Heart of the city beating proudly

Alan Chamberlain is a strategic planning consultant in downtown Chico and secretary of the Downtown Chico Business Association’s board of directors.

The “Best of Chico” results were announced last week, and I can’t resist the impulse to observe that our magnificent downtown totally dominated the competition.

There are more than 6,000 business licenses in Chico, and only about 450 of them are in the boundaries of the Downtown Chico Business Association. Yet, out of more than 270 total awards (first, second and third place, including ties) in relevant categories (not media personalities or public servants, etc.), more than 100 went to downtown businesses, institutions, nonprofits or features.

This disparity in the readers’ picks was most pronounced in the Food and Drink section, where downtown eateries took 18 first-place awards and completely swept the Dessert and Ice Cream categories. In the Nightlife and Entertainment section, downtown saloons, galleries and theaters took nine firsts and swept four categories: Bar, Bartender, Place to Dance, and Place for a Glass of Wine.

In the combined hospitality sections, downtown scored 35 of 83 places awarded, or 42 percent. Indeed, downtown hospitality establishments placed in practically every category included in the poll.

Where downtown did not score at all is also interesting. We were shut out of the Chain Restaurant and Taco Truck categories, for example. That said, I think Madison Bear Garden and Fifth Street Steakhouse were robbed in the Best Burger category.

In other segments, downtown also did well. We swept the Women’s Clothier, Gift Store, and Place to Buy Flowers categories—and would have swept the Bike Shop category if Sports LTD had not moved out a few years ago. Downtown scored two places in both the Bookstore and Music/Record Store categories. In the non-commercial domain, downtown swept both the Community Event and Public Art categories.

It is probably just as well that we didn’t claim any medals in the Thrift Store or Take-Out categories. And while we didn’t score for New Restaurant or Italian Food, I suspect that will change next year, with two new restaurants going into the old Bank of America building at Second and Broadway streets, including Crush—Celestino’s new fine-dining entry.

Downtown clearly is the home of Chico’s most popular purveyors. Of course, downtown is a popular destination in its own right, so businesses located there enjoy an unfair advantage in a reader poll of favorite places to shop, eat, socialize and work. But it also seems that those businesses that place a premium on excellence, leadership and customer service self-select for downtown.

Congratulations to all the downtown winners, and thanks for making downtown Chico one of the “Best of California.”