Fred's Place is that place where everyone knows your name

5/23/2014

By RENÃâE JEAN

By RENÃâE JEAN

rjean@gctelegram.com

Meeting Fred Medina for the first time is not as simple as a handshake.

The business owner has a large family, and you have to meet them all to meet Fred. That'll take some time, but you'll begin to get a sense of the large network underlying the business he runs on the outskirts of Garden City proper, called Fred's Place.

There are always a number of family members about. A grandson might be manning the fry station, while another family member takes orders. Meanwhile Fred is probably answering the phone to check on a nieces.

Fred's Place is a private club, which Medina says helps keep trouble makers out. It also provides a place where smoking is allowed, in an environment where everyone knows your name.

Medina owns the club. He's 75, but for him, retirement is nowhere in sight. He's tried that already, and it didn't work for him.

"I've got to be on the go," Medina says. "If not, I don't know what I would be doing. I have a lot of relatives who tell me, Fred, why don't you retire? But this is what keeps me going."

Medina arrives at work every day at 10 a.m. to stock up the bar for the evening crowd. The bar and grill is open from 5 p.m. to midnight weekdays. On weekends, hours are extended a little, from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to midnight Sundays.

Medina used to work at Palmer Manufacturing in maintenance, and prior to that he was a supervisor at the old ConAgra beef packing plant before a fire forced its closing. He opened Fred's Place about 13 years ago while still employed at Palmer's, but running a bar has been a side business for about 25 years. He recalls having the West Side on Fulton Street for about four years, and before then he ran a bar for American GI Forum.

He credits an uncle in Los Angeles who owns three bars for his interest. In hisyouth, Medina help ed the uncle out at the bar and enjoyed it. So much, in fact, that the uncle offered to let Medina take over an establishment when he got out of the service.

Medina stopped off in Garden City to visit family first, however, and in doing so, sealed his fate.

Happily, he would add.

"I met my wife and married her, and I never left for California," Medina said, "at least, not to run anything. I do visit quite a bit."

He and his wife have been married 54 years and have four children. Their anniversary date is on April 15. Neither of them could say for certain why they had chosen tax day for their wedding date so many years ago, but they could recall with a smile how they met each other at a Mexican dance.

"My wife was born in Wyoming," he says, "and when she was still small, her mom and dad got a divorce. They moved to Deerfield, which is 15 to 20 miles from here."

Medina was born in Garden City, on the other hand, one of eight siblings. His nieces and nephews include the softball trio recently featured in The Telegram, Haley Saldana, Shai Cartmill and Jordan Terrones, as well as the late Braxston Medina, a talented Garden City High School wrestler who was shot and killed in 2011 at age 18. An entire wall in Fred's Place is devoted to Braxston's memory and the lives he touched.

Medina didn't intend to remain in Garden City his whole life. He had decided his junior year in high school that he would escape sooner rather than later. He joined the service — not only to see the world, but also to stay out of trouble.

"At the time, little gang bangers were just starting up," Medina said. "I never believed in that, but they were around, and to stay out of trouble — that's why I joined the service. It was one of the best things to me that I ever did. I grew up. I grew up a lot."

While in the service, Medina trained with the military police, taking advanced classes at a German base near a Swiss ski resort.

"We never went skiing," he said, "but we did take the lift service to a bar over there quite often."

After the service, Medina got his GED and took a smattering of subjects from Garden City Community College, feeling out what his interests might be. He took some welding, some automotive, some psychology, some sociology ... until his GI bill ran out.

"I wasn't pursuing a degree, I was just trying to learn," Medina said. "That's probably what kept me going here though," he adds, referring to the psychology and sociology classes. "I've always been good with people, but on something like this, it has come in handy. Everyone has a different personality when they are sober vs. under the influence."

Medina has seen many changes in Garden City.

"There are a lot of stores going up on the east side of town, which is good for the economy. But the thing is, people have to earn money before they can go out and spend it," he says.

He also remembers a time when the police department had all local officers.

"Now, they bring people in from out of town and out of state, and they only stay here a couple of years before they go back to where they are from. That's a major change," he said.

Garden City has been a great place to live, however, and he feels he's traveled enough to have a sound basis for that comparison.

"The zoo here is one of the best zoos around the state," he said, "and the swimming pool, it's one of the largest. It used to be free, but they charge a little bit now. There are bypasses going up and new restaurants going in and everything — Garden City is a good place to live. It's not too big yet, but whatever you want, it's here."

He believes his business has been successful largely because he is a good listener.

"A little common courtesy will go a long ways," he said. "If you treat people the way you would want to be treated and you gain their confidence, you can make a go of it. It takes work and a lot of time, though. You can't sit back and take it easy."

He also recommends hiring people who are good with people.

"You've gotta help out your employees, but if you can let them go and just kind of lead them, you'll get good results," he says.

And finally, he recommends studying all the laws that pertain to whatever type of business you own.

"Make sure you know before you get into something what you are getting into," he said. "And make sure you are in the right place."

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