California’s nickname, the Golden State, has been said to refer to the discovery of gold in 1849 and to the fields of golden poppies that can be seen in spring throughout the state, but in the 1870s the gold in California was in the millions of acres of wheat and barley that dominated a booming farm economy. In the midst of these golden fields, in the fledgling town and railroad stop of Fresno, California, Adolph Kutner and Samuel Goldstein established a business to supply the area’s farmers and purchase their product.
First opening its doors in 1878 at the corner of H and Mariposa Streets, Kutner & Goldstein soon expanded into Centerville, Hanford and other communities. The company’s history in Hanford included a grand emporium at the corner of 7th and Irwin streets, built in 1900 and destroyed by fire in 1928.
In 1930, Kutner & Goldstein managers Maurice A. Penny and David Newman bought the company from their employers and renamed it Penny-Newman Grain Company. Frank Moradian, who had started with the company as a clerk at age 18 and learned the grain trade at the hand of Penny, in turn bought the company in 1943.
Moradian had been a childhood friend of William Saroyan, and in Saroyan’s autobiographical novella Follow,Saroyan’s character tells his friend he is leaving Fresno, hoping the friend will accompany him. The friend does not want to leave, explaining that he has a job lined up at a local grain company.
Moradian operated Penny-Newman for more than 40 years. In addition to presiding over continuing growth and success of the company, he was active in agriculture industry associations and, along with his wife, Roxie, was a prominent area philanthropist. Moradian served as president of the Northern California Grain Exchange and was a director of the National Grain Trading Council. In Fresno, the Moradians were instrumental in the establishment of Valley Children’s Hospital and the Fresno Arts Center, and supported many other cultural and civic endeavors.
Mike Nicoletti came to Penny Newman in 1974 on graduation from the University of Santa Clara. He worked closely with Moradian in all aspects of the business for 13 years and became president of the company upon Moradian’s retirement. Nicoletti purchased the company with fellow employees James Netto and Jeff Barnes in 1988. Netto headed the company’s feed division in Hanford and Barnes ran the Sacramento office, merchandising rice and feed by-products.
The ContiGroup Companies sold Penny-Newman its grain elevator and deep-water port facility in Stockton in 2000, giving Penny-Newman one of the largest grain storage facilities on the west coast and direct access to foreign markets for its grain and by-products trading business.
In 2003, Penny-Newman purchased the 62-acre former site of the Ranchers Cottonseed Oil mill in south Fresno. Initially used for dry commodity warehousing and transloading, the site became the company headquarters in 2005, and now includes a liquid feed manufacturing and storage operation, and the company’s raisin tray manufacturing facility.