Downtown Turlock has seen many changes over the past 100 years. The dusty dirt road of 1908 Main Street that housed town essentials such as the pioneer Osborn store, Turlock Hotel and McGill blacksmith shop is now a specialty retail destination. Over the past century, downtown went from the primary shopping area for all local and area residents to a neglected part of Turlock’s history, to the restored importance of a unique small-town shopping and dining experience. This transformation was a process that began in 1998 with a revitalization effort that saw City Hall move back to downtown and ended in the Turlock Downtown Association winning the Governor’s Main Street Award of Excellence in 2001. The opening of the Turlock Historical Museum, planned holiday community events and popular dining establishments have brought even more life back to downtown.
The highlight of the year for the downtown is always the holiday events. The Festival of Lights celebration, traditionally held the Friday after Thanksgiving, features the lighting of Turlock’s Christmas tree in Central Park. Vendors are also on hand to offer a variety of wares for holiday shopping, while community dance troupes entertain and nonprofits hand out free hot chocolate.
The annual holiday celebration is concluded with a downtown Christmas parade, traditionally held the first Friday of December. The parade draws over 20,000 visitors to downtown each year.
While the sparkle of holiday lights are nice, downtown has recently become the place to be year-round.
During the day, downtown offers a variety of antique and unique boutique shops and local favorite lunch spots, such as Main Street Footers and Latif’s. The return of the Turlock Certified Farmers’ Market on Friday mornings has also brought crowds to downtown looking for fresh, locally grown produce and handmade items.
On any given weekend night, groups of three or four can be seen making the rounds of night spots in downtown Turlock. The downtown corridor offers unique dining experiences, such as Bistro 234, Wellington Station, and Center Street Grill, and a growing bar scene.
Since opening in downtown Turlock one year ago, Dust Bowl Brewing Company’s Tap Room has been packed to the gills nearly every night, with locals and visitors alike fighting for the chance to taste the 35 beers presented by award-winning Dust Bowl Brewmaster Don Oliver. The Tap Room has sold more than 1,200 barrels of beer, 4,500 take-home 64 oz. growlers of beer, and over 1,500 shirts and hats.
“It’s been a great year,” said Dust Bowl Brewing Company founder/owner Brett Tate. “We have literally been going non-stop since day one here at the Tap Room as well as over at the brewery.”
The demand for Dust Bowl beer, driven by the Tap Room’s success, has led the brewery to hit its brewing capacity. The company is now looking for a larger space in Turlock to increase brewing operations, with beer shipping across the Central Valley.
“Local support has been amazing and it is much appreciated,” Oliver said.
That local support has translated into downtown foot traffic. Add in the foot traffic from other notable downtown businesses which opened in the past year – businesses such as Mexican restaurant La Mo, hookah lounge Xhale, antique and thrift store Treasure Hunters – and a palpable buzz has come to downtown Turlock.
“Between La Mo and Dust Bowl, downtown has become the place to be,” said Turlock Downtown Property Owners’ Association Director Dana McGarry.
— KRISTINA HACKER