Melody Potter, who had operated the Fifth Season at various downtown locations for more than three decades, was the honoree. She’s closing up shop to kick back a bit and along the way sell some silver jewelry she had featured in her 10th Street store.
A number of people at the farewell party commented on Melody’s impact on the downtown. First and foremost were her artistic talents in framing paintings and photos, along with her flair for featuring unusual pieces of jewelry and other personal and household items.
In total, her retail efforts and unique personality contributed interest and energy to the downtown, which in the past two decades has tried to reposition itself as something other than Tracy’s main retail area in the wake of the opening of the mall and big-box stores.
That “something other” means stores like Melody’s have had to fill the gaps left by the closing of downtown mainstays such as JC Penneys, Woolworths, The Hub, The Mart and most men’s and women’s clothing stores. It hasn’t been easy, but Melody has set the standard for the kind of personal appeal a downtown business must strive to nurture and maintain.
As I’ve thought about merchants whose personalities have permeated the culture of downtown retail, there are any number who come to mind. I couldn’t help, however, but focus on a storefront just west of Melody’s on the north side of West 10th Street.
That’s where Bob Anderson held sway for many years at the Tracy Camera Shop. Bob first managed the store for Reiman’s Cameras in Stockton in the early 1950s, and became owner after the store moved from the corner of Ninth and Central to West 10th.
In those days, cameras used film and were sold in camera shops. So were greeting cards.
But it was Bob’s outgoing and talkative personality that made the Tracy Camera Shop special. And when I say talkative, any former customers will know what I mean.
Bob loved to converse with his customers. He was great at explaining the workings of the cameras he sold, but he also covered a myriad of other topics, not least of which was aviation.
Bob was a P-38 fighter pilot in the Pacific during World War II, and he became an expert in the history of that phase of the war. His recounting of the relatively unknown role Charles Lindbergh (first to solo over the Atlantic in 1927) played in supporting the fighter pilots in the Pacific was carried in articles in a number of aviation magazines.
Bob also spoke about the air war in the Pacific to students in schools in Tracy and sent dispatches back to the Press about the Reno Air Races.
In 1979, Bob turned the business over to his son, Craig (who now lives near Linden), but the days of camera shops were numbered, and the business closed a few years later. Bob didn’t have many years of retirement, though. He died in July 1982 at the age of 61.
Looking back at the impact that owners and operators of businesses in the downtown made, Bob and Melody are examples of the importance of not only offering the right items for sale, but also projecting their unique personalities in reaching out to customers.
Green and gold
So who are you backing in Sunday’s Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl tussle? There may be divided loyalities in our town, but up in Chico it’s Green Bay all the way.
The other day, I talked on the phone with Jim Fiack, former standout Tracy High and Cal Aggies linebacker. As a Chico resident, Jim reported that the hometown of Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers is all green and gold.
Rodgers, son of a Chico chiropractor and a graduate of Pleasant Valley High School, returns to his hometown in the off-season, and in a completely unpretentious way meets with old friends and acquaintances.
“I’d say that 98 percent of the people here are for the Packers because of Aaron,” Jim reported. “The Graduate, a local hangout, will be packed on Super Bowl Sunday, and Steeler fans will be few and far between.”
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.