To new beginnings

Kwikee Food Mart closes along with 2017; Mamma Celeste’s and Hibachi Grill Buffet poised to open.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying “Good riddance to 2017!” Sure, there were some good things that happened last year. But overall it felt like kind of a dud. A story I heard a few weeks before the ball drop sealed the deal. I’ll share some of it here.

Mike Jaradah has been in the convenience business in Chico for 30 years. He started out as a clerk at Likker Locker—the little shop next to the also gone but not forgotten Last Call Lounge that moved up the hill when New Earth Market moved into the shopping center. Then, after years of saving, he bought Spike’s Bottle Shop, which is now run by his son, Kevin. I stopped by to see him at the Kwikee Food Mart on The Esplanade north of town a few weeks ago. He bought that business 15 years ago and was in the process of selling it, he says, when his lease came up and he was told he had to get out.

The bustling gas station and convenience store is bustling no more. Patrons who used to drive all the way from Redding and Red Bluff for Mary’s tamales and fried chicken might as well stay home. While most of the employees were absorbed by Spike’s, Jaradah said the lack of a kitchen there means Mary—who preferred not to give her last name—is out of a job. She’s been there for 17 years, since before Jaradah bought the place.

He’s not sure what prompted the eviction, Jaradah told me, but the reason he was given was that the owner—a fellow native of Syria who lives in Southern California—had been told that Jaradah had trashed the place. It didn’t look trashed to me, but I’m no building inspector. As Kevin told me, his father had hoped to sell the business—for $350,000—to finance his retirement. He also lost about $50,000 in inventory, though some of it was returned and others of it transported to Spike’s.

So, I think it’s safe to say the Jaradahs are hopeful for a better year in 2018.

A few things to look forward to Looking back at 2017 got me wondering about what the year ahead will bring. Here are a few things I’m looking forward to—I’d love to hear your thoughts, too. Shoot me an email at

• Mamma Celeste’s big return. My favorite Chico pizza joint is gearing up for a reopening in 2018 on the Skyway in Paradise. Renamed Mamma Celeste’s Gastropub & Pizzeria, word has it that it’s applied for a full liquor license, meaning cool cocktails to go along with that unbeatable cornmeal-dusted cracker crust.

Hibachi Grill Buffet. I’m not really much of a buffet person—I tend to prefer to eat smaller meals throughout the day rather than one really big one—but I am intrigued by the new sign that’s gone up where Hometown Buffet used to be. Anything has to be better than Hometown.

Closing time A few weeks ago, I wrote about Herreid Music planning to move—not to close—in the near future. Turns out I was given bad info and the store is indeed planning to close. A post on Facebook the day after Christmas confirmed its last day will be Jan. 6, but that the Redding store will remain open.