by Tom Sims
Tom Sims covers the Tower District, Downtown Fresno, and Old Town Clovis in his monthly column Strolling the Town.
We feel these are three areas in this Valley that are filled with history, culture and interesting stories. So join us each month as Tom goes Strolling!
Craig Scharton has no pet peeves except one. It is the furry kind, the kind that kicks and barks and wags his tail with delight. His pet dog, Peeve has something to howl about these days.
What he has, besides his dog, “Peeve” and a big heart for Fresno, are some deep convictions and a great deal of energy to accomplish some goals for revitalization of Fresno, with a puppy dog enthusiasm for having fun doing it.
Peeve’s Public House and Local Market opened in September almost as much to Scharton’s surprise as it was to everyone else’s.
For a number of years, Scharton had been on Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s senior staff as a business developer with special responsibilities for downtown revitalization. In that capacity, he encouraged the development of downtown businesses and was a frequent guest at civic meetings and on the radio, advancing the cause of entrepreneurship, encouraging innovation, and agitating for imagination.
Peeve’s was not on his radar screen or a part of his immediate game plan.
At a pre-opening event, he stated that taking this step was not something he thought would be happening when it happened. That is the way it is with life. Some of our best “plans” come as surprises.
Recently, the owners of Fresno Brewing House became ready for a transition and space and legacy became available. Craig had a basket of ideas and a network of relationships. It was the right time and the right place for a community “third place.”
Along with those assets, he brought decades of business and community development skills along with some deep beliefs and commitments about what a place like Peeves should seek to accomplish in a city like Fresno.
If he had been looking for one or two benefits, he could have found them in any number of business ventures, but Craig Scharton was looking for more.
“I like things that have multiple layers of benefit,” he said in a recent interview, “I think Peeve’s Public House can be one of these types of projects.”
Peeve’s follows the traditions of the public houses that one might find in the British Isles, places where neighbors gather to be and to become community. But there is more. It is about local business, healthy local food, and local people coming together to create energy and common ground.
It is about people helping people and Fresno making a name for itself.
Scharton’s take is, “Peeve’s can help revitalization by bringing people downtown and giving downtowns something fun to do. The market can help to grow our economy by giving start-up food entrepreneurs shelf space and promotion. We can also be a place for downtown residents to shop.”
That is why he is making the kitchen available to people with great ideas and nowhere to cook up new products. That is why he is making his counter space available to people with innovative local products and nowhere to sell it. That is why he is making space available for groups to gather for a variety of events and celebrations downtown on the Mall.
Recent events have included an “emergency date night” in October, a taco fundraiser, a number of movie nights including a Halloween double feature, and some educational experience for students from local elementary schools.
A recent movie night featured a Mary Poppins sing-along.
Swing dance lessons are scheduled for next week. There is frequently live music.
Peeve’s is a fun place.
“One young lady,” Craig recounted, “said she moved from Fresno because there weren’t enough places like Peeve’s. That made my week. Our emotes say the best part of their job is working in a place that builds community. What could be better?”
One coming event is an opportunity for local authors to read from their books.
When he worked for the city, Craig could encourage these things to happen and help them happen, but now he can make them happen. One supporter remarked, “He can now do what he has been telling us all along to do and take the risks as well.”
So far, the risks seem to be paying off. Peeve’s is enjoying some full house business, lots of enthusiasm, and rave reviews online and in the media. Few ventures have benefited from as much “buzz,” but there is more than “buzz” here. There is sound philosophy and commitment to applying real values in the real world.
Scharton’s says that “downtowns are a lifestyle. Some people want to be fed with an urban, vital experience every day, some might want it on occasion. What we do know is that healthy cities and regions have healthy urban centers. Otherwise the people that want this part of their life, will leave to find it somewhere else.”
As stated on their Facebook page, Peeve’s describes itself as a place that, “will be THE hub for Central Valley products. Whether it’s produce, literature, music albums, or beverages, everything we offer will be made by Valley citizens for Valley citizens. We want to make Fresno proud of itself.”
Further, it is described as “a hyper-local space for Fresnans to experience the Central Valley’s best food and drink.”
At least 12 microbrews are on tap. Lanna coffee and Raizana Teas are featured. It will not be unusual to find food from Kristina’s market or vegetables and fruits from local farmer’s markets.
The food is a big part of the draw, which, when combined with the conversation, provides a total experience. Every meal is different and announced on Facebook and Twitter regularly by Facebook page editor, Hans “H” Steele. Executive Chef Sean Dunn keeps it seasonal and local for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Eat with others, or work along while you eat connected to the Internet or buried in a book. Either way, you will never be completely alone.
A “Kickstarter” campaign ends this afternoon and there is still time to get involved. Proceeds will help pay for shelves, refrigerators and freezers that will in turn help new business startups grow and develop. Scharton says, “The Kickstarter campaign is a great way to fund a project. It helps us to preserve our precious start up capital for operations and it helps the community to have ownership in this project that has very real community benefits.”
Peeve’s is on its way to becoming a legend and a legacy in Fresno as well as a birthplace for legends and legacies yet to be dreamed. Visit them soon at 1243 Fulton Mall in Fresno (93721)!
They are located at: 1243 Fulton Mall, Fresno, California. Parking on Van Ness/ Tuolumne at CVS is free for the first Hour, after 6 p.m. on weekdays, and anytime on weekends. Merced Garage (Van Ness and Merced streets) is free after 6 .p.m on weekdays and anytime on weekends. They validate parking for the ACE Parking lot on the East of the Hotel Fresno. ( Off Broadway and Fresno Street)