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Miracle on Oak Street
Historic part of town is undergoing transformation
Tim Valentine of Valentine Construction and Manteca Winery (formerly Celpril) exchange pleasantries with visitors during the weekends Fall Festival Faire which was a fund-raiser for the Welcome Home Heroes Foundation. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Imagine a 12-ton pile of garbage.

One who doesn’t have to imagine that much trash is Tim Valentine. That’s how much rubbish he removed from the old Celpril on Oak Street when he was done cleaning up the place after he took ownership of the five-building compound that lay vacant for several years. The entire business, which is on the south side of the railroad tracks in downtown Manteca and is now known as Valentine Construction since early spring, straddles Oak Street between Park Avenue and Vine Street. Among the five structures on the property is the 106-year-old Manteca Winery and the oldest brick building in town.

Cleaning up the place was no walk in the park for Valentine and his crew of workers. With the old Celpril standing vacant for a number of years, it became an attractive magnet for many undesirable elements. Inside some of the buildings were transients who lived there in squalor. One even had an entire camping gear complete with cooking utensils inside one of the buildings. Trash, including drug paraphernalia, was everywhere piled up by many two legged squatters and transients. They were under luxuriant and unpruned trees and bushes on the property which provided convenient camouflage for the people who needed to hide their sometimes illegal activities.

It did not help that the business was located in the Southside area where police presence was quite prominent due to a number of crime activity.

That was then. Today, the neighborhood along the entire stretch of Oak Street from South Main Street to Park Avenue which is just off West Yosemite Avenue in downtown Manteca has undergone quite a visible transformation that it’s hard to imagine how it looked like as recently as last year. Even the long-running Lucca’s Bar across the street from the old Manteca Winery has gone through its own metamorphosis. It has shed off its old name and is now known as Chuck’s Place Sports Bar.

When Valentine started the clean-up of his dream-come-true business property, he also landscaped the perimeters of his buildings along Oak Street, Park Avenue, and Vine Street. If you drive down these thoroughfares today, you’ll find climbing purple and blue morning glories sharing space with other blooming perennials and annuals. Not to be outdone, some of the other businesses in this light industrial sector have followed suit by installing landscaping as well. And, despite its reputation as a crime-ridden area, this Southside neighborhood has many homes with very well-kept front lawns and gardens.

Thanks to Valentine Construction and the historic Manteca Winery, Oak Street has become a center for community and family-oriented gatherings, celebrations and festivals. Just this past weekend, Valentine Construction and Manteca Winery played host to what was billed as the first annual Fall Festival Faire. It was held in partnership with the Welcome Home Heroes Foundation which was the beneficiary of the proceeds from the event fund-raiser. The fall festival was just the latest in a string of celebrations held at this historic part of Manteca.