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From railroad station to Scandinavian-themed shopping center
scandia village pic1
Scandia Village has been a vital part of Turlock's shopping scene since the late 1980s. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

Although Scandia Village, the shopping center located on S. Golden State Boulevard just south of Central Park, has a long and storied history in Turlock, it is by no means a relic of the town's past. The center continues to draw a variety of new businesses to town, making it an important factor in Turlock's economic vitality.

Before the Scandinavian-themed shopping center was built in the late 1980s, and before the original Sunsports snow and water ski outfitters opened in 1975, the Southern Pacific Railroad put a freight station on the site in 1910.

Denis Sondeno, current owner of Sunsports and Building A of Scandia Village, is happy to point out the brick chimney, wooden frame and freight door opening that were part of the original railroad building.

"Wagons full of melons used to pull up to this freight door to be packed and shipped on the railroad," said Sondeno.

The Sondeno family took over Sunsports from the Stevens family in 1983, and it was soon after that a trip to Europe inspired Stan Sondeno to build a village with a Scandinavian imprint in Turlock, said Denis Sondeno.

Stan Sondeno and business partner John King began to make plans for the center, and after securing the purchase of the land from Southern Pacific — a difficult endeavor as railroads are known for never selling their property —Shumate Builders was contracted to build the metal-framed shopping center.

Over the years, Scandia Village has seen businesses come and go, but the shopping center continues to draw in new tenants like Kraving Kebab Pizza, which will move into the vacant space left by Henry's restaurant.

Kraving Kebab Pizza opened in Modesto three years ago and has been looking to move to Turlock.

"We waited for two years until we found the right location," said Sargon Shamoon.

The family-owned and operated business will offer a taste that is popular in Sweden and other European countries — shawarma.

Shawarma is a Middle Eastern method of roasting meat on a vertical spit for many hours, which is then shaved into thin slices. Kraving Kebab Pizza puts slices of shawarma meat on top of a pizza and then adds a special sauce.

"We're bringing something different to Turlock," said Shamoon.

The pizza place will share space with an eclectic mix of businesses at Scandia Village that includes Oak Barrel Creamery, Anointed Creations floral art studio, Headlines Salon, Pronto Express, Gypsy Tattoo, Silva's Taqueria and Panaderia San Miguel.

The Village will also soon be backdrop to a chiropractic office that is slated to be built in the vacant lot that used to be home to the Red Steer restaurant before it was destroyed by an arson fire in 2009.

While other shopping centers in Turlock see storefronts sit vacant for months and in some cases years, Scandia Village has been able to keep a steady stream of businesses coming in.

"Hopefully, we have a little bit of a family type of feel here, working together to make our businesses succeed," said Sondeno.

The shopping center will soon get a new look as Sondeno is in the process of designing new signage for the whole center. One thing will definitely stay the same, however —  the Village's resident storks.

"In Scandinavia, a stork on the roof means your business has good luck," said Sondeno. "So dad said we needed a stork for the roof and it's still there today."