Biz Beat

A new future for the old Modesto Elephant Bar; a chance to pretend to be Speed Racer

The Elephant Bar near Vintage Faire Mall may soon make way for a new business. Pictured March 16, 2017.
The Elephant Bar near Vintage Faire Mall may soon make way for a new business. Pictured March 16, 2017.

Looks like there will be something new ahead for another high-profile Modesto vacancy.

The Elephant Bar near Vintage Faire Mall, which closed in 2014, could well be a Panera sandwich shop one day soon. I don’t yet have confirmation from either Panera or the mall, but a city of Modesto newsletter mentioned Panera going into the mall and that seems the only spot available.

The eatery, which closed three years ago, has been a difficult site to market. Not because of the location or anything, but because Elephant Bar restaurants are constructed to look like Elephant Bar restaurants and nothing else. It’s not clear what Panera — assuming it’s Panera — would do to the site, if it would be remodeled or completely razed.

Sadly, I never made it to the Elephant Bar when it was open. I heard it was really good. But I’ve been by there a time or two since, and the outdoors — the part I could see — is pretty neat. Rock-like columns, an outdoor patio with a more rustic look, iron grates along the sides. It would be neat if the next tenant keeps part of that look, assuming the folks who own the remaining Elephant Bars would allow it.

Panera as you probably recall, opened up its first Modesto location in 2015. The site on McHenry Avenue at Bowen Avenue has been busy and successful since then, so it makes sense that they would look for a second location across town.

As I hear more, I will keep you posted.

Elsewhere around the Business Beat:

My two excursions in race cars for this column have made it clear I will never be a professional driver. I am pretty sure I topped out at something like 25 mph.

But that doesn’t keep me from dreaming, and people like me will have the opportunity to do a little fantasizing next week.

Hercules Tire in Patterson will bring Sprint car driver Greg Wilson for a visit on Wednesday.

According to a news release, Hercules Tire has sponsored the Greg Wilson Racing Team since 2012, “and continues to do so now that he is part of the World of Outlaws. The World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series is the premier winged sprint car series in the world. It features world class drivers, thrilling races and is the self-proclaimed ‘Greatest Show on Dirt’.”

It’s a good bet Mr. Wilson won’t be letting folks take his car out for a spin, but visitors can meet him and talk racing, and children can sit in the car for photos.

The visit is set for Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Hercules Tire deaker Patterson Tire Pros, 515 Second St., Patterson, 95363.