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Once Upon a Time … A Town Was Rescued

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People say that Tahoe City is dead. They say all the action is in Truckee or Squaw Valley or Northstar. They say the lake isn’t enough to draw people to the North Shore anymore. I beg to differ. Tahoe City is not dead nor dying; it was simply in a long, quiet slumber. And like Sleeping Beauty waking from her 100-year nap, Tahoe City has recently begun to rub its eyes, stretch its arms over its head, sit up, and proclaim, “I am alive!” If Tahoe City was Princess Fiona in “Shrek,” it might even add, “And I’m ready to party.”

How do I know this? Two reasons. The first is I see new life being breathed into the town. The former Lakehouse Pizza & Eggschange building — which burned down in 2004 and has sat empty despite its prime lakefront location since it was rebuilt a few years later — finally has a new tenant. Three friends from Vail, Colo., moved to Tahoe to open Moe’s Original Barbeque, a franchise with 27 locations around the country. When I asked one of the owners, Eric Pilcher, why they chose Tahoe, he seemed surprised by my question: “Who wouldn’t want to live in Tahoe? We want to live where it is awesome.” Was he worried about rumors of Tahoe City’s demise? “Everybody we’ve talked to feels like the town itself is on the rise. If everyone keeps doing that, I don’t see why it shouldn’t happen.”

In the nearby Boatworks Mall, an upstairs space that has been empty for the past five years — save for when K-Tahoe broadcasted out of there — will now be the home of the Stomping Grounds coffee and wine house. I spoke with co-owner Jennifer Kirby, who didn’t seem concerned at all about opening a business in Tahoe City.

“We felt that coffee and wine, which is unique to the area, would be a nice draw to the Boatworks and help revitalize the mall, especially upstairs,” she said.

I see signs of Tahoe City’s rebirth in other places as well. A few weeks ago, I was walking on Jackpine Street past what I always assumed was an unfinished water tower only to see my friend, engineer Steve Walton, standing in front of it. He told me that the decrepit structure, which had been built in the late 1970s or early 1980s as a circular house with a pool in the bottom and never finished, had been bought by a Silicon Valley woman with plans to tear it down and build a new house. “She could do whatever she wanted, but she wants to be close to town,” said Steve, adding, “People are buying places and fixing them up all over town.”

But perhaps the biggest sign I have seen that Tahoe City’s revitalization has begun, and that people are hungry for a vote of confidence in the town, is the reaction from the community to the news that my husband, Steven, and I, along with our partners Mark and Liz Gogolewski, are re-opening the movie theater in the Cobblestone Center, renaming it the Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema. In addition to showing commercial and independent films, the theater will host performances by the Tahoe Youth Ballet, present live music, and offer a remodeled lobby with a bar serving beer and wine — a fresh take on a tired movie theater that had largely been ignored by its owner for the past 10 years.

The old Cobblestone Cinema, one of the four North Shore Theaters, closed in January (the Brockway Cinema in Kings Beach shuttered last spring, leaving only the Incline Village and Northstar theaters), adding to a long list of losses for Tahoe City — Joby’s music store, the Bookshelf, Humpty’s, and Sierra Vista. It seemed that anything to do with culture or nightlife, or any business not related to real estate, could not make it in Tahoe City. The fact that we were willing to bring life back to a closed business seemed to delight residents to no end.

When I posted the news that we had signed the lease for the cinema on my Facebook page in April, it received 70 likes and was shared more than 50 times, many of the sharing being done by people I didn’t even know. Steven’s post received 208 likes (okay, so he has more friends than me) and 84 comments. In three weeks, the Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema Facebook page garnered 447 fans, almost as many friends as I have after five or six years on Facebook. We received comments from local organizations like the Tahoe Youth Ballet: “TYB is beyond thrilled to welcome this great venue to town and we can’t wait to grace the stage!” and the Tahoe City Downtown Association: “The Tahoe City Downtown Association is so excited to welcome the Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema. Can’t wait to see some great movies and performances soon!” Another Cobblestone tenant, Jaclyn Woznicki, owner of Trunk Show, wrote: “Great news for our town...Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema plans to open mid July.” But perhaps the greatest feedback we got was from members of the community. Everywhere we went, people came up to us to thank us for investing in Tahoe City and contributing to the town’s revitalization. One friend wrote on Facebook: “Best thing to come to TC in a long time.”

The idea of opening a movie theater in Tahoe began as a dream of my husband’s, a movie buff and filmmaker, but since that time has grown to mean something much more — an opportunity to contribute to the community we love and a chance to help Tahoe City live up to its full potential, that of a town that has more to offer than just recreational activities.

We don’t claim to be Tahoe City’s Prince Charming, but we are proud to be one of the many businesses that are giving the town not a happy ending, but a new beginning.

~ Do you think Tahoe City is on the rise? Tell us below.

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Reader comments so far...

Not so sure that a couple of guys from Vail opening a franchise, another coffee / wine shop (making it like 18 of them), a renovated house and reopening an old theater is exactly enough to call it booming again... Jobys and the bookshelf went out of business because they are outdated not because the town wasn't behind them. TC needs night life badly, we need new better outdoor stores, heck maybe even not run by Vail Corp although they could definitely use some more if our money in Colorado.
tahoelifestyles's picture

tahoelifestyles | Homewood, CA
I've worked in Tahoe City since 2004 and never before has parking been so hard to find. Mountain Brewery always seems busy and I love Trunk Show's First Friday activities. Just seeing the people out and about is what makes me think Tahoe City is alive.

TCFan | Bay Area
Hey, that is me that Steve is talking about! FWIW, I love Tahoe City for lots of reasons. I love the library. I love Tahoe X-C. I love the 4th of July parade. I love the playground by the lake. I love Syd's bagels, Tahoe Dave's, Mother Nature's Inn, Scraps, and the thrift shop near the Winter Park. It's a nice, genuine, eclectic mix of stores, run by people who really care. Tahoe City is great for all ages, in all seasons, and the people seem genuine. It's got terrific access to backcountry, to lake, to downhill. What is not to love?

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May 10, 2018