Sunday, December 21, 2014

Downtown Niles - A Street All Its Own

This is the second in a three part series on Niles Boulevard in Fremont, California.

Niles Boulevard - Old-Fashion Charm
I'd always read that Niles Blvd was known for its antique stores and Silent Film Museum. That is true; but as I discovered, it has so much more. When I first saw the boulevard I was surprised at how small it looked. It's a one-sided railroad layout, so most of the shops line just one side of the street. But though it looks small, there are many unique and wonderful shops, restaurants and curiosities lining this street and several of the side streets.

This is one of the "curiosities," an old adobe home!
There's a good sized parking lot when you first enter the street, complete with public restrooms. I'm told the parking lot fills up early on the weekends but I didn't have a problem. My first stop was an antique store called, A Moment in Time. 

Wonderful Victorian Treasures.
I was drawn to it because of it's beautiful Victorian window display. The shop is full of many treasures including a pink Epergne (an ornamental stand). I love browsing antique stores, even though I don't know anything about antiques, because it is a fun way of learning a tiny bit about a long ago era.

A rare and beautiful pink Epergne from the Victorian era
 Before I continue on to the other shops, I want to mention another antique store that is just getting started. It is at the other end of the street and is called, Back To The Future. Even though they don't have much merchandise yet, they do have a funky collection of skateboards and surfboards.

37671 Niles Boulevard, 510-794-3622
After I walked to the other end of the street to see the Back To The Future store, I took a side detour and was pleasantly surprised to see some wonderful old homes. I've been told by someone who knows more than I, that the homes date from the early 1900s and our pre-craftsman bungalow.

Historic homes
Walking back down J Street to Main Street, I saw a young couple loading a really cool bike into their truck. I commented on it and discovered that they are the owners of Gooseneck Bicycles. Gooseneck specializes in handmade bike frames, custom-made bikes, vintage bikes - new and used  - and building up bikes to look the way you want them to. One of their goals is to make cool and affordable bikes for everyone. They do bike repairs as well. Like I said, I thought their bikes were really cool (did I mention they're cool?)  and affordable.

This is the bike that caught my attention. It features an 8 Series, handmade frame.
This store has plenty of personality - I loved it!
Lunchtime! There was a roving food truck selling inexpensive Mexican food that seemed very popular, but the line was so long I decided to look elsewhere. I'm glad I did because I discovered a Pizza Palace called Bronco Billy's. Talk about personality! The interior is crammed with cowboy movie memorabilia from some of the many films made by Bronco Billy and the Essanay studios in the early 1900s. It makes for a really fun atmosphere. The service was great and the pizza fantastic. A"slice"of pizza actually takes up a medium-sized plate. I brought home a lot of yummy leftovers to share with my kids. I highly recommend this restaurant for families and discerning pizza connoisseurs.

Fun and friendly!
So much to look at!
After lunch, I backtracked to H St. to visit the Early Start Music and Toys Store. They are a small store that specializes in selling discontinued (and therefore cheaper) Plan Toys, which are "educational and developmental wooden toys." I think they are colorful and attractive and would have bought some for my children if they were still toddlers. The Music and Toys store also specializes in giving Music Together classes, designed for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and parents.

There are always bubbles to share at the Music and Toys Store.
Ukulele lessons are available from the proprietor!
I saved the most interesting place (in my opinion) for last. It is not a store, it is a studio called Mudpuddle Music and it's run by the talented and prolific musician and songwriter Michael McNevin. Mudpuddle Music is not actually a recording studio, it is really a place that Michael uses to host gigs and jams (as in music, not jelly).  This is what Michael says about it: The gigs are usually a $10-20 a head thing for listening acoustic concerts, and/or a cheap to free sliding donation for the more casual jams. IE on occasional Sundays and other random nights, I just open the door and invite locals to come play music. All events are BYO, so it does make for a cheap night out. Broncho Billy Pizza delivery to the shop is optional :-) Some shows are family friendly, some are more geared for the grownups, so you can bring the whole gang or make it a date night.

The Mud Puddle with Michael McNevin 37433 Niles Blvd
Michael gave me one of his CD song samplers and I was really impressed with the music. He's a good guitarist, has a very nice voice, and on this CD, played with a talented group of instrumentalists. Many of his songs are actually stories about Niles; he grew up there and knows the town and it's history really well. Here's a link to one of his story songs about a childhood friend of his who barely out ran a train, called Two Feet Ahead of the Train.

My Kind of Studio!
 Michael is also an amazing Etch-a-Sketch artist.
Illustration for Two Feet Ahead of the Train

Have I given you enough enticement to visit Niles Bouldevard? And there is so much more to see. Next week I will cover their silent film museum and don't forget, there's also the Niles Canyon Railway and Train Museum! Have fun!



digifotovet said...

My sister and I were born in Niles (1945 & 1943 respectively) in a birth home. We lived in Hayward until moving to Medford, Oregon in 1947.

Karen Gough said...

Isn't it nice to know that Niles probably hasn't changed much from the '40s? Thanks for reading and commenting!

Michael McNevin said...

Karen, thank you so much for the nice write up of the Mudpuddle Shop! You have a curious and open mind. Visit again soon; we often 'Get Muddy' with jams/swaps on random Sunday Afternoons. Maybe January 4th we'll do it again. It would be a 2-5pm thing, no RSVPs, just come and go whenever, musicians and listeners alike :-)

Karen Gough said...

Thank you Michael, I'm so glad you enjoyed the blog! Someday we will surprise you and visit the Mudpuddle.

Anonymous said...

Karen, thank you so much for mentioning Bronco Billy's Pizza Palace. You are so kind and I truly appreciate your written words. Bronco Billy's has been in business for 26 years and is now ran by 3 generations. It is nice to read we are doing a pretty good job 26 years later. I will pass the word on to all of my staff(whom I love).
Marlene Teehan

Karen Gough said...

This is belated, but "you're welcome!" I'm looking forward to dining at Bronco Billy's again!