One of the best parts of writing this column is when readers send me tips or just check in with me. Two occasions where that happened mesh nicely this week.
I got a lovely email from Gary Boudreaux, former store manager of Gottschalks –and before that, Gray’s – in Modesto’s Century Center. Mr. Boudreaux was my boss when I worked at the store, and he facilitated my transfer back and forth to stores and the corporate office in Fresno when I went to college and returned on vacation: an almost unbelievable accommodation, except he did it for me so I know it’s true.
Like me, Mr. Boudreaux lamented the emptiness of the shopping center at Oakdale Road and Orangeburg Avenue, where not all that long ago it was hard to find a parking space, particularly on Tuesdays, when Gottschalks offered a discount to senior citizens.
There are several stores and businesses that remain at Century Center, but the loss of anchors Gottschalks and, later, Raley’s took a lot of the life from the place.
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I was pleased to learn from another reader, Joe Henderson, that a new restaurant has opened in the center, bringing another sign of hope for me and Mr. Boudreaux and anyone else with fond memories of the shopping center.
Ciao Bella recently opened in the spot just to the west of the former Gottschalks, in what used to be a yogurt shop. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because chef Chau Nguyen operated a restaurant of the same name for several years on H Street – on the next block from The Modesto Bee – before closing it six years ago after he and his business partner went their separate ways.
Nguyen is sole proprietor of the new Ciao Bella, but other than that and the location, not much has changed.
As Mr. Henderson assured me in his email, “The food is as good as always.”
Restaurant manager Ashley Delello said the same when I talked to her this week.
The restaurant has a cute setup, with a fenced-off patio out front shaded by umbrellas and potted trees. Though it’s a fine-dining establishment, Delello said everyone is welcome.
“The food is fancy, but you shouldn’t have to feel like you have to dress up to come in,” she said.
As for the location, Delello said it’s ideal because there aren’t a lot of fine-dining options on that side of town. She said customers have come in and remarked how glad they are to have a new place to eat.
“And we’ve also had a lot of old customers come back.”
Elsewhere around the Business Beat
I have had a couple of people ask me what’s happening with On the Run, an athletic shoe, apparel and gear specialty store in McHenry Village. A sign in the window alerts customers that the store will be closed the week of Oct. 13 “for personal reasons.” But that was last week, and there is no sign of when it might reopen.
I left a voice mail message and sent an email to the store operators but have not heard back. If anyone knows them, please ask them to get in touch.
▪ Here are a couple of opportunities to hone up your skills if you’re looking for work.
The Parent Resource Center is offering a series of four workshops, starting Tuesday, to help people seeking jobs. According to a news release, topics include the job market, job expectations, online and paper applications, cover letters, résumés and preparing for a job interview.
Workshops are weekly, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. through Nov. 18, and are offered at no cost at 811 Fifth St., Modesto. Child care will be available.
Registration is required. For more information, call (209) 549-8193.
Computer Tutor Business & Technical Institute is offering free career training to people between the ages of 17 and 21 who live in Stanislaus County.
Training is available for positions as an administrative assistant or medical or accounting clerk, and job placement assistance is available. Classes are Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., for 18 weeks. Registration is ongoing. For more information, call (209) 545-5200.
Have an item for Business Beat? Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter @PattyGuerra.