Shopping: Chico has what you’re looking for

Two malls, a swingin’ downtown, antiques, tours—what more could a shopper ask for?

Photo By Tom Angel

Some see it as a pastime, other argue it’s a sport. Depending on how it’s looked at, shopping is a must in Chico. A broad array of shops and boutiques are the décor of the downtown streets with their eye catching colors and trinkets sparkling in the windows. There are gift shops, novelty shops, smoke shops, gothic stores, music stores, large business, small business, clothes, shoes, jewelry, books, posters, electronics, sportswear, art, bicycles, foodstuffs, etc. Anything you need, Chico has. All this and more can be found at the different shopping venues within city limits.


Besides being the cultural heart of Chico, the downtown area is the historic core of all things commercial—making for the kind of shopping scene Annie Bidwell (or John, for that matter) would have found right up her alley.

Downtown streets are lined with specialty shops, boutiques and Chico-specific stores that entice out-of-town shoppers and become part of locals’ favorite stomping grounds. Window-shopping is not discouraged, but be forewarned: A stop in a Chico shop can quickly turn into an enjoyable buying spree.

A parking structure on the corner of Third and Salem streets provides a place to leave your car for an on-foot shopping venture.

A few times during the year, the downtown goes into shopping overdrive: In spring and summer, the Downtown Chico Business Association-sponsored sidewalk sales blanket the streets, and in fall and winter holiday decor lights up the nights. And the weekly Thursday Night Market brings food, entertainment and Chico-made items for sale. Saturday’s farmers’ market at the corner of Second and Wall streets draws shoppers of all ages to browse the cornucopia of locally grown produce.

Downtown Chico is also the hot spot for grabbing a quick bite to eat or enjoying a leisurely dinner—even checking out the famously hopping bar scene.

Chico Mall

Photo By Tom Angel

It’s been around for more than a decade now, but true to Chico’s small-town spirit, locals still call it the “new mall.” Located off 20th Street east of Highway 99, the Chico Mall is the centerpiece of the explosion of retail stores and chains that continue to turn southeast Chico into the largest such concentration north of Sacramento. In fact, it’s the retail hub for the four-county area surrounding Chico.

The Chico Mall competes with its big-city counterparts by anchoring itself with such retail heavyweights as Gottschalks, Sears, JC Penney and Troutman’s—following up with nearly 90 stores in all. Neighboring properties have followed the mall’s lead with department stores, corporate clothing outlets, grocery superstores, specialty stores and restaurants.

North Valley Plaza

Located off Cohasset Road in north Chico near the Highway 99 interchange, North Valley Plaza has been a Chico shopping staple since 1967 and is currently undergoing a massive remodel into an open-air mall. It’s anchored by Mervyn’s and offers clothing, crafts, and a food court, plus a 14-screen movie complex.

Other Hot Shops

Chico is host to several internationally known products (the Sierra Nevada Brewery is only the beginning, folks), and visitors make shops that locals often take for granted part of their itinerary.

The art-nouveau vases and other art glass of the Orient & Flume factory at 2161 Park Ave. are justifiably famous. The showroom, with its collection of stunning objets d’art, entices even “just lookers” to reach for their pocketbooks. You can watch the glass being blown on Mon.-Fri. from 7 a.m.-10 or noon.

The same can be said of the Satava Art Glass Studio on Wall Street between Eighth and Ninth streets. Watch the glass blowers at work Wed.-Fri. from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Weavers will go for AVL Looms, one of the world’s foremost makers of computer-friendly hand shuttle looms, at 3851 Morrow Lane, Suite 9.

And, if you’re an antiques enthusiast, the hunting is hot throughout Chico and Butte County. Explore on your own or pick up a map of local shops at the Chamber of Commerce.