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Stanton rounds up new Beach Boulevard food and lifestyle center, Rodeo 39

Rodeo39, a new dining and lifestyle center in Stanton, is set to open Oct. 17.
Rodeo 39, a new dining and lifestyle center in Stanton, is set to open Oct. 17.
(Courtesy of Rodeo 39.)

Mention that you’re headed to Stanton and you’re likely to hear something along the lines of: Where’s Stanton?

But a new public market is putting the tiny city on Orange County’s map in a big way.

Rodeo 39 is the creation of San Juan Capistrano developer Dan Almquist, a managing partner at Frontier Real Estate Investments.

It was Stanton (population 36,000) city leaders who came to him. They had a blighted 24 acres on Beach Boulevard just off the 22 Freeway, and did he want to take crack at it?

He accepted the challenge, seeing a chance to break out of the traditional shopping center mold and create a collection of shops and eateries that was more along the lines of a hangout, something experiential.

“I felt vested in doing something right by the city,” says Almquist, 43. “Stanton was always a little bit of an underdog. The community deserved more.”

While food is the foundation of Rodeo 39 (and it is a carnival of food), don’t call it a food hall.

“The food hall concept … you eat, but then what?” Almquist says. “I wanted to create a place that goes beyond a transactional environment, somewhere you want to spend time.”

So in addition to an Insta-worthy floral boutique and a bakery, Rodeo 39 has a retro arcade, a raw bar, a tea bar, a cocktail bar, a coffee shop and even a small stage for that exciting day when live music can resume.

Rodeo’s biggest vendor coup though is scoring Skin Design Tattoo, which is owned by Robert Pho, who many argue is the best tattoo artist in the nation. Just to put it into perspective, Skin Design now has locations in Las Vegas, New York City, Honolulu — and Stanton.

Almquist says it was Pho who reached out to him.

“There were people early on that just kind of got what we were doing,” he says.

Skin Design already has a wait list, and Rodeo’s grand opening isn’t even untilOct. 17-18.

“It’s insane, the stuff they do,” Almquist says of Pho’s team. “It’s art.”

That’s why he put Skin Design in a glass box. So you can watch the artists at work.

Stanton’s first craft brewery, Bearded Tang, is also here behind glass, so you can watch them make the beer — and then drink it. There are 24 on tap.

Almquist says he wanted “an element of voyeurism,” just like you find at a real rodeo.

“People like to people watch,” he says.

There are plenty of places to do it here. All sorts of seating is scattered throughout the 41,000-square-foot space, both inside and out, from counter seating to cozy cafe tables with scoop chairs.

The hard part won’t be finding a table, but deciding what you’re going to bring to that table.

There are 18 food choices, and they’re all over the map, from Vietnamese street crepes and Japanese ramen to Detroit deep-dish pizza, Hawaiin-style Kimchi Butter Chicken Katsu, artisanal vegan donuts and Filipino rice bowls.

“We wanted diversity,” Almquist says.

Vendors include Kra Z Kai’s, OC’s first Laotian BBQ spot. Beleaf Burgers sells vegan takes on popular fast-food sandwiches like McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish (their version of In-N-Out’s Single is some kind of trickery). At the artisan butcher shop Primal Cuts you can pick your own steak or burger from the case and have them cook it for you the way you like.

Rodeo 39 also has eight pop-up shops, currently selling street-wear inspired clothes, kitschy sunglasses, handmade jewelry and retro cowgirl handbags (from a real traveling rodeo vendor).

Stanton Councilman Rigoberto Ramirez said city leaders and residents are loving the Rodeo limelight.

“It checks off all the boxes,” he says. “It gives us an opportunity to be relevant and change the perception of the city. And as a 25-year Stanton resident I’m stoked, because now I have somewhere to go and entertain family and friends, as well.”

He said the project seed was planted nearly six years ago when the city began holding what would eventually be 102 neighborhood meetings to decide Stanton’s future.

“People said, ‘Ya know, what we need is a point of destination, where we can play, hangout, have fun.”

Next city leaders did 280 business visits.

“And the businesses said ‘We need a destination point. When we talk to customers, they really don’t know where Stanton is.’”

The crazy thing is, says Ramirez, is that every day roughly 79,000 cars pass the Beach Boulevard exit where Rodeo 39 now sits. That’s 79,000 opportunities that Stanton missed every day — until now.

In the eyes of Mayor Dave Shawver: “We have just added a crown jewel to the city of Stanton.”

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