Four area women have launched the for-profit Center for Republican Values LLC.
Ventura County Star
A year after it opened, the Republican Values Center in Simi Valley is closing, but plans to resurrect itself as American Values Central.
The for-profit business center will shutter Monday because its landlord won’t renew its lease for the 3,600-square-foot space it occupies at 2878 Cochran St. in a shopping center, the group’s president, Patricia Saraceno, said Friday.
The for-profit Republican Values Center opened in Simi Valley in November 2019. The center offered a gathering place for conservatives and leased space to vendors ranging from sellers of Trump memorabilia to a political action committee. (Photo: TOM KISKEN/THE STAR)
“The closure of the RVC isn’t necessarily by choice,” said Saraceno, of Simi Valley, one of the center’s founders. “It’s because we couldn’t get our lease renewed.”
The center opened in November 2019 to promote Republican party and conservative political values.
It hosted conservative speakers, including Newbury Park Pastor Rob McCoy and U.S. Rep. Mike Garcia, a Republican who holds a 405-vote lead over Democrat Christy Smith in the race for the 25th Congressional District.
It also hosted a debate in February for several of the Republican candidates, including Garcia, then vying for the 25th District seat.
A dozen vendors rented space at the center, including a political action committee called Save California and a business known as ROAR, Respecting Our American Republic, that sells merchandise including an inventory of President Donald Trump gear that ranges from a watch to election year socks.
Saraceno said the center’s landlord, Larry Fishman, of Cayucos-based Fishman Investments, informed her in a Sept. 29 email that his firm would not be renewing the center’s lease for $3,709 a month in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After considerable thought we have made the decision not to renew your lease,” Fishman wrote in the email. “We are in the process of implementing new business plans to address the problems caused by the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn.
“In order to make the center look more traditional to our new target tenants, it is necessary to reduce the amount of tenants that are not typically located in these types of shopping centers,” he wrote.
Fishman did not immediately reply to an email from the Star seeking comment.
Saraceno said the closure of the center, which supported Trump’s re-election bid, is not related to the Nov. 3 election.
“It has nothing to do with Trump or the election,” she said.
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Republican Trump has not yet conceded the election to Democrat Joe Biden and has argued that the election was allegedly stolen from him through voter fraud.
Saraceno agrees, saying she doesn’t believe Biden was legitimately elected.
“I believe the election integrity was compromised,” she said. “I don’t know one person who voted for Biden.”
Simi Valley is traditionally known as a politically conservative city where registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats.
But the city’s demographics are changing.
In 2018, Ruth Luevanos was elected on a progressive platform as the first Latina Simi Valley City Councilwoman.
More recently, progressive activists have sparked a debate on the extent of racism in the city, polarizing residents.
Saraceno said the center, which had started to turn a profit, has looked for another space to lease, but “we’re holding back for now. In an unpredictable COVID environment, to get the size space we need” is challenging.
“But more importantly, the Republican Values Center will be resurrected and re-branded as American Values Central,” she said, noting that there already is a Center for American Values in Colorado.
“That will give people an opportunity not to be partisan,” she said.
Saraceno said that the center has accomplished its mission in the year it was open.
“We created something that will live beyond the RVC,” she said. “A grass-roots movement that was based on conservative values.”
Another one of the center’s founders, Jeanne Llewellyn, agreed.
“The community flocked to the brick and mortar: to gather, to organize, to rally for our candidates,” she wrote in a post on the center’s Facebook page.
“Conservatives came forward, found their voice, and found community where before there was none,” she said. “… Disenfranchised Republican, Libertarian and independent voters found strength and camaraderie.”
Llewellyn said “conservative politics, I dare say, became vogue. There is safety in numbers and the RVC showed folks they weren’t alone.”
She ended her post with Trump’s campaign hashtag, #MAGA, which stands for Make America Great Again.
Saraceno said there are some Simi Valley residents who are upset that the center isn’t staying in the Cochran Street space.
Leanna Brand isn’t one of them.
“I am relieved that the RVC is closing,” said Brand, leader of the progressive group Indivisible Simi Valley.
“The center was forged to exclude all viewpoints but right winged viewpoints and contributed to much misinformation in Simi Valley,” she said. “RVC closing will not end the divisiveness happening in Simi Valley, but perhaps it is a start of some healing.”
Saraceno said the Republican Values Center will keep its online presence until its re-branding.
Its Facebook page is facebook.com/RepublicanValuesCenter, and it has a website too, rvalues.us.
The center at 2878 Cochran St. is holding the last of three “Holiday Boutique Marketplaces” on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Mike Harris covers the East County cities of Moorpark, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks and Ventura, as well as transportation countywide. You can contact him at [email protected] or 805-437-0323.
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