Ode to 2017

A year of political messaging, a retail slump and lots of shifts in the food scene

The end of the year is always a time of reflection. In honor of that tradition, I took the opportunity to review 2017 from a business perspective. Chico, in particular, saw a lot of openings as well as closures, part of the normal ebb and flow that was dominated by an overall poor year for retail. Here are the highlights:

A number of businesses got political this past year, starting on inauguration day with a letter sent out by Klean Kanteen CEO and President Jim Osgood saying, in part: “Above all, we urge you to organize, to gather together, mobilize and use your voice.” Park Avenue Pub in Chico and Mike’s Grande Burgers in Oroville missed the message behind Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest. Then there was Rouse & Revolt’s billboard depicting a Hitler-esque President Trump that drew full-on ire and resulted in Stott Outdoor Advertising pulling it down and R&R owner Nicholle Haber Lewis receiving death threats.

Closures The biggest loss of the year, at least size-wise, was Sears. And, of course, RadioShack also shut its doors. In the world of small-business, FKO closed its Chico store after 33 years in business (it still has an Oroville location) and Off the Wall Soccer shut down after 18 years. Liberty Cab pulled its fleet off the streets in May, a sign of these Uber times we’re living in. We also lost downtown’s Trucker and Three-Sixty Ecotique.

Chico also said goodbye to Arabica Cafe, Bulldog Taqueria (its flagship, in Oroville, is still open), Has Beans Coffee & Tea’s downtown shop, Mamma Celeste’s Stone Baked Pizzeria (look for it to reopen in Paradise in the near future), Midtown Local, Peet’s Coffee, Rallo’s West and Sweet Cottage. Sultan’s Bistro took us for a rollercoaster ride, closing in the early part of the year, only to reopen with gusto and then close again (sigh).

Openings and shifts There weren’t a lot of openings in retail this year, but there were some shifts—Cyclesport closed its downtown store, but reopened as AMain Performance Cycling next to an expanded Handle Bar. And Vintage Hen moved into a prime downtown locale from its East Avenue digs. Amid the sadness there was joy in the cool new spots that brightened Chico’s scene. Just recently, Rare Air Trampoline Park took over the Off the Wall space.

In the food realm, Aonami Sustainable Sushi moved downtown and WingMan took its space. Aonami owner Jimmy Lee (brother to WingMan owner Sonny) then snatched up a second Second Street storefront and opened Lucky Poke. Local restaurateur Christian Steinbach bought Forcella Italian Bistro and promptly closed it and moved his California Pasta Productions into its place. University Bar closed and re-emerged as University Sports Bar, complete with a food menu. And the Breakfast Buzz closed over the summer and reopened, under the ownership of Ike’s Smokehouse, as The Buzz. Spike’s Bottle Shop started offering delivery.

The year also saw a number of openings. Among the highlights: Crepeville, Chico Tap Room, Cream, Del Taco, Halo Hawaiian BBQ & Poke, Parkside Tap House, Secret Trail Brewing Co., Taps and Urban Fresh Fuel.