But the door was locked and lights turned off. Tracy’s sole newsstand — a local institution on Central Avenue in downtown Tracy for 63 years — was closed up tight. There was no sign on the door to explain why.
I thought perhaps the operators had taken a day off to attend a special function.
Monday, however, we learned that Dick’s was still closed and would probably remain that way, at least for a while — and perhaps permanently. The most recent owner, Sam Jaspal, had told employees Friday and Saturday that he was closing down the business, we learned.
Thursday morning, I walked over to Dick’s again to make sure the place was still closed, and it was.
As I approached, I saw a guy looking through the front window at the darkened interior that still contained periodicals and merchandise. It was Tom Davis, a longtime regular customer. He had a puzzled look on his face. He had been there a week ago Thursday and was told nothing about an impending closure.
I told Tom that Dick’s had been closed since Sunday, and looked as though it was out of business. Going to Dick’s several times a week had been part of his regular routine for decades, he said.
As Tom and I talked about the closed iconic Tracy business, Kevin Vierra walked out of the back entrance of the Tracy Inn. Kevin and wife Vicki had operated Dick’s for some four years in the late 1990s after he had retired as a Tracy police detective. Kevin had just talked to Dino Margaros at the Tracy Inn. And even Dino, the landlord, knew no more than we did.
“I had coffee every morning there with Tony Traina,” he recalled. “I started the Wall of Fame with some photos of Tracy people I had known and admired. It’s still there.”
A few minutes later, Nick Buthmann stopped by. Nick said a friend of his had worked there and had been told Friday that Dick’s was closing. Before that, though, the noticeable reduction in magazines and newspapers usually available at Dick’s should have warned him Dick’s days under the current ownership were winding down.
“I guess I just never figured it would be closed, but that’s what happened,” Nick said.
Tom, Kevin and Nick aren’t alone in mourning the closing of Dick’s. So many people had made it a stop on their regular routines for so many years to purchase newspapers, magazines, soft-cover books, tobacco products, candies, sundries — and Lotto scratchers and tickets.
But the rise of the Internet, with so much available information available at a person’s fingertips, no doubt has made major inroads into specialty magazine sales, once an important source of revenue for newsstands.
Hopefully, a new owner with a different mix of offerings can open Dick’s again and breathe new life into the longtime fixture in downtown Tracy.
That’s certainly the hope of Genevieve “Gen” Nilsson, who operated Dick’s for 19 years, from 1976 to 1995.
“Dick’s was an important part of my life for all those years,” she told me when I called her about Dick’s closing. “I met so many people who became regular costumers and friends. I loved to see them come in the front door.”
Many Tracyites will remember Gen and her crew — Vivian Shaffer, Elma Wheat, Angie Eddy and Earldean Wootten — behind the counter at Dick’s when Gen operated it. I know I do.
Dick’s was named for Dick Turk, who opened the newsstand in 1948. Its first location was across the street in a small structure next to what was then Bank of America (and later Ward Real Estate, now closed).
As Dudley Foster took over ownership, it was moved across the street in the late 1960s to become the newest addition to the Tracy Inn.
Carl and Margaret Upton ran Dick’s for 15 years, followed by Don Palmquist for seven years before selling the business to Gen.
After the Vierras sold it, the new owners curtailed opening hours and then closed it for some six months after a fire next door and a broken water pipe flooded the place. Several owners followed while working to bring it back to life.
You can see by the history of Dick’s that its ownership passed through many hands. A small business open seven days a week can be a challenge, especially in the current economy. It’s just that Dick’s had never been locked up without notice before — and now possibly for good.
Perhaps Sam, the most recent owner — a guy with a classic British accent who was on the job many Sunday mornings — can find someone to take over the business and the lease. Dick’s has been too much of a part of Tracy’s life for so many years to pass permanently from the scene, especially without a suitable farewell.
n Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.