By DENNIS WYATT
Think of shopping for Christmas — or any time of the year for that matter — and the last thing that comes to your mind is either a business park or an industrial site.
Living in the 209 you can take advantage of “factory stores” or outlets that are joined at the hip with massive distribution centers or venues connected with the production of agricultural commodities such as wine and cheese for worldwide distribution.
Among my favorites is the 5.11 Tactical factory store at 3201 North Airport Way in Manteca between Lathrop and Lovelace roads. It is on the northeast corner of the firm’s 404,657-square-foot distribution center.
The company is a global provider of uniforms and tactical equipment for military, law enforcement and public safety personnel. Their clothing is also popular with hikers, backpackers, and for many for everyday use.
This is not bargain basement stuff. But the price difference is more than worth it in durability, fit, and looks. I’ve fallen more than a few times while scrambling up rocky inclines in the Sierra and Death Valley areas and their shorts have been unscathed. As for foot gear — particular hiking boots — in my opinion they beat many REI offerings in functionality and durability at a cost point that is lower than compatible backpacking boots.
The Manteca store offers the complete line of 5.11 clothing. For the thousands of items of equipment they offer you need to go online but if it is clothing you are after, the Manteca store is your best bet.
The nice thing about Christmas approaching is 5.11 will be open on Saturdays. Regular hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. They are also keeping regular hours on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve and will be open every Saturday in December from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Manteca also has Delicato Vineyards wine tasting room that sports an expansive gift shop.
It is located two miles north of Manteca just southwest of the Highway 99 and French Camp interchange along the western Frontage Road. The wine tasting room and gift shop are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
They offer a large selection of custom gift boxes and a wide repertoire of wine.
The most popular factory store in Lathrop without a doubt is the Ghirardelli Factory Outlet and Ice Cream Shop at 11980 South Harlan Road next door to the United Parcel Service distribution center southeast of the Roth Road and Interstate 5 interchange. It’s perfect if you want to load up on Ghirardelli Chocolate for gifts, holiday parties, stocking stuffers or simply to take care of your sweet tooth.
Prices are up to 25 percent off retail plus there are discounts offered with standup bags and buying chocolate by the case.
Ghirardelli Chocolate Outlets are the only place to find the entire collection of Ghirardelli Baking Mixes – from brownies to cookies to cake mixes. There are also baking bars, chips, and cocoas. You will also find an exclusive selection of Ghirardelli chocolate gifts and limited edition packaging not available anywhere else including several San Francisco-inspired gifts. You will also find a complete assortment of Ghirardelli Chocolate bars in every available flavor.
To be honest the reason I drop by from time-to-time is the ice cream shop.
It features an assortment of ice cream sundaes topped with handmade hot fudge made from rich Ghirardelli chocolate. There is a full menu of soda fountain classics such as real ice cream shakes, traditional malts, and hot cocoas.
You can also create your own ice cream experience from any of a dozen ice cream flavors. Select a sweet cake cone, classic sugar cone, or a chocolate dipped waffle bowl. You can top that off with handmade Ghirardelli hot fudge or other available toppings. They also offer chocolate chip cookies, decadent brownies, and dipped strawberries.
The factory store and ice cream shop is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. as well as Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
If you head over to Tracy, the Crate and Barrel Warehouse at 1705 North Chrisman Road just down a ways from the Amazon Fulfillment Center has an outlet store as well that is encompassed in the building housing their distribution center. What you will find here are items that didn’t sell well in regular stores. There is stretching orange construction netting that separates the retail away from the distribution operation. Store hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The store is closed Sunday and Monday.
It is still rather pricey plus the selection is not overly extensive, especially compared to the Cost Plus World Market outlet store at 2530 Naglee Road near Tracy’s West Valley Mall. Although it is not attached to a distribution center it serves as the outlet for the massive Cost Plus warehouse in Stockton. The hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. as well as Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
If you want a locally grown Christmas gift that isn’t wine there are two high profile options in the region.
The Hilmar Cheese Visitors Center offers cheese gift baskets as well as cheese and other products in their gift shop at 9001 North Lander Avenue on the eastern outskirts of Hilmar.
You can see cheese and other dairy products being made as well as enjoy a meal at the café.
Yes, it is definitely low-key, but you are getting a locally grown product at the source that happens to be the world’s largest cheese manufacturing facility under one roof. It is also a way to take a break from the holiday hustle and bustle while getting some gift shopping in for the cheese lovers on your list.
It’s a short drive west after taking the Lander Avenue exit south of Turlock on Highway 99. The Visitors Center is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., plus 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, go to hilmarcheese.com or call (800) 577-5772.
Then there is the Blue Diamond Almonds Nut and Gift Shop at 4800 Sisk Road just off Highway 99 in North Modesto.
Obviously they offer the most complete selection of Blue Diamond almond products you’ll find. The gift shop is nice but the main event is clearly the almonds.
The store gift shop is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed on Sundays.
A few holiday seasons when I was stuck trying to figure out what to give several friends I went with the “home grown” Christmas package I created by shopping at Delicato for wine, Blue Diamond for almonds, and Hilmar for cheese.
For one particular person that was fixated with the Spanish translation for where I live, I dropped by Food 4 Less and bought a small tub of Armor Star lard with bilingual labeling. It’s not locally produced but it does certainly say Manteca.