A Winters Express opinion column
By Richard Kleeberg
Special to the Express
In this column previously, I offered three suggestions to improve Winters. First up was to plant a long line of trees to block the razor-wire fence along Grant/128, near the intersection with Railroad Ave. The second was to add a huge art mural on the long Mariani building wall behind their parking lot, between Edwards and Abbey. And the third was to build a fence around the ring of garbage dumpsters in the parking lot across from Hotel Winters.
Today I have two more ideas to share. First, Winters needs new 505 freeway signage to tell people there’s more here than just four fast-food restaurants. And second, let’s rebuild the historic Cupola above the Buckhorn.
When you approach the Putah Creek Road exit, driving North on 505, you’ll see the large Caltrans sign that highlights “Food” in Winters, but lists only four restaurants: Subway, Round Table, Taco Bell and Burger King. Yes, these are fine places; I enjoy all four. But really, is this the best way to advertise all the food that Winters offers?
And it’s the same problem when you drive South towards Winters on 505; at the 128/Grant exit Caltrans has installed a similar “Food” sign, that again only lists the same four restaurants.
At the Putah Creek Road exit, the bottom part of the “Food” sign makes things even worse. After listing just those four Winters restaurants, the sign also says “Take The Second Exit,” which tells drivers to skip the Putah Creek Road exit, and instead stay on 505 until the next exit — the one that says 128 — Winters/Davis. Imagine that! Cal-Trans signage tells hungry people to skip the Putah Creek Road exit, even though it is the exit closest to downtown, and closest to more than 20 restaurants.
That’s not helping our downtown businesses. We need to tell all the people driving by on 505 that Winters has at least 10 restaurants and (three wine-tasting venues) in just a three block area of downtown. And that’s not all. Winters has 20 more places to eat within a two-mile distance from downtown. Yes, there’s at least 30 places to eat in our small City. (See end of column for a complete list.)
That’s amazing. Thirty places to eat in our tiny town. We need new signs to announce this to the thousands of people who drive by on 505 every day.
There are two ways we can we fix this. First, the City could ask Caltrans to add new, accurate signs on 505. But even if they say yes, it will take a long, long time, and could be quite expensive.
The second possibility is that the City itself can build and install, on private property, new and accurate signs. This makes more sense. How about large signs that say “Winters — 30 Restaurants, and Wine Tasting, Too.”
The City and Chamber of Commerce can ask the local property owners along 505 to allow large signs to be erected on their land, just off the edge of the freeway. I think one or two of the property owners adjacent to 505 would be quite willing to give this assist to our downtown businesses.
And while I am on this topic, we must certainly add similar signs at the stoplight intersection of 128 and Railroad Ave. Thousands pass through that intersection daily, but there are no signs telling them to turn onto Railroad Avenue to find our multitude of restaurants and our wine tasting venues.
The second item on my list today is one that I wrote about in the Express, 13 years ago. It is time to bring back an iconic symbol of Winters — the cupola that once stood on top of the Buckhorn Building. Unfortunately, that impressive and dramatic cupola was destroyed in a fire a century ago. But you can still see the cupola on the large, colorful “Welcome to Winters” billboard that Rotary placed on Grant Avenue. And, the cupola is also shown on Buckhorn Restaurant menus, and on advertising used by the City and the Chamber of Commerce.
Think about cities that have significant architectural symbols that are instantly recognizable. Redding has its Sundial Bridge. Hollywood has the hillside Hollywood sign. Auburn has their stunning old Courthouse. And Modesto has the impressive Modesto Arch.
Restoring the cupola would help identify, advertise and promote Winters. It can be built out of modern, very lightweight materials, bringing back a visual symbol of Winters, that would create effective advertising, be well remembered by visitors, and enjoyed by residents who come downtown.
Winters once had a stunningly beautiful cupola. It is time to bring it back!
Email me (email@example.com) if you missed my column, “Five Fantastic Fixes for Winters” part one. And, here are the 30 places to eat in Winters: Pizza Factory, Ocean, Preserve, Putah Creek Cafe, Steady Eddy’s, Ficelle, El Pueblo, Carboni’s, Buckhorn, Hooby’s, Chuy’s, The 128, The Distillery, Upper Crust Bakery, Buckhorn Truck, Verdusco Truck, Kountry Kitchen, Green River, Subway, Togo’s, Burger King, Round Table, Taco Bell, Starbucks, Kona Ice, Berryessa Brew, Pizza Factory, Park Winters, Togo’s, and Lorenzo’s Deli. Did I miss any?