It’s Goodbye Gene’s Hamburgers and Welcome Back, Wilda’s; Adios Sears?; and a Sanctuary Vote Riles Many

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.

The demolition of Gene's saddened many. Photos by Jon Lewis.

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.

To the delight of Buddha Bowl fans, Wilda's has opened in downtown Redding.

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.

Mike Nash, former Gene's owner, in 2008.

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.”

Jon Lewis
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at
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35 Responses

  1. Barbara Grosch says:

    As someone who has worked with refugees and immigrants for over 30 years, I find the sanctuary vote to be disheartening, cruel and unnecessary. We have thousands of former refugees living in our community who have been supported by churches and the kindness of our citizens for years. They are now productive, contributing members of our county. I am saddened by this vote.

    • Tim says:

      Being against illegal immigration doesn’t mean you’re against immigration.

      Fact is, this “sanctuary” nonsense is about preserving the second-class citizen status quo. Get cheap labor and fill Democratic districts with bodies that get representation but can’t vote. Chicanery indeed…

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        Tim, where we disagree: The strongest argument I’ve ever heard against deporting illegal immigrant laborers came from an extremely conservative business owner. He was a roofer, and his biggest client was the Department of Defense. His company mostly did built-up flat tar roofs. He that no reasonable amount of money would suffice to get citizens on the roof of a military base building in Arizona in the summer, doing demo and then working with hot tar. My point is that it’s business owners who provide the incentive for illegals to come here, and many are conservative Republicans. Below, I’ve asked Ms. Rickart to state that her family business never hires illegals. I’ve previously asked our congressman to state the same—his office has always ignored me. From LaMalfa, I take that as: “I can’t say that we never hire illegals—we’re in the freakin’ agriculture industry, so we’re special.”

        I’ve said it many times: Want to discourage illegal immigration? First offense for hiring an illegal: $10,000 fine and 3 months in jail. Second offense, $100, ooo fine and one year in jail. Conservatives don’t want to hear it. Instead, if Grandma Frisbee hires an illegal alien from the curb in front of Home Depot in Arizona to fix her fence, she’s charged with a crime. That law specifically excluded construction contractors.

        Where we agree: Congressional representation for illegal immigrants (and legal foreign guest workers) is bullshit, but the Constitution says what it says on this matter, in large part as a legacy of slavery. Current-day strict constitutional fundies don’t get to pick this particular rotten cherry out of the Constitution.

        I’d support a constitutional amendment that correct this, to the detriment of Democrats who disproportionately and passively benefit from it—but only if the amendment also addressed gerrymandering and voter disenfranchisement, to the detriment of Republicans who disproportionately and actively benefit from those practices.

        LOL. I’m not holding my breath.

        • K. Beck says:

          I agree with the bulk of what you say. Especially construction and ag hiring illegals. This really amounts to modern day slavery. When will someone ferret out how many illegals work for Trump on his constructions sites and in his hotels/restaurants?

          If you hire them, they will come. Simple as that.

          To Mr. LaMalfa: first you would have to ASK for documentation. Of course you don’t know if you hire illegals, you never ask. That really does make you “special.”

          RE: Congressional Representation, that info comes from the Census Bureau. They count everyone and those are the numbers used for redistricting. That is why you see the district lines re-drawn every 10 years. Everyone, in theory, lives under the same laws, legal or illegal. Are you recommending the Congressional districts be decided by registered voters?

          If you are an elected official at any level, you should understand the hierarchy of US laws. It goes like this: Federal laws supersede any law that any other entity passes. California can pass laws stricter than federal laws, but not less strict. Same goes for County and City laws. For Shasta County to even consider this “resolution” is ludicrous given Senate Bill 54. Do we pay these people to waste tax payer money on nonsense like this? Is this a sop to their campaign donors?

          And what is with this:

          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.”

          They recognize the idiocy of this and don’t have the cojones to vote no? If you can’t stand the heat…

          Sorry County Supervisors: you take an oath of office to follow state and federal laws. Is there no one to vote for on the whole Bd. of Supervisors?

      • Tim says:

        “He (said) that no reasonable amount of money would suffice to get citizens on the roof of a military base building in Arizona in the summer, doing demo and then working with hot tar.”

        And he is the one who determines what a “reasonable amount of money” is? If people are freely choosing to do something else instead, the work simply isn’t paying enough compared to other options. Coercing a 2nd class of people to work for below-market wages is modern-day slavery. And that is precisely what tolerating illegal immigration does.

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          My point isn’t that he was right.

          My point is that he was a conservative Republican who was arguing that he HAS TO hire illegals, because he can’t make a profit if he doesn’t, given the competition that will keep hiring illegals even if he stops. He can’t charge his client (the government) more to pay his employees more if his competitors aren’t held to the same standard.

          And my second point is that you make the playing field even if you make it sting like a mofo if you get caught hiring illegals.

          And my their point is that even in über-conservative Arizona (or maybe *especially* in such places), Republican lawmakers are loath to punish business owners who hire illegals, because profits come first.

  2. cheyenne says:

    The problem I have with sanctuary cities is while they offer sanctuary to illegal immigrants is that they then turn around and try to force the homeless to leave. Most of the homeless are their own local citizens who have fallen on to bad times. I say this as one who works with the homeless.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      I hear you, Cheyenne.

      Here in Calibama, we pass hand-waving resolutions against being a sanctuary state with one hand, while hiring illegal aliens for our ag and restaurant businesses with the other hand.

      Meanwhile, we haze our home-grown homeless population, pretending they’ve all come here from somewhere else and hoping to push them away. See, they’re all transients, bussed here from the big cities. Or they come here because we’re so overly generous.

      • K. Beck says:

        Hiring illegals for rock bottom pay affects wages for everyone. That is the big picture.

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          Hiring illegals doesn’t only affect wages for everyone. It also affects prices for everyone.

          We want to hire citizens instead of illegals, but we don’t want to pay $20 for a hamburger at Denny’s, or $6 for a bag of Trader Joe’s organic arugula.

  3. Hopefully, someone can explain how various jurisdictions with public officials sworn to uphold the law can selectively decide which laws to follow. Having visited Ellis Island and being related to Mayflower passengers, I have some vague apprehension of our immigrant history. Open borders and lack of any formal process to citizenship seems a primitive way of modern behavior in a world filled with people who do not like our culture and do not wish to be assimilated either here or elsewhere. What happened to E. Pluribus Unum? If we are the new Balkan States of America should we have a formal way of that status being established rather than the random and chaotic method of today?

    • Mary Rickert says:

      Randy-Thank you for your very insightful response. It is a difficult issue, but I feel strongly if you choose to come to this country, you need to find a path to citizenship to become a responsible and legal member of our society. I am saddened that this has created such discord but I know we all want what is best for Shasta County.

      • K. Beck says:

        “Hopefully, someone can explain how various jurisdictions with public officials sworn to uphold the law can selectively decide which laws to follow.”

        How about that someone be you.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Every executive branch in our history (federal and state) decides which laws to prioritize—that’s politics, and elections have consequences, as they say.

      Our current federal administration’s AG Sessions has long been rattling his saber about ramping up enforcement of federal laws addressing his pet boogeyman, marijuana—to the extent that Congress felt it necessary to defund him when it comes to medical marijuana in the budget just sent to Trump, relegating that issue to the states. (It took Republicans to do that, obviously.) There is nothing new about pushing back against the law of the land with the tools at hand, including refusal to spend money on certain laws.

      Lack of any formal process to citizenship? Since when? We may not prefer the processes currently in place—especially regarding the stupid lottery system—but that doesn’t mean those formal processes don’t exist.

  4. conservative says:

    Shasta county faces the closure of Sears, Kmart, possibly Macys, JC Penney or Kohls. The shift to online shopping is unstoppable and I don’t see how the city and county will replace the lost sales tax revenue and jobs. Cities across the country are trying to repurpose the empty stores. The more I shop online, the better I like it.

    The most ominous thing in California’s future is fentanyl and synthetic fentanyl derivatives flooding the country. The Sinaloa cartel and others make the drugs in Mexico and buy from North Korea, China, etc. Fentanyl class drugs are cheaper to make than opium poppy derivatives.

  5. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    Good luck to Wilda’s—when I lived on the east side of town, I was bummed by the move across I-5. Really love the graphics. Looking forward to grabbing a Buddha Bowl at the new location when I’m in town.

    As for Gene’s—I get it that the transients are a problem for businesses downtown and on the 273 corridor, but others are still making a go of it. Damburger doesn’t seem to be on its last legs, for example. Blame the City of it makes you feel better, but Gene’s appears to have been run into the ground.

    • Tim says:

      So if sparrows don’t have a problem making a go of it, it is the spotted owl’s fault it can’t cope with the changing environment?

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        My knee-jerk response was to write that off as an example of why analogies are the weakest form of argument.

        But in a certain sense, you’re exactly right. It’s the spotted owl’s “fault” that as a species, it’s particularly fussy about its habitat requirements. And it’s to the house sparrow’s benefit that it thrives among humans—the cellar spider of birds.

        I’m putting aside certain teleological issues here. I assume you’re well aware that spotted owls and house sparrows aren’t choosing to be fussy, or not. I assume you’re also at least familiar with—if not accepting of—the notion that the fussiness of spotted owls and flexibility of house sparrows are functions of natural selection, not a purposeful design by a divine hand.

        House sparrows aren’t superior. They’re weedier—well adapted to human disturbance. Spotted owls aren’t inferior. They’re well adapted to huge tracts of relatively undisturbed old-growth forest (where you won’t find house sparrows), but poorly adapted to human disturbance. Alas, to the detriment of the spotted owl, they live in a world of profound human disturbance.

        As for Gene’s—unlike the spotted owl—there was the element of the owner *choosing* not to sufficiently adapt to a changing environment, and then blaming that environment. Meanwhile, others adapt and live on in that same environment.

        • Tim says:

          With 3 owners quitting in 4 years, it seems pretty obvious the existing burger stand could not go on regardless of management. The irony is that the last owner *did* try to adapt but failed to get his adaptations through the byzantine regulatory system.

          • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

            Yep, he failed. Others don’t.

            Why did he fail? Because he couldn’t get his proposal through the byzantine regulatory system? I don’t think the City ever canned his proposal, and he hasn’t convinced me that he couldn’t get it through. To my reading, he had a business plan that didn’t pencil out given the costs of the required infrastructure requirements.

            You can argue that such infrastructure improvements shouldn’t be required at all, but that quickly turns into an argument against having community standards if they cost project proponents any money.

  6. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    Three members of the Board of Supes decided to pander to the Trumpians among their constituents.

    Mary Rickert is my Board of Supes representative, and I’m a sincere admirer of her family business. Per the article: “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.”

    Most illegal aliens come to the U.S. seeking opportunity. That opportunity is provided by people who hire illegal aliens, primarily because of economic incentives (illegals are willing to work hard for low wages). Thus, employers who hire illegals are an “attractive nuisance” when it comes to the illegal alien issue.

    Proof: When we had our big recession at the close of the Bush II years, there was reverse migration of illegal immigrants back to Mexico. No point in staying if there’s no work—it’s cheaper to live down there.

    I would like my Board representative, Ms. Rickert, to state that the immigrants that she and her husband have helped attain citizenship were not hired when they were illegals, and that the Rickerts make a practice of ALWAYS refraining from hiring illegals for their agriculture operations. If she can’t do that, I call shit from a bull, and whoever runs against her next election gets my vote. I don’t care who it is.

    I can take the pandering to yahoos—I understand the pressure to do that. What I can’t stomach at all is flaming hypocrisy.

    Kudos to Mr. Kehoe for calling this chicanery by its name, and for having core beliefs that come before political expediency.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      “I would like my Board representative, Ms. Rickert, to state that the immigrants that she and her husband have helped attain citizenship were not hired when they were illegals, and that the Rickerts make a practice of ALWAYS refraining from hiring illegals for their agriculture operations.”

      :::crickets chirping:::

      Yeah, I didn’t think so.

  7. Judy Salter says:

    These comments make it so black and white. It is not. Some cannot get green cards, some cane over in fear, some are dreamers, sone don’t speak English well enough to pass the tests, some want to work to help their families but not become citizens. There was zero need to do this vote. It is not a law enforcement issue. Sheriff Bosenko told me he never has more than 4-6 illegals a year. So who wants us to do ICE’s job? In my opinion, those who have no faith in Democracy

  8. Being a glass half full kind of guy, I’d like to point out that The Tropics, right down the greasy street from Gene’s, remains open for business, if liquid lunches are your bag and you can handle the occasional vanquished vagrant telling you his sob story about getting kicked out of the mission for the 47th time.

    Kudos to the Shasta County Supervisors Les Baugh, Mary Rickert and Steve Morgan for their anti-sanctuary stance. They clearly know the real problem isn’t the aforementioned derelicts.

    It’s the damned illegal Mexicans. They’re rapists and killers, you know.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Before Trump, “Breaking Bad” wasn’t doing illegal aliens any PR favors, either. They were all Mexican mafia drug mules and enforcers.

      • cheyenne says:

        Steve, guess what, here in the Rockies the drug mules, enforcers, and hitmen are Mexican drug cartels. Ever hear of MS13?

        • Beverly Stafford says:

          I had not heard of MS-13 until I read Three Weeks to Say Goodbye by C. J. Box. Nice group of folks.

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          Most MS-13 members are Central American (Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Guatemalans), not Mexican. The “MS” stands for Mara Salvatrucha, which roughly means “Salvadoran gang.”

          No bueno.

      • The only significant problem with undocumented workers in Shasta County as far as I know is those poor bastards the cartels plop down in the federal forest to grow the cartel’s weed. I guess you could say they’re doing the job no one in Shasta County is will to allow a white man to do.

        • cheyenne says:

          RV, very well stated. And I like The Tropics, my kind of bar. I’m glad it is still there.

          • Beverly Stafford says:

            The Tropics and Roquito’s next door have a symbiotic relationship. I’ve been in Roquito’s when Roque trotted an order of tacos next door to some hungry elbow-benders.

        • K. Beck says:

          I will never forget in one of the fires up here, firefighters found two badly burned men when they were putting out hot spots. The two men had been brought here by the Mexican Cartel. They were told to protect the marijuana plants or their families in Mexico would be murdered. So they stayed there durning the fire!

  9. Gene’s Hamburger stand, from my recollection as a 13 yr old, was actually .17 cents, something we came from little old Anderson to eat every week. Sorry, but I don’t buy the regulation thing, there’s this thing called appeals and compromise among governing officials. Gene’s would still be standing if a little continued chat were ongoing. Wilda’s opening downtown, a big yeah !
    Sears re-alignment, let’s hope they retain enough of their fine products to keep a modicum of a brick&mortar presence. But the addition of another drive-thru, wait a minute, something’s wrong here planning wise. Especially when the Planning Commission can’t see the benefit to the Downtown Specific Plan. I was completely flummoxed at their meeting on the Downtown plan and mostly negative responses to a draft plan that accommodated all parties involved; I hope they read the Plan again and let this Market St. project go forth, it’s the only way for Redding’s Downtown future and active retail businesses to survive.
    Sanctuary resolution- after 30 minutes of phone discussion with Ms. Rickert in urging her to vote against the pointless Sanctuary resolution, she stated to me, at least 3 times, she had been mentoring an illegal alien in the McArthur area for a number of years. As well she said the same in an email to another person lobbying her to vote no on the resolution. I then sent an email to County Counsel asking if she should recuse herself from voting because of this conflict and we see the result. This should be appealed to the State Attorney General’s office for opinion. Kudos to the two Supervisors who abstained, which is essentially a no vote.

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