Chico shoppers have it made

STRIP SHOP Retail is booming in Chico, with this shopping center popping up in South Chico just a few years ago.

STRIP SHOP Retail is booming in Chico, with this shopping center popping up in South Chico just a few years ago.

Photo By Tom Angel

Whether you’re a visitor strolling downtown shops or a local heading out to the mall, you will soon learn that Chico offers everything you need in a pleasurable shopping experience. Gift shops with handmade, local items are plentiful, as are big-box chain retailers. There are two malls, the fun and historic downtown shopping district and everything in between. You can buy fresh fruits and vegetables and Chico-made crafts at the Saturday Farmers Market and in summer months the Thursday Night Market, both downtown.

Many artists open their studios so people can watch them create, browse displays or add something to their collection. It’s a thrill to chat with the creator of a piece you’ve just purchased.

It’s not only the cultural heart of Chico, but a center of commerce as well. Gen. John Bidwell had his general store here, and today dozens of merchants keep up the tradition of shopping variety in downtown Chico. Specialty shops, boutiques and shops like Made in Chico are local favorites, but shopkeepers certainly welcome out-of-towners as well. Window-shopping can quickly lead to a buying spree.

SLICE OF DOWNTOWN The annual Slice of Chico event includes watermelon and a sidewalk sale.

Photo By Tom Angel

Parking at the meters is generally 25 cents an hour or per half-hour, depending on where you park. Nickels and dimes are also accepted. A ticket for over-parking is $15 and payable by mail or at the Chico Municipal Center. The parking structure on the corner of Third and Salem streets generally has spaces available. It’s free to park at meters or in the lot on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays and in the evenings after 6.

Several times a year, downtown merchants bring their wares outside for a sidewalk sale combined with a town festival. With the holiday season comes Christmas Preview, when downtown shops open their doors in the evening, serving cookies and cider to gift-seekers.

The weekly Thursday Night Market brings out families and college students alike enjoying food and gifts. Clowns and musicians perform, and it’s a common destination for entertainment as well as shopping. Saturday’s Farmers’ Market at the corner of Second and Wall streets is a tradition for Chicoans stocking up on locally grown produce. Downtown Chico is also brimming with coffee shops and restaurants in all price ranges and styles.

Chico Mall
Located off 20th Street east of Highway 99, the Chico Mall anchors the retail development at the southeast end of town. It’s a retail hub, the largest shopping area north of Sacramento, and features Gottschalks, Sears and JC Penney along with many chain, franchise and locally owned shops. You may hear it referred to as the “new mall,” but it was built 12 years ago. Call 343-0696 for more information. Neighboring properties host grocery superstores, chain restaurants and shopping favorites such as Target, Pier 1, Toys R Us, Old Navy and Best Buy, with new stores popping up seemingly every day.

TO MARKET Saturday’s Farmers’ Market draws a crowd to the parking lot at Second & Flume streets.

Photo By Tom Angel

North Valley Plaza
Located off Cohasset Road in north Chico near the Highway 99 interchange, the North Valley Plaza shopping center is in the midst of an impressive remodel that has resulted in retail “pads” surrounding what’s left of the Chico’s first mall. There are locally owned shops, national franchises, and, of course, a Starbucks, with more on the way. It’s anchored by Mervyn’s and a 14-screen movie complex called Tinseltown. 895-1856.

Whitman Avenue
One of the busiest shopping areas in Chico, this collection of large retailers off East 20th Street just west of Highway 99 hosts Costco, Circuit City, Office Depot, Barnes & Noble, Cost Plus World Market and Bed, Bath and Beyond, among others.

Other Hot Shops
Chico is host to several internationally known products (the Sierra Nevada Brewery is one to write home about—try the famous beer “sampler” and take a tour).

The art-nouveau vases and 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.-Sat. from 7 a.m.-noon. Call 893-0373.

Featuring vibrant floral vases and unique takes on glass work is Satava Art Glass Studio, selling sculptures worldwide from Chico since 1977. The gallery is open Tues.-Sat. from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and if you’d like to watch the glass blowers at work, please call ahead at 345-7985. The studio is at 819 Wall St., between Eighth and Ninth streets.

Weavers will want to visit AVL Looms, one of the world’s foremost makers of computer-friendly hand shuttle looms, at 3158 Morrow Lane.

And, if you’re an antiques enthusiast, there’s days’ worth of treasure-hunting to be found in and around Chico.