Vallarta celebrates new HQ in Valencia 

The Gonzalez family and the executive team at Vallarta celebrate the opening of a new corporate headquarters. Katherine Quezada/The Signal
The Gonzalez family and the executive team at Vallarta celebrate the opening of a new corporate headquarters. Katherine Quezada/The Signal

Celebrating what Santa Clarita City Councilman Jason Gibbs called a “perfect example of the American Dream,” the Gonzalez family and the executive team for Vallarta cut the ribbon on the company’s new 51,000-square-foot corporate headquarters in the Santa Clarita Valley. 

On Monday, Vallarta CEO Enrique Gonzalez Jr. credited the hard work and perseverance of his father with instilling in him the attitude that created opportunities for his family at the Valencia business park on Avenue Stanford, near the Interstate 5-Highway 126 interchange.   

The elder Enrique Gonzalez worked as a cook in the early 1970s and dreamed of opening his own business, before he started the family’s first carniceria in Van Nuys in 1984, his son said. 

“It was just his hard work and dedication, open to close,” he said, after the golden scissors were put away. “If I need to clean a bathroom, if I need to mop, I’ll do it,” he added.  

The new campus has more than 78 offices, 166 workstations, eight conference rooms, open lounge spaces, as well as a nearly 1,000-square-foot test kitchen and six focus booths for developing in-house products and recipes, according to Vallarta officials. 

The project looks to bring between 200 to 250 jobs from neighboring Sylmar, where the grocer had a corporate office and a training center in different buildings. 

Both are consolidated on the new campus, which has plans to add more resources for employees, according to Sonia Harris, director of the Vallarta Training Center.  

Chief Operating Officer David Hinojosa also mentioned the core values extolled by Gonzalez as part of the culture created at Vallarta, including humility, integrity and teamwork, as he took attendees on a trip down memory lane. 

There were multiple mentions of the original office for the “Vallarta 7,” the store’s first corporate structure, which focused on accounting and human resources — as well as thank-yous to the handful of employees who have stayed with the company since. 

By 2001, Vallarta had 29 on its corporate team managing eight stores and 1,000 employees, which necessitated an office move from the San Fernando office.  

By 2009, there were 18 stores and 3,000 employees, and by the middle of the next decade, there were more than 4,000 employees. In 2014, the company opened the Vallarta Training Center that Harris now runs. 

Vallarta now has more than 8,000 employees for 55 locations throughout California, including Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Kern, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Tulare, Orange, Monterey and Fresno counties. The company has two stores in the SCV: One on Lyons Avenue in Valencia and another at the intersection of Sierra Highway and Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. 

In their new corporate space in Santa Clarita, there’s significant space to grow, which seems to be in the plans. 

Harris said she’s already reached out to Jey Wagner, CEO of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp., about connecting Vallarta with College of the Canyons as a potential resource to increase team training sessions and recruitment. 

Attracting business operations of this scale has been a priority for the city and the SCVEDC, Wagner said, taking part in the celebration while acknowledging the SCV’s commercial-office vacancy rate is still higher than what he’d like to see. 

Monday’s music-filled ceremony with heaping plates of Mexican food was a welcome change of pace for an otherwise rough start to 2024 so far. 

Princess Cruises, a major corporate presence in the SCV since 2001 with more than 1,300 local employees, announced it was subleasing about 300,000 square feet of commercial office space around Town Center Drive in Valencia. 

In February, Jim Backer, CEO of JSB Development, said the marketplace for commercial office space has been somewhat “upended” since COVID-19, in discussing challenges he’s had with Vista Canyon and its more than 900,000 square feet of commercial space. “Even the things that everyone thinks we should be doing are having a tough time in the financial world because of the higher rates and the inflation,” he lamented. 

Earlier this month, a billion-dollar movie studio that had been making plans for north Newhall and Placerita Canyon for years suddenly went silent. A number of city officials have said the plans for a 1.3-million-square-foot film-production campus are dead.  

Wagner tipped his hat to leaders at Vallarta, including CFO Howard Kaminsky, an SCV resident, with help behind the scenes in encouraging the move.  

“This is a great addition,” Wagner said, acknowledging the challenge in addressing the vacancy rate. In the first quarter of 2019, the vacancy rate was 11.57%, according to SCVEDC figures, and for the first quarter of 2022, it was 22.7%. For the same time this year, it was 20.2%. For comparison, the vacancy rate for industrial warehouse space is around 2.5%. 

“Headquarters is one of our focus priorities, and any opportunity we have where you’ve got an organization like Vallarta, that already has a presence here with some of their large stores,” he said, recalling lines that stretched around the corner when Vallarta opened in Newhall and Canyon Country, “it’s a big event.” 

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