Enterprise-Record (Chico)

Celebratin­g the marvels of downtown Chico

- Katie Posey You can email Katie Posey ateachingb­eyondthebo­oks@ gmail.com.

I was a junior at Pleasant Valley High when I began to end the school day with an excursion of sorts.

I’d hop on the bus angling towards downtown and spend the afternoon in a café before my mother would pick me up in the early evening. This independen­ce empowered me and was a liberating thing. I’d wander down Main or Broadway, usually picking Café Sienna but sometimes Upper Crust, to plant myself with my books, secure a coffee, and savor the afternoon on my own. Occasional­ly Perche No! lured me for a gelato, and other times the draw of a Mexican Mocha at Café Max was too powerful to resist.

I was a kind of explorer — there were shops I might discover I had never entered before. Interestin­g conversati­ons I might overhear during my studying sessions.

Later, as an English and French major at Chico State, I would pop into Upper Crust for a 7:30 a.m. coffee with one of my best friends before our first class of the day. Both obsessed with their chocolate-dipped orange cookies, our entire day could be ruined should one not be secured.

What was thrilling about these excursions is that I was in the heart of things — downtown, in the city of my greatgrand­mother, grandparen­ts and parents. My family had a history here — in fact, my grandparen­ts owned a women’s clothing store in the 1970s right around 430 Broadway, “The Posey Fair.” Later, they opened a location in the Almond Orchard, a space I remember well. As a child, I sometimes played a game of hide and seek with my brothers among the racks of clothing and mysterious looking mannequins.

My grandfathe­r was an ice cream fanatic so naturally visits to Shubert’s with him were a year-round staple. Another downtown shop I could happily get lost in: the legendary Zucchini & Vine on Main and 2nd where The Little Red Hen now sits.

My grandmothe­r, Jeanne Posey, hosted a cooking show in the 1960s on KHSL and fueled my own obsession with all things culinary. Over the years, she would teach me a variety of cooking skills, and this would secure me as a firm fan of the kitchen tools and marvels displayed at Zucchini & Vine.

My high school afternoons and Chico State mornings savoring my independen­ce within downtown Chico equipped me for later exploratio­ns of other downtowns across the country as well as city centers in other parts of the world. Even after moving to London and then later to the East Coast for a spell, visiting Chico every Christmas and summer always returned me to the magic of Main & Broadway.

One summer afternoon in 2016, on holiday from my school librarian gig in Boston and after meeting a friend for coffee at Naked Lounge, I saw the sign for Zucchini & Vine’s first annual pie contest.

It didn’t matter that I was living in New England at the time — I’d always think of myself as a Chicoan and as a Posey I had no choice but to enter. I had a ball putting together the blackberry and blueberry pie sure to be a summer hit, but a fail with the top crust forced me to change course and add an oatmeal streusel topping at the last minute.

Certain I was destined for defeat, I delivered the pie anyway, deciding I wouldn’t be present when the winners were announced to avoid disappoint­ment. You can imagine my surprise when a voicemail buzzed my phone later that afternoon.

In fact, I had placed third!

Was it the magic of my grandmothe­r’s culinary fame (actually both grandmothe­rs were amazing cooks) that led me to victory? In fact, the judges loved the streusel topping! Though I feared the crust catastroph­e had ensured my pie’s doom, the title of 3rd place winner of Zucchini and Vine’s first annual pie contest is a badge I carry proudly to this day.

Stumbling upon the pie contest in 2016 was a delicious revelation and reminded me that even now, years after those high school afternoons, surprises are perched around the corner in downtown Chico. Now I live (gloriously!) within walking distance of downtown and any trek towards that hub swirls with a myriad of memories that gives me countless reasons why I returned and why Chico is exactly where I want to be.

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