Predictions for 2020

Half precognition, half wish list for Chico’s business scene

I don’t know about you, but 2020 is looking better and better every day. I remember this time last year, looking forward to a 2019 filled with renewal and rebuilding after the terror that befell us in 2018. While yes, we did experience some of that, 2019 really wasn’t so much a year of renewal as it was an extension of its predecessor, filled more with healing than actual movement.

Here are a few of my predictions for 2020. Some are based on announcements already made; others on mere conjecture. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what the new year might bring. Email ’em to me at

Planet Fitness will finally take down the Chico Mall food court. The place has been a sad destination for as long as I can remember. Bonus: Cinnabon will give mall-walking a whole new purpose (to work off those calories!).

Forever 21 will close, but despite promises to reinvent the space, both it and the former Sears anchor location at the mall will remain vacant.

Chico will get its first cannabis dispensary. I’m predicting one to start, likely somewhere on the outskirts of town, like by the airport. It’ll be in the spotlight at first, but once the dust settles, the naysayers will forget it’s there and why they cared so much in the first place.

East Second Street will remain a desert. With three major vacancies on the north side—two with water damage—two on the south, and construction eating up sidewalk outside of Panama Bar Cafe, people will have little reason to venture that way, except to dine at Grana.

Someone will snatch up the Kona’s Sandwiches shop downtown and turn it into a Jewish deli (my personal wish) with killer matzo ball soup, pastrami and potato latkes.

The so-called “gig economy” will shrink. This is thanks to Assembly Bill 5, aimed at rideshare companies Uber and Lyft, which classify their drivers as independent contractors who don’t qualify for benefits, time off or even minimum wage. There already are lawsuits in the works, so my bet is Uber and Lyft are gonna do just fine; but their drivers may fall out (making way for more legit cabs in town?). The bigger problem, however, is the ripple effect will be huge, affecting a slew of other independent contractors and the small businesses that hire them. It’s definitely not going to help Butte County’s shortage of construction workers.

Dave and Busters reportedly was eyeing a spot at the Chico Mall and backed out short of making a deal. But nobody said the adult arcade master had abandoned Chico altogether. I predict it turns its gaze to the soon-to-be-empty Kmart, which is in a prime location by other dining and entertainment, has plenty of parking and is just itching to be filled with something better than, well, Kmart. (If another large retailer like Target wanted to set up shop there, that’d be fine, too—the north side of town is in dire need of some affordable, catch-all shopping.)