State Farm will move to Third St.; old building sold, to be razed

The State Farm office building on Fourth St. (right), is adjacent to the former Tracy Bottling/Hebig Electric building on South St. The insurance building has been acquired by the owner of Chasing Our Tails pet-treats, and will be razed to facilitate manufacturing operations in the Tracy Bottling/Hebig Electric building.
New storefronts will be installed on the former J. Mar and John’s Drug buildings on Third St. The Tracy State Farm office will relocate into the former John’s Drug building.

By Seth Schmidt

Big changes are ahead for the State Farm office in Tracy and the former John’s Drug building.

The State Farm agency, which has been on Fourth St. for more than half a century, will be moving into a remodeled office in the now-vacant John’s Drug building at the end of January.

The planned move is being triggered by the sale of the State Farm property at 125 Fourth, to Steve Trachtenberg of Chasing Our Tails pet-treat products. Trachtenberg, who last week also purchased the adjacent Hebig Electric property at 434 South St., plans to demolish the State Farm building, in order to facilitate operations for his new business (See related story).

“This happened extremely quickly,” said State Farm owner Mark Priegnitz.  “Our property turned out to be one of many moving pieces in something much bigger.”

Priegnitz said he was willing to sell his property, primarily because of the “fantastic opportunity” Chasing Our Tails represents for Tracy.

“The potential opportunities for Tracy could be just dramatic.  It spills over to everything.  I’m very excited about it.”

Moving to a new office, Priegnitz says, will be an opportunity for State Farm in Tracy as well.  He said he is working with Mark Seager, the owner of the John’s Drug building, to remodel the former pharmacy building to suit State Farm’s needs and better serve its customers.

His thoughts are to develop a waiting area at the front of the office, and create more private stations for customers to meet with agents.

“Right now, you enter our office and you are right on top of that first desk,” Priegnitz says. He said that the square footage of the present State Farm office and the Third St. building are about equal.  However, Priegnitz feels that the Third St. space will be easier to work with, since the present office is limited by the building’s long and narrow “telescope” shape.

The installation of Internet and phone services, Priegnitz adds, are an important aspect of the remodeling.

A new store front is also planned, which will include the removal of the building’s chalet-style awning.  Seager says that the exterior work will wait until spring.  A new store will also be built onto the adjacent building J. Mar building that Seager owns at the same time. 

State Farm plans to to be operational at is new location by Feb. 1.  Until then Priegnitz stresses that customer services will be uninterrupted.

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Priegnitz has been Tracy’s State Farm agent since 2000, when he purchased the agency from Darin Vote.  Vote had acquired the agency from long-time State Farm agent Les Onken, who came to Tracy in the mid-1960s and was the Tracy agent for 32 years.  According to long-time Tracy residents, Onken’s State Farm office was always located on Fourth St.

For many years previous, the building was an office for Northern State Power. An NSP repair crew  operated from the building, and customers could pay their electric bills at the office.  The single-story block-construction building has the unusual feature of having two vaults. The doors to the vaults have long been removed, and now function as storage closets.

Beth Lanoue and Deb Saxton, who staff the State Farm office on a daily basis, say that some have suggested that perhaps the building was a bank in Tracy’s early years.  But they point out that the vaults are smaller than what one normally sees in a bank.

Priegnitz said that it is possible that the vaults were once considered a fire and storm-proof place to store vital records in the pre-computer age.