Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians
Special to Valley News
Hundreds of invited guests turned out for the official grand opening of Roadrunner Express at the Soboba Indian Reservation. Located across Lake Park Drive from Soboba Casino Resort, the gas station and convenience store is a perfect addition to the community.
The Soboba Economic Development Corporation was happy to see the project come to fruition. Its board Chair and Soboba Tribal member Michael Castello, who served as master of ceremonies for the Tuesday, March 14, ceremony, said it was an historic event for the Tribe and something that was truly needed for a long time in the area.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for all of us,” he said.
After a blessing by Soboba Tribal Council Secretary Monica Herrera in her Luiseño language she shared that she was always told that when you see a roadrunner, it is good luck or a blessing for your day.
“So, I pray that every visitor who comes to Roadrunner Express will be taken care of, receive their good luck and leave here happy on their trails,” she said.
The Inter-Tribal Bird Singers shared a couple of social gathering songs and were joined by several bird dancers. Castello then recognized former SEDC board member Lori VanArsdale for being instrumental in getting the project up and running as well as for her efforts over the years.
SEDC Board Vice Chairwoman Becky Flores was overwhelmed by the strong turnout for the celebration.
“As you know, the most important aspect of the Soboba EDC is its pursuit to create a diversified business portfolio,” she said. “It is and always will be for our people. And everything we do here on the board is for you. It takes all of us to build a business and to create this. I’m very honored to be here today to talk about opportunities that we are here to create for our people; opportunities for self-fulfillment, self-sufficiency, self-advancement and for employment. We all have our dreams and aspirations, and Roadrunner Express is just one small piece of that – a small step to providing all those opportunities.”
Other SEDC board members are Secretary/Treasurer Steven Nino, Director Lakshman Koka and Director Sasha Pachito. SEDC staff members, Office Manager Elizabeth Stephenson and HR Consultant Pamela Trotter, were also introduced.
The Roadrunner Express team includes General Manager Thomas Palma, Assistant Store Manager of Operations Johanna Valadez and Assistant Store Manager of Deli Andrea Nunez. Palma said there are currently 26 team members on staff and 64% of them are Tribal members, a fact he said he is extremely proud of.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with Soboba,” Palma said. “It’s a time in my life when I want to be able to give back and I’ve been given that opportunity here to take what I’ve learned in the past 30 years and train and develop a whole new team for the Roadrunner Express.”
He thanked Mayme Modesto and Dolores Odem from the Santa Rosa Pit Stop for allowing him to take the leadership team and some key team members to their store at the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians reservation near Mountain Center for training.
“I want to thank the team that I’m working with who are starting to teach me the culture but also for being very open and receptive to learning and taking feedback as a gift,” Palma said. “This is probably the best team I’ve had in over 20 years and it’s a privilege to be a part of this whole process and to work with the SEDC team.”
Skye McMichael from owners’ rep Oak and Stone Development said they were grateful to have been brought onto this team.
“One of our goals and passions is to be able to come in and assist Tribes with establishing and creating any self-sustainable economic advantages that we have,” he said. “We love seeing this facility – it’s a great monument.”
He noted the fact it was beginning to rain but said, “with rain comes new beginnings and I think this is a new great beginning for Soboba and we’re happy to see it happen.”
Many dignitaries were on hand to celebrate the grand opening including city council members from Hemet and San Jacinto and leaders from Mt. San Jacinto College, the Hemet-San Jacinto Valley Chamber of Commerce, San Jacinto Unified School District, Hemet Unified School District, Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District, Soboba Casino Resort Assistant General Manager Jason Cozart and Chief Marketing Officer Martin Moore, as well as the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians Tribal Executive Officer Steven Estrada. Field representatives from local and regional government offices were also present and provided certificates of recognition, plaques and proclamations marking the grand opening.
San Jacinto Mayor Pro Tem Crystal Ruiz said, “All our citizens are going to be benefitting once again by something that Soboba has done.”
Herrera, on behalf of the Soboba Tribal Council, presented a proclamation to the SEDC, which was launched in 2015 to promote the economic development of the Soboba Band with a long-term goal of generating revenue and jobs through businesses on or near the Soboba Indian Reservation.
“SEDC continues to grow,” she said. “Legacy Bank and Roadrunner Express are only the beginning with many more to come. As they continue to grow and expand their economic footprint, we wish them all the success. It’s a good day for Soboba – I couldn’t be happier.”
Palma said, “We offer great service, convenience foods and grocery staples, including fresh milk, eggs, fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices.”
The store offers products that shoppers need but also unique products that cannot be easily found at other local stores.
The all-natural energy drink G.O.A.T. Fuel was created by NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice and his family in 2020. It is a lifestyle brand focused on bringing health-forward products and a Greatest Of All Time mindset to consumers. All eight flavors were being sampled at the grand opening, along with samples and giveaways from several other vendors whose products are available at Roadrunner Express.
Also unique to the location are Slush Puppie brand ice-type drinks, flavored tobacco products, vapes and Signal and Seneca brand Tribal cigarettes. Palma said when the rewards program launches in about a month, it will offer specials and fuel discounts to all rewards members.
Roadrunner Express currently offers freshly made food items such as salads, parfaits, sandwiches, chicken tenders and more. More menu items will be added in the near future such as take-and-heat food offerings. A suggestion box is available at the checkout counters for customers’ input.
“We are also the lowest-priced gasoline in the San Jacinto/Hemet area,” he said. “We offer top quality gasoline, unlike some of the other off-brand stations.”
Roadrunner Express is at 2214 Lake Park Drive in San Jacinto. The store is currently open from 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. The gas pumps are available 24/7 with use of a credit/debit card between midnight and 6 a.m. The store will be open around the clock in a few months, further adding to its convenience for Soboba Casino Resort guests and employees.
For more information, visit https://sobobaroadrunnerexpress.com or call 951-487-7745.