News

Bravo Farms’ Immersive Shops and Dining Are a Valley Treat

Bravo Farms’ Immersive Shops and Dining Are a Valley Treat

Bravo Farms in Kettleman City, Calif. (Courtesy of Vicki Azar)

Summer Lane
Summer Lane

7/7/2024

Updated: 7/8/2024

0

Bravo Farms is synonymous with family-friendly dining and shopping in California’s Central Valley, where they have been serving customers for more than 40 years. 
Also known as “Bravo Land” located in Kettleman City–about an hour south of Fresno—it is one of the only places for travelers to stop on Highway 41 offering visitors relief from a long stretch of driving on the route to the Central Coast.   
Billed as “The 2nd Happiest Place On Earth,” the roadside attraction includes a restaurant, gift shop, wine tasting, an ice cream parlor, and an old west-themed village for kids. 
The gift shop sells items such as dish towels, fridge magnets, local honey, and home décor. They also sell fresh and dried fruit, local olives, artisan cheeses, wine, candy, and nuts. Visitors can even take a photo in front of the shop’s massive 3,000-year-old Redwood tree slab.   
It has been a big hit with customers since it opened in 2014, but there’s more to the story. The business dates to the 1950s in Traver, roughly 25 miles south of Fresno, where it was a simple fruit stand called “The Hitching Post.” 
Things changed in the 1970s after local owners added a gift shop.  
“We had families all over the country in their station wagons, from Kentucky and Ohio, and all over,” said Vicki Azar, owner of The Shoppe at Bravo Farms. 
Ms. Azar and her husband, Helem, purchased the location in 1979 and operated the business in Traver for 18 years. They had left the corporate world in San Francisco to invest in the Central Valley, a move, they say, that brought a unique set of challenges. 
“It was 110 [degrees] when we got there,” she said, reflecting on her first day owning the business.  
She said they worked seven days a week and turned the location into a popular local destination. 
Over the years, the Azars say they watched other local businesses come and go.  
“They’ve all closed,” she said. “They couldn’t sustain.” 
But they stayed afloat, even during economic downturns like the 2008 recession.  
An aerial view of “Bravo Land” in Kettleman City, Calif. (Courtesy of Vicki Azar)

An aerial view of “Bravo Land” in Kettleman City, Calif. (Courtesy of Vicki Azar)

“Any other couple—the ups and downs of business—any other couple would have closed,” Ms. Azar said.  
They sold the operation to a dairy farmer named Jon Van Ryn in 1997, but the Azars still operate the gift shops in Traver and Kettleman City. 
“We went through a lot of hard times, but it was worth it,” she said. “God is good.” 
Today, Bravo Farms in Traver is near Highway 99 and has a gas station, restaurant, gift shop, shooting gallery, petting zoo, and a seven-story treehouse. Customers can even reserve space in the restaurant for events like birthday parties or weddings. 
Bravo Farms also operates a restaurant and smaller gift shop in the Tulare Outlets about 15 minutes south of Traver, known for serving fresh salads and deep-fried cheese curds. 
The food and cheeses offered by Bravo Farms are the brainchild of Mr. Van Ryn. He owns the company’s restaurants in Kettleman City, Traver, Tulare, and a newly opened location in Visalia, roughly 15 miles northeast of Highway 99. 
The bar at Bravo Farms Restaurant on Main Street in Visalia, Calif. (Courtesy of Jonathan Van Ryn)

The bar at Bravo Farms Restaurant on Main Street in Visalia, Calif. (Courtesy of Jonathan Van Ryn)

Many artisan cheeses offered in Bravo Farms’ shops come from Mr. Van Ryn’s Vintage Cheese creamery at the Traver location. Visitors can occasionally watch the “award-winning” cheese being made. Its hand-scooped ice cream is made with local “Rosa Brothers” milk, a well-known product from nearby dairy country in Hanford. 
“I grew up on a dairy,” Mr. Van Ryn said. “[I] went to Cal Poly to study cows and ended up getting a degree in cheese making.” 
He said his father had owned Bravo Farms for several years before he got involved with cheesemaking, but eventually, his artisan cheeses ended up being sold in the gift shop.  
Bravo Farms’ original location in Traver, Calif. (Courtesy of Vicki Azar)

Bravo Farms’ original location in Traver, Calif. (Courtesy of Vicki Azar)

Originally called “Bravo Farms Cheese,” he later switched the name to “Vintage Cheese.” Despite the rebranding, “Bravo Farms” has remained the company’s official title. 
Mr. Van Ryn is especially proud of his newest restaurant in Visalia, which serves higher-end entrees and craft cocktails.  
“It’s been amazing, about double what I thought it would be from day one,” he said. “I guess the need for something like that was there [locally].”
Copy
facebooktwitterlinkedintelegram

Summer Lane is the bestselling author of 30 adventure books, including the hit "Collapse Series." She is a reporter and writer with years of experience in journalism and political analysis. Summer is a wife and mother and lives in the Central Valley of California.

Author's Selected Articles
California Insider
Sign up here for our email newsletter!
©2024 California Insider All Rights Reserved. California Insider is a part of Epoch Media Group.