Biz Beat

Biz Beat: Signs of new life at longtime Modesto shopping center

The building that will house the Panera Bread restaurant is going up at McHenry and Bowen avenues. The restuarant will open later this year.
The building that will house the Panera Bread restaurant is going up at McHenry and Bowen avenues. The restuarant will open later this year.

So many questions I get from readers – and I love them – seem to send me down memory lane. It was no different this week, when several folks asked me what’s going on at the shopping center on the northwest corner of McHenry and Briggsmore avenues in Modesto.

That center was the site of the Briggsmore Cinema, where my mother took my brother and me to see a movie that intrigued her: a science fiction picture directed by a young man from Modesto. We left the theater agog, as did everyone who encountered “Star Wars.” Everyone, that is, except my mother, who was disappointed the writing wasn’t better. Years later, I briefly worked in that shopping center, as a clerk at Montgomery Ward.

Those businesses are long gone, replaced by Burlington Coat Factory and Safeway, among others. Now, they are getting some new neighbors.

As I reported last year, Panera Bread is moving into a spot in that center. Look for the restaurant to open later this year.

Starbucks, which already has a site in the strip part of the center, is expanding into a stand-alone shop.

Extreme Pita, which moved into the former Quizno’s sandwich site, opened late last year. I stopped by this week and had a very tasty lunch there – I recommend the Fiesta Mexicana. Extreme Pita is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., closing at 9 p.m. on Sundays. Call (209) 236-1038 or go to

And there is another restaurant coming in; though work is under way at the site, I can’t tell you what restaurant it is. My understanding is that it’s a chain restaurant, but the name of it isn’t on any of the permits. When I learn more – and when I learn an opening date for Panera – I will let you know.

ELSEWHERE AROUND THE BUSINESS BEAT: Northern Tire & Wheel, which has occupied a spot on Kansas Avenue in Modesto for 38 years, is moving into new digs.

Tina Powell, who owns the business with her husband, Mark, said the shop will move to 1328 N. Carpenter Road this week. The old location closes on Thursday, and an opening on Carpenter Road is set for Feb. 23.

Tina Powell said the move is good for several reasons. The business, which has been in her husband’s family since the beginning, has outgrown its current spot. And the Powells will own the new building; they have been renting up until now.

“I’m so excited for him,” Tina Powell said of her husband, who has been working hard to put his personal touch on the new place. “We could never do that because we weren’t the owners. He’s like a kid in a candy store.”

As for her husband, Mark Powell said the move comes at the right time. His family has been in the tire business since 1955, and he’s looking forward to the new spot.

Call Northern Tire & Wheel at (209) 578-0492.

▪ It’s only February, but spring is around the corner and after that, summer. And that means wedding season. Many of us will be heading out soon to purchase the traditional gifts for the newlyweds: china, silver, a GoPro camera.

Wait, what?

Best Buy sent me a release this week that it is getting into the bridal registry business. It makes sense, because I think more and more couples are opting away from some of the traditional gifts – though electronics stores such as Best Buy do carry some of those, including coffee makers and vacuum cleaners.

According to the release, in-store kiosks will be available at all Best Buy locations by mid-April.

Have an item for Business Beat? Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter @PattyGuerra.