Old Town Clovis isn’t just the land of antiques anymore.
Craft beer tasting, new and different stores, an outdoor plaza and an influx of young people — hipsters, even — are putting a twist on the traditional “Clovis way of life.”
Some are even calling Old Town the new Tower District in terms of its draw for eating, drinking and shopping. And even more change is in the works.
“It just seems like something is happening here,” says director of planning Dwight Kroll. “There’s a vibe that’s happening on its own. There’s a new downtown that’s brewing.”
One of the most recent changes is the City of Clovis passing a law that allows wine and beer tasting rooms to open in Old Town. Clovis-based W Brewing, which sells the 559 brand of craft beer, will be the first.
In the past, people wanting to open tasting rooms had to be part of a bar or restaurant. Or they had to finagle their way through the rules, with the city wanting House of Pendragon and the former Water 2 Wine to serve food, for example.
But effective this month, tasting rooms can open without those strings attached.
W Brewing’s tasting room — it doesn’t have a name yet — is scheduled to open this month. It’s taking over the small space at 608 Fourth St. that the store Vintage on Fourth left behind when it moved to Fifth Street and changed its name to The Foundry Collective.
Rhett Williams will keep his brewery on Tollhouse Road, but use the Fourth Street space to introduce the public to his beer and to serve seasonal and new brews.
It’s not a bar, but customers will be able to get a glass of beer on tap there, and buy bottles of the 559 Raisin Farmer Ale and other beers to take home. It won’t have bar hours, open instead from around 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.
“I didn’t want to do something in a strip mall,” Williams says. “I wanted to have character behind it and the quaintness of Clovis and a family background.”
To celebrate the new law, Clovis is hosting its first Craft Beer Crawl April 19. Fashioned after the Old Town Clovis Wine Walk, people will taste beers inside stores. Fifteen to 20 microbrewerers are expected, including local ones and bigger ones such as Sierra Nevada. There will also be food trucks, cowboy poetry, a home brew competition — and a facial hair contest that figures to span the generations from handlebar mustaches to trendy big beards.
Blending old and new
That combination could be considered a metaphor for the changes in Old Town itself. Once the domain of antique shops and the people who loved them, the mix of stores and the people who visit them is changing.
Katie Hayner, 28, has grown up in Clovis and sees the change. When she was a kid and her family told her they were going to Old Town, it was an, “Oh, my God, not again” reaction. Now she goes willingly all the time.
“When I was a kid it was the antiquing-with-your grandma oldness of it,” she says of Old Town. “Now if you’re 16 and you want to go do something, you can. You can go get coffee, you can go buy records, whereas when you were younger, there was just antique shops.”
Now, on any given day the Kuppa Joy coffee shop on Clovis Avenue is packed with young people, the majority of customers between ages 20 and 30, says the owner.
“You’ve got these coffee places opening up that are bringing the hipsters in and you didn’t see hipsters in Clovis five years ago,” says Shawn Miller, the city’s business development manager.
Organizers of the year-round Saturday morning farmers market marvel at the number young mothers-to-be they see.
Other businesses attract a broader range of ages, too, from the less than a year old Brick & Mortar furniture store to the growing popularity of The Lounge at DiCicco’s. The restaurant converted its banquet room into a lounge with a wall of mirrors, serving $5 bloody Marys at its “Sunday Bloody Sunday” event 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.
More young people are hitting up antique shops as they look for vintage items to include in their decor. And stores with a more modern twist on vintage are thriving too, including the furniture-painting store 3 Oaks and The Foundry Collective.
The Foundry moved and changed its name when it outgrew its old space. Now at 516 Fifth St., it blends new clothing with antique milk glass and repurposed items.
Owner Karen Chisum says she sees the changes happening in Old Town: “People are making it more of a destination where they’ll come down here and spend a few hours. It’s a place to come and meet your friends, couples coming on date nights, browsing through the stores.”
It’s a lot different than the 1980s when Old Town Clovis had a vacancy rate of 40% and businesses were fleeing downtown, recalls Kroll, the planning director.
Today, Old Town’s vacancy rate is less than 5%, says Jeff Davis, a commercial real estate broker based in Old Town.
As vacancy rates go, “that’s very impressive,” he says.
When buildings come up for lease, they get tenants quickly in Old Town. In other areas of town, it typically takes six months to one year to lease a building, he says. The lease for The Foundry’s new spot took two months to finalize.
“Because it’s in downtown Clovis it took 60 days to lease it and we were actually choosing between a couple of tenants,” Davis says. “It shows you the demand.”
The next wave of change comes with Centennial Plaza that’s under construction at Bullard and Pollasky avenues, known by many as the old DMV property. The first phase of the plaza is scheduled to be finished in early April.
When it’s finished, it will have nice landscaping, low decorative walls and showcase the Valley oak tree in the middle. It will be wired for light and sound so outdoor events including concerts can be held there. The design allows events to easily spill out into the intersection, which has a new pavement treatment and can easily be blocked off. Parking will also be available east of the plaza.
The second phase will bring two new buildings on either side of the plaza. The city will sell two pads — one 6,000 square feet and the other 4,500 square feet — to a developer who will build on the sites.
“We will sell those to someone who has a really cool idea,” Miller says.
City officials are imagining shops and restaurants — perhaps with patio dining — and offices on upper floors. The city is accepting proposals until March 27.
For people strolling Pollasky, the places to eat and shop tend to peter out around Bullard Avenue. But that could be changing.
Already attention is turning to the southern parts of Pollasky. City folks even have a playful name for it, taking a cue from the SoMa nickname for San Francisco’s “south of Market” area, they’re calling the area south of Fifth Street in Clovis “SoFi.”
A building that once housed several small salons at the southwest corner of Pollasky and Bullard has been gutted and is being cleaned up. Scott Dority of Dority Insurance and Financial Services bought the building to be closer to what he calls the “Mayberry” feel of Old Town. He’ll move his business into it, with Holiday Pool & Spa Construction taking over the rest of the space.
And a committee is mapping the future for the larger area that covers Sierra to Barstow avenues and Minnewawa to Sunnyside avenues as part of the central Clovis specific plan. The committee of about two dozen volunteers is already turning its attention to the area south of Fifth.
The plan is in the very beginning stages, but there’s talk of an entertainment and arts district, for example.
More change is coming to the other end of Old Town, too. Negotiations are underway to bring a new library, senior center and transit center to be built behind the former Gary O. Furniture building, north and east of Clovis Avenue and Third Street.
Residents still say they’d like to see other changes: More parking, a theater, a microbrewery. Some say they want shops to stay open past 5 p.m. or 6 p.m to catch diners strolling the sidewalk before or after dinner.
Still, it’s obvious change is happening.
“There’s a lot of interest about building on the success of Old Town, but not repeating it,” Kroll says.