April 2019

Vesper Vineyards

When you pour a glass and taste one of Vesper Vineyards' wines, Alysha Stehly wants you to taste San Diego.

A fourth-generation farmer, Alysha and her husband Chris Broomell is the duo behind the Escondido business.

Each glass of Vesper's 24 wines has a flavor and story unique to the region

From the Pinot Noir sourced from the loamy sands of the El Nido Vineyard in Rancho Santa Fe to the 2011 Syrah hailing from the slopes of the Orfila Vineyard in San Pasqual Valley, each bottle and each glass of Vesper's 24 wines has a flavor and story unique to the region.

And after 11 years, the local vintners are reaping the fruits of their labor - recently Vesper was named the "Best Local Winery" by FOX 5 Morning News viewers in the 2019 Winey Awards, the network's annual viewers-choice awards that recognize the region's best wines, wineries, and breweries. 

Stehly and Broomell have frequently made listings of "winemakers to watch" and Stehly was named one of San Diego's "People of the Year" by San Diego CityBeat in 2018.

"It's always an honor to be recognized by our own customers as one of their favorite winemakers," Stehly said. "We don't enter winemaking contests just because they are so subjective, but to know that we have the support of our customers is a great thing."

Stehly and Broomell got their start in winemaking in 2008, shortly after Stehly - a Valley Center native and resident - graduated from UC Davis with a bachelor's degree in viticulture and enology. 

Their first wine? A 2008 Pinot Noir from the El Nido Vineyard. 

Since then, they've built a loyal following and opened their cellar and winery in Escondido's Enterprise Heights Industrial Center, as well as the companion Sans V Tasting Room, which features the wines of both Vesper and Stehleon Vineyards, a venture owned by members of her own family, of which she is the winemaker. 

Sans V Tasting Room features the wines of both Vesper and Stehleon Vineyards

The tasting room stands out as an oasis in the sea of offices and industrial spaces that surround it. 

Visitors are greeted with the fragrant aroma of the latest rosé or pinot being stored in barrels in the tasting room's companion winery as they walk into the tasting room, with its wine-colored walls and its inviting decor. 

The tasting room is welcoming and family friendly, with games and coloring books at the small kids table area, while parents can enjoy the serene atmosphere, complete with flights of wine that can be mixed or match, or maybe a glass of Vesper or Stehleon's latest and greatest.

The wineries are part of a renaissance of sorts of winemaking in Escondido, which was the historic epicenter of the industry in the pre-Prohibition era. Blessed with ideal soil and the perfect climate, vintners flocked to Escondido and the surrounding valleys in the late 1800s, and the region produced more wine than any area in San Diego County, which was home to nearly 100 wineries before alcohol was banned in the United States in 1919. Grape Day Park and the city's Grape Day Festival are vestiges of the city's winemaking roots.

By the 2000s, the industry had all but disappeared from Escondido. Since 2013, however, vintners began to return to the city and the industry appears to be on the rise once more. As of January, there are 18 wineries operating in Escondido proper, up from five in 2013.

For Stehly, winemaking was a way to continue her family's agricultural tradition. Her brothers run an organic citrus, avocado, berry, and vegetable operation in Valley Center, while her parents comprise two-thirds of Stehleon Vineyard's team. 

"It was something that weaved together farming, and science and art, so I thought, 'This sounds pretty cool,'" Stehly said. "And I stuck with it."

Sticking with any agricultural venture can be a challenge in the current environment, as regulatory hurdles, drought, residential and commercial development, and rising costs have driven many farmers out of business. 

Atop those factors, Stehly said, the success of San Diego's winemaking industry has also squeezed their small operation. In 2018, the San Diego County Vintners Association reported seven years of record growth in the number of active winegrower licenses, as well as a 9.4-percent increase in gross sales at local wineries from 2016 to 2017.

More winegrowers and more wineries mean more demand for local grapes, which means that Vesper, which doesn't have its own vineyard, is competing with more outfits for the finite grape supply, Stehly said. 

Vesper sources its grapes from vineyards in Rancho Santa Fe, Pauma Valley, and San Pasqual Valley and Ramona Valley, the region's two recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).

"The industry has nearly tripled since 2008, which is great, but it's also very challenging," she said. "It's great because we have more customers, but a challenge because they've got five favorite wineries instead of one."

Stehly said that the couple remains competitive by trying to stay ahead of the curve with new wines that will win over the taste buds of loyal and new customers alike. 

They do that by producing natural, or "low-intervention" wines: these are wines without added yeast and minimal sulfites so that the grape is the champion.

"We try to stick to the principles of featuring the vineyard, so we're not buying grapes from other regions, or using yeast to make the wine spicier or more fruity" Stehly said. "We're making them true to the region and the climate, and we have customers that appreciate that."


In addition to the business, Stehly is teaching (hopefully, she says) the next generation of vintners, teaching viticulture and enology at MiraCosta College in Oceanside since 2010. In her capacity as a professor, she says she is able to help foster the same passion for winemaking in her students, in hopes that they will spread it across the region in their future endeavors.

"I love seeing others learn and discover the beauty of vineyards and winemaking," Stehly said. "Helping them start off with their new business venture or hobby with a good base of knowledge."

She also hopes that one day - if he so chooses - she and Broomell will be able to leave a legacy that their son, 20-month-old Cole, will be able to follow. 

The couple remains active with the San Diego County Farm Bureau, recently going to Washington D.C. to lobby on behalf of local farmers and growers. 

Hopefully, she said, those efforts will keep farming going long enough for Cole.

"We hope we're creating a future for our son," Stehly said. "Our goal is that he has the option if he wants to be involved with agriculture in California, he can. There are some days where we feel like it's not going to be an option, but that is why we continue to stand up for what we love to do."

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Escondido Companies Practice Sustainability, Clean Technology
Environmental stewardship is top-of-mind during April as Americans celebrated Earth Day on Monday, April 22.

In Escondido, a number of businesses are doing their part to forge a legacy of sustainability, leaving the world in a better position environmentally than they inherited it. 

Some of these are among the city's most prominent and largest employers, setting the tone for the rest of the city's business community to do their part to promote environmental stewardship as part of the city's business culture. 

Three companies, in particular, have embraced environmental stewardship, clean technology, and sustainability, earning accolades and praise in the process - TransPower, Baker Electric Home Energy, and Bimbo Bakeries USA's Escondido bakery. 

TransPower has received grants and contracts to convert 100 additional yard tractors and trucks to electric drive for use in California

For nearly 20 years, TransPower has been on the cutting edge of zero-emission, clean-tech heavy-duty powertrain technology - in short, creating electric-powered big rigs. 

Earlier in April, the company announced a major breakthrough - the completion of two multi-year projects in which they and one of the company's major investors successfully developed, tested, and evaluated advanced zero-emission electric yard tractors and Class 8 trucks. 

The success of the demonstration project puts TransPower one step closer towards the commercialization of cost-effective, environmentally friendly powertrain technology, said Joshua Goldman, TransPower's vice president of sales and marketing. 

"It's an honor after many years, many of us having worked for 20 years on zero-emission power train technologies, to be on the cusp of the commercialization of environmentally friendly drivetrain technology," Goldman said. "The biggest advantage of the technology is zero tailpipe emissions and the affordability of that homegrown electric fuel, and by going to zero emissions, our fleet partners are able to fuel their vehicles on site, operate vehicles in a clean and quiet environment, and help the branding of their company, given the strong sustainable message that zero-emission trucks provide."

TransPower's projects were funded in part by a $6 million grant from the California Energy Commission under its Alternative and Renewable Fuels and Vehicle Technologies Program, as well as investment from Meritor, Inc. (NYSE: MTOR), a leading manufacturer of axles and brake systems.

Yard tractors, commonly referred to as yard dogs, are semi-tractors that are used at locations such as cargo yards and warehouses to haul semi-trailers short distances. 

The electric yard tractors built under the recently concluded demonstration projects are operating at Dole Fresh Fruit's terminal at the Port of San Diego; the IKEA Distribution Center in Tejon; Grimmway Farms and Harris Ranch in the San Joaquin Valley; and Blue Diamond Almonds and Raley's in Sacramento. They have already accumulated more than 15,000 drive hours, a huge step towards validating that the electric drive trains can handle the workload of their gas-powered counterparts. 

The project's success has brought TransPower major interest from some of the world's biggest players in the commercial truck manufacturers and parts suppliers, including Kalmar Ottawa, Peterbilt, O.E.M. Company, and Meritor, which increased its strategic investment in the company to accelerate the production of the trucks and yard tractors. 

TransPower has received grants and contracts to convert 100 additional yard tractors and trucks to electric drive for use in California. They've operated in Escondido since 2016, after moving from Poway, and Goldman said the company has really enjoyed its new home. 

"It's been a great place to integrate technology, the permitting and politics have been favorable, and we were able to find great facilities and get them for a reasonable price," Goldman said. "And it's close to the boss's house," referring to founder and CEO Mike Simon, who actually started TransPower in his Escondido garage.

Baker Electric 

With year-round sunshine and an environmentally conscious population, California has been at the forefront of the residential solar industry.

Originally, solar-powered homes were on the fringe of the mainstream, considered financially out of reach for most homeowners.

But over the years, falling prices of electrical solar power, financial incentives for homeowners and developers to install them, and government requirements to include them on new development (California is the first state to require solar power for all new homes beginning this year) spurred an explosion in the residential solar industry over the past 15 years.

In Escondido, longtime electrical contractor Baker Electric seized the opportunity, starting Baker Electric Solar in 2007. Today Baker Electric Home Energy has become one of Southern California's largest installers of residential solar panel systems and home batteries. 

"When you look back to some of the first residential solar customers, the early days, a lot of reasons people did it were environmentally driven, it was a very green movement," said Keith Randhahn, Baker Electric's Director of Engineering. "And that is still a motivation for a lot of the movement towards renewables. But beyond that, the financial return has helped the growth of the industry."

Randhahn said that the lower cost of solar energy and the ability now to capture energy in home batteries makes it a financially viable alternative to fossil fuel energy from the power grid.

"People are able to consume power and live the lifestyle they like, run the air conditioning in their home when they want and not feel guilty about it," Randhahn said. 

For Baker, a fourth-generation family-owned company that has been in business since 1938, the move into residential solar has proven to be a boon: the company's solar division has grown from a dozen employees in 2007 to more than 200 currently, and all of the electricians are union-trained, setting them apart from many of their competitors, Randhahn said. 

And the company practices what it preaches: in 2009, Baker installed an 85,000-watt rooftop installation that reduces the company's carbon dioxide emissions by 106 tons annually. Over 25 years, that's roughly the equivalent of planting 2,275 trees or taking 507 cars off the road. 

The company, which ranks No. 1 in market share in the Southern California service area, has installed over 10,000 residential solar systems. Recently, Baker Electric Home Energy hosted State Sen. Brian Jones, who learned about their growth, diversification, and the recent move into their new 50,000-square-foot division headquarters.

Escondido has been a perfect location, Randhahn said. 

"It's perfectly situated and central, which allows us to reach south Orange County, southwest Riverside County, and the Inland Empire and cover a pretty broad geographic territory," Randhahn said. "And it has a very business-friendly environment, sufficient workforce, and a well-educated population."

Bimbo Bakeries USA's Escondido location

Bimbo Bakeries USA

When Lorenzo Servitje founded Mexican bakery Grupo Bimbo in 1945, he did it with an eye towards sustainability.

"It was his purpose to build a sustainable, highly productive, and deeply humane company," said Leslie Adebayo, the corporate sustainability manager for Grupo Bimbo's US company, Bimbo Bakeries USA. "The company still lives by that motto, our current CEO, Lorenzo's son, believes it is imperative that we focus on sustainability."

That commitment to environmental sustainability trickles down to each of the company's bakeries, including its Escondido location near Palomar Medical Center.  On March 28, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency presented the company with a certificate from its Energy Star Program after earning Energy Star certification at 14 of its facilities in 2018, including the Escondido bakery. 

This marks a record for the most facilities receiving Energy Star certification in one year across all industries. The certification signifies that the industrial plant performs in the top 25% of similar facilities nationwide for energy efficiency and meets strict energy efficiency performance levels set by Energy Star. 

The Escondido bakery will also likely receive recognition of its own in the next few months for completing the Energy Star Challenge for Industry, which calls on industrial sites to reduce their energy intensity by 10 percent within 5 years.

As one can expect, baking bread is an energy consuming task, using large amounts of natural gas and electricity in the baking process, Adebayo said. 

At the Escondido bakery and other locations, Bimbo has cut down on electrical usage by installing a system that shuts down the plant's system of conveyor belts - which are operated by 150 motors at any given time - when nothing is on the bakery line. 

"In a 24/7 operation, that adds up significantly," Adebayo said. "They have it at Escondido and are implementing it at every bakery. It's not always the easiest thing to implement, but Escondido was perfect, and the system has worked great."

The other big energy-saving addition at the Escondido plant came in 2017 by the way of a one-megawatt solar array. Covering the full roof area and some of the plant's covered parking, the system produces one-third of the power needed to operate the plant. 

"It has been a tremendous boon," Adebayo said. "The solar array helped us drop the energy by 10 percent, meeting the Energy Star Challenge."

Bimbo's sustainability mantra extends to its commitment to being good neighbors in the city in which they operate. 

In Escondido, Adebayo said, they produce a relatively low amount of waste and use a catalytic oxidizer that eliminates the "bread smell" - and associated carbon dioxide emissions - from escaping the plant.

"We've been good partners with the city," Adebayo said. 

The three businesses represent just a microcosm of the environmentally conscious firms and companies throughout the city - including the city itself. With the combined efforts, Escondido continues to do its part to leave the earth a little greener and a little better.

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March 2019

San Diego Code School Institution Sets up Shop in Escondido Coworking Space
San Diego Code School
Institution Sets up Shop in Escondido Coworking Space

From creating and maintaining systems to building new apps and infrastructures, software engineers can be found at nearly every company these days across every industry. And, with the rise of virtual reality, AI, and mobile and smart technology such as the Internet of Things, software engineers are at the forefront of some pretty exciting developments that promise to transform businesses. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be around 1.4 million more software development jobs in the country than applicants who can fill them in 2020. Institutions and other tech education programs can't seem to produce job candidates fast enough, resulting in the emergence of more coding schools, including one in Escondido. 

San Diego Code School students often collaborate on projects together

Founded in September 2018, San Diego Code School (SDCS) provides its students with a 16-week program that prepares them for careers as developers. The Escondido-based school was founded by Michael Roberts Jr who has over 30 years of coding experience under his belt and has helped launch over 100 careers, including ones in the local tech ecosystem. SDCS provides students not only with the knowledge they need to become successful developers but also with guidance in the job search process that ensues. As the school's website states, "We are fully prepared to take you from step 1 to job-ready. Every part of what we're teaching is directly related to getting your first developer job, helping you with the search process, and making sure you succeed. We work harder than anyone to get you into the software industry."

When SDCS officially began operating in October, the school was entirely remote. Today, the school operates out of Escondido's Synergy Centre coworking space, which is at the heart of downtown, making it within walking distance to coffee shops, restaurants, and more. The flexible program - which has the time commitment of a full-time job - gives students the option of working from home or onsite. "You could potentially work part-time but you wouldn't be able to hold a full-time job and go through this program. It's very intense," Roberts said.

The coding school has already graduated a cohort of students since beginning enrollment in October, and with rolling admission, plans to have graduates every few weeks moving forward.

Location is Key: When first figuring out where to base the school, Roberts looked into locations around the region, thinking a central location in San Diego County would be ideal. After weighing the pros and cons of that, the team saw a lot of risk in starting out at what had the potential of being the wrong location for SDCS. "The coworking spaces at were available were not nearly as good as the opportunity that we had here at Synergy. We've been able to interact with some of the other local businesses in the coworking space and it just really felt like a smaller, more welcoming, and more inclusive environment when we came in and had a tour. It's a beautiful building and facility. It just checked all the boxes," Roberts said. "Our plan was just to stay here for a short while until we figured things out, and it just has grown on us to the point now where I don't envision us ever leaving Escondido, and this really seems like a permanent home."

Working at Synergy Centre has not only been a positive experience for SDCS to start, but also an excellent place to grow. "It's been awesome. We started with a small space and it fit our needs at the time. Now we've been able to expand into the space downstairs, which has provided us a way to quickly transition the business into the space that we need to grow for the future. It's been super awesome in terms of flexibility," Roberts said, adding that the versatility of the coworking space has allowed the business to expand its office while remaining in the same space.

"It's also turned out to be an ideal location, being in North County," Roberts said. He initially thought the school would only operate there temporarily before relocating to a more central location like Mission Valley after a few months. However, after finding success in Escondido, the choice to start there has proven successful.

"We found a good number of students who either live in Escondido or really prefer the fact that we're in a place that is serving a different market," Roberts said. "This gives us a good position to reach businesses that are in this area. The location and the ability to get started quickly in Synergy Centre has been super helpful."

Students of all knowledge levels and backgrounds are welcome to join the 16-week program at SDCS

Hands-on Learning: As part of the coding program at SDCS, students are able to gain hands-on experience by working on a coding project for a real-life company. "We're always looking for companies that have maybe an MVP (minimum viable product) or something that they're not able to get greenlit, even if they're a large company," Roberts said.

SDCS reaches out to businesses and offers its services to see if it could be a mutually beneficial project for both the students and the company. "We typically have a few projects for the students to pick from. They then iterate on it, build it for four weeks, and then hopefully deliver some value," Roberts said.

The real-world projects SDCS students work on deliver some sort of functionality to the company and, according to Roberts, "It's something that will be in production, so it's going to be built to production-grade. It's going to be accessible to the public." One of their practice clients is Yellow Line Digital, which operates out of a neighboring office inside Synergy Centre. "We told them if there was something they could identify for us to build that we'd be more than happy to do it. It just turned out that it was a great fit. They have a need for a portal for their customers, and so, the first group (of students) went through and built that first portal," Roberts said. "We've actually had a couple of different groups pick up the project and take it just a little bit further. And that's not atypical; I've done that in the past with other students."

Escondido Tech Scene: The fast-evolving tech scene in Escondido has been changing the game for local startups like SDCS. "Just recently - especially with the San Diego Tech Hub - there's becoming an increased awareness that there are a lot of engineers who work remotely in Escondido or are working on small startups. And now, with Synergy being here, there's another place for people to come together and have those serendipitous connections where you'll bump into someone and you'll be able to make that natural connection that you might otherwise not be able to make," Roberts said. "We're only in the early stages of businesses discovering what's been going on in North County and how they can best work together and collaborate on things. The more we can connect our initiatives, like with the ones through San Diego Tech Hub and Innovate78, is going to really be helpful."

One of the ways SDCS bridges that gap as an institution is by constantly reaching out to companies and inviting them to attend its job fairs and connect with some of its students. The school also encourages companies to consider creating entry-level roles to offer opportunities to people who come from a non-traditional education background.

"We can be a unifying force in the community by being a place for people to come together for job fairs or demo days, or watch our students pitch projects, and start building a more tight ecosystem around people entering the marketplace and the workforce. There's a lot of talent and oftentimes, startups need some more senior talent, but they could also be places where people early on in their career can have the opportunity to touch a lot of things at a startup and get a lot of experience that they might not otherwise get with a larger tech company," Roberts said.

The school plans on having graduates every few weeks moving forward, providing them with help in their job search

Inclusive Institution: Students of all sorts of backgrounds are encouraged to attend SDCS. Anyone who has the desire to work in software is welcome to enroll. The school has a diverse group of students. Roughly a third of the institution's students are seeking to change their careers. "They may have identified that they're just not happy in their career or that they don't see a step up from where they are. Once they identify that, they're usually looking to transition to a space where there will be those opportunities," Roberts said. About another third of SDCS students range from eighteen-year-old high school graduates to individuals in their mid-twenties who are going through the program currently until they are certain about whether they want to go to college. The remaining third of SDCS students are veterans who want to return to San Diego. "We see a lot of returning vets that are entering the job force and they just know that there are a lot of tech careers and that this would be a good place to jumpstart their careers," Roberts said.

The school's first graduate actually was a veteran who served in the U.S. Marine Corps. "He did a little bit of work in finance as a compliance officer, and he took the program and recently got a job with Red Hat. He's making $80,000," Roberts said, adding the hefty salary comes from a mere $2,500 investment in the 16-week program at SDCS. "To have that significant of a jump in salary is a true testament that these kinds of programs can work and large companies like Red Hat are willing to hire these graduates," Roberts said.

The many satisfied graduates of the rigorous program have gone on to work at local companies like Ezoic, MindTouch, Nixon, and Galley Solutions. SDCS graduates have also left a number of testimonials on the school's homepage. One student writes that "Michael went out of his way to help me in my career transition and advanced learning above and beyond the scope of the course. He was encouraging and supportive during a stressful time." Another student shares that Michael is "great at getting things organized, leading a team of developers, and explaining difficult concepts to others."

Prospective students can get started right away and are encouraged to tour the office to get a feel for what they do at San Diego Code School.

You can also keep up with San Diego Code School on Facebook and Twitter.

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2019 City Council Awards
Downtown Escondido Well-Represented Among Award Winners

On February 27, hundreds gathered at the California Center for the Arts for the annual State of the City Address and City Council awards.

Each year, the council recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to improve the quality of life in Escondido through volunteer service. The city accepted nominations from the public, and a council subcommittee composed of John Masson and Michael Morasco narrowed down the nomination field to the group of nine winners.

This year, four of the nine honorees were businesses or business owners - William Toone of ECOLIFE Conservation, The Grand Tea Room's owners, Louisa and the late Bob Magoon, local landscape architect Glen Brouwer and Henry Avocado Corp.

"We are really fortunate to have such an engaged and active business community in Escondido," said Michelle Geller, the city's economic development manager. "The award recipients were selected for their invaluable contributions in the areas of conservation, business, service above self, and leadership."

ECOLIFE Conservation Efforts Get Council Nod

ECOLIFE has built its own Aquaponics Innovation Center (AIC) in order to promote a more sustainable method of food production

Imagine a world where man and nature coexist in harmony, where the improvement of human life and the protection of natural resources are not mutually exclusive.

This has been William Toone's vision for nearly four decades. In 2003, Toone, a conservation biologist, founded ECOLIFE Conservation with this noble goal as its mission.

Today, the Escondido-based nonprofit both educates and takes part in conservation and sustainability efforts across the globe: It educates thousands of children about sustainable agriculture practices and installs fuel-efficient stoves in poor communities in Mexico and Uganda that both improve the health and quality of life of the people who use them and protect the habitat of vulnerable species.

It was for this reason that the Escondido City Council presented Toone and ECOLIFE with the environmental conservation award during the Feb. 27 Escondido City Council Awards ceremony.

The honor has raised interest in the community in ECOLIFE's work, Toone said, and he welcomes the added exposure.

"It's a real honor," Toone said this week of the award. "The interesting thing is that in the short period of time since we've received it, it's made a big difference, as people have asked for more information about us.

"One of the challenging things with the organization is that we are 15 years old, but if you asked people if they have heard of ECOLIFE, the answer would most likely be no," Toone continued. "I believe the work we are doing is very important, and recognition like this helps spread the word. Without it, the word doesn't get out, and we would fail at our mission."

The Grand Tea Room: Business and Volunteerism

The Grand Tea Room has fine China tea sets displayed for sale

Nestled along a row of Grand Avenue storefronts in Downtown Escondido, the charming Grand Tea Room and its energetic owner Louisa Magoon have been fixtures in the city's core since opening in 2011.

Magoon started the business after years in the corporate side of the restaurant industry, drawing inspiration from similar tea rooms that she and her friends would frequent in south Orange County. While she searched around the county for a spot for her vintage-style tea house, she said her heart was set on opening in Escondido, her home for the past two decades.

"We lived in Escondido, and the thought of the Grand Tea Room on Grand Avenue seemed so cool," she said.

Louisa and her husband Bob landed the spot in early 2011 and opened the business in August of that year. It has been a hit ever since, as ladies and daughters come dressed in their dantiest attire and sip on tea and eat tiny cakes, sample marmalades, and buy memorabilia from the companion gift shop.

And the shop stays busy: on any given Saturday, more than 100 people will drop in or make reservations, Magoon said.

"We've gotten to the point where we've hosted bridal showers, and now we're hosting the baby showers for those brides," Magoon said. "I just really enjoy getting to know the customers."

Geller said that Louisa and her late husband Bob - who passed away in December after a long battle with cancer - received the business award not only for the success of the business, but their presence in the downtown business community.

"Not only does she run a successful business, she is very engaged with the Downtown Business Association, she's always donating to different events and volunteering her time and resources to the betterment of downtown," Geller said. "She is an example of a successful business, but she still volunteers so much of her time to help downtown Escondido."

Downtown Escondido, Magoon said, is a special place, and she enjoys being involved, getting to know her neighbors and fellow business owners, and giving back."It's been wonderful," she said about her involvement with the Downtown Business Association.

Magoon took time away during the bustling lunch hour to talk about the award, which she called a great honor."I feel honored, it didn't even occur to me that someone would nominate me," Magoon said. "But thank you, whoever that is."

Glen Brouwer: Service Above Self

There's an old saying: "If you're good at something, never do it for free."

Don't tell that to Glen Brouwer, a landscape architect who has called Escondido home for decades.

In early 2018, downtown merchants approached the city with a partnership opportunity to beautify Grand Avenue by purchasing trees, plants, and materials to replace the dying eucalyptus trees that lined the street.

The city was able to find funding to remove the trees, but the Downtown Business Association needed to find someone to design the new landscaping - at a steep discount.

Enter Brouwer, who owns Carlsbad-based Integration Design Studio Inc. Introduced to the city and the association by the city's landscaping contractor Steve Smith, Brouwer said the opportunity to give back to the community that he called home for all but a handful of years since moving to the United States from Canada as a child was too good to pass up.

He designed the landscaping for free.

"Glen stepped up and donated time and work creating a professional landscape plan for our medians along Grand Avenue," Geller said. "I don't know how much it would have cost to hire his firm. It probably would have put the project out of the realm of being able to do it."

His selfless act landed him the City Council award for "Service above Self."

Brouwer, who said he wishes he could do more work in his hometown, was surprised by the award."I was totally surprised, because I didn't do it for an award, I just saw it as an opportunity to give back in that way and help the Downtown Business Association," Brouwer said.  "I thought it was a good project to do, and it was something where I thought the DBA does great things for that area of Grand Avenue and I think that area needs some revitalization."

Henry Avocado: Staying True To Its Roots

Henry Avocado has deep roots in both Escondido and the avocado industry and continues to thrive today. The company just transitioned into a new headquarters, a packing and distribution center that it moved to in late 2018. The new 50,000-square-foot, two-story facility is 20 percent larger than the previous site. While remaining in Escondido, this move was made to accommodate the company's growth and to increase efficiency.

It was this choice to remain in Escondido that netted the company the biggest award of the day: Mayor Paul McNamara's Mayor's Award.

"The mayor recognizes the importance of the agricultural industry to Escondido, it's where our roots lie," Geller said. "Henry Avocado deciding to permanently put its headquarters here and expand was something the mayor really wanted to highlight. They are a family-owned business that has been here for a long time."

Staying in Escondido was a no-brainer for company president Phil Henry, who describes the city as having "a good business climate...and actually a good climate as well," he laughed.

Being located on Escondido's Harmony Grove Road gives the company a central location among its Southern California customers and easy access to Interstate 15 and Route 78. Henry Avocado was built on strong relationships with business associates and customers, which gives the company more reason to stay and grow in Escondido, according to Henry. Additionally, Escondido's economic development team is focused on expanding core industries like agriculture, making Henry Avocado's expansion one that fits within the City's strategic goals.

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February 2019

The Time is Ripe Henry Avocado Expands Escondido Headquarters
A true avocado pioneer, Escondido-based Henry Avocado was founded by spouses Charles and Florence Henry nearly 100 years ago. They were among the first to plant avocados in San Diego County and founded the company in 1925. In its early days, Escondido was primarily an agricultural community, initially growing muscat grapes. In the late 1800s, a dam was built, forming what is known today as Lake Wohlford. Orange and lemon trees were planted in large numbers, as were olive and walnut trees. Decades later, avocados became the largest local crop, in part due to Henry Avocado.
Henry Avocado's new facility in Escondido allows the company to ship over 1 million cartons per year.
Escondido's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) identifies agriculture as a "priority industry cluster," making Henry Avocado a valued part of the community. The city also works closely with the local agriculture industry in efforts to develop reclaimed water, creating a unique strategic advantage for businesses like Henry Avocado that operate in drought-vulnerable California.
Henry Avocado has deep roots in both Escondido and the avocado industry and continues to thrive today. The company is currently transitioning into a new headquarters, a packing and distribution center that it moved to in late 2018, anticipating being fully settled in by mid-March. The new 50,000-square-foot, two-story facility is 20 percent larger than the previous site. While remaining in Escondido, this move was made to accommodate the company's growth and to increase efficiency. We chatted with president Phil Henry about what the company has been up to as well as plans for the future.
Staying in Escondido was a no-brainer for Henry, who describes the city as having "a good business climate...and actually a good climate as well," he laughed. Being located on Escondido's Harmony Grove Road gives the company a central location among its Southern California customers and easy access to Interstate 15 and Route 78. Henry Avocado was built on strong relationships with business associates and customers, which gives the company more reason to stay and grow in Escondido, according to Henry. Additionally, Escondido's economic development team is focused on expanding core industries like agriculture, making Henry Avocado's expansion one that fits within the City's strategic goals.
Originally starting out as only a grower, Henry Avocado has expanded its offerings over the years. The company harvests avocados from its groves in Escondido, Valley Center and the surrounding area, brings them into the packing house, and then distributes them to various customers throughout Southern California. While the company does not disclose annual revenues, Henry shares that in this business, "the revenues fluctuate all over the place because avocados are a commodity."
The 74-acre parcel of land Henry Avocado moved from, which is located on the east side of town, is still owned by the company. The packing house that was at the old site was outdated and the property did not have an ideal location for distribution when compared to the new facility, Henry said. While the company will no longer be using the older property as a distribution center, it will continue to grow avocados on the site's grove, which makes up about half of the 74-acre property. The lower elevations of the old property will be used for a housing subdivision, a trend in land repurposing that has been occurring since the 1970s in Escondido.
Outgrowing the old property is a testament to the continuous growth and success of the decades-old company. Henry attributes the growth to "a combination of things."
The company's new facility, located in Escondido's industrial area, employs approximately 100 people.
"Avocado production in Southern California is relatively flat, so the avocado production over the years has remained pretty constant. It fluctuates somewhat, but it's not really growing," Henry said. Because of this, Henry Avocado began seeking growth opportunities elsewhere, which lead the company to opening a facility in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2017. This new facility allowed the company to begin distributing avocados they receive from Mexico. The Charlotte facility caters to eastern US customers. Having a separate supply for the the East Coast allows Henry Avocado's Escondido operation to focus on distributing its California-grown avocados within the state for the most part, cutting shipping costs. "The growth in our business has been attributed to the increasing demand for avocados in the US.There's been a dramatic change in people's consumption of avocados. It's grown at around nine percent a year for the last fifteen years or so," Henry said.
In addition to a boost in demand, he also attributes Henry Avocado's growth to an increase in supply of avocados, which has allowed the company to flourish tremendously over the years.
Henry Avocado has about 100 employees, and the company's recent expansion has created about 10 new jobs in Escondido, revolving around farming, packing and distribution operations. Distribution will also be expanding. "This new facility allows us to distribute over 1 million cartons of avocados per year," Henry said.
Looking ahead, the team at Henry Avocado plans to continue on its growth pattern. "Our expansion here in Escondido allows us to handle more volume from the new facility, so we will continue to grow our volume to meet the demand for avocados in Southern California," Henry said.