Tracing Tracy Territory: Signs of life on 11th Street
by Sam Matthews
Apr 05, 2013 | 3614 views | 2 2 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Work has been started to renovate the onetime home of Harry’s Chuck Wagon — later Arbros and Chateau Basque — at 18 E. 11th St. The plans of the owner of the long-vacant building are as yet unknown.  Sam Matthews/Tracy Press
Work has been started to renovate the onetime home of Harry’s Chuck Wagon — later Arbros and Chateau Basque — at 18 E. 11th St. The plans of the owner of the long-vacant building are as yet unknown. Sam Matthews/Tracy Press
Just east of Central Avenue on 11th Street are the first signs that the onetime Harry’s Chuck Wagon building is at long last coming back to life.

Work to renovate the interior and reshape the roof of the long-vacant building has been started. Workers of Melo Construction Co. were on the job this week at 18 E. 11th St.

They also were renovating the interior of the building next door at 22 E. 11th St. that formerly was home to a gun shop.

A gold-buying store is the likely tenant for the former gun shop, but any plans the owner, George Papadakis of Bellevue, Wash., has for the onetime restaurant building are still unknown.

Work under way, though, provides some hope that the building, vacant for at least three decades, will take on a new life. Considering the design of the building — originally two structures — and its location, a restaurant would seem to be the logical use.

More than a few years ago, efforts to put the building back into use — I seem to recall a nightclub was proposed—never got past the talking stage.

For years, Harry’s Chuck Wagon, operated by Harry Compton was a popular local restaurant featuring prime rib. (It later became Arbros and Chateau Basque.) The lounge featured live music three or four nights a week — does anyone remember Gary and Dallas? With Ed Norton behind the bar, it was one of Tracy’s major places to meet and mingle.

Who knows? It may be again.

Back to where it started

Meanwhile, on the other side of Central Avenue on 11th Street, the Tracy Rotary Club has returned to its roots: the Tracy Inn.

Starting this week, regular meetings of the Tracy service club are being held each Tuesday noon in the Crystal Room of the Casa Grande restaurant in the inn.

Chef Roberto Arias is providing a varied menu of food, starting with the house specialty, Mexican, but also including Italian, continental and California cuisine.

When I say Tracy Rotary has returned to its roots, I point to Jan. 15, 1930, when the recently chartered service club held its charter night dinner meeting in the then-2-year-old Tracy Inn’s main ballroom, the Rose Room.

More than 200 people filled the room, many from Rotary Clubs in Northern California communities, for the charter night festivities. Officers of the Stockton Rotary Club, which sponsored organization of Tracy’s club, conducted the meeting.

A.E.H. Cardwell, manager of the J.C. Penney store in Tracy, was president of the new 19-member club and introduced club members.

The club continued meeting in the Rose Room, later the Gold Room, until 1997, when the Tracy Inn Coffee Shop and Bistro were closed for a time.

Club meetings then moved to McNamara’s Restaurant (now Jorge’s El Tapatio) farther west on 11th Street, then to the new VFW Hall on Grant Line Road, the Platinum Conference Center in The Opera House building and more recently the Elks Lodge on 11th Street east of town.

The Rotarians, including your trusty correspondent, are happy to be back holding weekly meetings at the Tracy Inn, which has a well-known, central location with adequate parking. It feels like we’re home again.

End of an era

While on the topic of food for public gatherings, it is with some sadness and a bit of nostalgia that I report that the asparagus and tri-tip dinner held for morethan 20 years by the Tracy Alumni Club is history.

In fact, the club itself is history.

Members decided there just wasn’t enough support to continue the club — especially the efforts needed to organize and hold the annual dinner, which generated funds for student scholarships.

The contributions of Marc and Paul Marchini in providing and preparing asparagus at no charge for the dinner every year represented an outstanding sustained commitment.

For many years, they were joined by Mike Erceg, Jim Meservy and Mike Bogetti in barbecuing the tri-tip steaks. And, of course, Louie Galli was the master salad maker.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at
Comments-icon Post a Comment
April 14, 2013
Remember Harry's vividly. Great food. Bar was a kick (sometimes in the face)Harry's kids, Joan, Gary & Jimmy. Good memories and some bad ones , too. Old timers will know me. Life is good!
April 05, 2013
Harry was my grandfather and he passed away a few years ago. I never got to see the Chuckwagon in it's day. It's good to see the building opening up again. Maybe when I come back to visit I will finally get to see the inside. :) It's nice to hear everyone's stories about their time spent there. It's great to know that my grandfather is still remembered in Tracy!

We encourage readers to share online comments in this forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a space for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Comments that stray from the topic of the story or are found to contain abusive language are subject to removal at the Press’ discretion, and the writer responsible will be subject to being blocked from making further comments and have their past comments deleted. Readers may report inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at