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Opinion: The loss of a downtown icon

Maderans of all ages are dismayed at the loss of the Madera Mini Mart to fire Feb. 25. The Madera Memories page on Facebook has many photos of the historic building and videos of the fire. The more than 100-year building started as a hotel and ended its life as the home to several small gift and retail shops.

When I was growing up, the building served as a McMahan’s Furniture Store.

Most of the furniture in my parents’ and in-laws’ homes came from McMahan’s. The great thing about the store was its liberal credit practices.

A person could buy furniture on credit with a modest down payment and weekly installments. I have been wracking my brains, trying to remember the first piece of furniture I bought there. It might have been one of the home entertainment centers so popular in the 1970s. I do remember the gift with purchase, a set of Pyrex mixing bowls that came with it.

The sales contract was the beginning of my personal credit history.

The other place in Madera where a young person could buy items “on-time,” shopping mecca for Madera.

Where the Believer’s Church now sits, Madera Bowl and Cocktail Lounge was a popular date destination. While I never enjoyed bowling, it was fun to hang out there while my friends bowled.

Many of the businesses in Madera sponsored bowling teams. In exchange for the sponsorship, the name of the business appeared on the back of bowling shirts worn during league play.

My mother’s sister Clara and her husband, Curtis Banks, were avid bowlers.

They had so many bowling trophies. In addition to the typical metal trophies with a bowler figurine on top, they must have had 50 miniature bowling pins. Made of wood and about five inches tall the pins bore the name of the bowling alley and the name of the team on it.

After the Madera Bowl closed, the building for a time was operated as the Disco Depot. After the disco craze fell from favor a cocktail lounge, the El Flamingo took up residence. There were once a number of bars in downtown Madera.

Across the alley and facing Yosemite Avenue in the 1970s was bar and grill called the Arbor Nook.

Serving beer and wine along with sandwiches and steaks the Arbor Nook did a good trade in what was called a businessman’s lunch.

In the evenings and on weekends it became the closest thing Madera had to a biker bar. A line of Harley Davidson Motorcycles would be stretched from E to D streets as the jukebox played rock and roll.

Madera County once had several motorcycles clubs that were not popular with law enforcement.

The Hell’s Angels would spend the July 4th weekend camping at Bass Lake.

While the merchants that rely on the tourism dollars appreciated the money spent by the various motorcycle riders it was a double-edged sword. A group of Harleys and choppers in the parking lot will encourage other people to drive by and shop somewhere else.

Long days and pleasant nights.

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Readers, may contact Tami Jo Nix by or following @TamiJoNix on Twitter.

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