11 Fresno Places I Miss From Childhood

Here are some of my favorite spots in Fresno that are no longer around. Basically, the 80s for an NW Fresno kid.

Hopefully, it sparks your own memories, wherever the hell ya grew up.

Blackbeards would be number one on my list except it is somehow still there. Intact. Almost unchanged. Which is awesome and sad at the same time.

MALIBU GRAND PRIX FRESNO

In the same place the Costco parking lot is now, behind the shopping center at the NE corner of Blackstone & Herndon, was Malibu Grand Prix. Letting kids race little Indy-style cars seems like a bad idea, but I never heard of anyone getting seriously hurt at it.

I think I spent more time in the arcade playing Tempest than on the race track. It was always a bit intimidating to me to drive those things … There. I said it. The Malibu cars, made for children, intimidated me. Didn’t know I’d be working out childhood issues today.

“I really could get into this!” is not something I ever said though. For the record.

WOODWARD PARK DRIVE IN

We no longer have a drive-in movie theater in Fresno and it sucks. The last one we had was Woodward, which is now a Home Depot and a Costco – definitely not an upgrade.

I can still remember going to the concession stand in the center, stealing looks at the other movies playing that I was too young to watch, enjoying the perfect Fresno Summer Nights and only half paying attention to the movie we came to see.

Madera still has one in operation, if you want to try and experience that again.

VIDEO GAME CAGE AT BLACKSTONE TOYS R US

This used to be the only place (that I can remember) you could get any game you wanted. Saving up money to get the latest hot game, only to find they were sold out of it, was always a bummer.

Bringing up the paper tag that represented the game, taking it to the cage and having them hand over the actual game, is one of the more satisfying things from childhood I recall. Is that sad?

TOWER RECORDS IN THE KMART SHOPPING CENTER

I got this picture from former Tower Records (OG location) worker, Dale Stewart of Capitol Punishment fame.

Records to the left. Tapes to the right. CDs eventually taking over. Record displays in the center. 45s of the Top Twenty Songs. These are the memories.

FESTIVAL GAME PALACE

It was not easy to try and make a $5 bill last for an afternoon, but I managed somehow. Shout out to Paperboy and the manual hockey game by the snack bar.

Dear God I could watch this all day:

THE GRAPE TRAY

It was next to the original Fresno Cost Plus at the NW corner of Shaw & Fresno. A sandwich shop, deli, and wine store. The reason I remember is it had a unique upstairs eating area unlike any in Fresno. I guess there is something about sitting and looking out over the shop from up high while having a salami & swiss.

The Grape Tray is still around. But it’s now at Palm & Bullard in the Opus One shopping center. And it’s just a wine shop. No cool upstairs or sandwiches. Boring.

I think it’s even in the spot that used to have a tiny record shop I would stop into after school and rarely buy something, much to the owner’s chagrin – wish I could remember the name of it.

FIG GARDEN LIQUOR (Original)

I know it’s still there but when I was a kid, Tom Seaver’s Father-In-Law owned it. He had the best (non-card shop) baseball card selection in town. He would even hand out autographed pictures of Tom Seaver to those of us that seemed like they cared. I got one or two over the years.

ARTHUR’S TOYS ON BLACKSTONE

The place to be even after Toys R Us opened. No other place could I look at custom electric cars to add to my track. It’s now Whitie’s Pets and went in there recently and was able to conjure a tiny bit of the vibe.

This is not me but I had the exact setup. Now I feel like going out and buying one:

HONORABLE MENTIONS

The hobby shop place in Fig Garden Village that sold model airplanes and cars, Bob’s Village Hobby. (Read about owner, Bob Hansen, here). My memories of the place are faint, but it definitely inspired me to hang my model planes from my bedroom ceiling.

The Fig Garden Movie Theater. I so much wish it was still there. If you are too young to remember, it was located roughly where the Deli Delicious and noodle place is, in the back NE corner of Fig Garden Village.

Festival Cinemas. Saw all the important 80s movies there. Empire Strikes Back. Raiders of the Lost Ark. The greats.

I could go on for a while, as I’m sure you could too. Often I wonder what my kid will one day fondly remember about Fresno? It definitely won’t be a Drive-In.

[Arthur’s Toys pic taken from Miguel Diaz’s feed]

What Will Happen To The Chicken Pie Shop Building?

Fresno’s Chicken Pie Shop is now closed for good. What are we going to do with that building?

Respect to the Chicken Pie Shop. A Tower and Fresno icon of breakfasts, chicken pies and green booths is now gone. Thank you for your service and your uniqueness. You will be missed.

Okay, now, what is going to happen to that building?

This a a major spot in the Tower District. A large building. On Olive. Next to all the things. It would be bad for the Tower District and bad for Fresno if it were to sit un-leased for a long time. We must figure this out.

Can it be a Trader Joe’s?

This is what everyone wants. If not a Trader Joe’s then something like it.

Yeah, Trader Joe’s is not realistic. Neither is any kind of market like a Trader Joe’s. Nice thought though.

How about…

Oh man, all of those suggestions are good.

Bitwise is so invested in Downtown now, I’m not sure they would come back to the Tower. They totally should though and that would be a good spot to do it.

Another stage for performing, whether for music or plays or comedy, would be perfect.

A craft beer tasting room or co-op?

Yeah, I would be into a Modern Times opening a tap-room. Very much so. It would be best if it was a local brewer. But the only one right now that could pull it off would be Tioga. Maybe Dust Bowl or South Gate. This is my favorite suggestion.

But what could a new tenant do to the building? It’s the Tower District and don’t they have a Committee that must approve of the things and such?

In this month’s Flowing With Famous, we suggest that David Fansler, creator of legendary Fresno restaurants Tahoe Joe’s, Yosemite Ranch, Pismo’s and Westwood’s, should open a theater district themed restaurant. But I don’t think he knows how to create a restaurant South of Shaw, so nevermind.

Let’s Get To Leasing!

Well then. We have an open space in a major location in the Tower and some good suggestions on what could become of the location. Somebody get to work on something.

In the meantime, I gotta see about acquiring one of those iconic Chicken Pie Shop booths.

*Photo by Josef Cramer

We Need To Think Differently About Me N Ed’s Pizza, Fresno

No this is not a post about the Best Pizza In Fresno. It’s a post about Me N Ed’s Pizza. [zing]

Kidding, kidding. I love that damn pizza. Me (Whomever this “Me” character is) and Ed, make a great pizza. A Fresno pizza. Not the best pizza in the world. Not the best pizza in Fresno.

But, it’s the most FRESNO pizza.

What is one of the things you do when someone from out-of-town comes to visit? Show them some Fresno stuff, duhhh. Like:

  • The electronic billboard at Blackstone & Shaw.
  • The corner of Barstow & Fruit where Brandau watched traffic for a few minutes, didn’t see a bike and stopped a fully funded road rehab from happening.
  • The AT&T Store that used to be a Grandy’s.

After that big tour, you’re going to want to take your guest out for some food. Fresno food.

First, you have some tri-tip (either from your backyard grill or [insert your favorite place to have tri-tip here]. Then you have tacos [probably from a place on Belmont]. Then some pilaf [probably your Mom’s]. Then it’s Me N Ed’s Pizza.

Here is the part we need to think about differently

Do NOT frame it as THE BEST PIZZA! It won’t work.

No outsiders will ever think Me N Ed’s is the best pizza. I’m not saying that because I think it’s bad or isn’t the best pizza. I’m saying that because EVERYBODY thinks the pizza from their town is the best.

Me N Ed’s could be the best pizza and it wouldn’t matter. Pizza is the most subjective food in … food. Whatever pizza a person grew up with is what they think is the best pizza and will be closed off from accepting somebody’s pizza as being better.

Close the brick oven, this is how it is and will always be. Everybody’s opinion about pizza is the right opinion. No use trying to change it.

So, when you do order up some Me N Ed’s delivered or head down to a location where you can pour your own beer, like my favorite one at Bullard & West, frame the argument differently.

Say, “This is our take on pizza. It’s a very Fresno thing
[well, Valley and Lakewood thing]. It is local. We love it (mostly). You probably won’t and that is okay.”

Order your Valley Veggie. Order your pepperoni & canned mushroom. Move on.

*Picture stolen from Me N Ed’s Twitter feed.

What Is Even Going On, Fresno?

If you’ve been reading my blog long enough, you know that I have stretches of time where there is not much posting – or I just give up. I am in one of those stretches.

The lack of posting this time comes from a combination of post ideas that are not good enough for me to write about, or good ideas I don’t have the time to put together. So here we are.

Comments are still there, just different

There is an update to give regarding posting comments to this blog. I got a rash of spam comments. Like, 100 spam comments a day. It took a long time to delete all the comments that had built up. In the process, I lost some of your legit comments. Sorry about that.

So now I have had the change the way commenting is done on the blog. You have to sign into a user name and password of some kind. It sucks because it creates a bit of a roadblock for people to easily comment.

BUT, I have not had to deal with even one spam comment since changing this comment policy. So that is cool for me. But sucks for those that comment. Hopefully, we can still keep a healthy commenting community going in future posts, even with this extra step.

Fresno things still are happening

Not sure you’re aware but there is a kinda new Flowing With Famous podcast up. Josh and I got to go on 2 Guys Talkin’ Fresno, which was pretty cool. While there recording I got to finally meet former Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, I was pretty stoked.

I don’t know if Mayor Swear Bear meant to wear her Fresbro attire because we were coming, but it was cool regardless.

Other than that, I have been really enjoying some Fresno photographers I follow on Instagram, being inspired by the recent winter weather we have had.

Daniel Draper has been killing it:

So has Caliloopz:

Shaver Lake counts as Fresno, says me:

Anyway, hope you have been doing good. Thanks for reading, as always. Leave a comment if you want to test out the new system for me.

Keep Up The Good Fresno!

Fresno Assets

What do we have here? It feels like the time of year for list making. Let’s reestablish some Fresno stuff I think is cool.

  • Diverse as fuck.
  • Bitwise.
  • Bubba hanging out at Starbucks.
  • Basecamp for the Sierra Nevada’s, including three National Parks, one of which considered to be by some as the most beautiful place on Earth.
  • Paul George.
  • Tacos.
  • Fresno State.
  • Views of the Sierra Nevada range after it has snowed and the air is clear.
  • Old Fig.
  • Sunny days.
  • Small town vibe with city amenities.
  • Tri-tip.
  • Low levels of traffic compared to other California cities.
  • Swimming pool season.
  • Trains (except when waiting for one).
  • Underground Gardens.
  • Kopi.
  • Fresno Chaffe Zoo.
  • Cheap (by California standards).
  • Art Hop.
  • Many good sushi places.
  • Summer nights on patios.
  • Your mom’s house.
  • Fruit trees in backyards.
  • Tower District.
  • Fulton Street.
  • The Fresno Grizzlies.
  • Brilliant sunsets fueled by farm dust.
  • Mural District.
  • Solid Tappanyaki scene.
  • Fashawn.
  • Heroes Comics.
  • Tigoa Sequoia Beer Garden.

I’m sure you have some Fresno assets you’d like to share that I missed. Leave a comment with them, or on your social media with a link to this post.

The Year In Posts – 2018

I always worry these kinds of posts are too hacky, but I am doing it anyway. It’s actually kind of fun going through the posts from this year because some of them I had already totally forgotten about.

Rather than boring you and posting each one, please let me just remind you of the ones that you, the reader of The Fresnan, thought were the most popular.

I pulled the nine buzziest, starting from January and ending now. These might not have been read the most but had the most “action” (sharing/reading/comments).

9. What to know before going to Fresno’s new Chicken Shack.

One of the more significant things to happen on Fulton Street this year. I have yet to set foot in the place but that didn’t stop me from posting about it.

8. Modern Times needs to open up a taproom in Fresno.

I have been lobby two of California’s best indie breweries (that are building remote taprooms), Modern Times and Fieldwork, to come to Fresno. If they want to truly make some noise, they should. Now that Zack’s Brewing is open Downtown, this is less relevant. Still would like to see it happen though.

7. Ranch or Salsa: Which is the condiment of Fresno?

If I did this post today, I would choose Salsa. I did a poll on my Instagram and Salsa won. I personally use salsa as much as I use ranch but at the time I was ranching more so I went with it. This is a forever debate. Salsa now wins.

5. Don’t camp at popular Fresno restaurants!

There are many Fresno eatin’ holes that you have to wait to get seated. Too often, people get a table at these places and then linger while you wait impatiently, staring at these yahoos. Ya done eating? Then get the hell out.

6. I rode my bike to Pine & Palm and nobody flipped me off.

Biking needs to be more of a thing for me in 2019. I did some of it this year but not enough to talk about it, this time being the exception. I even found a “hidden” bike path.

4. How to place your garbage bins in a passive aggressive way.

It’s official. I became an old man this year. When the scavengers became too messy and started dumping my recyclables into my trash bin and on the street, I decided to take passive aggressive action.

3. The one restaurant to take someone to in Fresno.

I understand that Cuca’s was an odd choice but I hope the post explains it well enough.

2. I’m voting yes on Measure P.

While it’s true I live in the middle of Fresno. But I also live in a county island so I couldn’t actually vote for Measure P. That did not stop me from ranting about it though.

1.Dead Lot: NW Shaw & West.

Hey, I am surprised too how much play this post got. More posts to come for this series. It even prompted a response from Brandau.

Setting up the blog for 2019

No drastic changes planned to the blog. My goal is to have a new post every week, at least, usually by Wednesday mornings. But I did not follow through on that for much of the year. Hopefully, I can do that all the way in 2019.

The one change you might see involves monetizing the blog.

I have never seen cash in my hand or in my checking account, because of this blog. You would think after blogging so many damn years I would have figured out how to make money at it.

I have tinkered with being an Amazon affiliate but it doesn’t work well for the posts I write and the traffic I get. Plus, Amazon is a pretty shitty employer, so I feel dirty working with them anyway. I will likey be backing away from that.

Target has approved me to be an affiliate but I have not started messing with that yet. Yeah, I guess Target has a slightly better conscience than Amazon so I feel …okay? using them

You might see me give that a try on a post or two or a banner ad. Oh look, there is one now!:


Google Adwords is a thing but throwing a bunch of banners around to make $20 a month does not sound worth it to me.

I’m thinking hard about starting a Patreon

If you have not heard of the website called Patreon and you are a creative, you might want to check it out. It enables people that like what you produce to donate money to you.

The cool part is, the creator has the opportunity to give extra content to the person willing to give them a few bucks a month.

We do it on the Perfect Pour and it has worked out pretty well. It at least is enough that the show pays for itself, which is a victory to me.

Anyway, man, thank you for reading the Fresnan this past year and whatever year you have read it. I’ll keep posting if you keep giving a damn.

Cheers to Fresno and blogging in 2019!