Thistle’s ready-to-eat food company relocating to Vacaville

May 05 2019

Daily Republic By Todd R. Hansen

VACAVILLE — A tech-enabled, organic food and nutrition company founded in San Francisco is moving its primary ready-to-eat and packaging facility to Vacaville.

Thistle, founded in 2014 by the husband and wife team Ashwin Cheriyan and Shiri Avnery, will operate a 79,000-square-foot facility located in the Interchange Business Park at 771 Eubanks Drive.

“The operation will host over 250 employees in the initial phase of operations, with a diverse array of skill sets. The company will be purchasing natural ingredients, creating and designing new menus, and producing, packaging and distributing meals from this facility to deliver across the West Coast and beyond,” according to a statement released by the Solano Economic Development Corp.

“We are proud to have been a part of the team that helped Thistle make this new facility in Vacaville and Solano a reality,” said Solano EDC board chairman Barry Nelson, president and chief executive officer for Travis Credit Union, in the release. He was part of the group that helped bring the company to the area.

Robert Burris, the president and chief executive officer for Solano Economic Development Corp., said one of the first things Thistle executives asked about was how they can help food banks and other nonprofits with food products that do not end up in their business operations.

“Thistle is a fantastic, community-oriented company, and it is a great example of food-related companies of the future seeing our region as optimal for their growth in the U.S.,” Nelson said.

Ryan Davidson of Lee & Associates, based in Oakland, and Brooks Pedder of Cushman & Wakefield, based in Walnut Creek, were central in the real estate side of the deal. Pedder has negotiated about 70 million square feet of space in Solano County over the past 35 years. Davidson could not be reached for comment.

PG&E and the Governor’s Office of Business & Economic Development were involved in the relocation as well. The utility is providing a lower economic development rate. The state also offers a tax exemption on certain manufacturing equipment. There are other incentives available as well, but no local taxpayer incentives are included, Burris said.

“Part of that is they could have gone out of state, and Nevada was one of their considerations,” Burris said.

Don Burrus, the outgoing economic development manager for Vacaville, said that the central location of Vacaville to the rest of the Bay Area – as well as its agricultural ties – are why the firm is relocating here.

“The access to local farms, the small town charm of Vacaville, and last but not least, the lower cost of doing business compared to other parts of the Bay Area” were additional reasons for the move, added Burrus, who is taking over as the economic development director in Redwood City. Friday was his last day at Vacaville.

The final negotiations took about two months, and the move is expected to take place over the next six months. The city will host an information session and job fair in the near future.

Burrus noted that while Solano County agricultural products are featured in a number of Medallion-starred restaurants in San Francisco already, the relocation of Thistle to Vacaville is viewed as an added benefit to local farmers and producers.

Burris said Thistle fits very nicely into two of the three Solano Economic Development Corp. target industry sectors: food and beverage; life science; and advanced manufacturing. He said it also continues a trend of companies from other parts of the Bay Area who are being squeezed in their current locations, but are still looking to maintain a link to the region.

Moreover, Burris said, Vacaville is close enough that Thistle will be able to retain some of its employees.

Thistle executives, including the owners, attended a function Friday at Vacaville City Hall, where they met with a number of area agriculture and business representatives, Burrus said.

Thistle delivers to homes fully prepared and healthy meal options to customers in California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. Its products also include juices and snacks. Everything is gluten- and dairy-free.