More than just bricks on the wall

Reed Kimball, pictured here admiring an old tobacco advertisement that was painted decades ago on the shared wall of the building next door to his future laundromat and coffee shop. Photo / Per Peterson

When is a wall more than just a wall? When it contains a piece of Tracy history, and a local businessman aims to preserve it

By Per Peterson

A riddle: What kind of treasure can you find that isn’t worth any money but is worth its weight in bricks?

Reed Kimball has the answer.

During renovation of the old Asian Market building next to the Post Office, Kimball uncovered what was long ago a literal wall-sized advertisement. The words “King Tobacco The Old Reliable” are blocked out in white paint against a background of black brick on the south-facing common wall on the building he purchased from the EDA and plans to transform into a laundromat/coffee shop. At one time — long before the addition of the former Asian Market and Post Office buildings — that particular wall was exposed, essentially making it the first thing visitors to downtown Tracy saw on that side of the street. Kimball believes the advertisement was for the Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco Company. Since the building is actually now two levels, the “Bull Durham” part of the ad, once visible for all to see, can’t be seen because of the ceiling.

“I can image when you got off the train, you’d see this big ad,” said Kimball. “The museum looked into it and said it was a meat market back in the day, and a couple other things. I love the history of it. We’ll clean it up and preserve it as much as we can.”

It’s been about three weeks since Kimball really started tearing into the interior of the building. He said the COVID-19 pandemic slowed things down for his construction business and prevented him from going to his 10-day Marine Corps training session in California, so he took advantage of the extra downtime to focus on his new enterprise.

“I thought, ‘Now is better than ever,’” he said. “I was supposed to have knee surgery, too, so basically for about three weeks, everything was kind of down. Businesses closed down, people got scared, no one was really hiring, so I figured I might as well get to tearing this apart.”

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.