Everybody’s business

Photo By Tom Angel

To the limit
A rock-climbing wall. More than 222,000 square feet of space. Showers for bike-riding employees. A “lounge” for TV-watchers. A drive-in bay to install car racks. A cool Gregg Payne mural. The new Sports LTD is quite impressive.

“Everything I’m doing here is stuff I’ve had in my mind for 20 years,” said owner Matt Smith. “I wanted to create an atmosphere that was real positive and fun.” He’s been able to take tons of clothing, camping gear, bikes and other merchandise out of storage and into the display area. “The old store was not representative because we could not put stuff out.”

Smith decided to make the move from 240 Main St., the former Oser’s building, several months ago. Holiday sales had been so-so, and Safeway put together a good deal for its former store on Mangrove Avenue.

After being downtown for 18 years, there are a lot of things Smith will miss, but not the lack of parking. “They always say it’s just a perception, but it’s not. It’s a big problem. … Downtown has become an area for bars, bookstores and bistros.”

The new store opened on June 10 (Smith had kids ride the bikes over), and on the second day sales were double normal.

After all the improvements, I couldn’t even tell it used to be a supermarket, although I did recognize that the bike repair shop is where the butcher shop used to be.

Magic carpet ride
I ventured downtown and found some fun developments, along with a guy on a motorcycle driving two kids in a sidecar. Nantucket’s new rug store is open on Main Street, and Artifax has started the way-cool Atomic Lounge on Third Street, which is a trip down Memory Lane for those of us who were kids in the ’70s and earlier. Think fuzzy bathroom scales and turtle footstools (pictured).

Stationery history
A pair of sisters, Sigrid Bathen and Sandy Fellows, contacted me to point out there’s more to the story of Sierra Stationers, which recently moved from the downtown as I reported here June 5. Their father, the late Eric Bathen, and his wife Dulcie bought the business in 1949 and renamed it Sierra Stationers.

“I hope you have the decency to make amends to the history of Sierra Stationers and to Eric and Dulcie Bathen,” wrote Fellows, who also reported that it was not until 1975 that Bathen sold Sierra Stationers to the Dow family.

A native of Norway, Eric Bathen was regarded as a hard worker, family man and skilled salesman who was meticulous about his store and sought to create eye-catching store and window displays. He served on several city committees, was the local campaign manager for Ronald Reagan’s governorship and was Chico’s mayor from 1972-73.

Freeloaders fill up on coffee
Of course I joined much of Chico in waiting in line for free drinks at Dutch Bros. coffee on East Park Avenue. It was tasty.

This is the first California kiosk for the Grants Pass, Ore.-based company.

Dave Morris of Dutch Bros. (Dan and Michael Richardson are the local franchisees) said the stand has been doing a booming business since it opened, although it was deserted when I drove by on not-free Sunday. The owners, he said, “have never been bottom-line guys. They just want to create raving fans.” He figures they gave away between 4,000 and 5,000 drinks last Friday and Saturday.