Grossmont Center Honored In Transition

LA MESA -- As their time at Grossmont Center draws to a close the Denele Company (the Stefan family) who have been the exclusive operators of Grossmont Center since 1963, are thankful to have been a part of the history, and the success of the center and the region, and are grateful for all of the organizations they have been able to support, and participate in helping to advance, over the last 52 years. In January 2015, after 52 years, Grossmont Center operations will be returned to the land owners, marking the end of an era for the center and for the Stefan family.

Earlier this week, a group of local leaders gathered to mark this transition and comment on the Center's place in local life.
This is a close knit community. Thousands of people pass through Grossmont Center every single day, some for a cup of coffee at Starbucks, some for a special dress at Prevue for the holidays, some for healthful products and advice at Grossmont Nutrition, and others to have something special personalized at Engraving Pros. Grossmont Center is a hub, a meeting place, and reflects the nature of the community whether to shop, have a nice meal, do some banking, take in a movie or run into old friends. Some memories from local leaders:

“My family got their Christmas tree from Longs Drugs in Grossmont Center. My earliest memory of the Center was when I was 4. My brother and I had allergies, so we were having all sorts of problems in our house. My parents couldn't figure it out, but eventually realized it was the Christmas tree that was the problem, and my father had to dump the tree on Christmas Eve. We drove up to where Long’s drug store used to be and he bought the one out of the window for $10. We still have that tree; it was an artificial tree with all the decorations. “
“When I was probably 10 we were allowed to ride our bikes to Grossmont Center. When I was growing up, there was a movie theater down the street called Helix Theater and we were allowed to walk to that, but it was on surface streets. Riding our bikes to Grossmont Center meant crossing under the bridge, and going to where there were lots of people. It was a milestone, like getting my driver’s license. Of course this is where we would come to buy our Christmas presents for each other. Grossmont Center is the place. You know going to Mission Valley seems far away. That’s the way we are in La Mesa. “ -- Mark Arapostathis, La Mesa’s new mayor.
“This is their community mall, their little center in La Mesa, and they know about all the community events, some we don’t even have to advertise. My first year here, I changed the time of our complimentary Halloween Trick or Treat event from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. At 3 p.m. a manager came in and said we’re running out of candy, and I said how you can run out of candy it doesn't start till 5! He said have you seen the mall? I walked out and again, this was a year after I started, but I have never planned this event. There were about 1,000 kids in the center. And I thought Ok, now I can see why they don’t advertise this event, and I will never change it again. It’s one of those community events where they just know they can count on Grossmont Center to do it, no advertising; it just does its own thing.” -- Tracie Plefka, Marketing Director Grossmont Center
The Denele Company, represented since the early 90s by Denise Stefan (daughter of the company founder), has spent more than five decades constantly evaluating and reinventing Grossmont Center to assure that it has remained a vibrant regional destination that continues to draw new shoppers, and retain the neighborhood feel has touched the hearts, and the minds of generations of San Diegans. Legendary for their hands-on community involvement, they have also donated over two million dollars to local organizations including The City of La Mesa Parks Foundation, the Grossmont Hospital Foundation, the Boys & Girls Clubs of East County, the Kroc Center, and dozens of others. This legacy of giving will remain in perpetuity.

The following contributed to or attended the event:

Chairperson Dianne Jacob, San Diego County Board of Supervisors
Matthew Parr, Policy Advisor, San Diego County Board of Supervisors
Art Madrid, Mayor, City of La Mesa
Ruth Sterling, Vice Mayor, City of La Mesa
Ernest Ewin, Councilmember City of La Mesa
Vicki Whitmire, Board Chairperson, La Mesa Parks & Recreation Foundation
Yvonne Garrett Assistant City Manager/Director Community Services
Forrest Higgins, Boys & Girls Clubs of East County
Lesa Mitchell, Director of Development Boys & Girls Clubs of East County
Eric Lund, General Manager, East County Chamber of Commerce
Michelle Hottel, La Mesa Arts Alliance
Mary England, President & CEO, La Mesa Chamber of Commerce
Elizabeth (Beth) Morgante, Executive Director and Chief Development Officer, Grossmont Hospital Foundation
Bill Navrides, Director of Development, Grossmont Hospital Foundation
Sandy Pugliese, Community Relations manager, Sharp Grossmont Hospital
Angel Roy, Marketing & Communications Manager, Salvation Army Kroc Center
Ryan Schuler, Communications Coordinator, Salvation Army Kroc Center
James Newland, La Mesa Historic Society or Wade Douglas VP of the LM Historic Society

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Tags: Grossmont Center, La Mesa Today, La Mesa newspaper, Mark Arapostathis, Mary England, Mayor Art Madrid

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Comment by chris shea on December 11, 2014 at 8:36am
Jim I don't recall that. But I have been going to Grossmont Center since high school. My best memory is going into the Hunter's Book Store and perusing the greeting cards by the Norcross Company. I recall vividly thinking to myself that I could write good greeting cards too.
Also a memory I cherish is buying my first maternity dress at Marston's, now Macy's, in the maternity department in what is now the shoe department I believe.
Comment by Batman on December 10, 2014 at 2:41pm

A lot of history has passed through the gates of Grossmont Center over the years. Does anyone remember when President Gerald Ford visited Grossmont Center for a campaign appearance?

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