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

The Key To Future Fresyes Fest Success Is Less?

Chairs were too much at Fresyes Fest

Is there a thing as being too successful? Fresyes Fest might be that for Fresno.

When it comes to Fresyes Fest, the worries of how to get people Downtown melt away in a sweaty line that may be for a port-a-john or may be for the Doghouse Grill food truck.

The festival is well done and is promoted as well as you can promote a thing. But does it need it even?

Do organizers need to get up a 4:00 in the morning to do the local morning TV shows? Contact dopey local bloggers [me]? Do the local radio circuit?

I don’t think they do.

In fact, I am really interested to see if you could pull off a successful Fresyes Fest with almost no promotion.

Spoiler Alert!: You can.

Okay yeah, you would have to do a lineup announcement. Sure. You would have to do a map of where everything is and where to go. How to get there. Where to park. All that stuff. Yes, give that a post or two on your social media.

Really though, just the venues talking about it, the vendors and bands. That would be enough, I think.

Fresyes Fest Has Become Unstoppable

  • Pismos.
  • The first walk night for Christmas Tree Lane.
  • Fresyes Fest.

Those are now the things that are fullproof in Fresno.

The morning weather on Fresyes Fest Day was kinda terrible too, which would scare off any people on the fence about going to any outside event in Fresno. Didn’t make a dent at Fresyes.

Let’s Talk About Zacks Brewing’s Event a second.

During this year’s Fest, the VIP event inside Zack’s Brewing was the best. I will be doing that again next year. $15 for open tables, no lines for good beer, food trucks, clean bathrooms, and excellent music, was incredibly worth it for a person that has an aversion for crowds and can only take them in small doses [me].

Tioga was bursting at its seams and they are experienced at that sort of thing. Zack’s would have been so overwhelmed that it would have shut the doors for weeks as they tried to recover their beer inventory and their sanity.

For those that thought it was a bad move to charge something during a free event, for this case, you’re wrong.

For Zack’s, it was either make it a manageable paid event or keep the doors completely closed. They chose wisely.

Fresyes Fest 2020 is already being planned

Maybe, if at all possible, not have it during the opening day of the Foxes season. Fresyes is big enough, it does not need anything to make it bigger.

But that probably was just happenstance.

Gone are the days in Fresno when you could not do more than one event a weekend and expect to be successful. Last weekend is all the Fresproof you need.

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!

Listen To This: The Eighteen Hundreds “Moon Cults”

Ghost Surf band

I can’t review things. At least I can’t in a traditional way. Especially music. The words and descriptions needed for a good album review is something I never have been able to figure out.

I mean, hell, look at a recent review of Power Trip’s “Opening Fire” by Any O’Connor in Pitchfork:


On “Divine Apprehension,” sprightly, major-key thrash tics ride above the maelstrom. …


…They’re more blatant about their influences here, and these tracks thrive on the youthful charm of aping what you love. 

Andy O’Connor

Above the MAELSTROM? Aping what you love? What the hell is a maelstrom because it feels like I would be aping if I ever was in one.

Yeah, I can’t write this kind of stuff. This is why I stay away from review things too much, especially music.

But, I love Fresno music. I want more people listening to Fresno music. So here we are. Let’s talk a little bit about the new EP from Fresno’s Eighteen Hunderds called “Moon Cults”.

A music genre is born

The Eighteen Hundreds proclaim to be a Ghost Surf band. This is cool because I don’t believe Ghost Surf is a known genre of music and this may be the beginning of how we describe a particular sound.

A sound that does seem to run through a lot of Fresno and South Valley bands. Partly because of shared band members and partly because of local bands influencing one another.

However the Ghost Surf sound is happening, I love it and hope it becomes a thing. Lets begin listening so we can calibrate our ear for Ghost Surf.

Moon Cults

The track “Colleen” is about a ghost that haunts the basement of a Tower District house and has a new video to go along with it:

The whole album is up on the band’s Bandcamp page, which you can listen to here and download, if you so desire:

Before you go, listen to the band’s previous effort, “Sun Cults”:

For you record nerds, the band plans to press some vinyl for “Moon Cults” and their previous effort, “Sun Cults”, by the Summer.

Follow the band on social and through the website so you know when they play next. Let’s continue to make Ghost Surf a thing!