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.

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.

Something Sounds Off Inside The Savemart At Bullard & West

A glitch in the Matrix is audibly happening inside the Save Mart at Bullard & West, if you want to go and check it out.

Formally it was Home to just ranking #2 on the Most Annoying Parking Lots in Fresno. But now, I am starting to believe, is taking part in a bizarre experiment to see how much the human brain can withstand.

What the hell am I talking about? 

For months (hell, maybe all year), the in-store music that plays over the PA system has been messing up. It cuts out and skips regularly. Like, a lot.

You can listen for yourself (just audio with a static picture):

Am I the crazy one? You hear how the song skips out, right? You hear it too…RIGHT!?

It’s like a wire is loose or something, bad connection somewhere.

I’m shocked at how long it has been going on because I can’t believe the employees are able to live with it. It’s super annoying and to hear it all day every day should drive you to fix it immediately or just keep it off.

But the staff has learned to ignore it, I guess.

I for one don’t go in there much unless it happens to be super convenient for me. I understand I am weird on many levels and I hope you can tell I am having some fun here, but little things can be a big deal.

If you don’t care about how annoying something like a constant drip of audio glitching could be to customer’s and especially to employees of the store, maybe I don’t care about shopping there either.

But also: Glitch in the Matrix!

My neighborhood Save Mart might very well be the portal where the computer programing running this simulation called “Life” is updated.

The store has new floors but couldn’t be bothered to fix the PA system? Interesting. 

WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU, FRESNO!?!? WE ARE ALL IN IT!

Take the blue pill (or is it red pill?) and check it out for yourself and tell me I am crazy. Crazy right.

This is the Save Mart that Kopi and Mayor Swear Bear shop, for fucks sake! THIS CAN NO LONGER STAND!

UPDATE!: Glitch fixed. Due to a tip from a Fresnan reader and this post, the system now appears to be working normally! I can confirm as I went in there last night and the music did not skip once. Well done, Save Mart #54 – Bart and Vic P would be proud.

Fulton Street Party Is All Fresno Music Goodness!

Fulton Street Party set list 2018

Fulton Street Party! Glad that Tioga is around, otherwise this might not have happened.

The Fulton Street Party is Saturday, celebrating one year of traffic returning to Fulton. It won’t be the hullabaloo that was last year’s party.

But thankfully, Tioga Sequoia Brewing pushes for something to happen and is making a day out of it, highlighted by the Battle of the Bands style competition happening all day with all local acts.

The two “best” bands will win slots at next year’s Grizzly Fest.

This will be a great snapshot of the state of Fresno’s music scene and it’s free to check out. Gaze at the flyer above for set times. I definitely have a couple picked out already.

Tioga will also have super fresh Fulton Street IPA (nice and hazy) flowing all day along, with other things going on within the block surrounding Tioga’s Beer Garden. Including the main stage for bands in the lot across the street from TS.

Sounds like a damn fine day to me. Hope I see ya there!

Maybe I’ll finally check out Chicken Shack.