Biz Beat

Tri-Tipery worth the trip, and a new neighbor in downtown Modesto

Head Chef Dana Longinotti prepares Wagon Wheel sandwiches at the recently opened Tri-Tipery, an eatery located at 11359 Newport Road in Ballico, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016.
Head Chef Dana Longinotti prepares Wagon Wheel sandwiches at the recently opened Tri-Tipery, an eatery located at 11359 Newport Road in Ballico, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016.

The Tri-Tipery can be a bit hard to find. It’s on Newport Road in Ballico, which is by no means a thoroughfare.

But nearby Santa Fe Drive is a busy road, and signs point drivers in the right direction.

From the looks of it when I visited last week, people are getting the message: The new eatery, owned and operated by the folks behind adjacent Ag Link, was bustling.

The Tri-Tipery, with its location at the northern edge of Merced County, actually came about as a plan to sell produce to people.

“We’re in a food desert here,” said Jana Nairn, who runs Ag Link with her husband, Rob. Ag Link was originally started to connect local farmers with school cafeterias. The company now works with school districts throughout the area, and wanted to start reaching out to regular folks. But Ballico might be considered a long way to go for a produce stand. A good tri-tip sandwich, though, that’s another matter.

Rob Nairn said he’s always been a backyard barbecue enthusiast, so the idea of having a restaurant wasn’t completely foreign.

The Nairns brought in executive chef Dana Longinotti, who took family recipes and “polished” them, Rob Nairn said. The result – sandwiches, salads, even tacos and burgers made from tri-tip, with a variety of homemade sauces that make for nearly endless combinations. The restaurant also offers chicken and other dishes, but the main star is the tri-tip. Which, to quote Facebook reviewer Jay Abrams, is, “The best sandwich I’ve ever had hands-down mic drop!”

Folks who drop in for lunch or dinner can also pick up produce and locally produced milk. The lunch crowd typically runs heavy from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. During the week, customers mostly consist of ag service workers who come in on their breaks. On Saturdays, the Nairns said they are seeing more families making the trip out for tri-tip.

The Nairns said they are also taking their food on the go, to local festivals and the like, and envision one day having locations in Merced and Turlock.

In the meantime, it looks like more and more people are finding their way to a small road in Ballico.

Find the Tri-Tipery, and Ag Link, at 11359 Newport Road, at or on Facebook. Call 209-634-8849.

Elsewhere around the Business Beat:

While writing about businesses opening is far more fun, sometimes I have to write about those that are closing.

Such is the case for the OfficeMax on Sisk Road in Modesto. Signs outside and inside the store announce its impending closure. Brick-and-mortar office supply companies have struggled along with other retailers as more and more folks do their purchasing online. In the case of OfficeMax, the company merged with Office Depot in late 2013. That meant that there were three stores among the two names in Modesto.

I understand the Office Depot on Briggsmore Avenue and the OfficeMax on Oakdale Road will be unaffected, and it’s business as usual there.

The last day for the OfficeMax on Sisk is Nov. 12. In the meantime, the store is filled with percentage-off signs and fixtures for sale.

Many thanks to the alert reader, Sandy, who let me know about the closure.

And finally, I have had a couple of people ask me what is being built at Yosemite Boulevard and South Mariposa Road in Modesto. That will be a Dollar Tree. Seems like people really like those stores – they are popping up all over the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

Get those dollars ready.