Two-story building at 213-217 W. Main St. will feature fine dining at Fugazzis upstairs, popular eateries Quesadilla Gorilla, Scoops ice cream and Bombshell Beans downstairs
VISALIA – Cities with vibrant downtowns know they rely on local restaurants and bars to set the table for success with a mix of great taste and a dash of local flavor. That’s why one local business owner is trying to bring as many of them into one place as possible to reinvigorate a block of Main Street Visalia which has yet to recover from a devastating fire two and a half years ago.
Grant Smith, whose family owns Rent To Own in Visalia, is assembling a group of marquee local eateries to fill the two-story building located at 213-217 W. Main St. He has partnered with his brother-in-law Jeff Bischofberger, of JRC Investments in Long Beach, Calif., to house five locally-owned restaurants in the renovated building dubbed “The Mix.”
“We like this project because it is bringing in local businesses, not big corporate businesses,” Smith said. “We feel like downtown should be local otherwise we will lose what our downtown really is.”
Smith and Bischofberger began working on the project just before COVID and it has taken two and a half years to pull it all together. The cornerstone of the project will be second-story dining overlooking Main Street served up by Fugazzis. Smith said he knew he needed a draw like Fugazzis to anchor the project and it was a natural fit because the California bistro had been looking at the site as a possible location for several years. Fugazzis owner Mike Fligor was not available for comment but sources say he will keep the existing location at Main and Locust streets.
Expected to open in early 2023, The Mix will also include Main Street mainstay Quesadilla Gorilla, and two mobile businesses making their first go at brick and mortar locations, Bombshell Beans and Scoops ice cream, sharing the downstairs space.
Miguel and Mikayla Reyes are modeling their new Quesadilla Gorilla location after their San Luis Obispo and Hanford spots with a full bar featuring tequila-inspired cocktails, such as margaritas, and craft beer. The site will also become the new headquarters for the restaurant franchise as the lease on its original location across the street is set to expire this fall. The new site is larger and will have indoor seating, something Miguel said they were never able to offer at its current downtown location.
“It’s sad to see the [original location] go but this location will allow us to offer more to our guests,” Miguel said.
After three years of growing his business on the road, Bombshell Beans owner Steve Mohr said he is excited about the prospect of taking his coffee truck concept and turning it into a traditional coffee shop.
“We’ve had to move around so much it has been difficult for people to find us,” Mohr said. “It will be nice to be in a location that is visible in downtown and should be busy since we’re moving in with local rockstar restaurants.”
The coffee shop will allow Bombshell to do blended drinks, something he can’t do from truck because there isn’t access to enough water for cleaning the blenders, and begin offering its own brand of canned energy drinks. Mohr said the new shop will also give him a homebase to begin building a fleet and a franchise of coffee trucks. He said customers can look for one of its newest trucks to begin serving coffee outside of Galaxy Theatre in Tulare later this month.
“The future of Bombshell Beans is bright,” Mohr said. “We are really excited about this opportunity.”
Justin Kauffman started Scoops ice cream cart in 2018 and has steadily risen in popularity at local events with its premium and delicious ice cream, sundaes, and other tasty treats. He said he was excited about the potential to expand into his first permanent location alongside other popular local restaurants.
There is one space left to fill in the building in the downstairs open “food hall” format. Renderings show a cheese shop but Smith said that was just an idea to round out the illustration and there are not currently any leases signed and no serious talks with any businesses for that spot.
“We feel like this really brings something new to downtown we haven’t really seen in this area,” Smith said.
The building was formerly occupied by Quality Jewelers, which closed after 39 years in business, and Ziayas, a family-owned studio & gift shop that provides wellness tools, accessories, and home essentials with a focus on community, healing, and sustainability, which relocated to the 800 block of Main Street. The block was also vacated by Pacific Treasures, which relocated to the xxx block of Main, following a devastating fire the night after Christmas in 2018. The fire completely destroyed the building which housed a collection of popular eateries including Mamma K’s and Cafe 225 and caused major smoke and water damage to Little Italy Restaurant and Exotica Hair Studio.
The three-alarm fire caused extensive damage causing the building’s entire roof to cave in. The scars of the fire remain today. The front of the shops remain boarded up and spray painted with an artistic lettering of Visalia to distract from the vacant buildings. Nearly all of the businesses folded up shop for good. To date, The Mix is the only project in the works to rebuild and reinvigorate what was once a bustling block of Visalia’s downtown.