I recently spent a wonderful Friday morning in Reedley. Opting for the slightly slower route into town from Fresno, I took Highway 180 and then heading south on Reed Avenue. This is a scenic entrance through orchards with views of the Sierra Nevada foothills.
I met my friend Nicole Zieba, Reedley’s City Manager, for a tour and an overview. Nicole is a great booster for this city of 24,000 residents. She is very proud of how well all of the community works together. The City partners with the school district and Reedley College, and Nicole highlighted a few efforts that exemplified their cooperative nature.
The City of Reedley worked with the school district to build new headquarters in downtown. They also worked together to build a compressed natural gas (CNG) facility to reduce costs for fleet vehicles while also reducing emissions for the Valley’s air quality.
Reedley’s airport and Reedley College have embarked on a cutting-edge electric aviation program. Electric planes will be used to teach new pilots. Charging stations will be set up around the Central Valley, and Reedley College students will learn how to maintain and repair the planes. The program is so forward-thinking, they have gained attention from around the world, including from NASA!
Nicole also showed me the trail that encircles most of the city, the very active sports park, and the City-operated parks along the Kings River. We drove through neighborhoods filled with beautifully restored historic homes that look like they are made for the movies. Reedley is also committed to mixed-income neighborhoods with beautiful Fresno Housing Authority developments.
But as you know by now, I’m a downtown guy, so I spent the rest of my time walking through their charming businesses talking with delightful and Reedley-proud businesses and customers. Reedley still has a great collection of historic buildings in its downtown, further evidence of the City’s pride in its heritage. Reedley voters even turned away a Super Wal-Mart and other big box stores to protect their small-town charm.
The Reedley Opera House is the home of the River City Theater Co. and is one of the core attractions to downtown. It features live theater and is located in a City-owned and -maintained 1903 historic building. It’s on my Central Valley bucket list to finally see a show there.
Downtown Reedley still has many locally owned shops and services, which is a rarity these days. They have Pro-Script Pharmacy, Kings River Tractor, a hardware store called Reedley Lumber, and their newspaper, the Reedley Exponent, is located right on the main drag. They still support a downtown, locally owned shoe store called Sam’s Shoes. Sam’s is run by the fourth generation owner Eric Parichan, and it’s been in the same building since 1914! They sell shoes for the whole family.
There are plenty of fun places for good food, drink, and sweets, too. The Pub has a modest storefront, but once you walk inside, it is a gorgeous interior with artwork and cool lighting, and the woodwork on the ceiling is incredible. Mainstreet Café was hopping when I stopped in and met the owner, Angie Friend. Valentino’s looks like a classic, casual Italian restaurant that you might see on the East Coast. Uncle Harry’s is an Armenian restaurant located in an historic red brick corner building.
Sweet Destination is a relatively new business that features homemade candies and also sells sweets from the Porterville chocolatier called Stafford’s. They have locally made pastries from Dinuba Home Economics teacher Martha Macias, and they also sell locally made wreaths and child-sized rocking chairs. Shelly Henderson is the owner and she showed me around the store with great pride. She’s a retired teacher and was playing with a little girl in their toy section when I walked in. This place is worth a visit to downtown Reedley with your kids or grandkids!
Another main feature in downtown Reedley is the Mennonite Quilt Center. On the ground floor of their building is a quilting store that also teaches classes. Upstairs is a quilt museum and gallery showcasing quilts. Community members make quilts that are sold to raise money for humanitarian efforts around the world. This year is the 50th anniversary of their quilt auction and the event will be held in Fresno at Fresno Pacific University on April 7th and 8th. Anyone who makes or appreciates quilts needs to come to downtown Reedley to see this place.
Reedley is a special place and you can feel their spirit of community; it is evident everywhere. I encourage people from around the Central Valley to come for a visit, to take a break from the stress of life and explore for yourself. As I wrapped up my day, I met with Denny Mason, who is a photographer and is filling in as the Reedley Downtown Association leader. She encouraged me to invite all of you to their many upcoming events!
P.S. I met the owners of Hillcrest Train Station Shops while they were having lunch at Mainstreet Café. I regret that I didn’t make it out there on this trip, but they’re worthy of their own FresYes blog post at a later date. These folks build scale model trains that you can ride on a 15” gauge track around the farm. They even make trains for amusement parks. Follow the link above to get a better idea about what they’re up to.