It may have just lost a prominent tenant but the corner of California Avenue and Easton Drive remains on a winning streak that will soon bring new restaurants and a hotel to one of Kern County's busiest intersections.
The Corner Bakery's last day of business was Sunday. Observers said the franchisee-owned restaurant was viewed as a tad pricey and that it never quite managed to win over enough locals.
While no replacement tenant has been announced, just north of the site, a Kamisama Ramen Japanese-style noodle restaurant is moving in, as is an unnamed, Hawaiian-style poke fish place.
Both eateries will soon move into vacancies next to the existing Rubio's Coastal Grill restaurant along Easton, Bakersfield commercial property broker Scott Underhill said.
Additionally, construction is expected to begin soon on a new Hampton Inn hotel on the vacant lot just north of those restaurant spaces, Underhill added.
Coming on the heels of other tenancy announcements nearby — a second Raising Cane's chicken restaurant in Bakersfield and an Ono Hawaiian BBQ — the real estate activity spotlights the continuing evolution of an area that has rebounded from hard times during the Great Recession.
The former CompUSA electronics store sat vacant for years next to the Barnes & Noble bookstore on the south side of California Avenue. It has since reopened as a Planet Fitness gym.
Likewise, the former Mimi's Cafe just west of the bookstore has made a tenant of Raising Cane's. And in a relief to pie-lovers, the former corporate-owned Marie Callender's next to it has been revived — as an independently owned Marie Callender's.
None of this comes as much surprise to commercial brokers who see the area as benefiting from a busy freeway offramp and steady lunch traffic. While it's true there's not much business there at night, and homelessness has made the area somewhat less attractive, they say the area will continue to draw highly profitable restaurant concepts.
Broker Duane Keathley called the area around California Avenue and Highway 99 "maybe the best intersection in Kern County" despite having a downside.
"You've got great daytime population," he said. "The nighttime population is not as good."
He told of additional changes coming to the area: The recently fenced-off Del Taco and Mobil gas station at California and Easton will, before long, be converted into a new Mobil station complete with its own convenience store. He said the Del Taco's lease was up and the restaurant chain chose to reopen on 24th Street in another part of downtown.
Even more change is ahead with what two brokers said is the pending sale of the Chase Bank at 4040 California Ave. It was unclear what will become of the building.
Underhill, who represents the former Corner Bakery location, said it probably won't take long to replace the restaurant, partly because the tenant left behind close to $200,000 in improvements geared toward a restaurant tenant.
He said he was encouraged by the leasing activity nearby, including the former Carrows being converted to a Ono Hawaiian and even the change at the former Del Taco.
"Action begets action," he said. "Having those tenants there is wonderful."
Diner Donna Pinto, who stopped by the Corner Bakery Thursday afternoon to see if it was really closed, observed that although some restaurants appear to have struggled in the area, others seem to do fine.
It can be hard to get to the location from the west, she noted, but she's hopeful the area will continue to thrive with strong tenants.
"The general area around Highway 99 and California, with the upcoming hotel, could be a nice asset for travelers," she said, "as long as they keep it up and maintain it."