The tuna company considers high-profile move from Kearny Mesa
By Roger Showley
Bumble Bee Foods, North America’s largest branded seafood company, is thinking of returning to its downtown waterfront roots.
CEO Chris Lischewski says the search is on for a roughly 31,000-square-foot space for its 140 corporate employees. The company has been headquartered in its Kearny Mesa building for 10 years.
“While one of the options is stay in the area, we looked at the resurgence downtown — the Gaslamp district, the ballpark, a lot of office buildings — it’s an exciting place to be,” he said.
So far, he said he has seen stand-alone and high-rise spaces that would suit the company’s needs.
“We may be starting the negotiation process within the next month,” he said, and aim for a move-in by early next year.
Bumble Bee had its roots in the Columbia River Packers Association in Oregon in 1899. The brand was established in 1910 and the company took over a San Diego waterfront cannery in 1977.
Through a series of acquisitions and corporate takeovers, the company was acquired in 2010 for $980 million by Lion Capital. Its annual sales exceed $950 million.
Part of the reason for relocating, Lischewski said, is to elevate the company’s presence locally.
“Chicken of the Sea is also here,” he said, making San Diego home to two of the three biggest tuna companies in North America. “When we talk to people they have very little view of that.”
The new location might simply be in a downtown high-rise offering panoramic views of the bay.
But a small stand-alone building with character and charm also would be attractive, he said. Such a setup could include museum space where the company could celebrate its heritage and San Diego’s tuna history.
“We have nothing against Kearny Mesa — it’s a great place, obviously a very affordable place,” he said. “But we think it would be really good for our morale, for our organization to be in some great space downtown, where we have access to all that downtown has to offer.”
John Jarvis, a Hughes Marino broker helping Bumble Bee consider its options, said a new location for any company has the opportunity to “fire up your team.”
“It’s not just about the nickels and dimes and financial element to the transaction,” he said.
By contrast, he said, the company is “off the grid.”
“For any company, they take pride in the headquarters presence, the location, the reason to be here,” Jarvis said. “They might as well leverage that.”
In a broader sense, Jarvis said, companies realize that the workplace is more of a home for their employees since they spend so much time at their job sites.
“The truth is this is a huge opportunity with the real estate to accomplish or enhance employment engagement,” Jarvis said.
He acknowledged the practical problems of operating downtown, particularly the cost of parking. But there are ways to reduce that impact, he said.
“That’s our job,” he said. “We’ll solve that.”
Bumble Bee Foods
Founded: 1899 by fishermen in the Northwest; moved to San Diego in 1977
Current location: 9655 Granite Ridge Drive in Kearny Mesa
Business: Top U.S. producer and marketer of canned salmon, albacore and specialty canned seafood products, No. 2 producer of canned tuna.
Annual sales: $950 million
Jason Hughes is president and CEO of Hughes Marino, an award-winning California commercial real estate company with offices in San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Silicon Valley. A pioneer in the field of tenant representation, Jason has exclusively represented tenants and buyers for more than 25 years. He writes about topics in commercial real estate from a tenant’s perspective on his blog, Downtown Dirt. Contact Jason at 1-844-NO-CONFLICT or email@example.com to learn more.