The Racor fuel filter plant on Finch Road in Modesto has been purchased to be repurposed as an event-rentals business and a large-scale venue — large scale in this case meaning able to accommodate elephants.
Retired Modesto cardiologist and real estate investor Stephen Endsley and his businesswoman-philanthropist wife, Ann, made the $11 million acquisition, which included letting go of a property in a Sacramento office complex, the brokerage division of the Kennedy Wilson real estate investment company announced Monday. It represented the Endsleys in the deal for the 241,831-square-foot facility in the Beard Industrial District.
The Endsleys intend to use much of the building for the event-rentals business and, probably, about 40,000 square feet of it as a venue for conventions, trade shows, galas for nonprofit organizations, traditional Indian weddings and more, Ann Endsley said.
Endsley, whose businesses include Greens on Tenth and the Underground Kitchen, launched in April 2018 The Event Collection, which she describes as “a curated collection of vintage and modern dishes, furniture, linens and decorative objects for sale and rent.”
For the past three to four years, she said, she’s been building her rentals business by following auctions in places like Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California, acquiring at competitive prices assets from rental companies that have closed.
The Endsleys also bought a local company, Ajooba Events, which is well known in the Indian community, Ann Endsley said. It has all the linens, decor and furnishings — “almost small structures” — that are popular in Indian celebrations, she said.
But providing materials meets only part of the need, Endsley said. Indian celebrations often are “giant shindigs” that can attract a thousand people, she said, and there’s little to nothing locally to accommodate them. “So families go to Bakersfield or Sacramento or even L.A. or out of state. We thought, what if we take the 40,000 square feet we were going to lease to another company and use it for that?”
The event-venue part of the Racor site has capacity for hundreds of guests, as well as elephants, which are traditionally featured in the weddings as symbols of good luck and prosperity, a news release from Kennedy Wilson says. “The transaction fulfills a need for Modesto’s substantial, and growing, Indian-American population that comprises one of the largest subsets of Asian-Americans living in Stanislaus County,” it says.
Endsley added that she and her husband are close to making the decision on the event venue but “haven’t pulled the trigger on it yet.”
The plant lends itself to use as an event venue because of its size, its proximity to the Modesto Airport and its more than 500 parking spaces, according to Kennedy Wilson. And Ann Endsley, who with her husband has been investing in real estate — mostly industrial — for the better part of three decades, called the Finch Road site “really gorgeous. It’s an almost parklike setting in the middle of the Beard tract.”
The building, at 3400 Finch Road, was built in 1980. Racor, which makes filters for boat and other engines, was founded in Modesto in 1969 and purchased in 1985 by Parker Hannifin, which moved it into the Finch Road site.
In 2016, Racor laid off 40 employees, leaving about 560 at the time. In 2017, it laid off 350 more.
All of the manufacturing in Modesto was to shift to Parker Hannifin plants in Kearney, Neb., and Holly Springs, Miss. At the time, Racor said the Modesto site would continue to employ about 70 people in sales, marketing, customer service, engineering, supply chain, information technology and human resources.
While the event rentals and event venue couldn’t come anywhere close to bringing employment back to peak Racor level, Ann Endsley said job creation always has been important to her in her businesses. On just the rentals side, with in-house dishwashing and laundry teams, she anticipates having 30 to 40 employees.
“The Event Collection is moving in even as we speak,” she said Monday, and should be offering its services right after Labor Day.
The news release from Kennedy Wilson on Monday said Racor will continue to occupy about 20 percent of the building for the next six to 12 months while Parker Hannifin searches for new space.