Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

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.


Coming soon to Fresno: Yard House


For years now, I’ve heard people saying that Fresno needs a Yard House — the SoCal-based restaurant known for its huge beer selection. If you’re one of those people, rejoice.

Yard House is coming to Fresno by the end of the year, according to the Business Journal. From its story:

Yard House, the Southern California restaurant famous for featuring 130 brews on tap, announced it will unveil a Fresno location by the end of the year.

Yard House, based in Irvine, said in a news release it will open a restaurant in Fresno’s River Park shopping center by December, though details about where exactly it would open were not given. A call to Lance-Kashian & Co., owner of the River Park properties, was not immediately returned.

Yard House bills itself as “an award-winning casual chain of eateries known for its American fusion fare, classic-to-contemporary rock, and world’s largest selection of draft beer.” The Fresno location will be one of seven new restaurants it plans to open in the next 12 months. Other new California locations this year include San Jose, Roseville and Palmdale.

A classic rock-themed place that brags about having the “world’s largest selection of draft beer?” Sounds like it’s right up Fresno’s alley. We’re assuming it’s going to take over Claim Jumper’s location, but that’s just speculation at this point.

Bake cookies, win prizes


If friends and family rave about your holiday cookies, you’ll be interested in this contest at River Park.

From my column:

… Santa’s Favorite Cookie Competition starts today and ends Dec. 3. The prize is a $200 Macy’s gift card and a free premium photo session with Santa. (The package consists of two 8-inch-by-10-inch photos, two 5-inch-by-7-inch photos, four 4-inch-by-6-inch photos, plus digital copies of the photos, says contest organizer Peter De Young.)

Interested? Pull out your favorite holiday cookie recipes. For each recipe, bake three dozen cookies, package them with the recipe, and include your name, phone number and e-mail address. Submit as many recipes as you like.

Bring the cookies to Santa between 4 and 8 p.m. daily through Dec. 3. He’ll be in a building between Macy’s and Edwards Fresno Stadium 22, across from the parking structure.

Santa will taste and judge the cookies as they arrive, giving them points for originality, taste, appearance and presentation. River Park will donate the remaining cookies to the Fresno Rescue Mission.

[photo credit: Eric Paul Zamora, The Fresno Bee]

Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

While you wonder what’s going on in Detroit this weekend …

I’m pretty psyched for tonight’s Save Mart Center show with the Zac Brown Band and Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Zac Brown’s is a country band with a whole lot of jam-band tendencies. You can read about how they don’t really fit the Nashville mold in this feature story from today’s Bee. And Randolph’s funk/soul band certainly isn’t the typical country opening act. Read about them in this Fresno Famous interview. More info and tickets here.


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Here’s your guide to a Frestastic week ahead

Catch your breath tonight and Tuesday, Fresnans, because we’ve got a heck of a week ahead of us. Dunno about you, but I have something to do every night this week. Here’s a rundown of some of what the week ahead has to offer.

WEDNESDAY: Creative Fresno’s bartender challenge at Palomino’s — Patrick Contreras vs. Joey Fernandez (aka frequent Beehive commenter Ms. Joey). Brian McKnight and Vivica A. Fox in town as part of the stage play “Cheaper to Keep Her,” at Saroyan Theatre. It’s a show by Je’Caryous Johnson, aka Tyler Perry in training.

THURSDAY: Honor the best of the Fresno web at the Frebby Awards at Downtown Club and/or check out jazz composer/pianist Armen Nalbandian’s listening party for “To Repel Ghosts,” happening at Audie’s Olympic.

FRIDAY: Get your jam band fix as Zac Brown Band and Robert Randolph and The Family Band play Save Mart Center. If ska is more your thing, Let’s Go Bowling and King Sugar skank up Audie’s.

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Not great news for the Tower District


Is it too one-dimensional and conflict-based to think in terms of a north-vs.-south mentality when it comes to Fresno? Sure. But I can’t help it sometimes. Those were my first thoughts upon reading this “Word on the Street” item in today’s Bee business section:

After 16 years of running Silva Designs hair salon in the Tower District, the owners are consolidating the business into Planet Hair, the other salon they own in the River Park shopping center … Marlena Silva said her stylist husband — who split his time between the two locations — found his Tower District clients were increasingly asking for appointments at the north Fresno location.

“Clients like to go to get their hair done, and then they like to go do other things: have lunch, go shopping — River Park is the place to do that,” she said.

Sure, businesses come and go. But this one seemed to be a special case in that it had branches both north and south — and the north won out.

Where’s the “V” in the River Park sign?

We know there’s probably a good explanation about what happened to the V in River Park sign, but we’re actually more interested in ridiculous guesses.

We Beehivers have our own. Add yours in the comments.


HEATHER: Kirk Vartanian stole it to create a custom neck chain.

MIKE OZ: Displaced and bitter Johnny Rockets employees stole it. Because you can’t spell revenge without a big ol’ V in the middle.

KATHY: Pat Hill thought the Bulldogs needed a bigger V for inspiration.

DONALD: Pat Sajak ran out of letters for “Wheel of Fortune.” Don’t believe me? Go to Craigs List. He’s buying vowels for 200 bucks a pop.

JOAN: Someone stole it to sell at the Great California Garage Sale. Autographed by the Governator, of course.

[photo by Darrell Wong of The Fresno Bee / props to Bryan Harley for tipping us on this]