Give the Gift of Downtown

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The Escondido Hotel. A horse stable. A meat market. And a combination furniture store-mortuary. These are just a few of the businesses that made up the streets of Downtown Escondido shortly after its 1888 incorporation, when a trip to San Diego was a day-long journey. During Escondido’s formative years, the businesses on Grand Avenue were the go-to spots for locals to get groceries, visit the blacksmith, or pick up a newspaper.  And while today’s downtown businesses have modernized, the value to the community is the same. Escondido’s downtown district is the epicenter of the City’s retail, dining, entertainment, and more. Locals and tourists can experience a mix of old and new in Downtown Escondido, where historic buildings share sidewalks with brand new businesses.

Escondido’s Grand Avenue in 1889

The rise in ecommerce and home delivery have made it easier than ever to get goods to your doorstep. But the impact of shopping local and spending local cannot be overstated. Small businesses generate $68 of local economic return for every $100 spent with them. One of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic, local small businesses rely on loyal customers and steady foot traffic. And it’s not just a matter of choosing your local department store over a neighboring city’s. Shopping local truly means shopping small. Local businesses generate 70% more local economic activity per square foot than big box retail.

The growth and success of Escondido’s downtown region is a priority for the City, which is why it invested in the Grand Avenue Vision Project. The seven-year project renovated elements of Grand Avenue — the main drag of Downtown — to make the street more pedestrian friendly, improve parking, and expand outdoor dining space. Finished in April 2022, the response to the changes has been overwhelmingly positive from both business owners and shoppers. 

The Grand Avenue Vision Project included sidewalk widening for sidewalk dining and pedestrian traffic.

“Everybody loves the area,” said Alex MacLachlan, president of the Downtown Business District. “The historic architecture, the fun vibe; we are just trying to make Grand’s potential realized.”

Enhanced accessibility for pedestrians and drivers is especially important on Grand Avenue since it is the annual locale of the beloved Cruisin’ Grand event. Dubbed the No. 1 car cruise in the nation by Curbside TV, Cruisin’ Grand invites people to stroll through Grand Avenue and beyond to admire hundreds of high-end hotrods and vintage cars. And while the cars steal the show, the event itself is a great spot to run into neighbors, catch up with friends, and discover the new businesses and sights in Downtown. 

Grand Avenue is closed for cruisin’ but open for perusing.

Whether residents are attending Cruisin’ Grand or popping into a restaurant, the City of Escondido encourages locals to shop, dine, and spend locally whenever possible. And doing so is easier than ever with the new Downtown Escondido Gift Card Program. Gift cards can be used at any of the participating retailers, restaurants, venues, and amenities in Downtown Escondido. The Downtown Escondido Gift Cards not only serve as an excellent present for friends and family, but they also give residents a personal sense of responsibility in supporting small businesses. Not sure where to start? Below we cover just a few of the fun ways you can use the new Downtown Escondido Gift Card to craft your own downtown experience.

Stone & Glass

Escondido’s premier glass art gallery, Stone & Glass, offers Grand Avenue shoppers the opportunity to take a glass blowing class, purchase a gift, or commission your own custom piece. Founder James Stone opened Stone & Glass more than 20 years ago, and is best known for his use of color, and his unique process of casting glass hot out of the furnace and directly into sculpted metal. 

Inside Stone & Glass, located at 629 W Grand Ave. Photo credit: Stone & Glass


Residents and visitors can shop local vendors all in one place at Daydream, a boutique retailer showcasing curated goods from Escondido makers. All items are either handmade, designed, produced, or curated by local vendors. Featuring a rotating selection of home goods, gifts, apparel, accessories, and more, Daydream provides another outlet to shop local, spend local.

Daydream is one of Escondido’s many woman-owned and minority-owned businesses. Photo credit: Daydream

Ginger Road

Stop into Ginger Road Wellness & Spa, located at 146 E Grand Avenue, for some well-deserved “me” time. Ginger Road offers a luxurious selection of facials, peels, and other skin treatments. Using the latest technology and finest ingredients, Ginger Road can address any skin concern and also sells a variety of goods in its Spa Shop. 

With the slogan, “Self care is the new health care”, your skin will be glowing after a facial at Ginger Road. Photo Credit: Ginger Road

The Grand Tea Room

An invitation to a tea party became the inspiration for bringing a proper tea room to Escondido. The Grand Tea Room owner and operator Louisa Magoon came into the tea business after a successful career in corporate food services. When there was a major shift at her company that left her looking for a new job, her husband encouraged her to try something new and open her own tea room and gift shop. Living in Escondido, she knew it was the perfect place for such a shop. They searched Grand Avenue and found a vacant spot that needed some work. They signed a lease in February 2011 and by August, The Grand Tea Room became a downtown staple that Magoon now runs with her daughter Leola. 

Outside patio area of The Grand Tea Room.

As a business owner, Magoon knows the importance of embracing other businesses in the Escondido area. That’s why as a member of the board of directors for the Escondido Downtown Business Association, she helps get the word out on upcoming events and meetings in newsletters and alerts to the community. 

A Delight of France

A Delight of France has been an Escondido household name since it opened in 1990. Its original location on Grand Avenue welcomed thousands through its doors to enjoy French breads, pastries and fine French cuisine. The owners of A Delight of France — Alberta Agyan and her daughter Grace Hall — are now preparing to move to a larger, two-story building on Grand Avenue. In an interview with Escondido Times-Advocate, Agyan said, “I think of this as a whole new exciting adventure. I can’t thank our community and my customers enough. They kept supporting us through the last couple of years. I never thought I would be owning a new building but it’s because of our faithful customers. I hope to give them back a place they will be proud of and can come with family and friends for years to come!”

The mother-daughter team of Alberta Agyan and Grace Hall. Photo credit: Escondido Times-Advocate

Manzanita Roasting

While many spent 2020 working from home, couple Weston and Samantha Nawrocki discovered the perks of opening a new business closer to home. In November, they opened  Manzanita Roasting, a premium coffee shop on Grand Avenue. Even though indoor dining was limited when they opened, the Nawrockis launched a subscription service for their packaged coffee to get locals hooked on their brews. And it worked. 

“We ship all around the country and an order of two bags or more ships free,” Samantha Nawrocki said. “It’s just really good, quality locally roasted coffee, that’s sourced. What my husband does is kind of upping the game. He’s always roasting it better and better, making sure that he gets the perfect sweetness from the coffee.”

Manzanita Roasting on the corner of Grand Avenue and Juniper Street.

The Downtown Escondido Gift Cards can be purchased in any amount, online or in select downtown stores. All-digital and always available on your phone, the Downtown Escondido Gift Card is great for the holidays, birthdays, teacher appreciation, coach gifts, or just to show your appreciation to a friend. You can find which downtown businesses accept the Downtown Escondido Gift Card at More businesses are being added daily, so check back often. 

Meet the Women Leading Their Industries in Escondido

Celebrating National Women’s Small Business Month

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In October 1988, the U.S. Congress passed the Women’s Business Ownership Act to promote the growth and development of female entrepreneurs. When this important legislation was enacted just 34 years ago, less than 10% of working women owned businesses. Today, women own 1.1 million small businesses across the U.S., with the majority of them headquartered in California. An analysis by Clarify Capital found that California ranked No. 1 for women-owned businesses, and that business-friendly environment has trickled down to its cities as well. Escondido is proud to be the home to countless women-owned small businesses who are using their talent, innovation, and vision to lead their respective industries, provide gainful employment, and give back to their communities. Join us in celebrating their achievements by reading their stories below. 

Arts & Culture

During the pandemic, women-owned businesses were among the hardest hit. And with a business that revolves around public and close gatherings, both Mirrored Memories and The Photographer’s Eye were even more vulnerable. But these Escondido-based businesses were able to retool their services and pull through the pandemic stronger than ever. Today, the women behind these photography businesses continue to thrive and capture memories for local Escondido events. 

Mirrored Memories

Founded by Rina Connolly, Mirrored Memories is an Escondido company providing mirrored photo booths and modern selfie stations at events such as birthdays, weddings, retirement parties, and community events. By utilizing touchless designs, QR codes, and other safety measures, Connolly was able to stay in business as social distancing measures eased during the pandemic.

Partygoers demonstrate how the mirrored photo booth creates memorable shots.

The Photographer's Eye

One of the most valuable resources small businesses provide is an opportunity for locals to find community and belonging. That’s exactly what happens at The Photographer’s Eye, a space for photographers from all levels to learn and hone their craft. Founder Donna Cosentino is also the director and curator for the collective, which features 15 professional photographers from the region.

The Photographer’s Eye is located on Grand Avenue.

Beer & Wine

Escondido’s restaurant and dining sector provides ample entertainment to residents, attracts tourists, and supports the local economy. And while the beer and wine industry has long been a male-dominated environment, three Escondido women are making a name for themselves in the boozy scene.

SIP Wine & Beer

Cassandra Schaeg, owner and operator of SIP Wine & Beer, is on a mission to inspire her fellow Escondido neighbors to live, work, and play in the local community. Formed in 2015 and open since June 2016, SIP has evolved into a space for women, minorities, and local beer and winemakers to showcase their products.

Cassandra Schaeg is the owner of SIP Wine & Beer. 

Altipiano Winery

Denise Clark, owner of Altipiano Winery, has garnered local, national, and international attention with her diverse red wines, produced from brunello grapes in Escondido’s backcountry. Her creations have won Double-Gold, Gold, and Silver medals at the San Francisco International and San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competitions.

Denise Clark is the owner of Altipiano Winery.

Little Miss Brewing

Jade Mischner, owner of Little Miss Brewing, opened the Escondido location in September 2019 in the heart of the downtown district and has six other locations in the region. In addition to its diverse selection of beers, Little Miss Brewing is also known for its charitable contributions and community involvement. 

Information, Communications & Tech

With close proximity to San Diego and affordable living for young families, women-owned tech and ag-tech businesses are thriving in Escondido and providing vital innovation to the city.

Left Coast Engineering

Left Coast Engineering, founded by Anita Baranowski, is an electronics product design firm that creates everything electronics including software, software interfaces, and controls as well as electronics equipment, apps, and electronics encasements. Baranowski and her team of 20 helps clients build their products and navigate the way they bring their products to market.

Anita Baranowski (left) founded Left Coast Engineering.


Aquacycl is a woman-owned and woman-run wastewater treatment technology company. Out of their team of nine, six are women, including Orianna Bretschger, CEO and founder of Aquacycl. Aquacycl’s BioElectrochemical Treatment Technology offers an onsite water treatment technology that breaks down 80-90% of wastewater and converts some into energy for food and beverage industries as well as oil and gas mediation.

Orianna Bretchger is the founder and CFO of Aquacycl.

Specialty Food & Beverage

In the booming specialty food and beverage industry, four Escondido women are embracing community, celebrating every occasion, and creating quality food experiences.


Growing up in Escondido, EscoGelato founder Suzanne Schaffner loved her community and the hometown feel of the downtown area. She opened the café and gelato shop in the heart of downtown Escondido, where she serves up fresh, seasonal gelato using locally grown ingredients.

Owner Suzanne Schaffner stands outside Esco Gelato.

The Grand Tea Room 

An invitation to a tea party became the inspiration for bringing a proper tea room to Escondido. The Grand Tea Room owner and operator Louisa Magoon came into the tea business after a successful career in corporate food services and provides a glamorous, high tea experience in the heart of downtown Escondido.

Louisa Magoon is the owner of The Grand Tea Room.

Sunny Side Kitchen

Kate Carpenter, owner of Sunny Side Kitchen, has been running the beloved community restaurant for over five years in Escondido. Serving fresh, homemade California cuisine, Sunny Side Kitchen is known for its homestyle comfort foods such as meatloaf, mushroom chicken, and cinnamon rolls.

Bob and Kate Carpenter are the owners of Sunny Side Kitchen. 

Deanna’s Gluten Free 

Deanna Smith’s Escondido-based business Deanna’s Gluten Free is one of the most successful gluten-free bakeries in the country. Available at major grocery stores, local restaurants, and farm stands, Deanna’s Gluten Free bakes about 1,500 loaves of bread daily and nearly 50 additional types of pastry and gluten-free products a week.

Deanna Smith’s gluten-free recipes start with whole ingredients.

Stores & Boutiques

Like many cities, Escondido relies heavily on the success of its retail establishments to contribute sales taxes to the city and fund future improvement efforts. And these women-owned businesses are helping achieve just that. 


Mei Bautista, owner of Daydream, a boutique shop that sells unique gifts made by local Escondido artists and makers, is a shining example of the spirit of entrepreneurship in Escondido. Opening Daydream on a whim and with great passion, the store has amassed an avid local following that has allowed Bautista to plan a second location on Grand Avenue.

Owner Mei Bautista, center, with Daydream employees.

Deborah’s Next to New Consignment

Deborah’s Next to New Consignment, which has been a general household consignment store in Escondido for 45 years, survives thanks to the tenacity of its owner, Tami Marmon. She ensured the store reopened during the pandemic after a three-month closure so that residents in-need still had a community resource for essential goods. 

Tami Marmon (left) is the owner of Deborah’s Next to New Consignment. She is pictured with manager Jeff Kitfield.

The Centre

For over 40 years Judy Jones-Cone has made it her purpose to give customers an unforgettable car buying experience. In 2009, she opened The Centre on Auto Park Way near the 15 freeway, giving customers both quality services and exquisite event spaces in one easily accessible location.

The City of Escondido is proud to support the passionate and innovative women business owners in the community. For more information on the resources available to women and minority entrepreneurs, visit

Escondido Economy Rich in Agriculture and Ripe in Technology

City hosts AgTech Startup Hackathon as a kickoff to bring the AgTech community together 

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Escondido’s rich agricultural history has cemented its position as a key farming community in San Diego County. But its agricultural make-up goes far beyond the traditional citrus, avocado, and grape crops that have colored the city hills since the early 1900s. Today, Escondido’s agricultural industry has evolved to include specialty crops, sustainable farming systems, and technology that saves water, increases output, and conserves energy. This diverse ecosystem has made Escondido a unique and bustling location to support AgTech efforts in Southern California.

Residents and Escondido neighbors can get involved in growing the local AgTech scene at the AgTech Startup Hackathon event weekend. Taking place October 21-23, the event will bring together farmers, technologists, community leaders, engineers, and more to enjoy a jam-packed agenda that focuses on food system problems and innovative solutions. 

Secure your ticket here, and in the meantime, read more about the agriculture and AgTech companies and efforts already making an impact in Escondido and beyond.

Escondido Companies and Organizations Supporting AgTech 

San Diego County Farm Bureau

San Diego County contributes $1.8 billion annually to the local economy, with many of those dollars coming from Escondido’s agricultural impact. The San Diego County Farm Bureau – located in Escondido – helps farmers navigate a complex regulatory environment and advocates for farmers so they can remain economically viable in San Diego County. 

San Diego County Farm Bureau offices are in the AGHub building in Escondido.

Escondido’s MFRO Water Filtration Facility

In 2012, Escondido officials were faced with the reality that the City needed a new and innovative solution to deal with its wastewater. Last year, the City broke ground on a new Membrane Filtration Reverse Osmosis (MFRO) Facility, which will treat Escondido’s recycled wastewater so that it is usable for agriculture. Instead of wasting usable water and sending it through a pipeline into the ocean, this water will now be directed back into the City and used by farmers to water their crops.

Computer rendering of the MFRO facility to be completed in 2023.

Aquacycl’s Wastewater Regeneration

Headquartered in Escondido, Aquacycl is a woman-owned and woman-run wastewater treatment technology company. Aquacycl’s BioElectrochemical Treatment Technology offers an onsite water treatment technology that breaks down 80-90% of wastewater and converts some into energy, which fuels the system, and safely disposes into our waterways.

Aquacycl’s BioElectrochemical Treatment Technology wastewater systems in use on a site.

Past, Present, and Future of Farming in Escondido

Tucked away in foothills, Escondido may be the “hidden” valley of San Diego County, but its agriculture footprint is no secret. For centuries, Escondido’s reputation as a grower’s haven drew in farmers far and wide to plant their roots in the city. Many of these growers still operate in the City today, and many new faces have joined, introducing more techniques and products in the region.

The beautiful avocado farms in Escondido.

Escondido Tackles Drought with Novel Solutions

Escondido understands the importance of conservation and regenerative practices, and was recently ranked No. 1 in the County for its performance and progress on its Climate Action Plan (CAP). Through diversified water sources, conservation, and a nationally renowned desalination plant, San Diego County has been able to stave off water supply issues for the foreseeable future thanks to the efforts spearheaded by Escondido.

In 1889, the Escondido Irrigation District was formed in order to augment local agricultural water supplies.


Escondido Finds Ample Ways to Save Water

Escondido’s innovative water treatment and saving methods serve as County model

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Southern California is facing its toughest drought in 1,200 years. And while San Diego County’s water costs are 26% higher than its surrounding metropolitan counties, the region is also decades ahead in terms of water storage and supply. Through diversified water sources, conservation, and a nationally renowned desalination plant, San Diego County has been able to stave off water supply issues for the foreseeable future. Many of these efforts have taken place in Escondido, where advanced water recycling initiatives have been setting precedents for other drought-stricken cities. In fact, Escondido has been quietly leading San Diego County on climate change efforts, and was recently ranked No. 1 in the County for its performance and progress on its Climate Action Plan (CAP). 


  • Escondido earned a 97.5 score, the highest in the County, on the 2022 Climate Action Plan Report Card

  • Escondido’s overall score is based on its direction to increase climate equity, green infrastructure, and food availability

  • Escondido joined the Clean Energy Alliance to bring Community Choice Energy to the City’s resident and local businesses in 2023

“Not only is Escondido leading in water conservation, but the quality of our water is also noteworthy,” said Christopher McKinney, City of Escondido Head of Water Utilities. “Our advanced water treatment plants ensure our drinking water meets or exceeds all state and federal health standards for water quality as noted in the 2021 Water Quality Report. We also took a more ambitious approach to incorporate new and more stringent quality control processes over the last two years, making the Escondido Water Quality Lab one of only two California labs already compliant with new accreditation standards.”  

Escondido has a long history of acting fast on water woes. When the city was incorporated in 1888, the influx of families moving to the area quickly pressured the water supply. Within a year, local farmers formed the Escondido Irrigation District to ensure both residents and the booming agricultural sector had steady water access. By building the 15-mile Bear Valley Dam, Escondido was ahead of its time in engineering. 

In 1889, the Escondido Irrigation District was formed in order to augment local agricultural water supplies.

Eighty years later, the City of Escondido acquired the Escondido Mutual Water Company, marking the beginning of a sustained period of water infrastructure. This era provided the basis for much of what Escondido relies on today for water supply. The City’s latest efforts in water have revolved around innovative wastewater treatment solutions to bolster the region’s agriculture amid climate change. Escondido, and San Diego County as a whole, has invested significant energy and resources into meeting new water measures, such as:

  • Household water restrictions regarding irrigation, landscaping, and recreational water use

  • Customer-request-only water conservation regulations at restaurants, hotels, and other public spaces where food and drink is served

  • Converting agricultural land from untreated water sources to treated water sources

“Escondido has a long history of being ahead of the curve on sustainable practices,” said Jennifer Schoeneck, City of Escondido Deputy Director of Economic Development. “Our proactive and comprehensive strategy to water conservation has made our city an enviable locale for innovative companies and new and novel water-saving solutions.”

Escondido’s Methods of Sustainability

Innovative water-saving techniques and the companies that spearhead them are originating in Escondido thanks to the city’s agricultural sector and commitment to regenerative practices. The city takes a multifaceted approach when it comes to water conservation and its methods have proven effective. 

Wastewater Treatment

The City is home to several water treatment companies. AgTech and clean-tech startups choose Escondido for its rich agricultural sector, proximity to San Diego, and business-friendly environment.

Aquacycl, a woman-owned and -operated wastewater treatment technology company, helps food and beverage companies save money on their sewer discharge by breaking down 80-90% of wastewater and converting it to energy. 

Aquacycl’s BioElectrochemical Treatment Technology wastewater systems in use on a site.

Escondido-based SmartCover Systems’ groundbreaking monitoring technology helps wastewater utilities avoid sewage spills and reduce maintenance costs. Since 2005, SmartCover Systems has prevented thousands of sewage spills across the country and saved utilities companies millions of dollars.

Agricultural Water Recycling

The City of Escondido is nearly ready to put its new water filtration system to work for farmers. Expected to be finished in 2023, the water filtration system would take more of the water that is already treated to the recycled water standard and further treat it so that it is usable for agriculture irrigation in Escondido.

Membrane Filtration Reverse Osmosis (MFRO) Facility Project locations.

The plant will solve a billion dollar problem in Escondido and support growers and farmers who have been facing water shortages for years. In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Eric Larson, Executive Director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, said the recycled water program will not just reduce the cost of water — perhaps by about 40 percent — but will also produce a reliable, drought-proof supply.


Escondido offers several water-wise workshops, classes, programs, and contests for residents to implement drought-tolerating landscaping. Even little ones can get in on the fun. Since 1991, fourth graders in the Escondido water district have participated in an annual poster contest, giving local students the opportunity to illustrate the value of the city’s water resources.

Resident Rebates

Residents and businesses who invest in water-saving solutions, from efficient washing machines to toilets, can get some of their money back through a variety of rebate programs

“We take regenerative practices seriously in Escondido,” said Escondido City Manager Sean McGlynn. “Shifting towards water and energy independence, zero waste, and clean technologies is a top priority for the City. Thankfully, with so many innovative water companies and infrastructure in our community, we are able to confront these challenges head-on and continue Escondido’s legacy as a leader in climate action.”

Farming for the Future in Escondido

How agriculture and AgTech grows in San Diego’s North County

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Tucked away in foothills, Escondido may be the “hidden” valley of San Diego County, but its agriculture footprint is no secret. For centuries, Escondido’s reputation as a grower’s haven drew in farmers far and wide to plant their roots in the city.

Escondido had — and still boasts —  a unique and ideal environment for agriculture that makes it a premier locale within San Diego County and all of California. That’s why the County’s first avocado tree was planted here in 1892. You don’t have to be acquainted with our local farmers to see the impact of the industry all around you.

  • Escondido farms make up 19% of the County's agricultural production

  • About 5,000 acres of Escondido are avocado groves, citrus trees and nurseries

  • Avocado revenues alone impact the economy by more than $100 million per year, and most of these dollars are spent by farm employees and by farms purchasing equipment and services

  • Agriculture, along with food and beverage production related to agriculture, are two of the largest employment clusters in the City of Escondido, employing over 2,446 people.

A rainbow cascades the vineyards at Highland Valley Vineyards.

“Escondido has a rich history of farming throughout the area,” said Jennifer Schoeneck, Escondido’s Deputy Director of Economic Development. “It really is a hub for farming in San Diego County.”

And it all started in the late 1800s, when the first Escondido farmers came to the region to grow citrus, grapes and avocados. Many of these families are still operating today, a rare multigenerational legacy as agricultural resources dwindle. Today’s Escondido growers face mounting water shortages, the pressures of climate change, and labor woes. The pandemic exacerbated these issues.

Aquacycl’s BioElectrochemical Treatment Technology wastewater systems in use on a site.

“Escondido is ensuring long-term viability for agriculture,” said Hanna Gbeh, Executive Director for the San Diego County Farm Bureau. “An example of that is the clean water pipeline they are constructing. This is a national model of how to successfully make sure you can keep agriculture continuing to develop in urban environments.”

Water isn’t the only commodity being recycled in Escondido. Part of Escondido’s investment in AgTech also involves cleantech and other clean measures, such as food waste recycling. Through the help of EDCO, Escondido residents were able to adopt California’s new food waste laws, requiring that food waste scraps, yard trimmings and other organic waste be disposed of properly in green bins. These compostable materials play an important part in agriculture. Companies like EDCO work to break down these materials into microorganisms that can be used in farming. 

Computer rendering of the MFRO facility to be completed in 2023.

Microorganisms made from the breakdown of our materials help companies and farmers rely less on chemicals, antibiotics and other additives that help their production. That was the quest for Escondido business owner and scientist, Dr. Suresh Menon, who founded Menon Renewable Products, a company that makes a revolutionary animal feed that converts waste into feed for animals. It is the first product of its kind to do this while getting rid of the need for antibiotics in animal feed. 

Serial entrepreneur and inventor Dr. Suresh Menon.

Providing a reliable and safe supply of food for animals is an important effort, as food production greatly strains the health of our environment. It’s one of the primary concerns for Bill Toone, an Escondido biologist and conservationist who founded Ecolife Conservation to create healthy ecosystems between humans, plants and animals. Ecolife tackles a number of environmentally draining challenges, such as smoke-free cooking. 

These companies and innovative leaders find home in Escondido due to the dedicated concentration made by the City to nurture these efforts. No one does it better than Escondido, which is why the San Diego County Farm Bureau opened its AgHub in the City in 2017. The San Diego AgHub, located off of Broadway and 4th Avenue, acts as the home base for farmers, growers and AgTech companies to exchange ideas, information and resources. 

San Diego County Farm Bureau offices are in the AGHub building in Escondido.

It’s here where agriculture companies like Henry Avocado, can learn the latest from their local government. Founded in 1925, the Escondido-based avocado pioneer company counts on Escondido’s business-friendliness to continue to expand in the City. 

The beautiful avocado farms in Escondido.

“Being located on Escondido's Harmony Grove Road gives the company a central location among its Southern California customers and easy access to Interstate 15 and Route 78,” said Henry Avocado Co-Founder Charles Henry. “Henry Avocado was built on strong relationships with business associates and customers, which gives the company more reason to stay and grow in Escondido.”

We’re happy to have Henry Avocado, and others, contributing to Escondido’s glorious agriculture and AgTech sectors. Whether we’re harvesting avocados or recycling water, Escondido’s farming future looks bright. 

January 2022

The Future of Clean Tech Trucking is in Escondido

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The Future of Clean Tech Trucking is in Escondido

Originally posted January 2022

Escondido is making a name for itself as a leader in the clean tech industry, and one of the businesses on the forefront of clean tech is RockeTruck.

RockeTruck is creating zero emission electric power freight trucks that can operate with a range up to 400 miles while carrying the standard maximum capacity 80,000-pound load. President and CEO Michael Simon, who was the principal founder and first CEO of Escondido-based TransPower, a company that developed motor-battery propulsion technologies for big rigs, is now focused on building trucks from the ground up.

RockeTruck President and CEO Michael Simon with the Shell "StarShip" truck, a diesel prototype whose advanced aerodynamic design RockeTruck wants to adapt to battery-electric and fuel cell trucks.  Photo credit Shell Lubricants.

 “We’re trying to consolidate and modernize the packaging of all these components, the batteries, the motors, the controls, in ways that can make it faster, cheaper and easier to put in a truck or bus,” Simon said. “The best way to do that is to start from scratch and build the entire bus or the entire truck around it.” 

The PowerBox(™) design uses compact lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells to power vehicles.

The trucks will be designed with a PowerBox(™), a multi-use building block system that features compact multiple fuel cell and battery configurations. The PowerBox can also be used in mobile fuel cell generators — portable power plants that generate electricity using a combination of hydrogen fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries. By mixing fuel cells and batteries, RockeTruck is creating an energy conversion device that keeps the vehicle or mobile generator operating longer than with an electric battery alone and without the polluting excess of diesel-powered vehicles or generators. 

 “Our goal is to mix and match fuel cells and batteries in different ways,” Simon said. The PowerBox(™) version, shown in the image above, has two fuel cells and a total of eight different battery modules. 

The body of the vehicles is being manufactured by RockeTruck. 

“We are planning to use 3D printing to manufacture as many of our parts as we can,” Simon said. This includes the body, the module that holds the batteries, and the chassis. 

 A sleek aerodynamic design will accompany its innovative technologies. Designer Robert Sliwa, who originally designed a similar prototype for Shell Lubricant Solutions called the Shell Starship has created a sleek-looking vehicle that not only gives the trucks a futuristic appeal, but cuts energy consumption usage by about one-third, adding approximately 120 miles of range to the vehicles. 

Simon believes these new trucks, which are using similar body design to Shell’s Starship truck, will be available by mid-2025. He also plans to develop other vehicles from the ground up including buses and various sized trucks. Commercial prices for the Starship-style trucks and other vehicles have not yet been determined, but are expected to be competitive with the costs of similar vehicles on the market, which can range from $100,000 for conventional diesel trucks to more than $500,000 for advanced technology vehicles. Like traditional combustible engine trucks which have an expected lifespan of 10 years, the battery life of the Starship-style truck is also up to 10 years. However, the batteries are easily replaceable and the trucks themselves can reach a working lifespan of 30 years and 1 million miles. 

In addition to the vehicles, the stacked battery design is also being developed as portable generators that can power these trucks or provide power to large buildings, several small houses, or a hospital. 

“The fuel cell battery box can be transported to any location and uses an electric generator as well,” Simon said. “So we are going after both markets.”

 RockeTruck is one of two recipients out of 15 that has been awarded a $3 million grant by the California Energy Commission to develop and build the mobile fuel cell generators (MFCGs). In collaboration with Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, the MFCGs will be test operated in 2023-24.    

RockeTruck’s team consists of a core team of senior personnel who average 50 years of professional experience in engineering and the clean tech industry. Additionally, nearly a dozen consultants and advisors are working with the team to continue the research and development of these new trucks and generators. 

For the City of Escondido, Simon and his team are a welcome enterprise. “We’re proud to be a home to serial entrepreneurs like Mike, who are changing the world with new technologies,” said Jennifer Schoeneck, Deputy Director of Economic Development. “He and his team are passionate about being in Escondido, and we are happy to have them here and help support their success.”

As with TransPower, Simon continues to grow RockeTruck in Escondido because he feels the City supports a business-friendly atmosphere with accessible City officials who understand business needs and who continue to support local companies.

“The City is particularly interested in attracting and retaining clean tech companies like RockeTruck, so it’s a great fit,” Simon said. “Escondido is also favorably located, with convenient freeway access and a major transit center, along with many quality of life benefits such as the Westfield mall, Zoo Safari Park, local breweries, Grand Avenue restaurants, the Arts Center, and so much more.” 





December 2021

EDCO, a California Leader in Waste Management and Recycling, is Helping Businesses and Residents go Greener in the New Year

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EDCO, a California Leader in Waste Management and Recycling, is Helping Businesses and Residents go Greener in the New Year

Recycling is changing in the new year. Starting on January 1, 2022 all Californians are required to put food waste scraps in their green bins, along with their yard trimmings and other organic waste. Food waste includes, fruit, vegetables, bread, pastas, processed foods, fast foods, and  meat and bones. Additionally, compostable paper such as used pizza boxes, paper coffee cups, tea bags, or other food soiled papers excluding wax or plastic coated papers can now be recycled in green bins. 

The Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling Law (Assembly Bill 1826) was signed in 2014 to help achieve California’s aggressive recycling and greenhouse gas emission goals. Currently, organic waste in landfills emits 20% of the state’s methane, a short-lived super pollutant approximately 84 times more potent on a 20-year timescale than carbon dioxide. When diverted from landfills, this material can be composted or used to produce renewable energy, and edible food can be diverted to feed Californians in need.

Escondido waste collection business EDCO has been planning for this change and the company is helping their customers ease into the change. 

“This new change affects both residential and business facilities,” said Jennifer Schoeneck, Deputy Director of Economic Development. “We are fortunate to have EDCO, a thriving business and active local employer, as a California leader in recycling and waste management, here in Escondido.”

EDCO presents information and detailed videos regarding the new changes in waste disposal on its website. Californians can also learn more about Organic Recycling, and have a better understanding of what can go in the green bins. EDCO also offers a free kitchen caddy so residents can store their waste in their home before they take it out to the bin.


A kitchen caddie for kitchen waste scraps.

Today, EDCO continues expanding sustainable solutions by opening one of the first Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plants in Southern California located in Escondido. This state-of-the-art advanced technology system works like a giant compost bin where microorganisms break down the food waste, green waste, fats, oils, and greases and convert it into renewable fertilizer, compost, and natural gas. The fertilizers and compost will then be used in farming and agriculture while the natural gas will fuel the company's trucks.

Examples of food waste for the green bin.

Recycling at the curb may seem ordinary today, but it wasn't always that way. EDCO was always ahead of its time and grew from just a waste hauler to a waste and recycling collector and processor. One of the first curbside recycling programs in the State of California was launched by EDCO in La Mesa in 1990. EDCO has always embraced and has successfully evolved with changing environmental regulations, which has made the company a leader in the industry. From the development of Material Recycling Facilities (MRFs), well ahead of its time in the early 1990s, to recent conversions of old diesel trucks to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles, EDCO continues its trend of sustainability. 

EDCO was founded in 1967 by Ed and Sandy Burr and has flourished from a business that began from one small trash collection company into a hugely successful business and California's largest family-owned and operated waste and recycling company. In more than 50 years, Ed and Sandy have grown EDCO into a combined fleet of more than 700 collection vehicles and is home to more than 1,100 employees. From one city 54 years ago, they’ve expanded into the current collection service of 21 cities in Southern California.

EDCO has embraced its unique role as a family-owned and operated premier service provider that is firmly committed to its employees and customers. There are currently three generations of Burr family members active in the company with the fourth generation growing up quickly and on the horizon. 

“We are also honored and humbled to have generations of employees working within the company as well,”  said Ed Burr. “The real success has been because of our people. There's actually no other reason. This most essential facet of EDCO has not changed through 54 years of service!”


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Event Center on Grand Avenue Boosts Downtown Economic Activity

The Grand Event Center on Grand Avenue.

The Grand Event Center on Grand Avenue and Juniper Street is a gem in Escondido. The multi-use performing arts venue has entertainment options for people of all ages and can host large or small events and celebrations. Reconstructed in 2019 and opened in October 2020 it includes the Ritz Theater, an indoor theater space, which holds 467 people, an outdoor rooftop entertaining space for 158, the mezzanine banquet center for 250, and six small studio workshop spaces and a Black Box theater, which can hold up to 180 people. Additionally, the center houses the Manzanita Roasting Company, a storefront coffee house that serves premium roasts from independently-owned small farms in Africa, South America and Central America. 

“The Grand Event Center is a great community asset. Its strategic location in downtown adds to the economic vitality to the heart of our City, attracting patrons to local businesses.” said Jennifer Schoeneck, Deputy Director of Economic Development.

The anchor to the Grand Event Center is the historic Ritz Theater, which hosts both public and private parties and live events, movies and much more. 

“The Ritz has quite a rich history,” said Janet Lessnau, Operations Coordinator for the Center. Unlike the Grand, which was recently reconstructed and revitalized, the Ritz Theater has been a long-established theater in Escondido. It was first opened in 1938 and during the 30s and 40s, it hosted live events for the community and thrived. In 1951, a car ran into the building, which sparked a fire and shut it down until 1954. By that time, many had lost interest in going to the Ritz and it struggled to stay open. 

In the 1970s, it was purchased by a Las Vegas management group that turned it into a Pussycat Theater. However, the community fought hard to shut it down and in 1976, it was converted into a Spanish-speaking movie house. That conversion was also short-lived and the theater was vacant for many years. In 2003, it was renamed the Ritz with yet another revitalization that only lasted a few weeks.

Inside The Ritz Theater that hosts events throughout the year. 

The Ritz sat vacant for 18 years. In 2019 the revitalization of the former Arthur Murray Dance Studio and the Ritz started with the intention to create the current multi-use performing arts center it is today. COVID-19 brought a halt to construction for a while pushing the planned early 2020 opening to October. 

Despite the obstacles, the center is thriving today. Since its opening, the studio spaces have been used by community organizations such as homeowners associations, women’s groups, and for private music lessons. The non-profit Restoration Community Arts, who was on the forefront of the restoration as part of their mission to restore theater and provide programs for children, also hosts workshops, classes, camps, and childcare at the facility. 

Guests have been entertained in the larger spaces with concerts, plays, movies and other live events.

“We recently had a Star Wars trilogy event at the Ritz,” said Lessnau. “Then we had a cocktail costume party on the rooftop.”

An evening view of the Grand sign from the rooftop deck.

Several cover bands have played to sold out audiences, in both the indoor theater and on the rooftop deck, including the Ramones cover band Hey, Ho, Let’s Go

“The event sold out,” Lessnau said. “Surprisingly there were many young 20-somethings who came out to this event.”

An Eric Clapton cover band called Clapton Hook, and an evening called Mirage with a Fleetwood Mac cover and a James Taylor cover band have all played there as well. On Wednesday, Feb. 2, The Gilmore Project, a Pink Floyd cover band is expected to sell out.  

For live theater fans, the production company Off Broadway Theater Company performs in the Ritz. Their most recent performance was the musical “Grease.” Other events are also held at the center such as a Sunday service by New Vintage Church, which streams live at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. 

Throughout the holidays, family fun movie nights with movies such as “Elf “and “The Polar Express” were shown. Families enjoyed popcorn, treats and beverages while they watched these classic films. A New Year’s Eve event is in the planning stages. Most public events are open to all ages unless otherwise stated. “We try to stay family-friendly,” Lessnau said. Many events also provide beverages and snacks for sale as well. 

Additionally, private events such as receptions, work parties, and galas can also be booked online

Since its opening and while still under COVID-19 restrictions, Lessnau said that the venue does not require guests to wear masks but it is recommended. She also said each event space is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized after each event. Lessnau wants to assure the community that the Grand is open and that it hosts crowd-pleasing events for everyone. “I really want people to know that The Grand is open to the public,” she said. “There’s something for everyone here and we are open to all ages.”

The Grand is located at 301 E. Grand Avenue in Escondido. For more information, email  or call 760-309-7609. Contact The Ritz Theater at

November 2021

Escondido Celebrates Veterans at Annual VetFest

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Escondido Celebrates Veterans at Annual VetFest

On Saturday, Nov.13, Escondido celebrated VetFest, a day-long festival and parade celebrating Veterans who dedicated their time to serving in the United States military. 

Founded in 2019, VetFest was the brain-child of Mayor Paul McNamara who is a retired Marine Corps colonel. Alongside Escondido’s American Legion JB Clark Post 149 Commander Mike Frank and Nina Deerfield, they recruited several volunteers and sponsors to help organize and fund the event. Title sponsors this year included Cheval Winery, Palomar College, MSE Landscape and Palomar Health Medical Group.

The well-organized and much-anticipated event had a large number of attendees come out to celebrate after events were canceled last year due to ongoing pandemic concerns. 

Grand Avenue was decorated in red, white and blue all along the parade route to embody the spirit of the event. Several merchants throughout Grand Avenue and its side streets participated in the annual Storefront Contest where they decorated their window fronts with patriotic salutes to veterans and the U.S. panel of veterans chosen by the VetFest committee selected the winners which will be announced on its website

The parade marched down Grand Avenue and showcased veterans from past conflicts from as far back as World War II. Local and regional organizations that support Escondido veterans and their families also walked the parade, along with marching bands and other supporters. 

The Esco Alley Art committee came out in support of Escondido veterans and participated in the parade. Esco Alley Art committee member Carol Rogers from Stone and Glass said, “We truly enjoyed the experience, we found it a wonderful way to honor our Vets and bring our community together. We plan to participate again next year.” 

This year’s activities also included an art show where veterans, veteran family members, and supporters of veterans were invited to participate. Like the Storefront Contest, it too was judged by a VetFest committee and results will be posted on the website

Static displays such as trucks and military equipment from Camp Pendleton were parked along the route and information booths from sponsors were set up for guests to wander through and learn more about the many businesses throughout Escondido that support the military and military families. 

A free barbecue provided by the American Legion was available after the parade. 

Philanthropic Patriots

Escondido’s American Legion JB Clark Post 149 was first established in 1919, shortly after the first American Legion held its first national convention in Minnesota. The mission of the American Legion is to enhance the well-being of the country’s veterans, their families, our military, and our communities through a devotion to mutual helpfulness. The organization’s  mission statement is: “The American Legion: Veterans Strengthening America.” As a local service charity, the JB Clark Post 149 is dedicated to the preservation of local historical facts.

The American Legion JB Clark Post 149 is located at 230 E Park Avenue in Escondido.

All branches of the armed forces are welcome to join the organization. The organization is a leader in providing services to the community including veteran services, mentoring youth, sponsoring community activities, and advocating American ideals. 100% of funds raised through the American Legion go back to the community. 


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Escondido Continues to Grow Agricultural Industry

Agriculture helps drive economic growth and innovation throughout Escondido and the region.  San Diego County is the number one producer of nursery products in the nation, the 12th largest farm economy in California, and the 19th largest farm economy in the nation, according to statistics provided by the San Diego County Farm Bureau (SDCFB).

San Diego County Farm Bureau offices are in the AGHub building in Escondido.

“Escondido has a really robust agricultural presence,” said Hanna Gbeh, Executive Director for the San Diego County Farm Bureau. “When you look at the numbers in San Diego County, we contribute $1.8 billion annually to the local economy.”

The SDCFB is a nonprofit membership organization that helps elevate the voice of the local agriculture industry and its farmers. Established in San Diego in 1914, SDCFB is one of the earliest farm bureaus in the state. It helps farmers navigate a complex regulatory environment and advocates for farmers so they can remain economically viable in San Diego County.

Hannah Gbeh (center) and the team at the San Diego County Farm Bureau.

The SDCFB also holds educational events and seminars on new technologies and research that affects farming. Recently its Farm and Nursery Expo held at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido brought farmers from around the county to learn more.

                                                                                                                                                          A roundtable discussion at the Farm and Nursery Expo.
“Escondido has a rich history of farming throughout the area,” said Jennifer Schoeneck, Escondido’s Deputy Director of Economic Development. “It really is a hub for farming in San Diego County.”

One of the most vital components of growing is water, and in a State where water is one of the highest commodities, Escondido is a leader in finding ways to safeguard the supply of water so it is readily available to farmers. 

“Escondido is ensuring long-term viability for agriculture,” Gbeh said. “An example of that is the clean water pipeline they are constructing. This is a national model of how to successfully make sure you can keep agriculture continuing to develop in urban environments.”

Gbeh said the SDCFB is grateful to Escondido for pioneering this effort. She also said that San Diego is a leader in sustainable agriculture and specialty crops. Even though farmers here are challenged with the high costs of water and land, labor shortages, and regulations, they continue to produce high-quality commodities and specialty items. Some of the niche markets throughout the county include guavas, coffee, and industrial hemp. 

Escondido also has a grape market with vineyards that have produced several award-winning wines throughout the city. Agri-tourism has become another way many farmers are finding ways to sustain their farms. Wineries, such as Altipiano in the hills of Escondido, offer wine tastings and accommodations on site for those looking to experience life on a vineyard. 

Altipiano winery in the hills of Escondido

No matter the size of the farm or the product being produced, Escondido is ripe with agriculture that continues to support the community and the local economy. And from seed to table, the SDCFB is there to support the efforts of everyone involved in the process.

October 2021

A Love of STEM and a Dive into Waste Water Regeneration

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A Love of STEM and a Dive into Waste Water Regeneration

Aquacycl headquartered in Escondido is a woman-owned and woman-run wastewater treatment technology company that serves the food and beverage industries as well as oil and gas mediation.

“We are a team of nine and six of us are women,” said Orianna Bretschger, CEO and founder of Aquacycl. “From our CTO to our forklift driver, we’ve got female representation across the board, and we are also extremely grateful and honored to have a tremendous suite of female investors from the San Diego community, who have backed us.”

Aquacycl founder and CFO Orianna Bretchger.

Aquacycl’s BioElectrochemical Treatment Technology offers an onsite water treatment technology that breaks down 80-90% of wastewater and converts some into energy, which fuels the system, and safely disposes into our waterways. This system is mostly being used in the food and beverage industry, including one of the largest companies in the industry. Bretschger has also found that the technologies work well to remove gasoline, diesel and benzene from water. The product is rolling out in Houston next month at a refinery. 

This technology saves companies money on their sewer discharge. Bretschger estimates this savings is somewhere between 30-60% on what they would typically pay for either hauling off wastewater into landfills or the added costs of discharging it into city sewers untreated. Additionally, the electricity generated from treating the wastewater not only creates its own energy to operate the system, it also allows extra energy to the companies that can be used to operate tools such as forklifts or power LEDs in a warehouse.

Aquacycl’s BioElectrochemical Treatment Technology wastewater systems in use on a site.

Aquacycl is celebrating five years in the industry but Bretschger has been working on the technology since 2004. Her path to water waste began when she realized the wonders of bacteria. As a child, she was drawn to science and technology. In college she studied physics and astronomy at Northern Arizona University. It was during her graduate work at USC where she was introduced to the concept of bacteria making electricity. 

“I fell in love with the idea of being able to make microbial processes faster by how we control a resistor across the circuit, basically electronically controlling microbial processes,” she said. 

She received her Ph.D in material sciences and began working at J. Craig Venter Institute before branching out on her own in the wastewater industry.

Being a woman in the wastewater industry is an anomaly and Bretschger knows this. She admits the bar for success is much higher for women and expectations are different for women but she said it’s worth it. 

“We are in a very conservative, male-dominated industry,” she said. “We definitely stand out on a worksite, but you know sometimes standing out is a benefit. As a founder and an owner of a small business, it’s a pleasure to be able to provide equality and increase diversity within the workforce. Hopefully, to get equal representation both in business and STEM in the water industry.”

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Manufacturing is Still Up and Running in Escondido

COVID-19 may have put the brakes on a lot of industries but things are up and running in Escondido. A recent study by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, found that the 78 corridor, which includes Escondido, provides over 40,000 manufacturing jobs and has an annual economic impact of $18 billion. These jobs include computer and electronics manufacturing. The study found this work is projected to rise up to 6% in the next five years.

Two high tech companies in Escondido are proving these statistics to be true.

Escondido Business Offers High Performance Computing Wherever You Go

Computer technology and AI technology encompass most of our lives. From home appliances to personal computers and workstations, we all plug-in in some way. Most of these devices use computing technology such as cloud computing and battery-charged systems.

However, when businesses need high-end technology that needs to be fast, compact and can withstand the elements, they go to One Stop Systems in Escondido.

One Stop Systems displaying their products at a trade show.

One Stop Systems makes high performance appliances for AI transportable and industrial industries. Its Edge Computing systems are high-end computers that are used in airplanes, cars, cargo ships, and military equipment. 

“Our focus is on AI Transportables, which are vehicles or equipment that need the absolute highest performance in a challenging environment on the very edge for AI and autonomous control or driving,” CEO David Raun said.

One Stop Systems is leading the way for this type of technology and the company delivers the highest performance available that can sustain harsh environments such as heat, sand, water and even vibrations.

“We are one of several leaders with the intention and plan to dominate the market over time,” Raun said. “Our advantage is that we will take the absolute latest technology (highest performance) and make it work in the harshest environments.” 

Assembling parts in the factory.

Creating the computer technology takes a team of nearly 100 employees, with management, support, operations, and factory employees located in Escondido and a smaller crew in Munich, Germany. 

One Stop Systems has been in Escondido for more than 20 years and Raun says one of the things that makes Escondido so appealing is that it's a great location to attract employees. Its location is ideal because there is still affordable housing, and for those who live outside of Escondido, it still allows for a reasonable commute. 

The positive culture at One Stop Systems has helped them maintain a very low turnover and the company has grown over the years, expanding to the point that it has taken over an entire building for offices and factory space. 

As the expansion continues so does the company’s need for more employees. The company is  currently hiring in marketing, sales, engineering and operations. One of the perks of working for One Stop Systems is its equity stock that’s provided to all employees. 

Raun said the company is  also looking at work differently. He said opportunities to work from home and shared spaces are options the company considers for many of its employees as COVID-19 has proven that not all employees have to be in the office every day.

“The company has a bright future,” Raun said. “It is well positioned in a market that will be $1 to $5 billion in size a few years from now. We have several very exciting customers and we are building relationships (?). We will likely expand in Escondido.”

Wrap It Up with QP Technologies

QP Technologies building in Escondido

QP Technologies (formerly Quik-Pak) is a leading provider of microelectronics packaging, assembly, wafer processing and other services that help chipmakers get their devices to market quickly. The company — which is one of the premiere US-based chip packaging companies with more than 500 customers throughout North America, Europe, and Asia —  targets a multitude of end markets including RF/5G, power communications.

“We have a long track record of success providing IC packaging services for many companies, both large and small, in the commercial, mil-aero, medical, industrial and automotive sectors,” COO Ken Molitor said. “Being a US-based provider is a big advantage for us, particularly in today’s world, where supply chain concerns are paramount, and our US based customers’ can de-risk their processes by having access to our onshore packaging and contracting services.”

QP Technologies moved from Rancho Bernardo to Escondido where it now occupies a 12,000-square-foot facility where more than 50 employees from manufacturing to engineers, to sales, and customer support all work. 

The company chose Escondido because the leadership wanted to purchase a building that they could configure to ideally optimize their manufacturing processes while also allowing for expansion as the company grows.

“We surveyed various properties around the region and found our ideal building in Escondido,” Molitor said. “Its location allows us to capitalize on the available talent pool in the region while remaining close to our customers in San Diego and Southern California.”

QP Technologies is continuing to grow as demand for their products continues to increase, particularly with the growing movement to bring semiconductor manufacturing businesses onshore.

“We are continuing to add to our headcount in manufacturing, engineering, sales, and customer support,” Molitor said.


September 2021

The Photographer's Eye — Providing a View from a Different Lens

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Business Spotlight: The Photographer's Eye — Providing a View from a Different Lens

The Photographer’s Eye on Grand Avenue.

The Photographer’s Eye — a gallery, photographer’s collective, dark room space, research library, and learning space — is a decades-long dream come true for Escondido resident Donna Cosentino,who opened the space in July 2018. 

What once was a law office owned and operated by Cosentino’s friend and fellow photographer, Carla deDominicis, is now a space for photographers from all levels to learn and hone their craft.

The space has hosted 26 shows since its opening. Even through COVID-19, Cosentino was able to host both outdoor and virtual shows, which were well-received. Since some COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, Cosentino is scheduling shows well into 2023. 

Aside from being the owner, she is the director and curator for the collective, which features 15 professional photographers from the region, who also play a big part in the space. Three times a year, the collective has an exhibition of work. These artists include, Terry Scott Allen, Robert Barry, Barbara Beck, Grant Brittain, Stephen Davis, Carla DeDominicis, Deb Hellman, Bob and Susan Hill, Emily Kim, Andrea Matthies, Brandy Sebastian, Tom Vancisin, Keiko Yamasaki, Bob Younger and Cosentino. 

Members of The Photographer’s Eye Collective.

The Collective members not only show their work in the space, they also volunteer as judges and teachers, and they help with events and promotions as well. “They are really the backbone,” Cosentino said. “They help with everything.”

Cosentino, who taught photography at Palomar College for 30 years, offers classes and workshops at The Photographer’s Eye for everyone from beginners to trained professionals. From landscape classes out on locations such as Death Valley, Carmel, or even Yosemite, to classes on dark room techniques and portfolio classes — Cosentino offers something for everyone. 

Her portfolio class will be starting mid-September at the Athenaeum in La Jolla. This class gives photographers some insight into how to select their best work to show when they are promoting themselves. At The Photographer’s Eye, Cosentino has set up a research library that includes several books by other artists that give photographers an idea how to best present themselves. 

The dark room space is also a bonus to San Diego photographers. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the dark room at The Photographer’s Eye is the only working dark room open to the public in San Diego at the present time. 

While digital photography is the most common form of photography these days, Cosentino said there has been a resurgence of film photography and alternative film processing. “There are a lot of antique processes,” she said. “Many folks are taking a step backwards and doing things like tin types, cyano, platinum, palladiums, and all kinds of historical processes.” 

She added that these techniques are a great way to experiment with digital photography and create really interesting works. 

The upcoming juried exhibition, “(s)Light of Hand,” will feature alternative photographic processes and works that have included alternative photo-based processes. It will be judged by the well-known photographer, Jill Enfield

Cosentino said it is her goal to have a gallery that shows “every kind of photography that you can possibly imagine.”

She has accomplished that with many of her exhibits that bring photography enthusiasts and novices into the space and she feels Escondido is the perfect place for this type of gallery.

“I live here and I really wanted to have a business here,” she said. 

Donna setting up a gallery exhibit.

She is connected to the community, not only through the gallery and her teaching, but is also a member of  MAGEC (Museum & Arts Growing Escondido Culture), an informal group whose purpose is to “grow and develop the goals of its participants by promoting Escondido’s vibrant arts, heritage and educational culture.” 

The Photographer’s Eye also participates in 2nd Saturday events and stays open longer on those Saturdays. 

Cosentino fell in love with photography in the dark room. As an art student in college, she found herself gravitating to the photographers who she felt were having a lot of fun in the photo department. In 1971, she took her first class. “From the moment I picked up the camera, I knew that all my art classes were going to feed into this,” she said.

She said seeing the print come up in the dark room was the moment that had her absolutely hooked on photography.

From there, Cosentino began a career as a documentary and street photographer. She also worked as a photojournalist for the Times-Advocate, shooting for stories and sports throughout San Diego. 

In addition to teaching at Palomar College, Cosentino curated several exhibits, managed the San Diego County Fair photography exhibition, the International Photography Show and ran a gallery in a former camera store in Escondido. 

When asked how she knows when she has captured the perfect shot, Cosentino replied, “You intuitively know when you’ve got it. When I print a photograph that makes me happy, I do a happy dance.”

The Photographer’s Eye is currently in the process of becoming a nonprofit and Cosentino has been promoting events that will help create a fund for scholarships for people who are interested in photography but cannot afford the classes. One event was a swap meet on September 4 that included vendors from around Escondido who sold, raffled and gave away local items to help start the fund. For more information on how to contribute to the fund, contact Cosentino at (760) 522-2170.

The Photographer’s Eye is located at 326 Grand Avenue. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday or by appointment. Appointments and tours can be arranged by calling (760) 522-2170. Follow the Photographer’s Eye on Facebook or Instagram.



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Saving Lives By Thinking About Conservation Differently

To live we must eat. But the two most important ways we get food — agriculture and cooking — are also the two most dangerous activities to our environment and our health, experts say. 

Luckily, the team at Ecolife Conservation are working to find solutions for both problems.The company’s mission is to do conservation work that has an equal and measurable impact on people as it does on the environment.

Founder Bill Toone — a trained biologist and conservationist, who spent the start of his career working for the Zoological Society of San Diego and worked on the California Condor Recovery Program — took a turn in his career that led him to Madagascar. There, he realized that conservation, which typically highlights the needs of animals and environment, needs to include efforts to improve the lives of humans as well. 

Bill Toone in Madagascar with community members.

In Madagascar, Toone was on a biological transect when he met a members of a tiny village. He spent three years with the people and became particularly close with a young child who befriended him. When he left in 1999, the boy’s family asked Toone if he would adopt their child. Knowing it was impossible, he had to leave the child behind. Five months later, the community was wiped out in an enormous storm. 

Toone was desperate to find help for this community, but was met with resistance from all his outlets as they told him they protected animals, not people.  

“So I started looking at how you could do conservation that could include people and could benefit people,” Toone said. “Something that was valuable to the community, rather than a threat.”

In 2003, Ecolife Conservation was formed. One of the first missions was a trip back to Madagascar where Toone found the young boy, now a man, and was reunited with others in the community. 

“I’m very proud to be part of an organization that will not walk away from a child,” he said. 

In trying to figure out how to make the greatest impact on communities while also protecting the environment, Toone explained it is all related to healthy ecosystems. There is a direct relationship in the health of people with the health of their environment. Communities rich in natural resources can thrive, while those without, suffer. Toone has found that by providing resources, even in the most unexpected ways, can help lift communities in enormous ways.

Smoke-Free Cooking

Worldwide, the single largest killer of human beings is from cooking smoke with about 4.2 million deaths — mostly among women and children — each year, Toone said.

Toone and his team found a way to help decrease the impact of deaths caused by cooking smoke while also protecting Monarch butterflies — by using Patsari stoves.

A young girl stands near the Patsari stove in her home.

Patsari stoves are brick-walled ovens with sealed cooking surfaces to keep smoke from leaking out. They also have a combustion chamber and prefabricated chimneys that funnel 90% of smoke outside of the house. These nearly smokeless stoves help protect women and children from smoke inhalation and additionally use 60% less wood, which is not only important to forests, it is also important to watersheds and other local resources including the Monarch butterflies. 

Ecolife found a community from the UNESCO World Heritage site, which is in the Monarch butterfly biosphere reserve to bring these stoves. Working with partners in Mexico, they introduced themselves to the people of these communities using female “promadoras” who helped convince the communities that these stoves were a better alternative to open cooking in their homes. 

To date, Ecolife has installed nearly 9,000 stoves in communities throughout Mexico.Their success is measured by the fact that they have penetrated more than 90% of the communities they have approached and have a 90% adoption rate. The environmental impact has reached 43,000 people, saved 625,000 trees and butterfly habitats and reduced the carbon footprint by 130,000 tons. 

For the women and children, it has relieved them of the burden of collecting wood and cooking throughout the day, which has given many children more time for school and to help their communities in other ways. 

Eco-Friendly Agriculture

Cooking food is one solution that Ecolife has tackled. Growing it is another.

Traditional farming takes a huge toll on our environment from land and water use to the amount of pesticides that affect ecosystems. 

“It chews up more land and places more species at risk than any other human activity,” Toone said.

That is why many are rediscovering an ancient farming technique once used by both Aztecs and ancient Thais called aquaponics, and could be a solution in protecting resources.

Ecolife Conservation Aquaponics farm in Escondido.

Aquaponics uses fish to grow plants. 

“It’s a mini example of how the world works. The fish fertilize the plants, the plants clean the water,” he said. “It’s the carbon cycle, water cycle, reproductive cycle, and production cycle. Exactly how the world functions.”

Ecolife has become a leader in teaching aquaponics as research, for new farmers, and in schools. They have a teaching farm in Escondido off Deer Springs Road, which is open for tours and educational development. Toone added, his team includes some of the best aquaponics people in the nation. They have produced several tons of produce that has all been donated to local organizations such as Interfaith Community Services, Produce for Patriots and other organizations that assist underserved people in our communities.

Ecolife has also created an aquaponics kit that can be used in classrooms or for home growing. 

“One of the things about aquaponics is that you can get a high productivity out of a small space,” said Toone, adding that several restaurants grow their own produce on rooftops. 

Aquaponics kit that can be used at home or as a classroom learning tool.

They are in the process of creating a larger kit called the Modular Aquaponics Response Kit (M.A.R.K.) to give to underserved communities and the same communities that are using the stoves. This tool will not only give communities fresh produce, but it will also allow them to farm fish such as tilapia, which would give the people a rich protein source as well. 

“There’s a tremendous amount of versatility to it because of its compactness and effectiveness,” Toone said.

Aquaponics farming not only saves water, it can grow in any environment, so unlike traditional farming, soil-rich land is not necessary. Toone believes by training this type of farming to new farmers it will someday create a business model that overtakes traditional farming for much of the produce we eat today.

Nonprofit Sustainability

Ecolife Conservation is a nonprofit organization that is funded through its board of directors and donations. Its annual gala is scheduled for October 16 at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. They also host monthly speaking events and an annual trip to Mexico. 

“Escondido is a proud supporter of companies that work to find solutions to world problems,” said Teresa Collins, Deputy Director of Communications for the City of Escondido. “Ecolife Conservation allows the community both education and resources to help be part of those solutions, and help lift our own communities as well.”

As a nonprofit, they are in the final stages of receiving The Gold Standard Carbon Verification for their stove initiative. This honor was established in 2003 to ensure projects that reduce carbon emissions follow the highest levels of environmental integrity and contribute to sustainable development.

When asked what Toone wants people to know about Ecolife, he replied, “I want people to know that there’s a wonderful balance in our organization. It is the most passionate team of people you could run into that is really tempered by data statistics and measures. We are driven but thoughtful.”