The Story Behind the Big Wheel Resort

2015-03-30 16:30:23 bigwheelsresort

Big Wheels ResortSome of you might be wondering what happened to the Big Wheel Resort.  Here is the story starting the Journey on the 25 October 2005

An open letter to the better Big Wheels group

Dear friends,

October2005 and 21, marked exactly one year since the new caretakers officially took over the Big Wheels Resort.

Back story

Just a few months earlier, after visiting several other California restaurant/lounge properties advertised for sale, and after a two-year search, Mike had discovered Big Wheels listed on an Internet businesses-for-sale site, and fallen in love — I don’t think that’s too strong a term — with the historic restaurant and the friendly people he found there. Wasting no time they moved to Shingletown, and, hitting the ground running, learned about the Big Wheels way, and set out to put their own stamp on the venerable place, while keeping it in trust for those they regarded as Big

Wheels’ real owners – you.

Fast-forward to the present. A lot has happened since that day 12 months ago, as must certainly be the case in your own lives. Hopefully, you enjoyed much that was good. If, however, you or anyone close to you was affected by the recent hurricanes, or other disasters, our thoughts are with you.

We certainly have enjoyed much that is good. You, the people of Shingletown and beyond, welcomed us, supported us, gave us advice, kept us company (and sang Karaoke) in the bar while watching us clean and fix the kitchen, and then you returned to the restaurant as it reopened in May. Things were looking up.

The Fire

Then, in the predawn hours of May 16, 2005, Big Wheels burned to the ground. More than 20 firefighters fought the blaze. Thankfully, no one was injured. However, although some suspected arson, and the case is still under investigation, the exact cause of the fire remains a mystery.

You can imagine the huge sense of loss we all felt. Mike and his colleagues had spent hundreds of thousands and hours of dollars adding a walk-in cooler, new flooring, countertops, paint and shelving and other amenities to the kitchen, and installing a new point-of-sale computer system and building unique custom booths in the dining area. Now all that — collective dreams and

livelihood — was up in smoke. Big Wheels employees had lost their jobs. And Shingletown had lost a vital eating place, meeting grounds, and watering hole.

The aftermath

Mike personally helped some of his people look for new positions. And the community rallied behind him. For example, on July 16, Dave Thomas hosted a fundraiser picnic for the employees.

What’s been happening at Big Wheels in the aftermath of that tragedy? You will be happy to learn that, after dealing with the insurance adjusters and fire investigators, Mike is looking ahead. He’s already bought a new shuffleboard game. You can’t help but catch his excitement as he

describes the new Wheels.

Cleaning up the site

If you drive by the place where the old Big Wheels once stood there on Highway 44, you’ll notice that the charred remains of the building and its furnishings have been hauled away, and the entire site cleared. (link to or caption for picture; picture needs credit) You’ll also notice that Mike has moved the landmark wheels from the front of the lot to a spot in front of the small building that had served as the restaurant office and, before that, a gas station.

Towing those towering wheels was a slow and careful process, Mike said, because they are not in the best of shape. He added that he’d like to involve the whole community in restoring them to their former glory. (Sounds like an excuse to party, doesn’t it? Stay tuned! )

Plans and vision

Right now, of course, the Big Wheels main structure exists only as blueprints on the drawing board in the office of a highly recommended local architect. Those sketches reveal ambitious plans.

Mike wants not only to resurrect the bar, make the restaurant into a coffee shop, but build a 13-room hotel as well. The new building will sit about 30 feet farther back than its predecessor because of the Caltrans easement requirements.

There is plenty to do, of course, before we turn the first shovelful of earth for the new foundation. Mike is dealing with a new use permit for the business. That means there is probably an EIR (environmental impact report) to consider. He is in discussions with a general contractor. He is talking to lenders. And he is poring over preliminary plans to make sure there will be a wall long enough for our prized shuffleboard game. So long for now, Ma Wheeler.  Please check out our previous post on Legoland.

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2015-03-30 07:10:45 bigwheelsresort

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