Thoughts on Oroville

Despite the dam news, O-town business is booming.

With all of the fear this past week over the fate of the Oroville Dam spillways, it’s been difficult to think about much else. Even before water began flowing over the emergency spillway, the mood was a bit ominous around town. I felt it first-hand during an interview with Bud Tracy, who owns the Oroville Inn, for our feature package this week. No threat had yet been declared, but with the precarious position of downtown in relation to the Feather River, I could sense his nervousness. And couldn’t blame him. Here’s hoping all remains well.

I’ve tried to make it a point to check in on the ever-changing landscape in Oroville over the past couple of years and I must say, it’s encouraging to see new, vibrant businesses popping up in the old, historic quarter. I also see the vibe in other parts of town shifting. That, too, is encouraging. Talking with Wilma Compton over at the Oroville Area Chamber of Commerce, it was clear I’m not alone in those deductions.

There have been some cool things going on in Oroville recently. Whether you favor corporations or not—and I tend to prefer local businesses myself—they can spark excitement in adding variety to people’s options. For one, Starbucks and Panda Express moved in on Oro Dam Boulevard, causing quite a stir among the locals—most of it positive. And while Arby’s recently vacated its spot on Olive Highway, rumor has it it may be replaced by a bigger fast-food chain. (The rumor couldn’t be confirmed as of press time.)

Perhaps the biggest corporate news to come out of Oroville lately is the construction of a Super Walmart on Feather River Boulevard. The store is expected to open this spring, leaving the current Walmart building (only about half a mile away) vacant. But Compton informed me this week that the space being vacated is already slated to be split among four unnamed businesses. I’m so pleased to hear there’s a plan for this and that it won’t become blight. In other big news, Graphic Packaging International is planning a 350,000-square-foot expansion by the airport.

Over the past year, several Chico businesses have seen growth potential in Oroville as well. Of course, I’ve written about The Galley moving downtown. And Gogi’s Cafe opened sister restaurant Gogi’s Kitchen on Oro Dam Boulevard. Within the past month, Gearhead Barbershop, long popular in Chico, set up on Montgomery Street, their new shop complete with Barber Dave’s old-timey barber pole.

So long When I first moved to Chico over a decade ago (yikes!), one of my go-to lunch spots was Sultan’s Bistro, inside the Phoenix Building. The chicken gyro platter was unbeatable. The quality seemed to have declined in recent years, and I just got the news last week that the longtime downtown Mediterranean eatery had shut its doors. I’m sad to see it go, but eager to find out what might take its place.