Pechanga holds grand opening for Great Oak Marketplace

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Jared Munoa, board officer for the Pechanga Development Corporation, welcomes guests and introduces the new Great Oak Marketplace during a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Thursday, Dec. 12. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

The Pechanga Development Corporation celebrated the opening of the new Great Oak Marketplace with a ribbon-cutting event, Thursday, Dec. 12.

The shopping center, located on Pechanga Parkway south of Pechanga Resort Casino, includes Papa’s Pizza Grotto, Haute Nails and Pechanga-operated businesses Steak ‘n Shake, Jack’s Donuts and Blends Coffee Bar.

“This is a step for us in what we call diversification of the economy. We’re not just looking at gaming, but we’re looking at other things,” Mark Macarro, tribal chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, said, addressing attendees at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “This collection of business here will continue stepping in that direction.”

Those present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony included workers at the businesses within the new marketplace and some nearby residents.

Representatives from the offices of Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington, former state Sen. Jeff Stone, Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez and members of the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce were on hand to thank and recognize the Pechanga band for opening the new center.

KFRG-FM was also at the event to do on-air giveaways for attendees.

“I just want to say this is something that is building upon the legacy that we have in this area, and it’s something that we look forward to to be able to offer to our surrounding communities,” Jared Munoa, president of Pechanga Development Corporation, said. “We looked around and we thought, ‘What does our community need? How can we help out those that are in this area? How can we offer jobs, opportunities and the convenience for those in the neighborhood, the high school and the sports fields down the street?’ and we just wanted to make sure that we covered all those bases and wanted to be a strong partner to the community.”

Munoa also remarked on his memories of growing up on the Pechanga reservation and riding his off-road bicycle through the area surrounding the casino and marketplace that has been developed with homes over the last two decades.

“Growing up here on the reservation, no joke I probably road my BMX bike along this stretch of road over 1,000 times, going to and from friends’ houses. Sometimes I can recall riding back and forth probably six times in one day,” Munoa said. “To look back on that history there of growing up out here in Temecula and being not only a Native American but a native of this area, it’s amazing and an honor to be able to stand here before you today.”

The new 8,500-square-foot marketplace is the only commercial center in south Temecula that is not located along or near the Temecula Parkway corridor, other than the convenience store and gas station that has long operated at the casino.

Ginger and Stephanie Ahlgrim, who were at the ribbon-cutting to participate in KFRG’s giveaways, said the marketplace will be convenient for camping in the RV park.

“I like this here though because when we camp over there, we can just walk over here,” Ginger Ahlgrim said.

Kim Lynch, who said she lives nearby, said she will likely frequent the eateries in the new center.

“The only place you could get food at was the Baja Express that was in the (gas station convenience store), which is good, but this gives you more variety,” Lynch said.

The center’s opening comes after other recent expansions to the Pechanga Resort Casino property, including the expansion of the Pechanga RV Resort to 16 acres in January, as well as Pechanga’s $300 million expansion that added a second hotel tower, a salon and spa, a pool complex, thousands of square feet of meeting space and two new restaurants, which was completed in March 2018.

Will Fritz can be reached by email at wfritz@reedermedia.com.