When former Delano Mayor Grace Vallejo met the Chinese chairman of a real estate development firm to talk about a massive commercial development, he didn’t speak English and she didn’t speak Chinese, but as luck would have it, they both spoke Spanish.
It was 2005. El Monte-based YK America had come to town at the invitation of former City Manager Abdel Salem, who had worked with the company to bring a Wal-Mart to another city before accepting his job in Delano.
In spite of the language barrier and the company’s general reluctance to do projects in small cities, the pair’s efforts eventually paid off. The 45-acre Delano Marketplace development is well underway with a power center anchored by a Wal-Mart Supercenter, Big 5 Sporting Goods and Ross Dress for Less. On Wednesday, officials broke ground for a second phase that will include a lifestyle center, a movie theater, a hotel and apartments.
At a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday there was effusive praise for the project as dignitaries posed for pictures with shovels, but the road to that point was fraught with setbacks, which YK America Chairman David Lu alluded to at the ceremony.