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Top Business Stories of 2011

Closings, openings and plenty of other changes made it an interesting year for business in Novato.

At the begining of the year, we take care of the business from last year. So the new year always starts out with an announcement and celebration of the Novato Chamber of Commerce's  — for last year — in the large, small and green categories. This year ,  and / got top honors as the 2010 winners announced in 2011. In 2012, we'll find out the business of the year, all three of them, for 2011. Huh?

Restaurant Closures & Openings

It's been a roller-coaster ride in the restaurant scene this year -- and that's not a good combo. Remember  abrupt closure in January and in March?  That was the same month that  closed its doors and we had to say goodbye to rack of lamb Oberon-style and the fantastic lemon meringue pie.  only been closed three months and I already miss the filet mignon enchiladas. But I'm sentimental and still missing the bean salsa they used to serve at the long-gone Santa Fe Mary's. 

We thought the last restaurant closure of the year would be  early in December, and then  barbeque shut its doors with only five days left in the year. Up until its closure, we could drown our sorrows with a saucy rack of baby backs and blues music from the band.

At least we've got the new  and you can't stay sad after having the wild boar sugo maltagliati at , in the re-tooled Pasta Moto at Hamilton Marketplace.

As for me, to cheer myself up, I head to the re-opened  for a gelato and then park myself on their couch and sing-along to the Willy Wonka movie soundtrack.

Is In-N-Out In or Out in Novato?

The news that  Burger was looking at two parcels in Ignacio generated enough heat to cook a mess of fries. A  maybe had more detractors than supporters — they see traffic and noise as their major concerns. It's still in the , and who knows if and when the tasty burger stop will come to Novato.  I hope a decision is made soon because after every article I write on the subject I have to head to Petaluma for a hamburger, fries and a chocolate shake.

Downtown Novato Theater

A nonprofit group, led by Bernice Baeza, made its challenging first phase fundraising goal look easy — raising $800,000 this year — as the long-shuttered Novato Theater on Grant Avenue appeared to be on the road to reopening as a multiuse arts center. With that goal completed, the  to approve the $50,000 sale of the building to the nonprofit with some minor stipluations still to clear up. With another year or two of fundraising to reach its $3 million dollar goal, the group is shooting for a 2013 red carpet opening. A "Mission Impossible" sequel would be appropriate for the grand opening.

999 Grant Avenue 

After Circle Bank's president, Kim Kaselionis, took a , she stepped aside and let the demolition team raze the vacant office building at 999 Grant Ave. to make way for the  and several retail or restaurant slots. We've been following the progress, but watching a foundation slab being poured isn't the most exciting part.

DSW Opens

I'm not so sure that the  crowd, saddened by the closure in 2010 of the craft store, was the same crowd cheering for the grand opening of . For years, crafters wandered in their sensible shoes through the dimly lit aisles of Ben Franklin. In a complete makeover, DSW did a beautiful remodel and has enough lights so you can spot a pair of black patent-leather pumps from 50 feet away.

Did the Good News Offset the Bad?

, but a new  opened across the street and a gourmet takeout, , brought something new to the downtown.

At Pacheco Plaza, we now have a new  museum and  collective, while  is leaving the plaza to make way for an updated retail building.

How long will the  building stay vacant now that the in San Rafael in August? Mills Restaurant is closed but a  to take its place on Redwood Boulevard.

Two announcements hit last week:  will be vacating its 6,000-square-foot building on Diablo Avenue and the controversial multi-use development has the green light.

At one point, Novato had a redevelopment manager to help with planning the city's business direction, tracking of all the moving parts. But with the uncertain future of the city's  and the departure of  to Walnut Creek, long-range visioning will have to be shared by the Downtown Novato Business Association, the  and Novato's council, city staff, commissions and the opinions and will of its citizens.

It will be a challenge to row in the same direction. But when you think about it, when have we ever rowed in the same direction?

Worry December 29, 2011 at 08:01 PM
Don't forget Trek Winery.. opening soon!
Kebby December 30, 2011 at 04:37 AM
And I would like to add the expansion of Studio 4 Art. Adding a venue specifically for birthday parties, girls night out, art camps, fundraisers, teen classes and school art exhibits.

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