Simonian Farms goes back in time with barn project

The Fresno BeeJune 19, 2012 

Simonian Farms in southeast Fresno is more than a century old. On Saturday, it begins a new chapter when it opens Simonian Farms Old Town.

The Western-themed town -- inside a newly built red barn -- feels like a fusion of Casa de Fruta on the Pacheco Pass Highway, local cheese operation Bravo Farms in Traver and a day at Disneyland, said third-generation farmer Bonnie Simonian.

"We would always stop at Casa de Fruta and dream," Bonnie Simonian said. "This barn was sort of that dream -- 40 years in the making."

Seven months ago, Dennis and Bonnie Simonian decided to turn a 5,000- square-foot parking lot next to their already booming fruit stand into a big red barn.

"I thought I wanted to fill the barn with antiques and make an ag museum, but then my grandson said put in a shooting range," Bonnie Simonian said. "After he gave us the idea, I thought why don't we build a model town. We have enough antiques to decorate it with."

Simonian Farms began in 1901 when Bagdasar Simonian immigrated to the region from Armenia. Today, his descendants farm about 80 acres and produce more than 180 crops that are sold at the family-run fruit stand.

The family started seriously considering the project a year ago.

"My mom and I had a vision in our minds, and it finally came to life," said Ashley Simonian, one of the couple's three daughters. "I am a farmer's daughter and I love it."

Lining the streets of the "old town" is a church, a barber shop, a Route 66 shooting range, a school house, a fruit stand, a saloon and a 1950s-era gas station.

"We hope to tell the history of the Fresno area from the 1850s to the 1960s," Bonnie Simonian said. "When locals and tourists stop by, we want them to come into the barn and then come to the fruit stand."

The lime-green door to the school house was on Dennis Simonian's grandmother's farmhouse. The window in the steeple of the church is a stained-glass piece from the original Armenian Church in Fresno.

From the anvil in the livery stable that was first used by Dennis Simonian's great grandfather to Bonnie Simonian's first car at the '50s diner, about 95% of the antiques in the barn are rooted in Valley history.

But the barn offers more than history.

More than 50 different California wines can be sampled at the Old Town Saloon and more than 80 flavors of bottled soda and loads of candy from the 1950s will be sold at the Farmers Daughters General Store.

"People are going to walk in the general store and are going to be taken back to their childhoods," Bonnie Simonian said.

But the gem that both children and kids at heart will enjoy, Bonnie Simonian said, is the animated Route 66 shooting range. Ron and John Daniels, of Daniels Woodland in Paso Robles, designed the fully animated shooting range and all of the store-front facades.

When a target is hit, the corresponding animal or car speaks, sings or dances.

"Right now we want to enjoy what we have." Bonnie Simonian said. "For us, this is the Super Bowl and our grand finale."

The grand opening of Simonian Farms Old Town is Saturday. Local wineries and other Valley vendors will offer samples and wine tasting throughout the day.


If you go

What: Grand opening for Simonian Farms Old Town

When: Saturday June 23, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: 2629 S. Clovis Ave., Fresno

Details: (559) 237-2294

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6659, eromero@fresnobee.com or @ezraromero on Twitter.

The Fresno Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service