Around the world in Oroville

A trip through the historic downtown businesses, via First Fridays

How ’bout that mega storm we were supposed to have throughout the North State last weekend? If you’re like me and don’t live in the higher altitudes, you may have battened down the hatches, preparing for the worst, only to be bothered by a few sprinkles. Oh well.

The storm warning did put a damper on some community events, however, which is really kind of a bummer. The one I attended, for example, the Oroville Downtown Business Association’s First Fridays event, themed “Around the World Food & Drink Tasting,” saw a lackluster turnout—mostly due to the threat of weather, organizers told me. There were some sprinkles, but nothing warranting even an umbrella. Those who sat at home missed out!

Indeed, I did have a fun time touring the historic downtown district and wandering into a number of businesses I’d not visited before. Unfortunately, my date was home sick, so I made the venture solo, but no matter. I checked in at Butte County Wine Co. and received my passport, with an easy-to-follow map of participating businesses and the countries they’d decided to represent.

I admittedly didn’t make it to all the stops, and some had run out of snacks by the time I got there (I wasn’t able to leave Chico till I finished work at 5:30, getting me there with an hour to spare). But here are some highlights:

Coolest new store: California Charmer Girl (1354 Myers St). I chatted it up with Margaret Shoffner, who served me a delicious homemade biscotti (she was representing Italy) and explained her store as one where nothing costs more than $40. She opened late last year and every month, she gets in new inventory and the old stuff goes on clearance, so there’s always something new. Plus, sizes range from extra small to 3X. In browsing the racks, I found the styles to be very much California beach-themed. Best of luck, Margaret!

More cool threads: Downtown Oroville has an impressive selection of clothing stores, each one with its own brand of personality. At Pardon My French (1925 Montgomery St.), the vibe was funky and fun. Sourdough and brie evoked the essence of France, and I really liked the sassy items mixed in with the trendy. Lowla’s Boutique (1360 Myers St.) was super cute and homey, specializing in clothing with a rockabilly twist. They served up fruity cocktails in honor of the Polynesian Islands.

Best food/drinks: These were easy. While some places clearly took the path of least resistance, others went all out in their world menus, while still offering small portions. In the food realm, one of the top contenders has to be The Exchange (1975 Montgomery St.) and its killer Portuguese stew. But the overall trophy (if I had one) would have to go to Miner’s Alley Brewing Co., which served up some delicious fish and chips along with samples of British Bulldog Brewery’s beers. Now, that hit the spot!

The ODBA holds First Fridays—you guessed it—every first Friday of the month, each with a different theme, so be sure to check their website ( on updates for April.