A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE POMONA PACKING PLANT
The first permanent building here was built in 1916 by The Pomona Valley Canning Company. It was a cannery that processed and canned stone fruits - particularly yellow peaches - under the Pomona Brand. It was considered a state-of-the-art facility with a dedicated railroad stop, six mile long waste transfer system, and one-stop production that put preparation, processing, boxing and brand printing all under one roof. With more than 400 seasonal workers - the vast majority of whom were women, The Pomona Valley Canning Company was one of Pomona's largest employers.
Unfortunately, stone fruit production never took off in the Pomona Valley the way King Citrus did. Almost from the very beginning, the business had to recast itself as the “Pomona Packing Company” and diversify into processing oranges and lemons. By the late 1920s, it had found a profitable niche purchasing fruit from dozens of mom-and-pop growers. The company attributed a lot of its success to the practice of paying cash on the spot for any delivery (no contracts, no questions, no records) - and the large safe that they used to keep their cash is still in the building today.
Then the Great Depression hit. Sales of premium fruit crashed, and only the largest co-op packing associations survived. Now run by the Cutler Lobingier in Ontario, the Pomona Packing Plant was left with just its small stone fruits production. In 1930, the plant was closed and its machinery carted off to the orchards around Oakland, California.
There was concern that the Packing Plant might be demolished, but the Pomona Box Company came to the rescue. Started in 1925 by former employees of the canning business, Pomona Box produced custom citrus crates for as many as 200 packing houses from San Diego to Santa Barbara, and from Orange County to Yuma, Arizona. The 4th and final building on the site of the Pomona Packing Plant was built during this very successful period. Unfortunately, in 1955, there was a fire at another Pomona Box facility on North Garey. This prompted a relocation and consolidation of the company to a brand-new location in La Habra, where it is still located today.
The North Garey location became headquarters of the Associated Missile Products Corporation, which is still an aerospace research facility owned by United Technologies, though the Packing Plant location didn't fare as well. Now very outdated compared to new industrial buildings, it housed a long series of packaging and paper product manufacturers. Over the years, the condition of the Packing Plant deteriorated, and it narrowly averted demolition on several occasions. Nearing the 100th anniversary of its construction, the Pomona Packing Plant was extensively renovated - and where iconic citrus labels were created a century ago, now a new generation of artists and creative arts companies are giving the building a new lease on life.