Pies and shakes

Better head to Marie Callender’s while you can; and Big Al’s lives on

Growing up in a tiny coastal city, my dining experience with major chain restaurants was limited to Denny’s and Pizza Hut. There were no other sit-down chain restaurants in Crescent City, and even today, you have to travel an hour and a half south to find a Sizzler and two hours northeast into Oregon for the nearest Red Lobster.

Marie Callender’s was one of the corporate eateries we’d get to visit only if we traveled to a “big city” like Eureka or Santa Rosa. I remember being about 10 years old and ordering a slice of banana cream pie after my dinner of potato cheese soup, thinking that the other diners had no idea how fortunate they were. If I lived in a place with a Marie Callender’s, I would certainly go once a week.

Well, I did move to a city with a Marie Callender’s and I probably haven’t been in a good six years. Potato cheese soup was a distant memory until I heard that applications were submitted to the city Planning Department for proposed renovations to Chico’s sole Marie Callender’s location in the Chico Mall parking lot. Those plans have evolved to a demolition, according to Greg Redeker, city planner and zoning administrator, with a proposal to construct a new multitenant building at the location, one that can house a drive-thru.

Redeker couldn’t comment on Marie Callender’s being a part of the plans or any potential tenants that may reside in the proposed new building. A call to the corporate Marie Callender’s office in Redding to see what would happen to the restaurant was not returned by deadline, but I’m looking forward to hearing back on what the future holds for the longtime Chico eatery.

Marie Callender’s could very well be staying, but it doesn’t seem likely. The parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy back in 2011, closing a number of restaurants at the time. In June of this year, one of three Marie Callender’s locations in Sacramento closed abruptly after 46 years. According to KOVR-TV Channel 13 reports, employees at the Arden restaurant were notified three days before its closure.

The planning process is still preliminary and construction plans can be approved and never enacted, but you should probably get your pie fix now, before it’s too late.

Big Al’s lives on …

In June, I wrote about Big Al’s looking for a new owner. Some feared the Chico staple could shutter its doors if an owner wasn’t found.

Sue Polaske, the new manager of Big Al’s, confirmed that the business was purchased in July by Raana and Naeem Rehman, who once owned Chico’s Dairy Queen, just down the street.

Polaske managed that business for them, too, before it closed in 2011 after briefly moving to the corner of Mangrove and Vallombrosa.

Big Al’s now accepts credit cards and upgrades have been made to the lobby. New kitchen equipment is also being installed and a new bathroom is underway. Tweaks are being made to the menu, but Polaske promised the triple-thick milkshake recipe won’t be touched.