Reflections, restorations

Looking back at the Great Recession’s retail sweep; downtown Oroville’s revitalization moves forward

Forty years. Maybe it’s because I haven’t yet reached that milestone, but it’s hard to imagine something thriving for that amount of time, as the CN&R has. I mean, consider how different life was in 1977: the average rent was $240 a month; a new house cost about $50,000; gas was 65 cents a gallon; and the very first personal computers hit the market at less than $500 a pop.

I started working at the CN&R in 2006. Even that seems like a long time ago (apparently enough time to pen 868 stories). I’ve seen much change since then, and in the theme of this column, many businesses have come and gone. Among the most notable farewells were victims of the global economic crisis, places like Copeland Sports, Austin’s and McMahan’s furniture stores, Circuit City, Linens ‘N Things, Borders, Mervyn’s, Gottchalks and Tower Records. It feels like we’re going through another cycle much like that one—let’s hope it’s shorter and less widespread.

What’s old is new again I’ve been keeping my eye on the Oroville Inn’s restoration process and it appears the historic building has passed another hurdle. The grand ballroom, planned to be a community gathering space as well as a spot for private events, is now complete. The photos show a large, elegant room that’s surprisingly absent of a lot of intricacy compared with the entrance hall and building façade. I do know, however, that owner Bud Tracy went out in search of missing chandeliers and actually located them—so those that hang are the genuine article. To learn more or to book the space, call Debbie Moore at 990-7002.

Another milestone for the revitalization of downtown Oroville is the opening of The Exchange. I interviewed the business’ owners, Jesse Brown and Debi Mills, about six months ago as they were renovating the space inside the old Washington Block building (built in 1856!). And, the renovation is finally complete. Stop by the upscale bar/restaurant at 1975 Montgomery St. for tapas and a craft cocktail and enjoy the live music on Saturday nights. Go online ( for a full schedule of events.

Speaking of Oroville, I popped over to the Oroville Area Chamber of Commerce website earlier this week and noticed the “member spotlight” shining brightly on Walmart. That makes sense, I thought, as the city’s big-box recently opened a brand-spanking-new supercenter. I clicked on the link to find out more. Strangely enough, the writeup was all about, an entity one can find anywhere—certainly not just Oroville—and which contributes nothing to the local economy.

I reached out to the chamber and was told simply that that’s what Walmart submitted. “They wanted to highlight the Wal-Mart website.” Seems to me that highlighting e-commerce, especially for a huge corporation that’s already got a presence in your town, actually does a disservice to other businesses and to local residents, as buying online diverts dollars from mom and pops and sends tax revenue out of town. I urge the chamber to exercise a bit more discretion before allowing businesses to tout anything they want on their website.