What a difference nine months make.
No, this story is not about the birth of a child, but the death of a business. And the birth of a new one. Maybe.
But let’s start at the beginning.
Back in March, Pankaj Patel was given 30 days by his landlords to liquidate his Downtown Deli Market, a business he built and operated for 20 years at 18th and H streets in downtown Bakersfield.
Patel was not happy about leaving, but Wayne and MaryAnn Arnold, the husband and wife who bought the property in 2013, said they were in a hurry to get started building a new business at the location, a Mexican restaurant and bar.
The Arnolds and Chris Gonzalez, the operator of Curbside Kitchen food truck, which had been doing brisk business in the store's parking lot, told The Californian they had agreed to a plan to develop a restaurant and bar on the property, using an expanded version of Gonzalez’s food truck menu.
Patel packed up and left, gracefully.
Months passed. Eventually some work was done gutting the inside of the building. A construction fence was set up around it.
Maybe something was finally happening.
But activity at the building appeared to cease.
Then, several weeks ago, Gonzalez’s food truck stopped operating there.
Had the restaurant plan fizzled? Were tacos placed on the back burner?
In November, the idea for a restaurant officially died. The property was sold to Bakersfield-based Maison Acquisitions LLC.
Now there’s a new plan. Maison’s principal, Robert Massey, is the longtime fiance of Amy Davis, who along with her sister, Kelli, had for years operated Fashionista, a high-end women’s clothing boutique on H Street.
But, according to Massey, the Fox Theater, which leased the storefront to the Davis sisters, decided not to renew their lease.
“They had just had their best year yet,” Massey said of Fashionista. “They felt kind of blindsided.”
The Davis sisters looked around and decided to make an offer on the property at 18th and H, which wasn’t officially for sale at the time.
The Arnolds, who are no longer associated with the building, had little to say, except that their experience in working with the city on the restaurant project was less than ideal.
“They made us an offer and we decided to take it,” Mrs. Arnold said of the Davises.
Gonzalez, who moved his food truck to the parking lot of Westside Liquor at 19th and F streets following the sale of the property, said he was disappointed the restaurant endeavor didn’t work out. But he understands.
“The Arnolds had invested a lot in engineering work,” he said. “We were going full blast.”
But they received a very good offer — an offer they couldn’t refuse — and that was that.
“If it was my building,” Gonzalez said, “I would have sold, too.”
He said he wishes the Davis sisters luck, but still strongly believes the corner is ideal for a restaurant.
“There will never be another location like that one,” he said.
While the Davises declined to speak to The Californian about their plans, Massey said they want to transform that corner into an inviting retail environment. They plan to add a second story, which would more than double the floor space they had at the storefront connected to the Fox.
Ideally, construction will start in 30 to 45 days, Massey said. They want to be open well before Christmas, possibly as early as September.
And being located directly across the street from the Padre Hotel is seen as a plus.
“The demographic is right for an upper-end boutique,” he said. “I think it’s a great fit.”