Or maybe Victorian Avenue is just getting spit on.
A few weeks ago I was walking to the Sparks Heritage Museum when I passed the storefront that used to house the Tizzy Lish boutique and antique shop. The store held a special memory for me because it was one of the first feature articles I ever wrote for the Tribune, roughly three years ago. The sisters who owned it were excited about opening the business while also anxious about the lack of hustle and bustle on the street. I interviewed them, published the article and wished them luck.
Over the last few years I ran into the Tizzy Lish sisters, Donna and Teri Santangelo, a couple of times. Each time they seemed panicked for their store’s future and were trying all they could to get local officials to revive downtown. But in April 2009, less than two years after opening, they closed up shop for good.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago: I noticed as I walked to that Blind Onion pizzeria, another new business to the area had expanded into Tizzy Lish’s old store. Perhaps that is the only way Victorian Square will fill up again, I thought to myself.
Existing businesses will have to branch out and take over all the empty property around them.
This issue is, of course, not a new one for Sparks. The demise of Victorian Avenue (formerly B Street, the city’s main drag) has been a slow, painful one. Sure, the city is doing its “redevelopment” work but it seems for every step forward there is at least one step back. The movie theater is fairly new and a lot of people spend their money there, but the city also tore down some retail property (the former Pacific Pawnbrokers) to make a road to get there. The big new shiny bus station went in but the housing/retail development ideas that are supposed to bring in residents and businesses keep failing (most recently The District). And, in some information I gathered this week from the state Gaming Control Board, the company that had control over the gaming license at the defunct Silver Club did not activate the license by the due date of June 17. That means if anyone ever does buy the casino the package won’t come with an active gaming license. I haven’t quite gotten to the bottom of that issue yet, but when I find out more details I’ll let you know.
In an unfortunate but understandable move, the Sparks Chamber of Commerce abandoned its tiny office in downtown a year or so ago for a larger one a short distance away on Pyramid Way. But with the announcement that the chamber will be opening an office at Legends at Sparks Marina, the move feels like a bad breakup.
You know, the kind where the boy breaks it off and tells the girl it’s not because there is someone else, but then just a little while later she hears through the grapevine that he is getting married. She knows then there was someone else all along but he just didn’t have the heart to tell her.
Even though the chamber is undoubtedly not trying to send this message, the way this comes across is to tell the Sparks business community that Victorian Avenue is old news and Legends is now where it’s at. I wrote in this column a while back that Legends reminded me of a similar shopping outlet in Orange, Calif. The Block, as it is called, is strikingly similar to Legends in appearance and atmosphere. It started its own march toward death after about four years and I hear it is even closer today.
Interestingly, Legends general manager Dennis McGovern worked on the development of The Block in the late 1990s. Perhaps I am being nostalgic in hoping that something magical revives Victorian Avenue. Life is all about change and we have to just go with it sometimes. But for me seeing a vibrant old street is like listening to records: I can feel the enjoyment of those who went before me, whether it is sitting at the same bar or hearing the needle crackle through the same grooves. But I have to realize that sometimes the record is irreparably scratched.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wipe the spit off me.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.