Pinole Business, the Past, Present and Future

The City of Pinole is a small city of approximately 19,573 residents.
It is situated in Western Contra Costa County on the east side of San Francisco Bay.

The Past

The recorded history of Pinole dates back to the early 1700s.

Upon incorporation in 1903, Old Town Pinole was bustling with
waterfront activity at the wharf, a post office, a newspaper (The Pinole Weekly Times), a school, several hotels, saloons, and stores and two churches. By 1915 it boasted the Pinole Opera House, the Pinole Theatre, the Bank of Pinole, and numerous other commercial businesses. Several of these buildings, such as the Bank of Pinole building, are still standing today and are a testimony to the rich history of Old Town Pinole.
Old Town Pinole remains a popular destination for dining and entertainment, The Pear Street Bistro, the Alley Café, The Bear Claw, Tina’s, Antler’s Tavern, and Pinole Creek Cafe are popular spots.

The growth in automobile travel, World War II — 1940s, and construction of I-8O played a major role in the growth and development of Pinoe and its business community.

The Present

Pinole Vista shopping center on Fitzgerald Drive along Northbound I-80, boasts some of the most popular shopping destinations in the area. Anchor tenants include Target, Lucky, and Best Buy. It is also a popular dining destination featuring a variety of sit down and fast food restaurants.

Just north of the Pinole Vista shopping area is Pinole Valley Center. Anchors here include Trader Joe’s, Peet’s Coffee and Mechanics Bank.

The newest addition to the Pinole Business community is the Gateway West Center. This center includes Pinole’s newest market, Sprout’s Market.

The Future

Pinole is considered a prime business location. The Bay Front Chamber of Commerce invites you to become a part of this thriving and vibrant community.

*Historical Excerpts and Photos courtesy of the Pinole Historical Society.

Iconic Pinole Businesses

Bank of Pinole (2361 San Pablo Avenue). The 19th century-built Pinole Hotel stood on the south side of San Pablo Avenue between Tennent and Valley avenues. It burned down in 1914. In 1915, Edward M. Downer, mayor of Pinole, opened the newly constructed Bank of Pinole on this site. He later expanded his business by buying Mechanics Bank.

Bank of Pinole (2361 San Pablo Avenue)

Bank of Pinole (2361 San Pablo Avenue)

Antlers Tavern (2284 San Pablo Avenue). This building on the northwest corner of San Pablo and Tennent avenues was Lehman’s, a small department store, in 1900, before it began its long history as a bar. It was the Swenson and Lewis Saloon in the early 20th century. Antlers was owned by Frank Lunghi from 1950-1976. Lunghi took over the Trovatore Café, across the street, from his parents, Joe and Maria, but closed it when he bought Antlers. The Torretta family has owned Antlers since the late Al Torretta bought it from Lunghi.

Antlers Tavern (2284 San Pablo Avenue)

Antlers Tavern (2284 San Pablo Avenue)

Square Deal Garage (2500 San Pablo Avenue). This is one of Pinole’s most recognized landmark businesses. In 1913, Will Gerrish’s butcher shop was on this site. Gerrish, Hokie Silva, and Molly Rose ran the shop. Later, the Smith and Hemleb meat market was here. Bert Hall first opened his garage in the Fraser blacksmith shop on San Pablo Avenue, across the street from Val Pera’s Gondola restaurant (later the Club Alibi). Bert opened the Square Deal Garage in 1928.

Bert’s son, Chet, ran it for many years. Kevin Osman, a local businessman, bought the garage in 1981. Kevin’s sons, Brian (service manager) and Brandon (shop manager) run the business.

The Bear Claw. This Pinole landmark on the north side of San Pablo Avenue has had numerous lives serving Pinole’s hungry and thirsty citizens. In 1945-46 it was known as Harry Skow’s bar. Gladys Skow, Harry’s daughter, and her husband, Tommy Prather, took over the business, and called it Tommy’s Cafe. People gathered for coffee, conversation, and local news and gossip. It was in the same building that housed the Manuel Marcos Saloon at the turn of the 20th century. Mike and Terri Stott, two of Pinole’s most civic-minded and generous merchants, opened The Bear Claw Bakery in this building in 1982.