QUESTION: What was the property used by The Junction shopping center used for before The Junction went in?

ANSWER: Margaret Davis, The Junction property manager, said there were three houses on the property when Tom Ryan, a shopping center developer from Los Angeles, bought the 22-acre tract.

Ryan had spent three years in the Army in World War II and was working as a real estate attorney for W.T. Grant, a chain department store.

He said someone he knew in real estate had opened a drug store in Sonora.

“He kept on raving on how well it was doing,” Ryan said. “I drove up from LA. to see Sonora and was very impressed by the activity and I felt that another shopping center was necessary to serve the area.” Real estate agent Bernie Hein helped him pull together four parcels to assemble enough land and obtain a right-of-way from the railroad, whose tracks skirt the edge of the property near Mono Way.

Construction began in 1983 and the center opened in 1984 with 50 stores, including JC Penney, Lucky Supermarket, Longs pharmacy and Kinney’s, a shoe store.

Thirty-three years is a long time in the retail business and the center has seen a cast of characters. K-Mart was there for a time, and McDonald’s (that building is still empty), Albertson’s. Two businesses, though, have stayed put: Mountain Bookshop and McCloud’s Pets.

Donovan Denton, the McCloud’s manager, said the location has been a good one. The center has name recognition, and the owner has been good to work with. A challenge has been with the construction of the Highway 108 bypass, traffic is dumped out right where the shopping center that holds Walmart and PetSmart are located.

Ryan fought for an exit ramp on Tuolumne Road years ago but was unsuccessful. At the time, planners said adding it would mean a delay in construction and add $2 million to the cost.

Davis said a key element of the way Ryan does business is to give back to the community. The company sponsors all sorts of charity functions, including the upcoming Vietnam Veterans golf tournament. Once, Davis allowed high school students to set up a classroom for young children in an office. They stage a Christmas gift collection for kids each year.

“Mr. Ryan wants to give back,” she said.

Ryan, who is 94, has no plans to sell the property. He has two partners, including his son, Tom Ryan Jr., in Sonora Five, the property owner.

“Mr. Ryan loves this center,” Davis said. He also has shopping centers in Modesto and King City and other landholdings throughout the nation, she said.

Look for a couple of major announcements coming soon: a business moving in and another expanding on site, Davis said. That’s all she can say for now.

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