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Planting seed for better neighborhood
Old CelPril gets new life as commercial compound
Tim Valentine drives his ATV along the railroad tracks past the sign in the back of one of his buildings that is visible from the Manteca downtown business district. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO
The long-empty buildings of the former seed-testing CelPril company on Oak Street in Manteca is getting a new business life under a new name and a new owner.

In the process, this area immediately south of downtown across from the railroad tracks that generally has been considered as a blighted part of town is also undergoing a major facelift, thanks to Tim Valentine and his Valentine Construction company, a “general engineering” and “general building” contractor.

Drive down the stretch of Oak from South Main Street to Vine and you will see the many signs of transformation that have already taken place. It includes curbside landscaping with colorful perennials and annuals thriving on garden strips hugging the sides of the buildings and fence enclosures.

Tim Valentine, the self-described “over-achiever,” purchased from CelPril earlier this year the entire collection of five separate buildings with a cumulative total space of nearly 60,000 square feet. The historic piêce de resistance of this collection of commercial structures straddling the greater northern half of Oak Street is the former Bacillieri Winery, the oldest brick structure in Manteca, according to historical records.

Valentine, who did an extensive research on this historic building at the Manteca Historical Museum even before he closed escrow on the property in March, has great plans for Bacillieri. Among other things, he wants to try and restore the building as it used to be complete with a replica of the old water tower which once supplied water to Manteca residents at the turn of the 20th century.

In the short month since Valentine Construction took over the old CelPril, some 20 full-time employees to date are working in a wide variety of capacities in the many service operations that the new business in Manteca offers.

“Valentine Construction provides dynamic solutions to all infrastructure, facility maintenance and production-equipment needs. We are a service provider. If you have a need, we can serve you,” said the Tracy native who received his GED from Lindbergh School in Manteca.

The large building on the north side of Oak where the main office is located now houses a machine shop, a cabinet shop and a steel-fabrication shop. The equally large building across the street is Motorpool where “we service engines of all types.” The building across from the old Bacillieri Winery which CelPril used as an office is now the company’s First Aid Center and Security Office. The entire Valentine compound is a 24/7 operation. For now, CelPril’s old shipping building is being utilized inside and out as a training facility for motorcycle stunt riders.

Other services that Valentine Construction provides include complete plumbing service, electrical, heat and air conditioning and refrigeration, concrete landscaping, tenant improvements and kitchen and bathroom remodeling.

Valentine, who founded Valentine Construction in 2000, said he had been looking for a permanent business location for a while.

“I’ve been struggling to buy a store front. I’ve always wanted to buy a store front from day one, and I have refrained from renting one,” he said.

So when CelPril became available, it was the answer to what he has been looking for. The fact it was located in Manteca was also a plus since he was already familiar with the area.

“I have connections to this community. I’ve worked in Manteca over the years for the last 10 years. I’ve done a lot of residential stuff. I’ve been a part of Manteca my entire life,” he said.

One of his most recent projects in Manteca was Athens Burgers restaurant in the old Kentucky Fried Chicken building on West Yosemite Avenue, just across the railroad tracks from Valentine Construction’s compound.

The other reason why he decided to plant his business roots in Manteca: “I know Manteca. Manteca is a great place,” he said.

He is also pleased with the way city officials and other people have welcomed him to this Family City.

“I’ve had nothing but phenomenal assistance, and everyone is pretty excited about what we’re doing here,” he said.

He is just as impressed with the Manteca Police and their quick response, which he found out during the first days of his occupation of the CelPril buildings and one of the alarms went off.

Valentine may be the business owner and the boss, but everyone in his employ is part of “the family.”

As he put it, “This entire company is either related by blood or related by bond.”

His longtime bookkeeper Peggy Rose agrees. “He has employed a few father/son (workers),” she said.

Receptionist Emelia Horn, as another example, came to work for the company through Rose’s longtime manicurist and friend who just happens to be Horn’s mother. Horn came to Valentine Construction about two months ago from Prestige Senior Living in Manteca where she worked for nearly two years.

“He has one of the largest hearts around,” Rose said of Valentine.

The business owner is just as appreciative of those who work for his company. He praised his workers’ skills, saying, “What they can do with their hands is phenomenal.”

He added, “Within these walls, gifts are embraced, skills are developed, and craftsmen are made.”

Valentine did not say exactly what the price tag of the property was when he purchased it. However, in the LoopNet web site which listed it for sale, the asking price was $1,875,000. A qualification below the ad said the price tag shown reflected the $600,000 price reduction, which means the original asking price was $2,475,000.

It gave the lot size as 2.17 acres with the “light manufacturing facility” featuring “five buildings on four parcels of land including paved and fenced yard areas which could support multiple tenants and uses. The manufacturing area is equipped with a dust collection system, two cold storage rooms, heavy power and energy-efficient T5 high-bay fluorescent light fixtures.” The listing also boasted that the facility is centrally located in Manteca and that it has easy access to Interstate 5 and Highway 99 via Hwy 120.

Valentine said there were other interested buyers of the property but that no one except him wanted to purchase the entire property.