Curling Center reflects Vernon’s Push to continue to grow as an industrial reputation

Vernon welcomes curlers.

Vernon welcomes curlers.

Peter Dohm’s list of top spots to build an ice cream parlor in 2019 did not include Vernon. But after touring about 50 locations throughout Los Angeles County, the 5.2-square-mile manufacturing hub emerged as the finalist.

“Their motto is ‘Vernon means business,’ and they absolutely do,” said the former Space Exploration Technologies Corp. communications engineer who founded the Southern California Curling Center with Matt Gamboa and Liza Beres.
At first, Dohm was skeptical of Vernon.

“I’m a Los Angeles resident, and if you were to ask me three years ago what I thought of Vernon, I would not be able to tell you anything other than it was always in the news for past problems with the government and that sort of thing,” he said. he said. “But in essence, they welcomed us with open arms.”

Part of the city’s profession was, despite its small size, it has its own licensing department, police force and fire department.
“Everything you can dream of,” Dohm said. “What would have taken eight months in the city of LA took eight weeks in the city of Vernon because they are streamlined, and they take care of business.”

Welcoming non-manufacturing businesses such as the Curling Center is part of Mayor Melissa Ybarra’s plan to bring residents back to the city, which is home to some 1,900 businesses but has fewer than 150 registered voters.

“With Vernon attracting so many businesses and (55,000) commuters day in and day out, we also want to make it a desirable place to live,” Ybarra said. “I grew up here, I live here, and I want to continue to grow here in Vernon. … Our long-term goal is to … develop more housing and more attractions so we can keep our businesses (and) residents growing. . ”

Changing landscape

Ybarra became mayor in 2017, following in the footsteps of her grandfather Thomas, who served on the city council from 1966 to 2009, and her father, Michael, a councilor from 2012 until his unexpected death in 2014.

“When he died, I made the decision to (run), not for the family name, but simply because I wanted to continue the good in the city of Vernon and be a part of it,” she said.

Ybarra, one of Vernon’s nearly 250 residents, said she’s seen the city’s business list change over time with some painters and furniture manufacturers moving to countries “where it’s easier for them to get around. to do business without restrictions. ”
She has also witnessed companies, such as manufacturers of packaging and essential goods, returning to Vernon from abroad in recent years to avoid shipping delays and increased costs.

Then there are long-timers, including Tapatio Foods, F. Gaviña & Sons Inc., Baker Commodities Inc. and Smithfield Foods Inc.-owned Farmer John, each with decades-old ties to the city. Ybarra attributes its loyalty to its team’s first class “customer service and lower than average utility prices provided by Vernon’s Department of Water and Energy.

“The role of the city is not only to help support, but to guarantee its success by helping it grow its products and services,” she said of the city’s relationships with local businesses.

Recent transplants to Vernon include LA Roller Derby Cooperative Inc., which does business as Derby Dolls. The roller-derby league with banked-track moved from El Sereno in 2018 after they had trouble getting permits from the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety to hold their matches.

“I’m really happy for the curling center, and I’m really glad I got the Derby Dolls … because it’s recreational, and who thinks of Vernon as recreational?” sei Ybarra.

Dohm said his new clients at the curling center often express similar feelings, with some questioning where the city is and others seeming to be put off by their image as an industrial mecca.

“People say, ‘Why Vernon?’ but at the end of the day, Vernon is central to everyone, “he said. “We’re just in front of the East LA Interchange.”
He explained that some have a perception or expectation that a most industrial area might not seem so consumer-friendly.

“But when they enter, the city is clean, the roads are covered with the parcel tax, they have their own police. … Once the regulars were over that stigma, if you will, they keep it here, “he said.” They can come here on time, and they feel safe here. Sometimes we go until 11pm or midnight, and people have no problem walking in the parking lot to their car. They feel comfortable in Vernon. ”

Built-in base

In addition to the perception about the location of the center, Dohm and his partners had to deal with pandemic-related delays before they opened. They signed their lease just before the lockdown went into effect in 2020 and had to wait almost a year to start building the ice rink.

To complicate matters, the loans to small businesses where they were on account were never taken out because “no one took any risk.” Dohm ended up with a “find a great contractor” in March, he said, and began laying the ice around June 1st. The grand opening was held July 23,.

The curling center’s 20 part-time coaches give learn-to-curl lessons, while Hollywood Curling, Orange County Curling Club and Curl San Diego run competitions at the Vernon facility.

Dohm said the three clubs he worked with brought a “built-in membership base and name brand that they had already worked on.”
He got the idea to open the curling center while taking lessons with Hollywood Curling.

“There was a passionate base of curlers in the area, but they were far below the list of (priorities) for ice rinks – they only got ice time at 10pm on Saturday nights in Pasadena or 6pm on Sundays in Valencia,” he said. Dohm. “I saw that this could be a business opportunity that could really go away and be profitable.”

He’s also looking forward to next month’s Winter Olympics in Beijing – an event that usually yields a “big bump” in the interest in curling.
“As a kid, I used to watch curling on TV, and I wish I had a chance to try it out, but there was no place to do it at the time,” Dohn said. “Now, kids in the LA area who are watching the Olympics in February will have a place to try it out, the chance I never had.”

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