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Lodi: Recharging citys economic core
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Sidewalk dining is a common feature along downtown Lodi. - photo by VINCE REMBULAT

Downtown Lodi has become a place of destination.

But it took a concerted effort from the movers and shakers of the “Zinfandel Capital of the World” to transform this once typical Valley town into a place that rivals Napa, Sonoma, or Healdsburg.

“Lodi has reestablished its downtown’s quaint charm while economically charging its central core to once again become the heartbeat of the city for every Lodi citizen,” according to the Lodi Chamber of Commerce.

Robin Knowlton, owner of the Knowlton Gallery, has lived in Lodi since 1989. When she first came here the City was focused on big box retailers along Kettleman Lane and other outlying areas rather than the downtown.

“There really wasn’t much to downtown,” she said. 

Today, her gallery is well-known throughout the country and is housed in the old Woolworth Building on School Street near Oak Street. Once upon a time, this two-story historic art-deco structure was unoccupied prior to revitalization plans that kicked off in 2002.

Restoration include d putting large windows, decorative overhang, and turning the adjacent alley – used for years to store garbage bins – into a scenic dining area for a restaurant.

Along with the Knowlton Gallery, the Woolworth Place has the Crush Kitchen & Bar, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and Taste of Heaven, to name a few.

This was also part of the School Street revitalization that began in the late 1990. The project involved laying old-fashioned brick streets, inlaid golden sidewalks, informational kiosk, and plenty of colorful potted plants.

In addition, 30-foot tall Sycamore trees were planted along this historic downtown section of School Street, which formed a cool canopy over the golden sidewalks to create an ideal shopping environment, the Chamber said.

But what’s downtown without the right businesses?

Over the years, Lodi opened several wine-tasting rooms along School Street – One Way Winery, Cellar Door, Weibel, Fields Family and Lodi’s Wine Social can be found on this part of the block between Elm and Pine streets.

The Dancing Fox Winery and Bakery about three blocks down on School Street is another popular place.

Downtown has its share of fine dining spots (Crush Kitchen, Rosewood Bar & Grill, School Street Bistro), café / deli (The Rusted Mic, Tillie’s Fine Food & Coffee Co.) and a variety of international restaurants.

The downtown is anchored by Lodi Stadium 12 Theater, which opened in 2001.

Lodi was founded in 1859 when a group of local families decided to establish a school at present day Cherokee Lane and Turner Road. The railroad came through in 1869, with the 12 acre between Washington to Church, and Locust to Walnut streets help shape the downtown.

Lodi was incorporated in 1902.

Downtown survived the recent economic downturn and continues to flourish as new businesses pop up.

“Many Central California city leaders have openly proclaimed their great respect for Lodi planners,” the Chamber said. “Downtown Lodi is the envy of many mayors throughout the San Joaquin County.”