Blast from the past

As we bid farewell to a downtown staple, building set to return to original state

An artist’s rendering of the remodeled Morehead Building.

An artist’s rendering of the remodeled Morehead Building.

As many may have heard by now—and many surely have, as demonstrated by the crowd I witnessed earlier this week—House of Rice is preparing to permanently shut its doors. In speaking with owner Harold Park, his wide smile at the mention of closing indicates he’s ready for change.

“After we close May 31, we will go on a worldwide tour,” he said, referring to himself and wife, Catherine. “We’ve been open 44 years. That’s 10 hours a day, seven days a week. I’m 79 years old—I decided to quit before my 80s.”

House of Rice is one of those unique Chico spots, filled with beautiful Asian artwork and furniture, plus a variety of foodstuffs unavailable almost anywhere else, cooking and dining utensils and knickknacks of all stripes. There’s also a wall filled with Harold’s photography.

After a 45-day cruise around the world, Harold said, Catherine plans to spend some time learning the art of flower arrangement. For his part, he hopes to thrust himself fully into his photography and even has plans to compile a book of photographs of Chico.

I, for one, will miss the quirky little shop, which has resided at 338 Broadway for 28 years. Upon mentioning the CN&R, Harold laughed—“I was the CN&R’s first customer!” he said. The store will be open until May 31.

Bigger picture House of Rice isn’t the only business departing the Morehead Building. I received an email last week from Janet Lombardi Blixt, whose Chico Art School & Gallery has resided on the second floor for nine years. “Wayne Cook is expanding the Hotel Diamond and my upstairs rental place is part of his expansion plans so I had to move,” she told me. The good news: She’s relocated to a super cute house just a few blocks away, at 261 E. Third St. She held her first class there Monday (April 9).

Of course, I was familiar with Cook’s expansion and renovation plans—he laid them out years ago, but they are just now coming to fruition. He brought them before the city’s Architectural Review and Historic Preservation Board last week and they were approved, according to Associate Planner Kimber Gutierrez. The plans include a full façade remodel of the Morehead Building to its original state, including an expansion of the Hotel Diamond into that building’s second floor. Schematics show House of Rice becoming a restaurant with an outdoor patio that will be shared with The Rawbar (eliminating two parking spaces on Broadway). The remaining first-floor tenants—Red Fly and 5th Street Clothing Co.—appear unaffected (and when I popped in to chat, employees at both said they planned to remain in place).