Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machine image via Wikipedia authors Oto Godfrey and Justin Morton
Written by Gabriel Dillard
Take a trip through The Business Journal time machine with stories from our archives 20 years ago.
Fulton Mall Debate: Dec. 22, 1997
The closing of two Fulton Mall businesses — and the impending closure of another — fueled an ongoing debate about the revitalization of Downtown Fresno.
The Blues West blues and jazz nightclub, located in the former Screwballz Comedy Club on Van Ness Avenue, closed after less than three months in business (Kocky’s Bar & Grill has operated in that space for more than six years).
Downtown Books and Café, an eatery and bookstore, closed after 17 months. It was located next to the then-vacant Gold Winner Casino, also on Van Ness Avenue.
And Arlin’s Garden Café, a 12-year fixture on the Fulton Mall, wrote an open letter informing customers that without an infusion of business, it would soon close.
The Business Journal’s sources cited a number of factors behind the downturn in activity, including parking meters and the loss of area tenants including Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Security Bank and law firm McCormick Barstow Sheppard Wayte & Carruth.
The story noted that some local leaders were pushing to reopen the Fulton Mall to vehicular traffic, though it noted that such an effort could become “a racial powder keg due to the considerable number of Hispanics and blacks who frequent the mall.”
Twenty years later, city officials celebrated the reopening of Fulton Street.
Economic Development Frustrations: Jan. 5, 1998
The Business Journal’s staff writer Jim Orr gave a rundown of the major projects in play when it comes to economic development in Fresno.
The Gap Inc. was wooed to open a distribution center in Fresno with 146 acres of free land and “cash incentives it couldn’t refuse.” The facility was set to open the next year with initial staffing of 200 people.
The downtown stadium was a major subject of debate, with the Fresno City Council rejecting a set of financing terms for the facility. Among the project’s proponents was the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, which hoped the stadium would spark the opening of anchor businesses such as a multiplex theater and prominent restaurants to replace previous anchors including Gottschalks, Woolworth’s and Montgomery Ward.
Art Farkas, executive director of the Downtown Association of Fresno, summed up the vibe in town this way.
“It’s a frustrated mood downtown. Everybody was hoping for a breakthrough with the stadium happening, but when it fell through it was frustrating. Everybody was hoping for a kick start.”
A new exhibit hall for the convention center downtown was more promising, and many considered that project more vital than the stadium because it would draw conventions that would inject millions of outside dollars into town. Due to delays in getting the project off the ground, downtown had already lost a number of scheduled conferences. There was also a debate on whether a hotel should be part of the project.
The Fresno City Council just recently approved a development agreement with a local hotelier to build a 200-room facility at the site.
The Rise (and Fall) of Camelot: July 7, 1997
Camelot Park held a grand opening in north Fresno. The theme arcade and children’s play land featured two 10-hole miniature golf courses, three racetracks, an inflatable slide and bumper boats. Camelot Park locations across the U.S. were rebranded as Boomers! Parks in 2001. Almost 20 years to the day after its opening, Boomers! Fresno announced it had lost its lease and would be closing. The park was demolished in October 2017.
Two Firsts for Women in Media: Jan. 19, 1998
At age 37, Philadelphia native Valari Staab became the first woman to be named president and general manager of local television station ABC 30.
“They don’t throw up roadblocks for women or anyone else,” she said of the station at the time. “Actually, they go out of their way to have mentoring and business programs for minorities and women.”
She served in Fresno for nearly four years.
Today, Staab is president of the NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations, a division of the broadcasting giant that includes 30 NBC and Telemundo television stations
In another first for a woman, KJFX 95.7 FM afternoon radio host Angie Good was named program director of the station.
In June 2016, Good was named program director of Modesto-Stockton radio station KHOP 95.1 FM, and is still an on-air personality.