New Heights

A popular downtown Chico restaurant has come up with a fun new name that signifies a transition: Jasco Heights. The name represents “new heights” for the restaurant, which is on the second floor of the Phoenix Building, but it also makes me want to sing the theme from The Patty Duke Show. ("Patty’s only seen the sights a girl can see from Brooklyn Heights…")

Paul and Shannon Lavery bought the restaurant from Steven Jasco last July and since then have been redecorating (Shannon’s art and faux-finishing knowledge inspired an art deco theme), making things extra-clean and getting set to expand the kitchen for even faster service.

“It’s going great,” said Paul Lavery, who had managed and cooked at upscale restaurants from Austin to Australia before becoming the manager at Jasco’s. He takes a hands-on approach to restaurant ownership. “I’m very big on going to each table and seeing how everything’s going.”

They’ve kept the old favorites—focaccia bread, Caesar salad and so on—on the menu but have also added some new dishes, including dinners of Lavery’s creation, such as spicy prawn rotini alfredo and baked salmon. “If we put it on the menu, it has to be something to write home about” is Lavery’s credo.

Mall math

Whoa! I didn’t even know we could get these figures. The Chico Mall is proud of the business its merchants did over the holidays and sent out a press release stating sales were up 6.3 percent in December from the prior year at that time.

They even list the top five stores in terms of sales increases, comparing December 2002 to December 2001: Crescent Jewelers (up 57.8 percent), Thomas Kinkade Secret Garden Gallery (up 48.9 percent), Ritz Camera (up 40.8 percent), Kay Jewelers (up 23.1 percent) and Johnson’s Family Shoes (up 23.1 percent).

For the entire year of 2002 compared to 2001, the biggest sales increases went to: Weekend Wearhouse (up 23.1 percent), Crescent Jewelers (up 19 percent), Sports Fever (up 18.6 percent), Picture People (up 18.1 percent) and Littman Jewelers (up 12.1 percent).

I called the mall’s marketing manager, Carrie Denniston, and asked whether, since media people are such negative downer types, we could get the figures for the stores that showed a decline in sales. Nope! But she did share some losers by category. Comparing 2002 to 2001, women’s apparel was down 5.1 percent, shoes sales were down 2.5 percent and electronics and music was down a whopping 11.8 percent.

Also, please note that a Subway sandwich shop will be opening in the food court around March 15.

Almond angst

Remember those nasty storms in December and January? Butte County’s agricultural commissioner, Richard Price, has tallied the damages caused by wind and rain and arrived at the discouraging figure of $6 million.

Orchards with older trees were harder hit, losing between 2 and 10 percent of their trees. There are 36,865 bearing acres of almonds in Butte County valued at $42,616,000 as recently as 2001.

At its Jan. 28 meeting, the county Board of Supervisors agreed to try to get the U.S. secretary of agriculture to declare a disaster, which could open up the possibility of relief programs for the local agricultural industry.