Guest Column: An Old Time Gilroyan Speaks Out

Look carefully at this map of the proposed Great Wolf Lodge site

A longtime Gilroy resident weighs in on the city’s future
Ron Gurries was a bright spot in the City Council’s public hearing on the Great Wolf Lodge proposal. He conducted both sides of this interview and wrote it up.
Editor: Mr. Gurries, I heard your comments during the special meeting of the Gilroy Council on the Great Wolf Lodge project. You mentioned your family has been in Gilroy for many years. Can you tell us a little about that?
Gurries: Sure. Both my parents and their families were in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and they lost their homes in that and the resulting fire. My father’s family moved to the Gilroy area to a small prune farm and also raised sheep. In 1908 my grandfather, who had been a tailor in San Francisco, bought two acres on Monterey Street across from the original St. Mary’s Church and school. Those two acres were a tomato field and with the horse and buggy moving out and the automobile moving in, it became auto-related property.
Editor: Is that the property you said you were born on?
Gurries: Yes, that’s where I was a baby. The property is still auto-related and it is part of the partnership I manage.
Editor: What changes have you seen in Gilroy?
Gurries: Back in the 1930s the depression was in full force. No one had any money but neighbors did their best to help each other and anyone else in need. An out of work man walking the railroad tracks would get a meal in return for a bit of work. Then World War II and rationing! Everyone pulled together for the war effort. My father’s plant, the Be-Ge Manufacturing Co., employed from 250-500 people. The company manufactured tank guns and various other parts, exclusively for the war effort.
After the war other changes happened. The freeway bypassed Gilroy and First Street developed. Some years later came the Outlets, Walmart, Home Depot, Costco, etc., etc., etc.. The hue and cry since the 1960s has been to rejuvenate and beautify our downtown.
Money was spent, over and over, mostly between Fourth and Sixth streets. The result of those changes was that the character and western theme of the town was lost.
Editor: You favor the development of the Great Wolf Lodge and the property owned by the city on the Hecker Pass. Why is that?
Gurries: Life is short but I tend to think and plan long term. As I have mentioned, change is constantly happening. With the Internet, some of our larger retail stores are being challenged for their very existence. Retail life is changing. The best dollar the city can receive is the tourist dollar and the occupancy tax generated by room rental. Obviously the Great Wolf Lodge loves the site and its proximity will make the Gilroy Gardens property more prosperous and profitable. Gilroy will receive jobs for our citizens and the can stay local and not travel to San Jose.
Editor: Why do you think some people oppose the Hecker Pass location?
Gurries: I have experienced this my whole adult life. When my father built the Tickle Pink motel in the Carmel Highlands (next to the Highlands Inn), the neighbors were strongly opposed. Now they love the place and it is one of the most popular motels in the country. Moneyed people come to our town and want it to stay unchanged around them but want Old Gilroy, Monterey Street and First Street to be changed to resemble Carmel or Morgan Hill.
But Gilroy is different. Old Gilroy has a financially-challenged business community of diverse backgrounds. Their business is their whole life. Many are Spanish speaking. To disenfranchise them from their livelihood would be economic and political cruelty, but that is what some planners and dreamers propose.
The Great Wolf Lodge will help give Gilroy needed financial stability for the short, intermediate and long term.