building more communities in Escondido, Green responded, “stay tuned.” For more information about Canopy Grove email or call ‪760-313-0613.

Making Custom Building Attainable

Since buying an existing house during the pandemic has gotten tough, inventory in San Diego is down and prices have skyrocketed,  Escondido-based Buildable offers homebuyers a solution - custom home building. 

“Most people feel they don’t have an alternative to buying an existing home and that a custom home is unattainable,” said Nick Parisi, Co-Founder and CEO.  

Buildable Director of Real Estate, Ross Godwin, and co-founders Michelle Pettycord and Nick Parisi.

Buildable is changing that perspective. With Co-Founder and President Michelle Pettycord, the team created a business model that helps buyers through every process of homebuilding from envisioning their dream home to finding the land, to the build and design process, all of which takes place in a span of about 12-to-18 months.

Pettycord, who has been building houses in San Diego for 30 years, realized the need for this type of business.  “I could see there was this major disconnect between people who wanted to build a house and people who wanted a general contractor. There was no support for what happens in between,” she said.

Building a home should be seen as just as feasible as buying an existing home.  Many home buyers have come to realize for nearly the same budget, they can build a custom home. “Everyone has a vision for their perfect home,” Parisi said. “We can take that vision, understand their lifestyle, and give them creative opportunities to make that perfect home.”

A luxurious custom Escondido home.

Most projects start near a $1 million budget, including the land purchase which is typically 15%-to-35% of the budget. 

“We are very good at guiding our customer through the process and giving them the most we can offer within their budget,” said Pettycord, whose expertise comes in her attention to details, including building for the future. “Sometimes we can prep for the client’s future dreams.” This includes laying piping or electricity for bathroom or kitchen upgrades at a future date. 

Trends they are seeing in building include technology-enhanced homes and pet-friendly homes. When asked if white kitchens are still the fad, Pettycord answered, “a white kitchen is like a black dress -it’s always going to work.”

A custom-designed kitchen complete with modern technologies.

Another detail home buyers might not realize when choosing to build a custom home is that they create instant equity.   “Most custom homes I’ve built in the last 10 years have instant equity from the day the homeowner turns the key,” said Pettycord.

She also added that Escondido provides more land and value to the buyer who is looking to build a custom home. Parisi and Pettycord both live in Escondido and have seen the homes they are building in the City increase in value too. They attribute that to the fact that Escondido is such a great place to live.

 “There are a lot of great things about Escondido,” Parisi said. “It’s convenient for a lot of tech companies, there is easy freeway access, and if you're an outdoors person you have all these great trails and amenities.”

With Buildable, Parisi and Pettycord want to provide their clients with a personal touch throughout their building experience. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, we are about creating that compelling experience,” said Parisi.

For more information about Buildable email, or call 858-412-7121.‬

A Dream Backyard

JW Lumber Storefront.

JW Lumber is the place in Escondido for all your backyard needs.

“Fun fact:  Our location was actually an old private airport,” said Brian Gonzalez, JW Lumber’s CEO. “Next time you’re driving the 78 junction, look down and you’ll see the airport hangar; that’s our building.”  

The Jennings family has owned and run the lumber and outdoor building materials company since the 1950s and has been an Escondido staple tucked under the 78 and 15 freeways since 1982. Open to both builders and do-it-yourselfers, JW Lumber is a one-stop-shop for backyard needs from patios to decks to garden materials, lighting, and fencing. They also have siding for the house.  

“We have all the materials you need to build your backyard dream,” said Gonzalez.

For builders concerned about sustainability, Gonzalez added, “Lumber is a sustainable renewable resource that is responsibly harvested, and once it reaches the end of its life cycle lumber naturally decomposes back into the earth.”

JW Lumber CEO Brian Gonzalez in the warehouse.

Like other forms of construction that have seen an uptick in home improvement business, JW Lumber has also noticed more people are focusing on outdoor improvements too.  “Since people were staying home more during the pandemic, we’re definitely seeing people expanding their usable space outdoors,” said Gonzalez.

Trends Gonzalez is seeing in backyard design are low maintenance yards such as composite decking and aluminum patio covers. He also said black hardware is very popular because with the wood, it creates a very modern look.

He also said Trex composite decking is made from 95% recycled products including grocery bags and recycled wood. This upcycling product also has a long and durable lifespan. 

JW Lumber showroom features an array of decking options.

With Escondido’s hilly and rocky terrain, people are getting creative, building decks and adding shade to their slopes or rolling backyards. Even local restaurants have found their way to JW Lumber. As outdoor dining became the only option during the pandemic, many restaurant owners purchased picnic tables or framed patios and shade to help build out their outdoor eating areas.

“We definitely have the right materials that are going to endure the outdoors,” Gonzalez said. 

JW Lumber is located at 1179 W. Washington Avenue. For more information call 760-745-6800. 

Escondido’s Future

As the Southern California housing market continues to boom, Strong said the future continues to look bright for housing options in Escondido. “Escondido has a tradition of service, performance, and efficiency.  This is what makes our City a great place to do business. It is about continuing to support the partnership with the building and construction community,” he said.

He added, “In the current market environment, home builder confidence is at near record highs.  Years 2021 and 2022 look promising to have a diverse selection of homes for sale and rent in Escondido.”


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At The Centre, ‘Autojoyment’ Drives Enhanced Car Experience

Night view of The Centre

For over 40 years Judy Jones-Cone has made it her purpose to give customers an unforgettable car buying experience. In 2009, she opened The Centre on Auto Park Way near the 15 freeway where she brought her vision of creating an interactive destination while buying a car to fruition.  

“She spent a lot of time thinking about how she could combine multiple experiences in one place,” said Drew Davis, the General Manager at The Centre. As a female owner, she approached the business very differently and really wants people to feel comfortable when they come here.”

What she has brought to Escondido is a mini-mall that gives customers both quality services and exquisite event spaces in one easily accessible location.

The 326,000 square foot, three-level, indoor/outdoor space starts with the dealership and car center on the ground floor. Where else can someone wait for an oil change and practice their golf swing at the golf simulator, give their children a distraction in the playroom, have some quiet time to answer texts and emails in the library equipped with massage chairs, or get a light meal and coffee at Culture, Craft, Coffee and Espresso? There is something for everyone!

The second floor offers meeting spaces, shopping and self-care. Meeting rooms and event spaces complete with advanced technology amenities are great for both small and large gatherings as we come out of the pandemic. 

They also boast unparalleled views of the mountains and cityscapes. RocknHair is a full-service beauty salon that has clientele beyond just car buyers. For shoppers, JJ’s Boutique sells one-of-a-kind items for every budget, and Stephen Fishwick’s Fine Art Gallery holds many of the internationally renowned artists' works. For shoppers interested in real estate, AARE Realty is available to help find their dream home with the perfect garage to park their new Lexus.

Fine dining and breathtaking views await diners at Vintana.

The top floor is where Vintana Wine + Dine is located. The Cohn Restaurant Group’s, California-Cuisine restaurant serves lunch and dinner created by award-winning chef, Deborah Scott and is a well-known and favorite eatery for foodies throughout the county.

“We’re really excited that Vintana reopened,” said Davis. “Opening the restaurant on that third level has brought a bustling of life and activity again.” Currently, outdoor dining includes the complete lunch and dinner menu as well as ample, spacious seating with heaters. “Because we have two really large decks, it has great capacity,” said Davis. 

Beyond the shopping experience, events are what makes The Centre unique. Event settings are available in various locations throughout The Centre from the art gallery, to the meeting rooms, the restaurant, and spacious outdoor balconies. 

In anticipation of the public health restrictions rolling back soon, The Centre is able to book small meetings and events such as first responder, medical, and essential personnel meetings, church services, micro weddings, and celebrations for dates in the future. Hybrid events that have a few in-person guests and virtual guests online are also able to be booked. “We’ve ramped up all of our cleaning protocols,” said Davis who added they are abiding by the public health orders, clean and sanitize throughout the day, and adhere to mask wearing and social distancing rules throughout The Centre.

“The Centre has served many in our community as a top gathering place,” said Amber Tarrac, Escondido’s Deputy Director of Economic Development. “Pre-pandemic, many organizations and nonprofits used the gathering spaces for events, fundraisers, weddings, quinceaneras, conferences, and business meetings. Now with the restrictions lifting, it’s great to know The Centre is open and ready to serve our community once again. And with Vintana reopened, it’s time to return to one of the most happening dinner spots in town.”

Davis feels the location of The Centre is one of its best assets. “We love being here; the location is fantastic,” he said. “Escondido has always been very supportive and business-friendly. And the people of Escondido are awesome. We have so many local organizations that have held events and gatherings here over the years; it’s become a hub of activity and a celebration place for the community.”

Outdoor venues offer guests spectacular views and a unique dining experience.

Davis said he is seeing an uptick in bookings for events for future dates. Davis and the team are looking forward to the time when all restrictions will be lifted and they can safely create community events and concerts like those of the past, which have included artists such as Rita Coolidge, Shaka Khan, Al Jarreau, and Switchfoot. 

“We’re really looking forward to being able to resume some of the things that the community has so loved,” said Davis.

Brewing Hope

In addition to creating a community gathering place, Jones-Cone makes philanthropy a top priority. Her private foundation, Guest House Ministries focuses on hunger and children’s issues.

New logo for Esperanza Coffee Company.

Her giving is extending to the Culture, Craft, Coffee and Espresso Cafe this Spring. This month The Esperanza Coffee Company coffee brand debuted and this fresh brew is being served at the cafe and is available in 12 ounce bags and K-cups will soon be for sale in the store and through a subscription model. Esperanza is the Spanish word for hope and a portion of the proceeds of this coffee will go to the charities Jones-Cone has supported throughout the years.

“Esperanza Coffee Company was born out of a passion for great coffee as well as a desire to improve the lives of children in our community and around the world.” said Davis. “This award-winning blend has been meticulously crafted by combining the worlds' premier coffee growing regions of Kenya, Peru, and Ethiopia to create a roast that is full body, clean, consistent, and has just the right amount of bright fruity acidity.”

At the heart of the brand and its organization is a desire to serve and to give. It has been part of their spirit and mission for decades to give a portion of our profits to causes that provide hope and change for children who have been impacted by hunger, AIDS, special needs, and/or the loss of their parents.

Additionally, the packaging will include stories about the recipients of the proceeds so customers can have a greater understanding of how their contribution is helping others around the world. The coffee itself is a fair trade, organic coffee roasted locally in San Diego.

Davis said this is a top-quality coffee that he feels customers are going to enjoy. “We spent a lot of time tasting different coffees and we’re super excited about this.” Be on the lookout for the Esperanza coffee brand launch this month.

From shopping to dining, car buying to giving, The Centre is sure to bring ‘autojoyment’ to everyone.

For more information about booking events, fill out the online form and a team member will contact you with date and pricing options. 

The Centre is located at 1205 Auto Park Way. For more information call, 877-568-6118 or email