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La Estrella, Starbucks & McDonalds: Mantecas leading economic indicators
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Forget the S&P 500 Index, Dow Jones Industrial Average, and the NASDAQ.

If you want an indicator of the Manteca economy keep tabs on McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Taqueria La Estrella.

Manteca likes to eat out. There are more than a 100 places you can eat or spend $4 a pop on “beverages” whether it is coffee or juice.

The first segment of the economy that takes a hit in a downturn is dining out. People either cut back or else they switch to less expensive options.

Step into anyone of Manteca’s four Starbucks. The days of a cup of coffee for a dime went out with Blue Chip Stamps. The number of folks willing to pluck down $4 a cup for coffee is an indication the Great Recession isn’t so great anymore.

 And when it comes to expansion and profitability no one is smarter than the old clown himself Ronald McDonald.

McDonald’s has thrived through the economic downturn with growing profits. Much of it is from overseas expansion but they aren’t doing too shabby here in the USA either.

McDonald’s is expanding and re-investing domestically to strengthen their bottom line. That includes getting a more modern look, fine-tuning their menu, and deep-sizing McPlaygrounds. McDonald’s is a deliberate company. They take years to add a menu item. They methodically plot any expansion by the company itself or a franchisee.

There was a time when the folks running Burger King openly bragged they had McDonald’s do all the research on where to locate a restaurant and they’d follow.

Now look at what they are doing in Manteca.

They are building a fifth Manteca McDonald’s at Airport Way and Daniels Street.

They are temporarily closing the West Yosemite Avenue location and investing in making it more modern.

They are replacing the East Yosemite Avenue McDonald’s with a new one closer to the Highway 99/Yosemite Avenue interchange.

Just a little over a year ago they opened a location at Lathrop Road and Union Road.

You’ll notice that McDonald’s are on the “four corners” of Manteca including the location inside Walmart. That is where all the strongest spots for commercial traffic growth are in Manteca.

Taqueria La Estrella is kind of the Apple of Manteca. Just like how Apple set itself apart from the rest of the computer industry, Taqueria La Estrella has done the same in Manteca’s crowded Mexican restaurant landscape.

You can argue until you’re blue in the face whether La Estrella is better tasting than their rivals just like Apple enthusiasts and Microsoft aficionados debate operating system superiority.

Taqueria La Estrella has done the bold. First it opened a second restaurant at the start of the recession at Lathrop Road and Union Road. Then they got bolder. They opened a third restaurant when other eating establishments were closing down due to the Great Recession. And they did in a former Long John Silver’s location that had been shuttered for more than a decade.

So we have a bad economy? You can’t tell by Starbucks, McDonald’s or Taqueria La Estrella.

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209-249-3519.