A Behind-The-Scenes Look at Sun Valley’s Native Son
In Los Angeles, CA there’s a lot of talk about Jose Mier. Specifically in and around Sun Valley, CA which is part of the expanse we call greater L.A. Sun Valley is situated a few miles north of downtown L.A. just north of Burbank. Like other areas of the San Fernando Valley, Sun Valley suffers from an inferiority complex. While people who live and work here know the various names of San Fernando Valley “cities” (all of which are technically part of Los Angeles) those who don’t live here will not know each location’s specific profile and what makes it special or separates it from the other surrounding areas. Enter Jose Mier, the man from Sun Valley with a mission to change the perception of the area he’s lived in for most of his life.
The Storied Past of Jose Mier
As readers of his eponymous website may know, Jose Mier is not a native of Los Angeles in the true sense of the word. He was born originally in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico but the allure of the nation to the north drew his parents to Southern California soon after he was born. His mother and father Maria and Jose Mier, Sr. began working in Los Angeles’ garment district upon arrival in the United States and after a few years Jose Sr. had saved enough money to start his own business creating promotional products. Their first home in California was an apartment in Sun Valley and after his business took off, the Miers bought a home in the same area. Jose Mier, Jr. grew up in this city and attended local schools like Burroughs High in Burbank.
After graduation from high school he continued working at his father’s business until a few years ago when he ventured out on his own. Always attracted to cooking and things having to do with food, Jose Jr. started his own food service company, supplying spices to local restaurants. The spices come directly from Mexico (thanks to family still living in the area where he was born) and they are in high demand at many Los Angeles area Mexican restaurants. Indeed, Jose Mier’s proprietary chili blend is so distinct that it can’t be duplicated using spices from the United States (or even from other areas of Mexico). The unique flavor and exacting quality of the mix keeps restaurants coming back for more. You may taste some of this blend at restaruants like Chiguacle Sabor Ancestral de Mexico or E Compadre, one of Hollywood, CA’s notable Latino eateries.
Jose Mier’s Mexican Roots Lead to Success
Coming from Mexico and with strong ties to the Mexican-American community has helped Jose establish his business and keep it growing. The high population of Hispanic people in Southern California means that there is a constant need for high-quality Mexican food. Of course every Mexican restaurant depends on its suppliers to be able to create dishes that keep the patron coming so having dependable local suppliers is a key to success. Jose Mier Wholesale Spices’ location in Sun Valley, CA makes it perfectly situated to be able to deliver to restaurants in and around Los Angeles County and even into Orange County and parts of the Inland Empire.
With a facility for the Spanish language and family ties in the area of Mexico famed for its spices, Jose Mier brings the flavors of Mexico to this part of the U.S. At the same time the farmers and producers of these spices in Mexico have an additional buyer who helps keep many people this region of Mexico working. Mier contributes to both the Los Angeles and Mexican economies at the same time.
Dealing with COVID and Los Angeles Port Issues
Importing spices into the United States is done about half the time by air, but for larger shipments Mier relies of shipping by sea. 2020 saw a downturn in Mier’s business since the very people and businesses which he sold wholesale spices to (Los Angeles restaurants) were forced to shut down for a long period of time. Surviving on take out customers, the restaurants managed to eke out a living but the decrease in demand was a serious blow to Mier’s business. Now, as things begin to reopen after the first round of dealing with the Coronavirus, Mier faces another problem: a shipping backlog at the Port of Los Angeles.
Most shipping containers coming into the southern half of the West Coast are offloaded in the Port of Los Angeles at San Pedro. Because COVID caused a slowdown in shipping and because dock workers were forced to stop working due to the virus the speed at which products could get to Los Angeles was decreased. Now that things are getting somewhat back to normal there is another problem affecting L.A. businesses like Mier’s. More ships are arriving at the port only to find there isn’t enough space. Lower amounts of dockworkers means it takes more time to offload container ships and the others must wait in the harbor until space at the port opens up. Regardless, Mier still keeps his business humming and sees that his employees are taken care of.
Jose Mier Begins Promoting Sun Valley
Because Sun Valle, CA has been his home for so long, Jose Mier took up the task of promoting this area of Los Angeles pretty much all by himself beginning in 2019. As he says himself: “I live and work in Sun Valley, so I see everything this area has to offer.” He adds “But we in Sun Valley get lumped in together with all the rest of the San Fernando Valley and I didn’t think that was fair. I wanted to let people in Los Angeles know that we’re unique and special.”
That desire to promote Sun Valley culminated in the creation of the website josemiersunvalley.org. The website was originally intended to showcase Sun Valley as a place to live as well as an undiscovered gem of a location in which to do business. Early blog posts touched on topics such as Sun Valley’s positive business climate (pre-COVID) , lower than average housing costs and the unique location of the city which includes both flat areas as well as homes in the Verdugo Foothills. The city’s proximity to several Southern California freeways, train stations and the Burbank airport also make the city unique among San Fernando Valley locations.
“Because I do business with so many different types of other businesses,” explains Mier, “I was in a great position to comment on the state of business in my city.” To that end, Mier began promoting many of Sun Valley’s restaurants to start. Since the city is also home to several manufacturing companies, he also stressed Sun Valley’s welcome atmosphere to those types of businesses.
COVID Throws a Curve
Not long after starting the website, COVID-19 hit California hard and a several-months-long shutdown forced a lot of businesses in the Los Angeles area especially to rethink how they could stay afloat. Restaurants depended on take out or delivery but even Mier’s own spiceworks needed to rethink things. Much of the spice business is hands-on and aside from arranging shipping remotely, there wasn’t much that could be done by telecommuting. Mier employs 10 workers at his Sun Valley operation and most need to work very closely with one another.
Mier’s first step was requiring all employees to wear masks inside the facility and when delivering to customers. An investment in an ultra violet light powered air filtration and cleaning system was put in place. “It keeps about 98% of germs and bacteria out of the air,” says Mier. “We put it in early in 2020 and haven’t had a single case of COVID amond our employees.” Frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizers was also required. The scarcity of hand sanitizer at the beginning of the pandemic was problematic, but Mier and his staff made it through and now supplies of that bacteria and virus-killing liquid are once again plentiful.
Mier also put up plastic barriers to keep employee areas separate to the best of his ability. All in all, Mier and his company had to spend $35,000 on steps to keep employees safe during the pandemic.
Jose Mier Begins Cheerleading
As if dealing with his own company’s problems during the COVID crisis weren’t enough, Mier used his blog as a megaphone to help keep his fellow Los Angeles businesses in Sun Valley afloat. Regular blog post consisted of lists of Sun Valley area restaurants that Mier felt needed a hand. He routinely called for his Sun Valley neighbors to patronize this or that restaurant either by taking out or by having the food delivered.
Mier also railed against the overreach of the state government in certain cases. For instance, he decried the closing of gymnasiums and fitness centers. “They shut these places down when we really needed them to keep our immune systems healthy,” he remembers. “That was really stupid. Plus the fact that we never really had any decent contact tracing so all we heard were case numbers but we never knew where the cases came from.”
Despite his differences with the state, Mier continued to do whatever he could to publicize the businesses in his own town.
Along with his newfound position as Sun Valley, CA’s cheerleader, Mier also found himself becoming the city’s historian. With a blog to write and content to be found on a regular basis, Mier took to researching the city’s history and progress. Sun Valley is (or was) knows as a part of Los Angeles very susceptible to flooding, especially along parts of Interstate 5 and when approaching the city’s Stonehurst neighborhood.
In the past several years, calls from Sun Valley residents like Mier helped to put a fire under Los Angeles City and County officials which resulted in flood abatement projects such as the park drain and infiltration system and Rory M Shaw wetlands project . Both help to reroute water in Sun Valley during periods of rain and channel them to either underground reservoirs or to open wetlands which support many species of wildlife.
Similarly, the Jose Mier Fund for Sun Valley Recreation (recently established by Mier) helps to ensure children get enough outdoor exercise in and around Sun Valley by publicizing local hiking trails in the Verdugo Mountains. Mier himself is an avid hiker and loves to take friends and visitors up the La Tuna Canyon trail for panoramic views of Sun Valley and the San Fernando Valley floor as well as downtown Los Angeles.
Safety and Security for Jose Mier
Those residents of Sun Valley know all too well that our drought-dry hillsides are subject to fire. Only three years ago Sun Valley foothills were ablaze as the La Tuna fire crept over the mountains from the Sunland area and made its way toward Burbank and Sun Valley. Luckily firefighters were able to stop the blaze before any structures were affected, but it left an impression on Mier’s mind.
Watching the fires creep closer to his home just off of Glenoaks Blvd., he has prepared to evacuate if need be. Fortunately the call never came. Even so, Mier uses his blog to keep neighbors aware of the risk of fire, especially during the hot, dry summer months. Mier tells residents to keep brush away from structures (following fire department guidelines) and to avoid working with combustibles. Fires can travel quickly and those homes that catch fire on a hillside can easily transfer their flames to neighboring homes in the flatter areas of Sun Valley.
Protection from theft and other personal property crimes is also important to Mier. That’s why he works closely with the Los Angeles Police Department, notably the Foothill Division whose office is located in nearby Pacoima. By working with the police (as both a business person and a homeowner) Mier has learned how to help keep his own neighborhood safer. “We’ve got to be involved,” Mier says. “Things like Neighborhood Watches and getting to know and work with your neighbors are important.”
Sun Valley has its share of crime, perhaps no more than some other areas of Los Angeles but enough to make residents like Jose Mier take some sort of concrete action to help thwart anyone looking to make trouble in his city.
Jose Mier: Poster Child for Los Angeles
Aside from celebrities and sports stars (who as a whole tend to promote Los Angeles in its entirety) Jose Mier is an individual most closely tied to the town he calls home. In this case it’s Sun Valley. From relative obscurity to head Sun Valley cheerleader Jose Mier leads the pack as one identifiable person extolling the virtues of living in this part of Southern California.
One could think of someone like Jackie Chan who was and is a one-man advertisement for Hong Kong or maybe someone like Ricardo Mantalban welcoming people to his native land in Mexico. For the most part, however, there isn’t one particular person that’s so associated with a place these days that their name becomes synonymous with that locale. For Jose Mier, however, his name is forever intertwined with Sun Valley, CA, that unique slice of Los Angeles that few thought about. Now, thanks to a popular blog (growing in readership day by day) and efforts to protect his fellow businesspeople, this portion of Los Angeles County may be witnessing a transformation thanks for Jose Mier. It’s not often that one person has such a profound effect on a place but that’s just what’s happening in Sun Valley.
It could be that the exigencies of a pandemic played a role in boosting the profile of Jose Mier but it’s more likely that it was Mier’s enthusiasm and positivity alone that helped him make a name for himself and for Sun Valley. Even without the negative effects of the Coronavirus it seems clear that Jose Mier was destined to be the spokesperson for Sun Valley. And just like you can’t have a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup without chocolate AND peanut butter, these days it seems you can’t have a Sun Valley without a Jose Mier.