Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Kwirkworld closing, Hobby Lobby may be coming, more food and shopping news

One of Fresno’s quirkiest and most-loved stores is closing, but there’s news of a lots of openings in the works too. Here’s a rundown on what’s happening the shopping and eating world in Fresno and Clovis.

Closing: Kwirkworld. The River Park store known for novelties such as stick-on hipster mustaches and socks that say “bacon” is closing. Owner Kirk Psenner is returning to selling real estate. He said Wednesday: “When I look at the economic picture, it’s the difference between just skating by and going back to my passion that I was hugely successful at.” You can see the full story here and read the announcement Kwirkworld posted on its Facebook page here. The store will close sometime in March and is already having a sale.

Possibly opening: Hobby Lobby. The craft retailer that makes headlines for other things confirmed it is looking to open in Fresno. “We are actively looking for a location in Fresno but nothing has been signed as of yet,” says spokesman Vince Parker of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.

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Five Guys Burgers and Fries planning Fresno expansion

Five Guys Burgers and Fries apparently really likes Fresno. A company that owns many of the franchised restaurants is planning to open 10 more — yes 10 — restaurants in Fresno. Encore Restaurants, LLC, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Encore Enterprises, Inc. announced Tuesday that it has purchased the existing Fresno restaurant in River Park (along with the Five Guys locations in Elk Grove, Lodi, Natomas, RosevilleStocktonTracy, and West Sacramento). The company plans to open 45 more Five Guys locations in the state over the next four years, with 10 of them in Fresno.

Of course, this is the point where my suspicious reporter brain said “Really? All 10 in Fresno? Not the ‘Fresno area’ that could potentially stretch to Bakersfield?” Nope, said the marketing director who double checked with the company president.  All 10 in Fresno.

They have found locations for the sites, but are not releasing addresses yet. Building will start in early 2015. Marketing director Amy Upton said: “They just have had a lot of feedback [from] people wanting them. There’s a need for it in the area. People are requesting them.”

Five Guys serves burgers, of course, but also hot dogs and sandwiches, along with providing peanuts in bulk for customers. Is this a challenge to the Valley’s beloved In-N-Out Burger perhaps? 

What should replace the World Sports Cafe?

My CaptureRiver Park is looking for help in deciding what will replace the World Sports Cafe. The restaurant/bar closed in January and is still empty. Click here for a three-question survey about what type of store you’d like to see move in. (And it does say “store.” Does that mean restaurants are not an option?)

The shopping center is also encouraging shoppers with smartphones to scan a QR code on signs on the building and tell them what they’d like to see there. It’s the same strategy the center used with the former Borders space. H&M was the No. 1 response and that store opened last week. So, Fresno, what do you think?

Fresno fashion question: Are white lace socks back?

I spotted this on a mannequin at the H&M clothing store opening in River Park Thursday. These look like the same little white socks I used to wear with dress shoes when I was 6. Is this a trend that’s coming back? For adults? Think of all the blisters it could save us from. What do you think, Fresno — should this trend get popular with adults or is best left in the past? Let us know in the comment section.

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What you need to know about H&M in Fresno

photo (89)An eye-popping 1,100 people flocked to the grand opening of Fresno’s first H&M clothing store. Getting an H&M store here — in the former Borders space in River Park — is a huge deal to a lot of people, particularly shoppers in their teens and 20s. You can see a video of the opening frenzy below. But here’s what you need to know about the store with one of the craziest openings I’ve ever covered.

What’s the clothing like? The store carries men’s and women’s clothing, including a large selection of menswear such as dress shirts and shorts. It carries women’s plus sizes from 14 to 22, but only had one large rack devoted to it Thursday. The “H&M Mama” (maternity) section was bigger. The kid’s section is sizeable and the store also sells accessories, lingerie and fitness clothing.

Shoppers described the styles as similar to Forever 21 and Love Culture (both in Fashion Fair mall), but more appropriate for work. The styles definitely skew young. Some said H&M clothes were less expensive than Forever 21 and higher quality. Prices ranged from $7 maxi dresses to $29.95 orange-and-white striped men’s dress shirts.

Why the big deal? This is the only H&M store between Modesto and Santa Barbara. Shoppers have been seeking out H&M in other cities when traveling out of town for years. The retailer is the epitome of “fast fashion” which means getting cutting-edge runway looks onto store racks quickly.

But isn’t Fresno just in love with chain stores? Perhaps. But there’s more going on here that’s inspiring 1,100 people to line up beginning 

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Fresno H&M announces opening date, details

hmIt’s official. H&M has announced an opening date: Thursday, May 29. Readers have been bugging me for weeks about when exactly the H&M in River Park will open and if it will carry plus sizes. Today, the company answered many of your questions.

The store will open at noon. Expect big crowds (no overnight camping out allowed though). Details here: H&M announces opening date for Fresno’s River Park store. That’s a New York store at right, by the way. Ours will look much different and has a tower visible from Highway 41.

Shock at seeing actual bellies on local mannequins, models

mannequin 003I was walking through Fashion Fair mall last week and this mannequin stopped me in my tracks. Do you see what’s different about her? She actually has a little belly, a little pooch below her belly button. (You can click to enlarge the photo if you want.) It’s not much of one, sure, but it’s something you just don’t see on mannequins. Most of them have flat as a pancake stomachs — and look nothing like real people. But plenty of real people, even thin people, have and agonize over a little pooch like this. Hiding it with shapewear isn’t even a question for this gal. This was at Caché, the formal dress shop, by the way.

Then fellow Beehiver Traci Arbios mentioned the models in bikinis on the wall outside of the European Wax Center in River Park. Click on the jump to see the photo. The two on the left are beautiful — thin and with hourglass figures — but they don’t have the traditional wispy bodies of most models. There’s no vertical ab line and they have some rounded curves. Traci said she was stunned when she saw it.

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What should replace the World Sports Cafe?

WORLD SPORTS CAFEYesterday’s shocker that World Sports Cafe has closed is still sinking in. The River Park bar and restaurant’s lease was up and owner and former San Francisco 49er Tim McDonald closed the business to focus on his new job as defensive backs coach with the New York Jets, his colleague said. The closure opens up a prime piece of Fresno real estate for something new.

As we learned with the survey River Park did for the Borders space — which clothing retailer H&M will take over — public input really does play a role in who gets that space. So, what would you like to see in the World Sports Cafe space? I’m sure we’ll get plenty of chains as answers, but don’t forget local businesses. Any you think could flourish there?

Just how excited is Fresno about H&M coming to town?

After months of rumors, River Park today confirmed that trendy clothing retailer H&M is coming to Fresno. It will open in late summer or early fall, in the former Borders spot that has been empty since 2011. H&M is a global company known for quickly getting runway looks to the masses at affordable prices. Just how excited are people in Fresno about this store? Very, very, very excited, judging from the response on social media this morning. Take a look.

My personal favorite tweet of the morning:


Check out the number of shares and likes from the Bee Facebook page in the first two hours:

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Westwoods BBQ open in north Fresno

Westwoods, Borders 041Westwoods BBQ & Spice Co. is open, the newest big restaurant to catch Fresno’s attention. The restaurant took over the former Claim Jumper space at Blackstone and Nees avenues. Despite opening just last week, this one was packed last weekend.

The restaurant is a modern twist on barbecue. The meat isn’t drenched in sauce and there’s salads on the menu (check out the food pics on the Facebook page). So far, the burnt ends brisket, which spends 12 hours in the smoker, is a popular seller, along with the fried chicken and tri-tip. The Westwoods pastry chef tried 200 recipes before perfecting her cornbread. The owner and his chefs came up with the menu after a three-week cross country trip trying every barbecue restaurant they could find.

The owner is top Fresno restauranteur Dave Fansler. He’s the guy who created Tahoe Joe’s, Pismo’s Coastal Grill and Yosemite Ranch restaurants. He’s poured millions into revamping the Westwoods space so that it looks nothing like Claim Jumper — as in, knock-down-walls, tear-out-a-fireplace and relocate-the-bar kind of renovations. The restaurant is an homage to Fresno County and its farmers, so you’ll find plenty of ag-inspired details. The windmill out front was rescued from a Sanger property and the wood ceiling made from old barn wood, for example. You can see more details in this video.

The restaurant is half quick service – where you order at a counter and are handed a pager – and half full service, where a waiter or waitress takes care of you. One interesting tidbit: That pager never buzzes or lights up. It connects to a magnet in the table and uses technology that allows the server to know exactly where your food needs to go so you don’t have to get up.

New place to shop: Lola clothing store open in River Park

Lola and T and T consignment 002Lola, a low-priced version of the Ooh La La boutique, has opened in River Park.

Lola carries the same young, trendy, colorful clothing as the three Ooh La La boutiques around town, but nothing at Lola costs more than $30. (River Park doesn’t like to use terms like “discount” in its store names, apparently, so Lola is called an “everyday value.”) The store carries bright pink-and-white dyed cut off shorts for $24.98, gray maxi dresses for $29.98 and camisoles for $4.98.

The store owners expected their main customers — the young women who tend to hang around River Park — to gravitate to the store. (Who else can wear those shirts with the skin-baring cut-outs in the back?) But women of all ages have been shopping the store since it opened. (And I can see why. Maxi dresses and sleeveless tops can be worn by almost anyone.)

The store opened May 31, moving into the former Ooh La La location in front of Macy’s. Ooh La La, meanwhile, has moved to a space double its original size over by Ann Taylor LOFT.

Who’s buying a Rolex in Fresno?

WORD ROLEXFresno now has its only “authorized” Rolex dealership with the opening of Wickersham Company in River Park. The 112-year-old jeweler from Bakersfield recently opened its second jewelry store/Rolex dealership, this one between Sur La Table and Panera Bread.

Rolex watches start at $5,000 and run up to $275,000. They are “the finest watches in the world,” says Wickersham president John Abrams. The store also sells William Henry knives, some made with dinosaur bone and mammoth tooth and costing up to $8,900, and its own line of jewelry made in Bakersfield. The store has the security to go with such high-end items too, including a vault that holds all the merchandise at night. Customers must ring a bell and a security guard behind glass will buzz them in, and then buzz them through a second door.

Every time I write about a high-end retailer like this one someone says to me, “Oh, Fresno can’t support that.” We’ve definitely got our fair share of poor: One in four residents in Fresno lives below the poverty line. But we also have had Haron Jaguar selling $90,000 cars here for years. Posh in Fig Garden village sells fur coats that cost thousands of dollars and bathrobes at La Rouge in Fig Garden run over $100. The owner of Posh once told me that Fresno’s wealth is quiet, and tends to travel out of town to do a lot of its high-end shopping. The Wickersham president agrees there’s enough wealth to support a Rolex dealership here (obviously) and says companies give the watches as awards.

So just who do you think it is in this town that would buy a Rolex? Is it doctors and lawyers? Farmers?

Donald’s weekend picks


The Fresno Philharmonic ends its season with a twang. The Texas Tenors, who shot to fame on “America’s Got Talent,” have been touring the country for four years now, and they’ve developed quite a specialty performing in pops concerts with local orchestras. I talked to JC Fisher — the “country boy” of the act — for Friday’s 7 section. The 8 p.m. Saturday concert, which will feature a mix of country, classical and Broadway/pop tunes, should be a whoop and a holler. [Details]

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KwirkWorld is selling clothing

kwirkKwirkWorld, Fresno’s favorite seller of shot glasses and bacon-flavored candy necklaces, is selling clothing.

You can still buy “Chugopoly,” but much of the River Park store is now devoted to tops and dresses. Owner Kirk Psenner said the wacky stuff sells great during the holidays. But during the rest of the year? Not so much. To keep money coming in, a big portion of the floor space has been turned over to clothing that the owner says is affordable and cute. Think ModCloth-style clothing and vintage-inspired pieces. He chose clothing that’s less teeny bopperish and more geared toward women in their 20s through 40s.

Tops run in the $20 to $30+ range and dresses from $30 to $40ish. T-shirts and baseball caps are available for the fellas. Keep scrolling to see photos of the clothing.

But fear not, fans of stick-on hipster mustaches, the novelty items will take over the store again for the holidays. And there’s about to be a lot more KwirkWorld to shop at. A new smaller KwirkWorld store just opened at Sierra Vista Mall next to the movie theater. And another store is scheduled to open in the Campus Pointe shopping center at Fresno State once it’s built next year. The owner will also open a Franco’s 5 & 10, an old-school candy and toy store.

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New stores offer blingy, glitzy jewelry

If you’re not sick of shopping yet, there are a few new boutiques that opened recently that you might want to check out.

First, there’s Julia, a jewelry and accessories store that opened in River Park two weeks ago, next to Ann Taylor LOFT. This store was opened by the same people who run Julia Vogue, the jewelry and accessories shop across Blackstone Avenue.

As part of the change, the owners decided that Julia Vogue would carry mostly less-expensive costume jewelry and the new Julia in River Park would focus on designer jewelry.

The difference? Designer jewelry is a little higher-end than costume jewelry, and is often sterling
silver or gold plated, the owners say. The shop features fresh-water pearls and wearable works of art like the Jeff Lieb piece at left. There’s blingy Jimmy Crystal watches, chunky beaded cuff bracelets and blingy purses. Many items cost from $35 to $75.

Black Friday gets an early start

Are you ready, Black Friday shoppers? Or should I say “Black Thursday?”

The post-Thanksgiving shopping madness starts earlier than ever this year as Toys “R” Us, Walmart and Sears break out the doorbuster deals at 8 p.m. and Target opens at 9 p.m. Thursday.

You can read all about what to expect in the Fresno area here. Note that stores like Walmart, Target and Sears are appealing to night owls and early birds alike with waves of different doorbuster deals throughout the night.

The earlier-than-ever opening times are inspiring a backlash from Target and Walmart workers, who say they’re ruining Thanksgiving.

But if you’re one of the many caffeinated Americans who make Black Friday shopping a family tradition, the opening times listed below can help you plan your strategy. Most retailers Black Friday ads will be Thursday’s Fresno Bee or are already online.

Also, many Starbucks locations near major shopping areas will be open all night Thursday, including Starbucks at River Park and the new one at Shaw and West avenues.

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Blow-dry only salon to open in Fresno

Fresno is getting a blow-dry bar.

For $35, women can get their hair washed, blow-dried and styled by a professional at a different kind of a salon in River Park. There’s no cutting or coloring involved, simply styling for a special occasion or a pick-me-up.

Blown Away is still under construction near RaceRoom and GNC, with plans to open in early December. Genelle Taylor, one of the big wigs at Fresno State’s Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is starting the business.

Blow-dry bars are popping up nationwide as women indulge in little luxuries, with a chain in Los Angeles opening its 10th location recently. And since I’m betting some of you are still baffled by this concept, here’s Taylor’s explanation of the popularity of blow-dry bars.

As women, we always are looking for the fun, affordable luxuries in life, and everyone is always saying to their hairstylists, ‘I wish you could come do my hair every day.’ Just like we get manicures and pedicures, it’s just the next big thing.

What do you think, Fresno? Will you go?

Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

Other than hoping Fresno State football can cover the spread.

Were this feature called “One Thing You Should Do This Weekend,” this would be it. Fuse Fest, or Fresno Urban Sound Experience, is our annual all-local music festival that acts as an all-you-can-eat buffet of local music of various genres. It’s tonight and Saturday, with a total of 40 acts playing on 10 stages, all in downtown Fresno. Tickets can be purchased for $15 per night or $20 for both, good for maximum stage hopping. For more about the festival, read this story from today’s Bee about its evolution, check out the band lineup/schedule, listen to my podcast, or Famous’ podcast, check out The Fresnan or hit up the Facebook page. If there were one weekend to get out and support the Fresno music scene, this is it. [More]


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Yard House Fresno: By the numbers

We’re another day closer to Yard House opening its River Park location — 11 a.m. Sunday. We gave you videos yesterday. Today, here’s a Half Yard’s worth of factoids about Yard House — including its menu, beer selection and much more. Shout out to Bee artist John Alvin on the design handiwork.

View the full-size PDF below. Or, if you just want the text, go to


PDF: Yard House — by the numbers

Your first look at Fresno’s Yard House

We’re just a few days away from Yard House opening its doors in Fresno. The SoCal-based chain — known for its huge draft beer selection and rock ‘n’ roll atmosphere — opens Sunday at 11 a.m. at River Park, near the old Border’s. It’s open until 12:30 a.m. Sunday-Thursday and 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Yard House location is more than 13,000 feet, gobbling up what was three empty spaces at River Park. You can read a whole lot more about Yard House in Friday’s issue of The Bee, but for now, here’s a virtual tour of Fresno’s Yard House and a look at its famous “Half Yard” beers. Videos by Eric Paul Zamora of The Bee.

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Fres-Know: Our Fuse is lit. Is yours?


GO TO THIS: Lineup announced for this year’s Fuse Fest. [The Fresnan]

LOOK: Swede Fest 8 poster is dope. Oh, start your Swedes too. [Dumb Drum]

NEWS: We finally got $100K from Walmart. [The Bee]

KNOW THIS: List of 9/11 events in the Valley. [The Bee]

BLOGGINGS: Worst Flier of the Week … politics version? [Daily Dues]

BLOGGINGS: Is Fresno ready for an adults-only movie theater? [CBS 47]

LAW & ORDER: Fistacuffs outside Fresno State-Cal game. [SF Appeal]

YUM: Start drooling over these weekend food events. [Taste Fresno]

BLOGGINGS: Fresno Burger Wars continue: Five Guys vs. In-N-Out. [Fresno Bites]

NEWS: Chaffee Zoo breaks ground on Sea Lion exhibit. [The Bee]

Mark your calendar: 9/10/11

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Next Saturday is Sept. 10 — or the fun-to-say 9/10/11 — and it’s looking like a huge day for local events. You’re probably going to have some deciding to do, so I figured I’d help and lay it all out for ya.

A TASTE OF RIVER PARK: River Park has its annual social gathering — with samples from its restaurants, a fashion show, cooking demonstration and wine tasting. Tickets cost $40-$50. More info and tickets here.

FESTIVAL ON THE BLUFFS: Just down the street at the Park Place Shopping Center at Palm & Nees, the peeps at Eureka! Burger are heading up the first Festival on the Bluffs, which offers craft beer, cheese and live music from Hollywood U2, Stranger and others. Tickets cost $40 and include beer and cheese samples. Get ‘em here.

WET ELECTRIC II: Once again, Wet Electric brings the nightclub atmosphere to Island Water Park for some adult-friendly partying, complete with drinks, dancing and DJs. It’s a two-day event, starting on Sept. 10. The DJ lineup includes Lil Jon and Richard “Humpty” Vission. Almost 2,000 people attended the first Wet Electric earlier this summer, organizers say. Tickets run $35-$90 and are available here.

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Fres-Know: All our posts come with happy endings


GOOD READ: Best Central Cali outdoor summer destinations [The Bee]

LAW & ORDER: Kirk Vartanian pleads no contest in theft case. [The Bee]

BLOGGINGS: What Fresno needs — more chain restaurants? [What Fresno Wants]

NOMINATE: Submit your web faves for this year’s Frebbys. [Frebby Awards]

BURNING QUESTION: What should replace Borders at River Park? [Biz Blog]

VOTE: For your favorites in the fair’s local performer contest. [Big Fresno Fair]

WEAR THIS: Captain America-inspired, “I’m from Fresno, Ace” shirt. [Daily Dues]

BLOGGER ON BLOGGER: That Fresno Blog profiles The Daily Dues. [TFB]

LISTEN TO THIS: New Dead in 60 Years podcast w/ Alisa M. [Di60Y]

YUM: Taco testing at the Cherry Auction. Jealous! [Fresno Bites]

CHILLIN: Where are the 100-degree days this summer? [News Blog]

BLOGGINGS: Tattoos from Visalia’s outskirts. [This is Visalia]

FREE STUFF: Win advance tickets to see “The Change Up” [Dumb Drum]

NEWS: Fresno “massage” parlors a little too hands on. [ABC 30]

Fresnans vs. Food: Tonight at Me-n-Ed’s Coney Island Grill


Here’s one more thing you could do tonight — watch people stuff their face with hot dogs. It’s the annual Hot Dog Eating Competition at Me-n-Ed’s Coney Island Grill at River Park.

Thirty competitors will have a chow-down challenge for a grand prize of $250. The competitors are already chosen, but you can certainly show up and watch. A couple hundred people did last year. It starts at 6 p.m.

Here’s some more info via the Me-n-Ed’s PR folks:

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To-Do Tonight: River Park gets Tropical

River Park introduces a summer entertainment series called Tropical Nights this evening. It’s put by the same folks behind the long-running Thursday salsa night at Starline, and offers outdoor music and dancing in the styles of salsa, bachata and more.

It’s happening twice a month — on the first Monday and third Friday– from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. in the plaza between Yoshino and Border’s. It’s free and open to all ages.