Business: St. Paddy’s Day in Gilroy, Downtown Construction

Construction moving quickly on a new downtown business

No matter how determined you might be to support businesses downtown, you’re bound to find yourself shopping and eating on First Street, which is a big hub of Gilroy commerce.
Hit the last shopping center on the left as you leave town and you’ve got a foodie’s heaven of choices of Vietnamese, Italian (two), subs, frozen yogurt, Indian and Japanese–all top shelf.
And on St. Patrick’s Day, the hub of activity there will be like a trip to Ireland, at The Claddagh. Even on the previous Friday, The Claddagh was starting to buzz by late afternoon, but on St. Paddy’s Day it might well be standing room only, with 1,000 customers stopping by.
“On St. Patrick’s Day, we do pretty much five times what we do on a normal Friday,” said Lesley Benson, who along with ex-husband Mike Benson has owned The Claddagh since 1999 and converted it from a sports bar to a leading haven for all things Irish. Although restaurant and bar are spacious and let in plenty of California sunshine rather than being dark and dismal, there’s a palpable Irish feel to the place.
Mike Benson is from County Limerick. That and the name of the bar both create an unmistakable impression.
In the Republic of Ireland, Claddagh is a small city adjacent to Galway.
But the restaurant is named after a heart insignia with a crown that is supposed to a symbol of love, friendship and loyalty, Lesley Benson said.
That’s what the throng will be seeking Friday. “There’s not going to be reservations,” stressed bartender Ed Malick, adding that “people always ask.”
It’s hard to keep that many people comfortable, even though the banquet room, normally secluded, will be open to circulating customers. The main room will be a staging area from 6:30 p.m. on for entertainers, notably the musicians Butte Creek, who will be alternating with a special troupe of dancers.
While The Claddagh might be the most appealing place for drinking, and food is also important there, the shopping center’s foremost attribute is the number and variety of restaurants in a small space. It’s better than the food court in the shopping mall at Fifth and Market in San Francisco. There’s a branch of El Grullense, there’s a Viet/Thai place, Saigon 2 Siam Bistro, a Little India, a Little Caesar’s, Ten Sushi, AJ’s cheese steak emporium, a real Italian bakery, Sweet Sicily, fast food Chinese, Mr. Hong’s and an Italian sit-down restaurant, Mama Mia.
The center lost one great restaurant some time back: Tyrone Spencer’s jambalaya and ribs shop.
Rumors to the contrary
There is no truth to the rumor that the old Orchard Supply site on 10th Street is going to be a high rise, says Gilroy’s Economic Development Director Tammy Brownlow. She says her talks with the site’s owners involve building retail there, not high rise.
There’s been big work on the old Antique Fair on Monterey Street north of Fifth. The roof is demolished and thousands of bricks were taken out. The plans, according to Downtown Association President Gary Walton, are to put housing on the second floor and retail on the ground. Sunil Patel owns the building, which was once the office for the Continental phone company.
The new Noodle House on Monterey Road, behind Super Taqueria is due to open in May, but work is speeding along on it.

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