I recently pointed my car south on Interstate 5 on my way to visit friends. As I always do when traveling that direction, I stopped at Granzella’s Deli in Williams for a bathroom and snack break.
As an aside, Granzella’s may be the first place I’ve ever seen actually improved by a fire. After it went up in flames two years ago, it rose like a retail Phoenix to become better than ever. New bathrooms, new restaurant, new bar, new everything. It even has gelato (OK — over-priced), but it also maintained its olive tasting, and added a cool gift shop across the street, a store filled to the rafters with stuff that will probably send most men screaming for the comfort of Granzella’s polar bear in the bar.
One thing I’ve missed about my Williams’ drive-throughs the last few years were my side trips to Garrison’s Army Navy Surplus at 609 E Street – commonly called just Garrison’s.
It was the kind of collectibles store so crammed and jammed and teetering with old funky objects that you’d wish for a tetanus shot before you set foot inside, just in case you bumped into some rusty antiquity, or a precariously balanced overhead object came crashing down from a high shelf or a the water-filled sagging tarp suddenly let go.
But I loved Garrison’s for the hunt and the thrill of the treasures it held inside. Every shopping trip was an adventure. I still remember the excitement of using a flashlight (provided by the store) to navigate through the rabbit warren of Garrison’s dark tunnels on my quest for stacks of Tepco dishes along the back wall. I loved that it was just about as quirky a place as I’ve ever seen, absolutely stacked and stuffed with every kind of unexpected item, from the most bizarre military supplies, and boxes of vintage post cards and old toys and bark cloth and rare books, and bygone appliances and my favorite sturdyware and restaurant dishes.
After old man Garrison (trivia: he used to work at McCall’s dairy in Redding before WWII) died a few years back, a couple of his adult daughters stepped in and tried to run the place. Sorting through the stuff must have been a nightmare. Garrison’s looked as if someone lifted the roof off the building and poured a jumble of about 11 antique stores, junk stores, military surplus and second-hand stores into the building, shook it up and then opened the door for customers.
Before long Garrison’s was closed, though I never learned exactly what happened. I do know that fire marshals didn’t look upon Garrison’s too kindly.
So imagine my surprise a few days ago when I noticed signs of life in front of the former Garrison’s.
Sure enough. Lights were on, a sign said open and the windows held intriguing displays. I ventured inside and found a very cool store, the kind of store where I could easily spend a lot of time and money.
Behold, it also has a new name: Garrison’s Vestiges and the King’s Ransom, a totally wonderful shopping experience that lack’s the former Garrison’s chaos. In fact, the new Garrison’s is neatly and artistically organized into categories: bar ware, linens, stationery, toys, Christmas decorations, pottery, etc.
I introduced myself to Pam Stadick, the creator of Garrison’s Vestiges and the King’s Ransom. Turns out Stadick is one of Garrison’s daughters. She said she moved from Portland to Williams earlier this year after being away for a few decades. Her Williams store has been open since summer.
Stadick has an obvious flare for display, and she does a pleasing job of pairing like things together.
As Stadick and I talked, I couldn’t help but smile when I heard the strains of a familiar Redding radio station: Q97 Country. Stadick said it’s the only one that comes in loud and clear (in English).
I promised Stadick I’d return, and that I’d share news of her new store with you. She said she plans to expand later, which will mean pushing beyond the walls of her cute little 500-foot retail space into the 2,000-square-foot still-filled rooms that still hold her father’s ancient surplus store. What a job that will be. That news alone was enough to set me back on the road again.
The next day I visited Locke for the first time. Locke is a town so tiny that it makes my little hometown of Igo look like a metropolis.
It’s said that Locke is the only remaining rural Chinese town in the United States, but today less than 100 people actually live in Locke, and of those, only about 10 are Chinese.
Locke’s narrow streets were lined with cars that belonged to curious folks like me who looked as dumbstruck as I felt to find such an unusual place practically in our own backyard.
Its rickety wood buildings – many with Chinese writing – were tucked down in the holler along the Sacramento Delta. One building was so crooked that one young couple with cameras stopped to place their hands against it in a mock pose to make it look as if they were holding up a falling structure.
I cannot believe how many hundreds of times I’ve sped down I-5 and came within miles of this historical gold mine, but I never stopped. Why? Because I didn’t know about it.
The buildings’ age and state of disrepair left the impression of an Asian ghost town, but looks are deceiving. This interesting hamlet featured a couple of functioning restaurants/bars (one Chinese), some shops, a Chinese herbalist, a book store, a museum and a Chinese Cultural Center.
Bikers (not hard-core, rather weekend riders – dentist- and accountant-types) rumbled through and stopped to stretch and refresh.
I spoke with an older Chinese gentleman who owned and operated a cluttered store – a place I could have spent hours more. He said that he didn’t know how much longer his little establishment could survive, that he couldn’t compete with big box stores deep holiday discounts.
I did my part by buying two bags of gifts (can’t tell you what — might spoil some people’s holiday surprise).
Maybe the weekend’s fog contributed to the area’s sense of mystery, but I had to keep reminding myself I was still in California. The draw bridges, the islands, the bayou-feel of the region, the miles of gnarly orchards, and the biggest lighted Jesus Christ along that levee road that I’ve seen in my life all gave me the sense I’d left the country.
What a trip. I’ll be back.