Grass Valley’s Colfax Avenue merchants ratchet up marketing efforts |

Grass Valley’s Colfax Avenue merchants ratchet up marketing efforts

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

More than Highway 49 separates downtown Grass Valley from the business community along Colfax Avenue.

Whereas the downtown is an iconic destination for out-of-town visitors and locals alike, when some customers call businesses a few blocks away along Colfax Avenue, they don’t even know where they’re located, business owners said.

“We have people getting lost looking for us in Colfax (the town),” said Virginia Cayer, owner of VJ’s Salon, located at 250 Colfax Ave. in Grass Valley.

Cayer and Amy Cooke, owner of Summer Thyme’s Bakery and Deli, set out to promote “The Avenue” as they are calling it.

“Our goal is to improve the area we work in and work together as a community.”
— Virginia Cayer, owner of VJ’s Salon

“Our goal is to improve the area we work in and work together as a community,” Cayer said.

Colfax Avenue is just a couple of blocks long, south of downtown Grass Valley between South Auburn Street and Highway 174, on the east side of Highway 49.

As the connecting route for Highway 174 into Grass Valley, Colfax Avenue serves as one of the main gateways into downtown, but it is not promoted by the Grass Valley Downtown Association.

“More of the focus tends to be downtown because that is where most of the businesses are,” Cooke said. “But what we’re seeing is that this end of town is due for a renaissance. We want to spearhead that. There are a lot of possibilities on this end of town.”

Only a few months into their effort, Cayer and Cooke had more than 20 business owners attend their meeting this week.

The Avenue houses a hodgepodge of residences and businesses, such as jewelers, mortgage brokers, real estate agencies, a bowling alley, a bottle shop and restaurants.

Unlike the downtown historic district, there is not zoning restrictions on signage and architectural style, Cayer said.

“We’re hoping to try to bring some unification into the area,” Cayer said.

But before that, the grassroots group has started small, organizing a Facebook page and planning for a holiday decorating contest. Cayer hopes to organize beautification efforts.

“There are lots of potential plans. We’d like to have street fairs, art walks and sidewalk sales,” Cooke said. “We’d like to be able to increase foot traffic down here.”

Cayer, Cooke and company aren’t the only ones sprucing up Colfax Avenue.

After growing up in the Colfax neighborhood, Christopher Riley, 28, grew tired of the “eyesore” that had become of a building at the forefront of the Prosperity Lanes bowling alley’s parking lot, on the corner Henderson Street and Colfax Avenue.

“My whole family, for about the last 110 years, has lived in that neighborhood. My grandmother pretty much raised me there,” Riley said. “I used to play in that lot.”

The building has been the temporary home of dozens of transitory venders hawking flags, towels, hats and simple garage sale-style items. It has also been a frequent target of vandalism, Riley said.

“I watched it go from a nice-looking, working shop to just dwindling,” Riley said.

“But I saw potential in that spot. I see that as my home”

So Riley, an auto detailer and window tinter, took on the task of applying a new coat of paint to the old gas station, fixing broken windows and opening a new service station, called Mr. Tint.

“I have an eye for fixing up and making things better,” Riley said.

“(W)ith no money in my pocket and only my trade, I decided to turn this old shop into a new place to get your car tinted or looking good again.”

Riley has been there for about a month and has not yet had a vandalism incident, he said. Instead, he said he has received praise from neighbors and nearby businesses.

Across that same parking lot, the former site of Donley Motors is also cleaned and ready to be sold.

The site has been vacant for five years after Miner Moe’s pizza was blocked from opening a location there when it was discovered solvents left in the soil by a former dry cleaning business rendered it unusable.

On Oct. 2, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board issued a conditional no further action determination for the site, leaving only the monitoring wells to be removed, said Lock Richards, a broker for Sperry Van Ness.

“The cleanup has been
done. There is no impact to ground water at this point,” Richards said.

Two perspective buyers are in negotiations with Van Ness but neither has entered escrow, Lock said. The asking price is $392,000.

“With those two properties getting fixed, it will greatly improve the area,” Richards said.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call (530) 477-4236.

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