The old warehouse named for the whistle stop on the Visalia Electric Railroad, located on the north side of Highway 198 east of Spruce Road, has served many owners in its more than a century of existence. A shipping point and packing place for citrus first grew up around where the new Merryman Station now stands.
A sign next to the tracks simply read “Merryman.” It was named after R.C. Merryman, who in 1896 planted the slopes of nearby Badger Hill in oranges.
Those trees came from root stock planted a few years earlier in Porterville and are believed to have been among the earliest navel orange groves in Tulare County. The railroad shipped oranges for more than four decades and then was consolidated into the assets of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
The rail line was eventually abandoned ca. 1960; the rails were removed in the mid-1990s. In the 1980s and ‘90s, the former warehouse was remodeled and used as a restaurant and roadside watering hole.
In 1999, the wooden restaurant building, which was then closed, was consumed by a fire of “suspicious origin.” It was not rebuilt until 2004 when Doug and Luci Long of Visalia opened their Orange Blossom Junction.
The Orange Blossom Junction showcased some incredible guitar players and bands. The restaurant was among the premiere eateries in Tulare County.
The Longs reluctantly shuttered the place in the spring of 2012, citing rising costs as the reason for the closure.
In 2017, a newly remodeled Merryman Station begins a new chapter in the site’s colorful history. This latest remaking of the building as a marketplace and cafe is the pet project of Amanda Hill Thomas of Visalia.
Amanda, also a principal in Franzen-Hill, a fuel facilities construction company based in Tulare, said recently that Merryman Station will be a work in progress, currently making its debut as a gift shop and evolving into a café. The banquet room for catered meetings and special events is already booking and receiving rave reviews.
The marketplace currently features some fine local items and unique children’s gifts. Coming soon is refreshing gelato and freshly brewed coffee.
Stop by for a visit, do a little shopping, and tour of the banquet facilities. Merryman Station’s Marketplace is currently open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.