Bethany Clough

River Park openings: Two restaurants, a new store and a mystery for Fresno shopping area

Changes are coming to River Park in north Fresno

Several new stores and restaurants will be taking over empty spaces at River Park shopping center.
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Several new stores and restaurants will be taking over empty spaces at River Park shopping center.

River Park is getting a flurry of new businesses.

Two new restaurants are opening, more are on the way and a new boutique is coming soon.

Some of the businesses are going into buildings that have sat empty for a while, like the former Chevys Fresh Mex, as leases were finalized and interiors were renovated. It’s a process that always seems to take longer than anticipated.

And there will be more waiting to come. Even though two new restaurants are taking over the former World Sports Cafe, you’ll have to keep waiting as they inch their way to opening.

Here’s what’s happening at River Park:

Blaze Pizza is opening a new location at the old Subway restaurant at River Park. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

Blaze Pizza opens Thursday near the theaters. The restaurant is a build-your-own pizza place serving 11-inch pizzas for around $8.

It will be giving away free pizzas Friday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

It’s the same franchise as the one that opened at Herndon and Fowler avenues last year (and used to have a location on Shaw Ave. near First Street).

The new Blaze takes over the former Subway spot and part of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, which is in the process of moving to a new space in the shopping center, said Mitch Wolf, director of marketing for the company that owns this Blaze franchise.

“If you’ve been to Subway, you won’t recognize it,” he said. “We essentially took everything out.”

The restaurant has a large patio and roll-up doors that open the restaurant up to the outdoors.

And yes, this is a second pizza place for River Park, as Me-N-Ed’s Coney Island Grill is still open catering to families a stone’s throw away. Blaze tends to attract a young crowd, with Wolf hoping to catch people looking for a place to hang out, but also going to a movie.

Meat is served at the new Texas de Brazil in the former Chevys at River Park Wednesday evening, Oct. 24, 2018 in Fresno. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA

The Texas de Brazil restaurant opened in the former Chevys late last month. The Brazilian steakhouse is churrascaria, meaning servers bring meat to your table on skewers and cut it in front of you.

The restaurant has about 15 kinds of meat, from bacon-wrapped filet mignon to its signature picanha (top sirloin).

For $44.99, diners can eat all the meat they want, plus eat from the upscale salad area. Diners who don’t want to go all out on the meat can get a meal from just the salad area for $24.99. It includes five hot dishes, like lobster bisque and Brazilian black bean soup, along with salad fixings like grilled provolone. Much more than a salad bar, it features options like hearts of palm and grilled provolone.

But perhaps the most notable thing about this new restaurant is how different it looks from Chevys. Once a collection a little rooms, the walls have been knocked down and dramatic light fixtures brought in.

Locally owned Eye Candy Fashion Boutique is opening soon near Ann Tayler LOFT at River Park. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

Eye Candy Fashion Boutique is aiming to open a store this month, between LOFT and jewelry store JULIA. It’s taking over the space Ooh La La left behind when it moved across Blackstone Avenue to the Villaggio shopping center.

The store carries women’s clothing and accessories. The jewelry, cowboy boots and purses all have a bit of a western flair, though the boutique carries clothing in a variety of styles. There are flowy bohemian tops, plaid shirts and floral dresses.

And this store is for more than just tiny women, notes owner Stacy DeWall.

“We try to cater to women’s bodies, bodies that have had babies,” she said. “We try really hard to cater to all body sizes, not just the model size.”

This is a second location for DeWall, who also has a store of the same name Madera.

JPot, an Asian hot pot restaurant by the owner of Hino Oishi at Campus Pointe, is in the works inside the former World Sports Cafe at River Park. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

JPot will take over part of the former World Sports Cafe space, as Carmen George reported in The Bee last month. The locally-owned restaurant will be owned by the same people who won Hino Oishi, Dai Bai Dang and Lin’s Fusion.

JPot will specialize in Asian hot pots. It’s a style of cooking where meat, vegetables and seafood are cooked in a pot of broth at the table. Normally, it’s all in one pot shared by the table, but in this case each diner will have their own mini pot.

But you’re going to have to wait a while for this one, at least until next year.

A mystery restaurant is planning to move into the rest of the space in the Worlds Sports Cafe. River Park is keeping this one under wraps, and the people behind the restaurant will announce when they’re ready, said River Park spokeswoman Tracy Kashian.

“It’s a new and really cool concept,” she said.

It could be many months until this one is open too.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, still under construction is expected to open in a spot near the theaters at River Park, is scheduled to open by the end of the year. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is coming back. The owner of the chocolate and candy shop hopes to be open by the end of the year.

A little history: The store was once in River Park near Yoshino’s. Then it moved next to Dai Bai Dang. When its lease was up, the shopping center wanted the business to move again to make way for Blaze, but the former owner didn’t renew its lease. The owner of the Fashion Fair Rocky Mountain took it over and it is in the process of moving the store back toward its old location.

The Lash Lounge is a custom eyelash extension boutique opening at River Park. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

The Lash Lounge is taking over the former Blown Away blow-dry bar and is scheduled to open Dec. 3. The business offers eyelash extensions, brow extensions and permanent makeup. The same company is also planning to open a Woodward Park location at Cedar and Shepherd avenues.

Work is happening at the former JCPenney Home Store, which closed in August. Some of its departments were transferred to the Fashion Fair JCPenney.

Kashian, the River Park spokeswoman, said the center is close to finalizing a lease for new business in part of that space, though she declined to say who.

The work happening is River Park dividing up the space. Once that’s done, a renter would start their own modifications.

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough