Bethany Clough

This iconic Tower District restaurant in Fresno is closing soon. Here’s why

Chicken Pie Shop closes for good

The Chicken Pie Shop, an icon in the Tower District, will close for good on Sunday, March 31, 2019, after being open in the same location since 1956, and next door for 10 years prior to that.
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The Chicken Pie Shop, an icon in the Tower District, will close for good on Sunday, March 31, 2019, after being open in the same location since 1956, and next door for 10 years prior to that.

Grandmarie’s Chicken Pie Shop, perhaps the most iconic restaurant in Fresno’s Tower District, is closing its doors.

The last day will be Sunday, March 31, confirmed waitress and restaurant spokeswoman Jerry Lopez, who has worked at the restaurant for 39 years. The Tower District fixture has been in its current location since 1956, and was next door for 10 years before that.

The staff is telling customers and a sign will go up on the door Sunday, but don’t expect any grand goodbyes or announcements, Lopez said.

Owner Gary Ross “didn’t want a big to-do,” she said.

It’s closing for several reasons, including Ross wanting to retire.

“He’s 72 years old,” Lopez said. “He’s just tired. It just takes a lot. He lost his wife a couple of years ago.”

Ross is looking forward to spending time with this two grandkids, she said.

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One of the last golden-brown chicken pies served up, Tuesday, March 26, 2019, from The Chicken Pie Shop, which will close after decades in the Tower District. JOHN WALKER jwalker@fresnobee.com

Tower District

The Chicken Pie Shop is known for its old-school charm – the green vinyl booths and laminate counter tops, for instance – and comfort food. That’s chicken pie, obviously, but also fried chicken livers, potato salad and rice pudding.

But sales have slowed and the Tower District has changed, Lopez noted.

“The Tower District was not what it was 25 years ago. Most of the people in the Tower District now, it’s party people and we don’t sell alcohol, so that puts us on the out,” she said. “We’re just not making the money we used to make, and the building is too big.”

Lopez said the restaurant owner, who does not own the building, tried to sell the business a couple of times, with no luck.

“There’s a lot of major repairs that would need to be done and really nobody has the money to bring it back,” Lopez said.

The future of the Chicken Pie Shop was in question back in 2018, when the business was listed for sale in The Bee’s classifieds. The asking price was $150,000. Someone also started a Go Fund Me campaign for the restaurant. Both posts were eventually taken down.

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Rudy Valdez, left, a long-time customer of The Chicken Pie Shop, waits for lunch with his son, John Valdez, Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Rudy said he has come to the iconic Tower District restaurant since he was a child. It will be closing for good on Sunday after being open in the same location since 1956, and next door for 10 years prior to that. JOHN WALKER jwalker@fresnobee.com

Customers are posting tributes and memories on social media. Craig Scharton posted the news on his Facebook page Monday night.

“I’ve been coming here since the time that I was my grandson’s age. My son Cole and I played cards here before he could even hold them,” wrote the former owner of Peeve’s Public House, who was the interim CEO for the Downtown Fresno Partnership.

“It’s the end of an era,” he wrote.

Its closure also leaves about 14 employees without work, some who have worked there for decades and are a little older than your typical restaurant servers. Lopez is 72 (though she says she doesn’t look it) and wonders where she’ll find her next job.

“Do you know how hard it is to find a job?” she said.

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