Window-shop or buy ’til you drop


WITH GRACE <br>Grace Jr., located on Fifth Street in downtown Chico, is one of the many shopping opportunities in town.

Grace Jr., located on Fifth Street in downtown Chico, is one of the many shopping opportunities in town.

Photo By Tom Angel

Locals refer to the Chico Mall on East 20th Street as the “new mall,” even though it was built a dozen years ago. The owners of shops in the 1960s-era North Valley Plaza mall don’t like it called the “old mall,” especially since renovations continue to revitalize it as a neighborhood center.

Ah, shopping, the pastime of locals and vice of visitors. Whether you need it or just want it, Chico has what you’re looking for.

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 also buy handpicked fruits and vegetables and Chico-made crafts at the downtown Farmers’ Market, held on Saturdays, and in summer months the Thursday Night Market.

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.

Parking at the streetside meters is generally 25 cents an hour or per half-hour, depending on where you park. Nickels and dimes are accepted, too. A ticket for staying over is $7 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 and Sundays 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, such as the July 13 Slice of Chico event, when watermelon is given out free by the Downtown Chico Business Association.

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.

BOOK THIS <br>The Crossroads shopping center on Whitman Avenue features Barnes & Noble, PetCo, Hometown Buffet, Circuit City, Food 4 Less and other stores.

Photo By Tom Angel

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. 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.

North Valley Plaza
Located off Cohasset Road in north Chico near the Highway 99 interchange, North Valley Plaza in is the midst of an impressive remodel that has resulted in retail “pads” surrounding the main mall. There are locally owned shops, a new Quizno’s sandwich shop, 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 and Barnes & Noble, 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 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.

Featuring vibrant floral vases and unique takes on glass work is Satava Art Glass Studio, selling sculptures worldwide from Chico since 1977. Owner Richard Satava’s jellyfish sculptures were recently featured at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. 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 on Wall Street 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.