While a wrecking ball claimed one beloved Redding restaurant last week, another much-loved eatery made a return to downtown.
Gone except for the memories (and its iconic neon sign that the Shasta Historical Society is hoping to secure for posterity) is Gene’s, the humble hamburger stand that stood at the corner of South Market and Parkview since 1954.
Back on Placer Street, but now in the heart of downtown and anchoring the Cascade Square building, is Wilda’s, the popular homegrown restaurant famous for its Buddha Bowls. Owners Bret and Dayna Speers opened the first Wilda’s in October 2011 on Placer (now home to Ma Der Ma Der Sap House) and moved it to the Shasta Center on Churn Creek Road in 2016.
Fans of Wilda’s were excited to hear of the Speers’ plans to return to downtown and less-than-patiently waited for about 18 months until Friday when the doors to the second Wilda’s opened. The restaurant is accented with repurposed Canadian cedar from Siskiyou Forest Products and colorful air brush murals by Cottonwood artist Carl Avery. Wilda’s is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.
Gene Nash opened his namesake hamburger stand in 1954 in front of the former McColl’s Dairy. Back then, a hamburger would set you back 19 cents. The signature sandwich, a Geneburger, went for 34 cents. Nash’s son, Mike, took over in 1980 and Gene’s continued to be the preferred drive-in for hot rod enthusiasts. During the week of Kool April Nites, the place looked like it was lifted straight from the “American Graffiti” movie set.
Gene’s seemed to lose some of its luster after Mike Nash sold it in 2012 but things picked up in 2016 when Ryan Vicklund purchased the business and began making much-needed improvements.
Alas, Redding’s competitive restaurant environment took its toll on Gene’s and Vicklund closed Gene’s last July. Vicklund and his partners hoped to partner a renovated Gene’s with a retro-themed used car dealership but gave up on that plan. Vicklund blamed “ridiculous” requirements imposed by Redding’s planning department and Caltrans (which has jurisdiction over projects affecting Market Street, which doubles as State Highway 273).
Vicklund singled out as insurmountable a new state requirement that would have made him and his partners responsible for developing a pond to capture rain water runoff. Faced with what appeared to be an economically unfeasible project and fearing that the shuttered Gene’s would continue to attract transients, Vicklund made the decision to have it demolished.
An impromptu “celebration of life” was held Saturday on the Gene’s site as close to 100 hot rodders gathered for one last car show.
Whither goest Sears?
A proposal to revamp the existing Sears store in the Mt. Shasta Mall comes before the Redding Planning Commission on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the City Council chambers at City Hall.
Mt. Shasta Anchor, LLC, is seeking a use permit to demolish the west end of the 99,000-square-foot Sears building and rebuild it as a 72,400-square-foot multi-tenant retail building. The revamped Sears store feature two junior anchor spaces of 30,600 and 20,000 square feet in size and four other retail spaces.
The applicant also wants the OK to develop a 10,900-square-foot multi-tenant retail and restaurant building at the intersection of Hilltop and Dana drives. (That area is currently a parking lot and occasional home to a traveling carnival.)
In a report to the commission, Associate Planner Linda Burke said the project does not pose any significant issues and will improve the corner of Hilltop and Dana and enhance access to the mall from surrounding streets and the Dana-to-Downtown bike and pedestrian trailhead located on the west side of Hilltop.
Mall and Sears representatives have reportedly declined to comment on whether this project spells out the end of Sears in Redding.
Sears Holdings, the parent company of Sears and Kmart, has closed 120 locations since 2015 and last month announced it would be closing 103 more stores this year. According to CNBC, Sears has been testing smaller store formats in various U.S. markets. Two of its signature brands, Kenmore and DieHard, are now being sold on Amazon.
A controversial sanctuary vote
With a 3-0 vote, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution declaring Shasta County is not a sanctuary for immigrants living in the country illegally.
Supervisors Leonard Moty and David Kehoe both abstained from the vote, criticizing the measure as a toothless and unnecessarily divisive statement that amounts to political posturing. Moty said the resolution was not worth the board’s consideration while Kehoe called it “an insult to the goodwill of our community. I will not be a party to this form of political chicanery.”
At issue is Senate Bill 54, a new law barring law enforcement officers in California from asking people about their immigration status and cooperating with Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE), except in cases where inmates have been convicted of certain crimes.
Despite the no-sanctuary resolution, Shasta County officials are required to follow SB 54, County Counsel Rubin Cruise told supervisors.
Some 25 speakers addressed the board on the issue with about 15 opposing the resolution. Supporters, like Terry and Sally Rapoza, were blunt. “It seems as if the constitution doesn’t exist here,” Terry Rapoza said. “How about the position of standing up for what is legal?” he asked. Sally Rapoza said the resolution would help protect “against the wanton lawlessness our state representatives are forcing upon us.”
Supervisors Les Baugh, Mary Rickert and Steve Morgan cast the three supporting votes.
“Illegal is illegal. Period,” Supervisor Morgan said. “Even though the resolution has no force, it’s a statement we’re making to the citizens and we’re making a statement to Sacramento.”
Rickert said the issue was a tough one for her since she’s spent most of her life employing immigrants and helping many of them to attain citizenship. The vast majority of her District 3 constituents, however, support the resolution and, as an elected representative, “I can’t discount that.”