The Fremont Podcast

Episode 94: A Historical Walk in Fremont with Dirk Lorenz

October 20, 2023 Ricky B Season 2 Episode 94
Episode 94: A Historical Walk in Fremont with Dirk Lorenz
The Fremont Podcast
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The Fremont Podcast
Episode 94: A Historical Walk in Fremont with Dirk Lorenz
Oct 20, 2023 Season 2 Episode 94
Ricky B

In this episode, we take a historic journey through Fremont with our guest, Dirk Lorenz, former owner of Fremont Flowers. We kick things off at the Centerville train station before moving on to the cauliflower fields of the Patterson ranch, where Dirk shares tales of local businesses that have played a key role in the community, including his own Fremont Flowers. But that's just the start; we then discuss the rich legacy of the Alameda family in the Mission San Jose area, dating back to the 1860s. We also talk about the lasting influence of the Japanese American relocation during World War II on the community.

We delve into  local politics, reflecting on Dirk's experiences running for city council and discussing the importance of community involvement. As a member of the Rotary Club, Dirk gives us an insider's view on some of their unique projects, including a global wheelchair distribution mission. Transitioning into small business ownership, we hear about Dirk's journey to owning Fremont Flowers at the young age of 19 and his insights on passing the baton to the new owner.

Wrapping up, we reflect on the vital role of small businesses in the Bay Area, discussing the sale of Fremont Flowers and the impact of the tech boom on the region. Dirk shares his experiences of selling his business to enjoy life and we take a look at a historical house on Carroll and Fremont. We end with a hint of what's to come, as we plan a potential video tour of Fremont and look forward to hearing more from Dirk about the city's history. So, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and listen in as we uncover the stories and history of Fremont, California.

Check out Own It Fitness for your professional fitness solutions. You can find their website here. 

Connect with them on Instagram here. 

If you are interested in supporting the podcast, please reach out to us at thefremontpodcast@gmail.com, or you can contact us here. 


Fremont Bank has been partnering with and supporting people and small businesses for over six decades.

Also, Petrocelli Homes has been a key sponsor for the Fremont Podcast almost from the beginning. If you are looking for help or advice about buying or selling a home, or if you are looking for a realtor, get in touch with Petrocelli Homes on Niles Blvd in Niles.

Additionally, Banter Bookshop is the best little bookshop in Fremont. They are a sponsor of that podcast. And we are excited to have them as a partner.

If you are in need of services for design or printing, check out Minutemen Press in Irvington. They have been serving the community for over 20 years, and they stand strong by their work and service.

Intro and Outro voiceovers made by Gary Williams. Check out garywilliams.org.

This episode was edited by Andrew C.

Scheduling and background was done by Sara S.

This is a Muggins Media Podcast.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, we take a historic journey through Fremont with our guest, Dirk Lorenz, former owner of Fremont Flowers. We kick things off at the Centerville train station before moving on to the cauliflower fields of the Patterson ranch, where Dirk shares tales of local businesses that have played a key role in the community, including his own Fremont Flowers. But that's just the start; we then discuss the rich legacy of the Alameda family in the Mission San Jose area, dating back to the 1860s. We also talk about the lasting influence of the Japanese American relocation during World War II on the community.

We delve into  local politics, reflecting on Dirk's experiences running for city council and discussing the importance of community involvement. As a member of the Rotary Club, Dirk gives us an insider's view on some of their unique projects, including a global wheelchair distribution mission. Transitioning into small business ownership, we hear about Dirk's journey to owning Fremont Flowers at the young age of 19 and his insights on passing the baton to the new owner.

Wrapping up, we reflect on the vital role of small businesses in the Bay Area, discussing the sale of Fremont Flowers and the impact of the tech boom on the region. Dirk shares his experiences of selling his business to enjoy life and we take a look at a historical house on Carroll and Fremont. We end with a hint of what's to come, as we plan a potential video tour of Fremont and look forward to hearing more from Dirk about the city's history. So, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and listen in as we uncover the stories and history of Fremont, California.

Check out Own It Fitness for your professional fitness solutions. You can find their website here. 

Connect with them on Instagram here. 

If you are interested in supporting the podcast, please reach out to us at thefremontpodcast@gmail.com, or you can contact us here. 


Fremont Bank has been partnering with and supporting people and small businesses for over six decades.

Also, Petrocelli Homes has been a key sponsor for the Fremont Podcast almost from the beginning. If you are looking for help or advice about buying or selling a home, or if you are looking for a realtor, get in touch with Petrocelli Homes on Niles Blvd in Niles.

Additionally, Banter Bookshop is the best little bookshop in Fremont. They are a sponsor of that podcast. And we are excited to have them as a partner.

If you are in need of services for design or printing, check out Minutemen Press in Irvington. They have been serving the community for over 20 years, and they stand strong by their work and service.

Intro and Outro voiceovers made by Gary Williams. Check out garywilliams.org.

This episode was edited by Andrew C.

Scheduling and background was done by Sara S.

This is a Muggins Media Podcast.

Speaker 1:

Hello Fremont, just a little bit of a PSA. I guess the ceramics teacher at Washington High School. He's looking for places to do fundraising. They're selling handmade ceramic pumpkins to raise money for the class and this isn't altruistically nice. I'd like extra stuff, kind of fundraising. This is will there be a class next year or will there not be a class next year? Kind of fundraising. So if you can help him, if you've got a business or if you're throwing an event, if there's any way you can help him, try reaching out. His email is listed on the staff directory at the Washington High School website and if you have Instagram, he is at w-h-s-c-l-a-y. That's Washington High School Clay. He's a really nice guy. He's a friend of Ricky's. Do what you can for him, thanks.

Speaker 2:

So when we would have dozens of people walk up to that podium to state their concerns. If it was about the radiation and illness possibly caused by it, we could not pay any attention to that testimony Interesting. We couldn't. We were bound by law not to consider it Coming to you straight from Fremont, California.

Speaker 4:

this is the Fremont podcast, dedicated to telling the stories of the past and present of the people and places of the city of Fremont, one conversation at a time.

Speaker 1:

I don't know if it's bats making that noise, but I do know it's episode 94 of the Fremont podcast. Oh, some joke about Ricky, told me to man that's cool. Now here's your host, ricky B.

Speaker 3:

I'm with Dirk Lorenz and he is the former owner of the Fremont flowers and manager of what, the train depot here.

Speaker 2:

Well, and the Altamont Corridor Express. I've been a contractor for them for 22 years, working for ACE, the commuter rail, so I still do that.

Speaker 3:

That's two jobs, I only have one. Wow, we are currently in a depot.

Speaker 2:

This is the historic Centerville train station. It's a 1910 model of a Southern Pacific railroad station. Initially it was on the other side of the tracks.

Speaker 3:

Wasn't on this side On the side.

Speaker 2:

Over there, on the other side and in this spot and I can show you a little bit later a picture on the wall was what we called the packing shed. The packing shed is where all the vegetables from Patterson Ranch before it was Ardenwood.

Speaker 2:

They came here, they were trucked over here, they were iced down and loaded onto the train and then, of course, here it was shipped out throughout the country because Ardenwood Patterson Ranch was, by all accounts, the best cauliflower growing fields in the world, because the conditions were so perfect for it. So our cauliflower that we grew out there. Later on we grew houses, unfortunately, or fortunately, depending if you have a house out there or not. But that was some of the best cauliflower growing fields in the world.

Speaker 3:

When we were doing the Cast of Niles podcast, someone that we've interviewed said a similar thing that cauliflower grew uniquely here in this area, better than anywhere else.

Speaker 2:

It was the influence of the bay, the fog and whatever the soil, just the conditions were perfect and my family were farmers. So, this is something that.

Speaker 3:

How many generations has your family been here? Four, four generations 1860s.

Speaker 2:

What am I? One, two, three, four.

Speaker 3:

Then I have nieces and nephews, so they represent the depth, so this depot was on the other side of the tracks.

Speaker 2:

What point.

Speaker 3:

Did it move over here? Yeah, about 1995-1996.

Speaker 2:

It was moved across the tracks one night and I have a picture, as a matter of fact, of then mayor Gus Morrison and council member Bob Wasserman standing out on the tracks with the depot behind him coming over the tracks. It was there that night and so I have that picture and I posted that, I think, on social media and what not? The night that it came over. It sat here for another four or five years. Then they restored it. The city of Fremont restored it, and so now we've got kind of a treasure here.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I was gonna say it's kind of a mixture between an actual functioning depot and a kind of like a museum or a place where memories you know still reside.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, if you go into the waiting room over here, you'll see on the wall some visual history, if you will, pictures with descriptions over the years about not only this depot but the railroad influence over the years in this area, and it was about in the 1950s, late 50s. I think that the passenger service halted here. Oh interesting, it halted.

Speaker 3:

So yeah, no more, no more, but now you can. Well, it's back, it's back.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it halted and this depot was used for several private businesses, what we called the Maple Shop, an electronic store. And, interestingly, in about 1956 or so a family came down from Berkeley and opened a flower shop in it called Fremont Flowers.

Speaker 3:

Wow, and you were the owner of Fremont.

Speaker 2:

Flowers. I bought it in what was it? 1983, 84 and operated it for 40 years. That's amazing. And then just you know, this year sold it. Wow, yeah, wow, that's cool.

Speaker 3:

So you said your parent or your family were farmers.

Speaker 2:

They were farmers in this area?

Speaker 5:

Yeah, grandparents.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

At what point did you assume a role in the depot world here? Yeah, what does that? When did that happen?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, good question. I was focused on my business and about a 38. That was at the Fremont Flowers. Fremont Flowers 38, 39 year old business person that, as I say, was totally focused on business and unmarried, and one time it was we were approaching Christmas, right after this depot was moved and restored. A lady that you probably met in the area, the Niles area, marie Deer.

Speaker 5:

Have you ever heard of Marie Deer. Yes, I have.

Speaker 2:

She came to me and she said, dirk, would you be interested in decorating the newly restored depot up the street for Christmas? And I said, sure, particularly with flowers in mind, or just no, just wreaths and garlands and things like that because they wanted to put it on the Niles home tour, the holiday home tour, and although it was in Cinerville it was new and they thought it would be of interest, and. I said I agreed. So then they came down and they talked to Lisa, the owner of the café who opened?

Speaker 2:

that in 1999. She said, sure, have him come in. So I came in one night, decorated, got half done and sparked a conversation, and they always say that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Well, she fed me that night. I'm a bachelor and I've eaten whatever I can get my hand on, quite frankly. And so I came back the next night to finish and I thought well, she prepared dinner last night, I'll bring dinner in tonight, which I did, and so I finished up. Then we had dinner together. Well, that began kind of a relationship that resulted in September 22nd of 2001.

Speaker 2:

The year of September 11th 2001 resulted in our secret wedding, and so we were married 22 years this year right 22 years A couple of weeks ago. A couple of weeks, yeah that's exactly right.

Speaker 2:

Interestingly because I said when Lisa opened the depot here she had had a family restaurant here locally, the Tigpaw, which was famous in and of itself for its ham steak, which was huge. People to this day will recall the ham steak at the Tigpaw restaurant. At any rate, she had kind of backed out of that business. Her parents were running it and someone came forward because she was on the redevelopment committee for the Centerville. Someone came forward, said Lisa, why don't you open a business in the newly restored depot? So she said, all right, well, I'll put in a business plan, which she did with about 19 other applicants at the time.

Speaker 2:

And the economic development director of the city of Fremont was a gal named Rosie Rios, and Rosie went to Lisa and said well, no, you've won the bid to open your cafe. Well, here, fast forward to November of 2022. That was our public wedding. We, of course, invited Rosie Rios to the wedding. Why is this significant? Rosie Rios is the 42nd treasurer of the United States. She went on to work under the Obama administration and was appointed treasurer of the United States.

Speaker 2:

So if you reach into your pocket, Ricky, and pulled out a bill, chances are it'll say Rosie Rios on the bill.

Speaker 3:

We'll be right back. You can hear the rest of this conversation in just a moment.

Speaker 1:

There was a chalk festival last weekend at the Pacific Commons shopping center. What got you into chalk as a medium?

Speaker 6:

So years and years ago, my mom came to me with a newspaper article and said here, you should try this. And I showed up to the event and I found the organizers and I said here I am. I've never used chalk, I've never drawn big and I've never drawn on the sidewalk before. What do I do? And I've been hooked ever since.

Speaker 1:

How long ago was that?

Speaker 6:

Like 13 years, I think, wow, something like that. Yeah, so I usually do about five or six events every year. Some do more, some do less. I think I finally developed my own style, but it took years and years. So now when we walk around we know like, oh, that's so, and so is ours, that's so and so is ours. You can kind of tell now. So it's kind of cool. Usually all of my pieces are sort of fantasy and whimsical, and I'm drawn by color.

Speaker 1:

Clearly.

Speaker 6:

So that's usually yeah. Last time I did a big one in Pleasant Hill it was all purpleish. So yeah, color is my thing.

Speaker 1:

Awesome. What festival did you do just before this, and what is next?

Speaker 6:

Pleasant Hill. This is my last one this year. For me, oh that's great. I'll paint some windows and stuff towards the holidays, but this is the last chalk event for me, I think.

Speaker 1:

And what would you recommend to like kids or people who want to get into chalk? You just kind of jumped in first I did.

Speaker 6:

Well, actually I'm a school teacher, I teach elementary school and so I work with my students and I show them really how to do chalk on the concrete. So we have a bunch of techniques that we use and. I think the more you practice, the easier it is Awesome, just practice.

Speaker 1:

This is a very big rainbow palette.

Speaker 6:

You like my palette.

Speaker 1:

Big rainbow palette.

Speaker 6:

Well, every festival we do, they give us a box.

Speaker 1:

So that's why. Okay, yeah, how many festivals deep is this.

Speaker 6:

This is all 13 years, and some of the ones over here, like I make my own two which are highly pigmented, and you'll see the other ones that are in here. So the boxes are usually, I don't know, 10 or 12 bucks a box, something like that, but then you can pay up to, like I think these are somewhere around $5 a stick, yikes. So, yeah, and this particular sidewalk is horrible, we hate this the most. Very challenging because, yeah, we can't get the. It doesn't stick, it has no teeth, so it doesn't have any bite to hold onto the chalk, so hopefully it won't get too windy.

Speaker 1:

I started to notice what I call modern concrete yeah, it's awful Versus like 50, 60, 70s, 80s concrete.

Speaker 6:

Right, we really just like to be out on the street, and normally we are. Last year we were. This year we put us over here, but you know, when they take the photos, in the end they'll realize the difference. It just doesn't hit here as well so often. You know, the spaces can be 10 by 10, 12 by 12, which is a lot of concrete to cover by yourself. And today's festival is only. We started around 8.30 or so and we finished by 3. So sometimes it's two days, so we chalk all day. Two days so. But now we have to work fast. Okay, I'll leave you to it. Thank you.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much.

Speaker 3:

It's good to have you. If you are looking to buy or sell your home, look no further than Petracelli Homes. You can find out more about them at PetracelliHomescom or pay Jennifer a visit in downtown Niles. Milk and Honey Cafe is a family owned restaurant located at 342-65 Fremont Boulevard. Right now they are offering a mid-autumn festival family meal special for dining or to go. You got to check it out. Just drop in or give them a call and ask them more about it. To find out more about the best family friendly Taiwanese restaurant in Fremont, go to milkandhoneycafecom or check them out on their Facebook page and Instagram.

Speaker 3:

It's that time of year again when everyone starts getting sniffles and sneezes and coughs. Well, howler's Pharmacy is here to help. They have been in our community for decades, so whether it's a seasonal issue or whether it's something that you have to take care of regularly, howler's Pharmacy is here to help you find exactly what you need. Check them out on the corner of Fremont and Peralta in downtown Centerville. And now back to our conversation your family. You're the fourth generation of your family being here. They were farmers. Where did they come from and what particularly brought them to this area when they, when they got here?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, my, on my grandfather's side they were from Fial the Azores. Okay, so they came over. In the 1860s they settled in Mission, san Jose. As a matter of fact, records from that church, which burnt down at some point in time, were preserved, and there's a record of my great-grandparents marriage in that.

Speaker 5:

Really those archives Wow.

Speaker 2:

So they were married up in the old Mission, san Jose. My grandfather was born in 1897. Okay, he had five siblings and all settled in this area. He met my grandmother, who was attending Washington High School at the time.

Speaker 3:

So Washington I'm just trying to place this. Washington High School was a high school in the 1800s?

Speaker 2:

It was, but it was located on Peralta Boulevard. Okay, it was. That was the old school. Okay, my grandmother, in 19, 19, 1920 or so, give or take attended the new school. Okay, at the current location. Very cool, she was the first class to attend at the new location. Yeah, at any rate, at the time they were living on Fremont Boulevard and near Madison Fremont Boulevard, there's an old White House on the. Depending on which way you're going, if you're hitting southbound, it's on the right hand side of the street, two-story with a dormer and a big porch on the front. Okay, next to Jansart Studio.

Speaker 5:

Yes, or what was Jansart Studio?

Speaker 2:

That's the family house. Oh, that's been in my family since oh of early 1900s. Wow. So going back to the history, grandmother went to Washington High School, mom went to Washington High School, I went to Washington High School, nieces and nephews went to Washington High School, stepson went to Washington.

Speaker 3:

High School. Wow, so we've got this generational history. Yeah, so it's interesting. We I had mentioned already to you the Cast of Niles podcast.

Speaker 3:

And there's an episode that we've recorded that's not yet put out yet and it's by a gentleman who still speaks Portuguese, but he's from the Azores, so we heard a little bit of their story of coming here. What was it that? What was it? Do you know? That was like the mechanism that your family left the Azores to come to this area. And how did they get from? Why didn't they stay on the east coast? Yeah, why did it? What brought them to the west coast?

Speaker 2:

They immigrated to the west coast, as did my grandmother's family, my grandmother her heritage was from Norway. Oh, so they came to.

Speaker 2:

San Francisco, okay, and that's where my grandparents on my grandmother great grandparents, rather, on my grandmother's side met, okay, at a Norwegian club in San Francisco, and they came together, married, okay, and grandmother's parents were the ones that owned the White House that I spoke of on Fremont Boulevard. Wow, that's where they were. Aunt Rowe Groundley the family name on my grandmother's side is Groundley was a painter here in Centerville, and so he painted the Little White Church, he probably painted the Depot building and whatnot in the community and he died of pernicious anemia in the 1930s. Wow, and he was lead poisoning Wow. Lead, poisoning from the lead base paints.

Speaker 2:

His paint shed was located right across Walton Avenue, which we're on now. This is the old Walton Avenue, okay, and the paint shed used to be in the lot right across, as I'm pointing out the window here that none of our listeners can hear. Or see rather See yeah, but there was a paint shed there and that's where he operated his business out of.

Speaker 2:

Later on it became the little Greyhound bus station and the next to it was the Japanese school. Wow, and the Japanese school is still there to this day. That building's still there, really, and I've got pictures from the Bancroft Library of the buses parked here in the 1940s picking up the Japanese to take them to Tanforan, the relocation camp during World War II.

Speaker 5:

On February 19, 1942, FDR issued Executive Order 9066, which made it legal to relocate Japanese Americans from the West Coast. Over 120,000 Japanese Americans were taken from their homes, some of which were seized by white Americans. They could only bring with them what they could carry and were shipped to remote relocation centers.

Speaker 2:

No way so much history.

Speaker 5:

So much history.

Speaker 3:

I'll ask you you know it's interesting, you're a florist, or at least you are. I don't know if you consider yourself that, at least a business owner that sold flowers. Yeah yeah, and you're here at the depot. Family are former farmers in this area, but you seem to be quite a historian as well. Well, like I mean, is that something? I'm curious if that's something of a personal fascination or if your family was really like growing up, your family really Captured and curated a lot of this history that you're?

Speaker 2:

telling me of. Yeah, great question, a great segue. Because, as we talk about family and my grandfather, for instance, Tony Alameda, he was elected to the school board, the water board, and served in those capacities until Washington Hospital opened. Then he was elected to the hospital board and he was the first vice president for Washington Hospital. Wow.

Speaker 2:

So the quest to answer your question the family was so involved in the formation of Fremont and the stories I heard from a very large family of uncles and aunts and things like that. I feel like I lived it. Yeah, so I've just absorbed this information over time and love just sharing, yeah, sharing the information. That's great. You know you ask about our family and farming. I told you that as the vegetables came from Patterson Ranch, they came into the packing shed. My aunts and uncles worked in this packing shed.

Speaker 5:

That was on where the depot is now Okay.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it burnt down the packing shed did, and then they were able to move this over, but and I've got the picture there showing you three generations in front of a window that was right outside this door here, that was taken of great-grandma, grandma and mom, the three of them standing right here in front of this building. So, Ricky, I've just lived so much of the history and heard so much that and I think you know who wants to hear all my stories, Right? But boy do I have a lot of them.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I was going to say we first had. We had our first conversation in the depot here and I think I found you on Instagram and you're pretty active on social media, at least Instagram, and we had a conversation about what it might look like for us to have you on the podcast. And that was before I even started the podcast. Like I was still kind of like fielding the idea?

Speaker 3:

Was it that long ago Is there, I know is that right, is there enough out there to be able to have a, you know, fremont podcast? And I remember you telling me well, you're going to have to say, reserve a few episodes for me because I've got a lot. And you know, at the time I believed you and I believe you now. I'm thinking, man, there's a lot stored here in you and then all around us that would feed a number of episodes.

Speaker 2:

I think that's pretty awesome. You know I was fortunate to spend time on the planning commission the Fremont planning commission from 2005 to 2013 or so, and the stories about the decisions that were made then that we see come to fruition now and hindsight from an ex planning commissioner saying, okay, we missed it on this one, but but okay, this turned out all right, but this one maybe wasn't such a good decision. And let me tell you something. The green pylons were part of my time on the planning commission.

Speaker 2:

So I got a lot of history on those green pylons that some people blame me for, but it was a group decision.

Speaker 3:

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Speaker 3:

I love books and if you do too, then you're going to love Bantar Bookshop. Bantar Books has a well curated selection of books for every reader. From the moment that you walk in the door, you know that it's a place that cares about providing you, the reader, with exactly what you need. Bantar Bookshop carries a large selection of books and if they don't have what you need, then they can order it for you. Just ask the person at the checkout desk and they can help you. If you're looking for your hometown bookshop, then visit banter books on Capital Avenue. And if you want to hear more about their story, check out episode 28 on the Fremont podcast. You know I've been in Fremont for nine years, so you know it's been, you know, a brief stent compared to your, you know your generations of history being here.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I have opinions about the city of Fremont. I have opinions about things that are good and things that are not so good things, maybe decisions that should be made and Maybe decisions that have been made that are also good. What are some of the things that you have learned? I, like you, just mentioned some of the things you got it right, some of the things you look back at and you maybe Could have been done differently. What are some of the things that you've learned in in your time being?

Speaker 2:

here? Great question. And again I go back to what kind of propelled me to get involved in politics in the early 2000s. You know, after being in business and whatnot and experiencing business and having served on the Chamber of Commerce and On the board Festival, the arts, things like that, I really got involved and I thought I'm gonna throw my head into the ring to run for city council back in 2004,. Okay, and I ran. I ran against Bob Wieckowski, who to this day is a very good friend. Politics were a little more friendly back.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, but at any rate, that's for another episode.

Speaker 3:

We talked about that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah. And through that failed effort for city council I got appointed to planning commission. Okay, because I fared pretty well in the vote count. Yeah, let's say that that experience taught me I mean going in as a, as a raw city council candidate you have all these ideals and all these things that you think should be done.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely until you get into Office and in my case I didn't get into office, I got onto the planning commission. But it's much the same. You find out that there is very little purview a Council member has or a planning commissioner for that matter has in many decisions, because the law Restricts you. Interesting one case in point yeah. Or cell towers? Yeah, neighborhoods would be up in arms anytime There'd be a cell tower proposed, afraid of the radiation that they put off in the cancer that, yeah, they say it could cause. Right, right, as a planning commissioner. When these things came up, our city attorney would tell us now Look, you cannot make a decision based on any claim of Radiation affecting the public because it's banned by law.

Speaker 2:

So when we would have dozens of people walk up to that podium to state their concerns. If it was about the Radiation and illness possibly caused by it, we could not pay any attention to that testimony interesting, we couldn't. We were bound by law not to consider it interesting. So that's very interesting, but it plays on what you were saying. Yeah, yeah, that's a realization that I came into, that that man we are, our hands are tied in many cases.

Speaker 3:

Tell me about the Rotary.

Speaker 2:

Club You're involved in the Rotary.

Speaker 3:

Club and you were the president of the Rotary Club at one point in time we can hear about all the stories, but yeah, the first thing I want to ask is for anybody, anybody who might be listening, and myself what is a Rotary Club?

Speaker 2:

Rotary, Club is a service organization, and, and Niles Rotary, specifically, was a service club, established 86 years ago or so and I may be off on the year or Exactly, or so and what it is is a group of local People used to be business people, but not necessarily so much anymore people that want to come together and they meet and they do community service projects, not only in the community, but but worldwide, okay, projects. We have our four-way test that we all believe in, and that is is it the truth? Is it fair to all concern? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Is it beneficial to all concern?

Speaker 2:

Hmm, and so this is the tenets of being a Rotarian service above self. Okay, giving back. Wow, there are, boy, and push there, over a million, one hundred thousand Rotarians worldwide. Hmm, their clubs in almost every country around the world, maybe not North Korea, but I even believe there's one in Kabul, afghanistan, wow, yeah, at least there was last convention I attended, okay, and, and so that's great, yeah, because they are all people equally yoked in this idea of service above self hmm.

Speaker 2:

So Niles rotary, as I said, is 80, going on, 90 years old, and we just have a rich history of community leaders that have been involved in that club. That's cool. I was president during the pandemic.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so yeah, you were telling me you had the unique privilege of being the only President of this, of this, that almost 90 year history that never got a live meeting, never met in person.

Speaker 1:

Virtually.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, let's say that but we broke some ground and we won an award for our rotary show that we put on during that time.

Speaker 3:

Wow, so it was really cool. That's cool and it was because it was all online. You had some opportunities to do some creative things that absolutely that maybe you wouldn't be able to do in person, correct?

Speaker 2:

sitting in a room where it was set up as a studio. You couldn't believe the equipment we had in here, that as we grew into this, it became more and more professional.

Speaker 5:

So, it's lighting the microphones the backdrops, things like that.

Speaker 2:

Anyway, one thing I will mention about rotary and a project that Is a sample of just what we do worldwide is our wheelchair distribution. Huh, and our club and district 5170, which is the district From Oakland to Hollister okay, all the rotary clubs within that district Raise money to buy wheelchairs. We raised enough money to buy four containers of wheelchairs. Now imagine a shipping container full of wheelchairs about a hundred and seventy, two hundred wheelchairs per container, that's. We shipped them in several different locations throughout the world. One location went into the Red Cross in the Philippines, and Both myself and my wife Lisa were fortunate enough to go to the Philippines and participate in these distributions, oh, wow, where we actually went out with the Red Cross and met in different cities and people brought their loved one yeah to these meetings where we were able to gift them Well, give them the gift of mobility basically a brand new wheelchair. There was one instance that I'd love to show the listening audience a picture of a gentleman carrying his son on his back.

Speaker 2:

Wow into the meeting and wheeling him on a brand new wheelchair brought us to tears.

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah this is the kind of work that rotary does all wide Wow also backpacks for kids in in under privileged areas that can't afford school supplies and things like that. We are this close and I'm holding up my hand with just about a quarter inch Distance between my thumb and my index finger, saying we're this close to Eradicating polio worldwide. It exists in two countries, pakistan and Afghanistan. The wild polio virus exists and we're working to to eliminate, wow, polio there. Once done, it'll be eliminated worldwide.

Speaker 5:

So we're very excited about that.

Speaker 2:

We dig wells in countries where they don't have fresh water. We educate women where education isn't available. We build schools. I can go on and on and on about the projects that we were doing worldwide, but here, locally, as you walk around Lake Elizabeth, pay attention to how it's being reforested, if you will, because those are Niles Rotarians Really seed balls and planting the trees out at Central Park for everybody to enjoy. So we we don't just do worldwide projects, we also do projects here, locally.

Speaker 3:

If you have enjoyed this podcast, consider supporting it with a small gift at buymeacoffeecom. Slash the Fremont podcast. Thank you for your support and thanks for listening. How many Rotarians are there in like this particular area and then maybe even in the Niles sector of that? Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Niles Club has between 90 and 100 members right now there's Fremont Rotary Mission, san Jose Rotary, the Fun Club. There's Electronic Clubs. There's six or so clubs here locally in our area which is Fremont, newark, union City. The broader area is District 5170, which, earlier I said, stretches from Oakland to Santa Cruz, to Hollister, yeah, and all the clubs in between.

Speaker 2:

How long have you been part of the club? I joined Fremont Rotary in the 1980s because my business was growing. I took a leave of absence, rejoined Niles Rotary on around 2012. Yeah, and my wife had joined in the early 2000s and she's also been a past president of Niles. Rotary Wow, very cool. So we both have served as presidents differently, but yeah, nonetheless we both served.

Speaker 3:

That's awesome. Wow, that's really cool. I've only heard the name Rotary Club in my lifetime. I really don't know much about what it is. This is a great education. Well good, you're going to get even more tomorrow. Tomorrow, yeah, when this podcast comes out.

Speaker 2:

A couple weeks ago or whatever, yeah whatever it is, You're going to get a healthy dose of it as your speaker and you're going to enjoy the heck out of it.

Speaker 3:

Oh, I know I will.

Speaker 2:

I know You're going to see some traditions that we do in our club that are kind of silly, but guess what? We all love these traditions.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, traditions are great. I think traditionalism can kind of go awry, but traditions can be really really helpful to remember the things that are important. I think that's really cool self over or service over self, which I think is just a really great motto. That's our motto. I think that's something that, especially if you embody that and especially if you have an organization that really kind of creates the opportunities to live that out, I think it's just a really really great thing that we need in our community. These days.

Speaker 3:

When did you become the owner of Fremont Flowers and how did that happen?

Speaker 2:

Great question. I had worked or had gone to school. Washington High School was going to go to college at Sac State University. As a matter of fact, went as far as 19 years old, buying a house up there.

Speaker 5:

You could back then Wow, I'd save money and I could.

Speaker 2:

I remember one weekend I had gone up to the house, found a job, was going to enlist or register for Sac State and I said, uh-uh, this isn't what I want to do. Came back to Fremont, just rented the house out to students and started looking for a business to buy. I said I want. You were 19 at the time 19. Wow, I went from the car wash next to Cloverdough.

Speaker 5:

A lot of local history stories that I can tell you about that here in Fremont.

Speaker 2:

From that job it was a Hertz Renna car I went to work at the San Jose Airport for Hertz Renna car, working there. But all the while saying I want to own my own business, I knew that. I knew that I want to work with my hands maybe a tile layer or auto body shop owner, something like that.

Speaker 2:

I met with a real estate agent and she said how about a florist? I said oh, no, no, no, no. I said I don't know the difference between a daisy and a carnation. I'm not interested. She said, now the other life lesson keep an open mind. I said, all right. Well, within a few months she brought me down to the store to tour it because the owner at the time, Mickey Iverson, was getting ready to retire. She interviewed me and after spending some time with her, she says you're the one. I said what she said. You're the one. Whatever she saw in me, she saw success and so she sold me her business in 1984. And I walked into that store on the corner of Fremont Boulevard in Peralta, walked into that store January 2nd For my first day. 16 employees and I was the youngest.

Speaker 1:

Oh my goodness, I was the youngest.

Speaker 2:

And I remember somebody asking me well, what do we call you? And jokingly I said how about Grand Puba? They said call me Dirk, for God's sake. Oh, my goodness. And that started a career that you know. In the end, I was the oldest, right, right, right and 40 years to whatever. I was 21, 22 at the time?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, because you just now sold it, just now sold it and it's in a different location now. When did it move from Peralta?

Speaker 2:

Oh, I moved it all the heck all over the place Okay.

Speaker 2:

I moved it from Coroner to Peralta and Fremont Boulevard to where Sioux Juices on Thornton Avenue. I was there through the late 80s. Then I bought the old Lincoln Mercury Jeep dealer on Fremont Boulevard. I moved it there. Then a few years later I moved it down to the Cloverdale Creamery Building, was there for five years, moved it back to the Jeep building that I was in before, only to then move it to where it is now. Wow, I moved the heck out of that.

Speaker 3:

What unique lessons did you learn as a florist shop owner? What lessons did you learn? I think everyone who's a business owner learns a lot of similar lessons. And then I think there are experiences that we have you going into being the owner of a florist at 19, not knowing the difference between the days in the incarnation, and now, 40 years later, selling your business. What did you learn specifically from that experience?

Speaker 2:

As a small business owner, it is so important that you give back to those who support you, and I did that for 40 years. I built relationships and gave back, whether it was Welcome Teacher Day, where we give the flowers to the students to take back to their teacher on the first day of school or many other things we supported as a business throughout the years.

Speaker 2:

It's important to give back number one. Number two relevancy. I think one of the most valuable lessons I learned was, through the years, you have to maintain relevancy. In other words, I saw the demographics of Fremont change from when I was in high school we could count one Afro-American and maybe one Asian student and everybody else was white to where Fremont is today and through that time period, as I saw it change, I kept saying we have to remain relevant. How do we maintain relevancy, not only in business, but everything else? Our lives in this area have changed as Fremont has changed. So relevancy and giving back Wow, that's great.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I know that giving back is a big part, because in the short time that I've been here in Fremont, we've looked at businesses that might support a particular event or a particular endeavor and every time Fremont flowers was brought up you should talk to them, because they support the community, so you must have a reputation of giving back, and I think that's great.

Speaker 2:

The first year that I was in business, I got involved with the Fremont Festival of the Arts the first year that they had it Wow. They just celebrated we crossed the 39th year only because of pandemic canceled, correct? Yeah, I've been the chairman of that event now for 20 some odd years and so I'm still involved in that. And I said I got across the 40 year mark even though it was delayed for two years.

Speaker 5:

We're really on like 42, but no, it's only the 40th.

Speaker 2:

So yeah, so it's constantly being involved and giving of yourself.

Speaker 3:

If I remember correctly, well, first of all I was going to ask congratulations on that. By the way, 40 years and so many things, that's great. So you went through a process to become the owner of Fremont Flowers and were selected amongst other applicants. What did it look like for you to pass the baton off to a new owner?

Speaker 2:

You know, secession planning was always something on my mind. Although I was ready, I was still going to stay in business for a while and a local family came forward and out of the blue said would you be interested in selling?

Speaker 2:

So at first I said, huh, we'll see, but I need to get to know them. They had a local business here already, went to local schools and all, and then a friend of the family, a possible future daughter-in-law, worked managing a florist elsewhere and I said, okay, this seems to be the right combination of people. So we just went through the process and I acclimated to the idea over the last quarter or half of last year, to the idea of, okay, what are you going to do now? That was scary. That was scary, so yeah.

Speaker 3:

I think I know I went to an event at the Fremont Flowers last fall. I believe it was Probably a chamber mixer or something.

Speaker 2:

It was a chamber mixer or something.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and I, but it was near the time when you officially had sold the business and I remember vaguely talking with you at that time and I think we talked about you being officially retired maybe, but I remember you making a comment about the fact that one of the reasons why you felt like this was a good move for you in this moment in time for you is so that you could enjoy more of your life that you have and not necessarily be tied down to these other businesses, instead of holding on to something so long to where you're not able to get out and enjoy the world and enjoy life in a younger year, in your younger years, or waiting a long time but, being able to do it sooner rather than later, have you?

Speaker 3:

I've seen that you've traveled a bit recently. What is life like for you now? What is it that you're doing with your life?

Speaker 2:

now, ricky, that's really true and I think it's true for anybody. I took Social Security and I retired out of my business at 63 years of age. Okay, 63 years, because I do look forward and I say how many years do I have left? How many years does Lisa have left for us to be able to travel and do things? Because when you own your own business, you're a slave to that business.

Speaker 3:

That's right. That's right, it's 24, seven yeah.

Speaker 2:

And you know so much for Christmas.

Speaker 3:

Right.

Speaker 2:

So much for these holidays Valentine's Day don't plan anything around. Valentine's.

Speaker 3:

Day when you're on floors.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, exactly, and it was just a decision that at this point in my life, if I can afford it, why not? That's good, because if I hang on another 10 years in business, who knows the physical shape I'll be in when? I'm 73. Yeah. So, no, do it if you can, yeah, and so we did.

Speaker 3:

It's interesting that you say that and this question just came to my mind as you were talking. You know the people that seem to flourish and succeed in this particular area of the country, in the Bay Area, silicon Valley. They do it kind of on the back of two main things that come to mind, my mind, two main powerhouses, I guess I kind of mind. One is the Silicon Valley tech boom, being able to make money and do really well for yourself, and that's one of the reasons that so many people are coming here from around the world. That attracts them here. But then secondly, there is what I refer to and I don't even know if it's a great way of saying it, but old California money, you know the people who have deep roots here.

Speaker 3:

They've been here for a long time and what they bought for $10,000 a hundred years ago is now worth, you know $2 million.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, that's exactly right.

Speaker 3:

So I'm curious as somebody who and I'm not saying that you know you have the wealth of old California money behind you.

Speaker 3:

But what I'm saying, yeah, but what I'm wondering from you as someone who has spent their entire life here in this particular area and you've seen the influx of what the tech boom has brought to our area, what are some of the things that you cherish, one of the some of the things that you feel are important to remember and hold on to in this area, as they kind of like I don't know if they necessarily compete with each other, but maybe they do. You know, yeah, what are some of the things that you feel are important for us to know and to remember as a community?

Speaker 2:

You know the value of your small business people in Centerville, irvington Mission, san Jose, niles. Warm Springs the value of the small business person, because I've always said this when you think of our events in Fremont that give us a quality of life that we have, whether it's the Festival of Lights parade up in Niles, whether it's the Fourth of July parade.

Speaker 5:

Who's behind those?

Speaker 2:

events small business the Jesse Shaw's of this world at.

Speaker 5:

Shaw's.

Speaker 2:

Lawn Mowers, you know the Gale Stewart's up at Mission Coffee. Yeah, who's going to be retiring?

Speaker 3:

Very soon.

Speaker 2:

The Smith family from Dale Hardware you see these names again and again and again supporting these community events. We have to, in turn, continue supporting these small businesses and remember that, yeah, amazon is very convenient, but guess what? You're not helping those small business people that, in turn, are helping your community be what it is and, when you think about that, that builds stronger schools, which builds more valuable real estate, which is money in your pocket. So don't overlook that small business connection.

Speaker 3:

That's great. Yeah, when I have people ask what the podcast, what the Fremont podcast, is about, and I tell them specifically, my number one focus is on people. I want to hear the stories of the people that make up this community. But in some ways I've asked people, or people have asked me is this a small business podcast or you're trying to promote small businesses? And what I tell them is that, you know, in all likelihood, the small businesses that exist within our community come out of the expression of a person's life. They're the things that really something in their life brought them to the point where they either started a business, or they bought into a business, or they inherited a business and something about their story brought them to this point, and then they've embodied this business with their life.

Speaker 3:

Correct and so the story of a person's life is often, can often be seen or can often be told in part by the business that they started. So it not necessarily directly a small business podcast, but because it's connected to people, it is a small, it tells a story of people's lives and they're intertwined.

Speaker 2:

The people and these small businesses are intertwined with one another. Look, I did and was able to do with Fremont Flowers giving back because of a rich family history of giving back. I learned it from these people who served our community, didn't? Necessarily have a small business of their own but they serve the community. I brought that forward and my expression of that was through my business. That's great, that's great.

Speaker 3:

Well, I'm going to wrap it up here in a few minutes we probably need to plan to have you on here again. Yeah, but I'm interested maybe in hearing a little as we close, a little information about the house over on Carroll and Fremont.

Speaker 1:

We were talking about that.

Speaker 3:

We were talking about that. So when I was growing up, I spent my summers working on my grandparents farm in Michigan, and we would always drive down this one road and there was this house. That was broken down and depleted, but I had a tour on it. We always called it the Witch's Castle. And so this particular house that I'm asking you about on. Carroll and Fremont has a tour like that and I used to live. When I first moved to Fremont I lived about a block away from that house. Oh, you did.

Speaker 3:

Oh yeah, my son always pointed out what is that house, and I told him when I was a kid there was a house close to my grandparents farm that we used to call the Witch's Castle. That had similar features to it. But this is a. This is a Kaiser house, yeah, so yeah, tell me about this house.

Speaker 2:

Kaiser house. Now, back in the 1920s and 1930s, my mom, her folks and her siblings lived in that house, so it was the Alameda house.

Speaker 1:

Okay, okay.

Speaker 2:

And on around 1944, 45, a local company which is now JR Griffin, but it was run by his father, randy Griffin, built my grandparents a home right up the street, the first ranch style home in the city of Fremont. So he built that and then they moved from that Victorian on the corner to their new modern ranch house, if you will, and they sold it At some point in time. A gentleman with the last name of Kaiser and I remember the sign out in front and that he was a chiropractor, Okay, but also he ran for state office, whether it was governor. He may have run for president of the United States, but he was active politically. Never really had much support, if you will. Yeah, wasn't taken seriously as a candidate apparently because he never held elected office.

Speaker 2:

But he had that home for years later, or years after rather, and then a gentleman who was a sheriff here in the Bay Area bought the home and did the restoration on it. And that's, it's been restored and, because of this gentleman and the love that he put into the house, this is what we have today and what you see on that corner. So a lot of family history for another show.

Speaker 3:

I can tell you stories about that house and show you pictures and things like that. Yeah Well, maybe what we need to do, we'll have you, you know, try to have you back on the podcast, but maybe we need to do like a video tour of. Fremont with drive around and we can talk about different places and get it to be fun.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I can tell you a whole lot about a whole lot of places. That's awesome.

Speaker 3:

Well, derek thank you for joining me. This was fantastic. Really appreciate it. Looking forward to hearing more from you and joining you at the Rotary Club.

Speaker 2:

Well, and by the time they hear this, you will have spoken at the Rotary Club and you will have impressed the entire club with your stories we will see we will see. Thank you, you're welcome. Fremont Podcast.

Speaker 6:

This is a Muggins Media podcast.

Historic Centerville Train Station
Generational Family History in Fremont
Fremont Resident and Rotary Club Member
Becoming the Owner of Fremont Flowers
Small Businesses in Bay Area Importance
Small Business Podcast and Historical House
Fremont's Family History and Video Tour