Over the Fence:

Vic’s goes belly up

Shown here is the front of the Vic's market. Still hanging on the front of the store was an “Under New Management” sign. The sign has been up for over a year and just this week the store filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Neighbors are asking, what next? Some have started petitions to bring Trader Joe's to fill the spot.  / Photo by Monica Stark, editor@valcomnews.com

Shown here is the front of the Vic's market. Still hanging on the front of the store was an “Under New Management” sign. The sign has been up for over a year and just this week the store filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Neighbors are asking, what next? Some have started petitions to bring Trader Joe's to fill the spot. / Photo by Monica Stark, editor@valcomnews.com


Vic’s IGA, the supermarket with the zig zag roofline that anchors the South Hills Shopping Center, has filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy and closed its doors.

Vic’s Market, which was originally a Jumbo Market designed by architect Sooky Lee back in 1968, has seen better days.

When I went by the tattered old market, the parking lot was empty, the trash cans were overfilled with garbage, and the two trees in the big blue pots were dead.

The big red and worn Vic’s sign had some damage that was being held together with duct tape. The “Under New Management” banner was still up, too. It was a sad scene.

Potential shoppers were trickling by asking, “Is Vic’s closed?”

Folks stopping by told me things like, “I knew something was up when the shelves were nearly empty.”

Another patron said, “the store used to be fully stocked. You go in there now, and you don’t know what you’re gonna get.”

Meat shouldn’t be green and lettuce shouldn’t be brown.

Sometimes that is what customers would get. A lot of the items were past the “best if sold by” date.

Vic’s ICK.

Vendors were stopping by the shuttered market, too. Donald Miller, who boasted he had 51 years in the grocery business, said, “I saw it coming. Bottom line. They didn’t know how to run a grocery store.”

Miller, who works for Acosta Sales and Marketing added, “If the right person comes along, they could make a go of this store.”

Shoppers were trickling into the vast parking lot and peeking in the door that had the “Hometown Pride” sticker on it when they found out about the store closure.

One patron asked, “Is it closed for good?”

Another person added, “I’m not surprised.”

Vic’s customers thought something was up and would ask the owner, who’s first name is Kumar, “What’s going on?” Kumar would tell people they were “remodeling and waiting for new equipment to come in.”

Bob Montenegro was peeking in the store window when he said, “I’ve been coming here for years, all the old employees are gone.” He added, “the last couple of months I stopped coming here because they had no bread or milk”.

The closing of the Vic’s also effects the two businesses that were sub leasing space from the owner; Beijing Wok and Good Eats Southern BBQ. An employee at the Beijing Wok was busy packing up bags of rice, peas and carrots and didn’t want to talk about the store closing. They were in a hurry moving their products out before the creditors came.

Eric McFadden, the owner of Good Eats Southern Bar-B-B-Q said, “On Monday, the doors were locked and foamed; I couldn’t get into my own business.”

Eric said, “I knew something was going on.” The owner had told him and everybody else they were planning a remodel of the store and that was the reason for the half-empty shelves.

While I spoke to Eric, his business partner Dawn Sirstad was running out to rent a U-Haul truck. They were in a hurry to move out all their restaurant equipment before the doors were locked and foamed again.

McFadden was annoyed at the situation but was already making calls to move Good Eats BBQ to a nearby location.

Good Eats BBQ, which gets rave reviews on Yelp for their old fashioned comfort food, may move into the empty Brick Oven Pizza building located on the right side of the shopping center.

His goal is to open very soon and have “The Big Mama Grill,” BBQ-ing ribs outside the joint. He is currently in negotiations with the property management company which also manages Vic’s and the entire right side of the shopping center.

Good Eats would give some life to that side of the shopping center which recently lost Erawan Thai Restaurant. Erawan moved over to Freeport Boulevard.

Vic’s Market closing leaves a big hole in the historic South Hills shopping center. Hopefully, a higher quality market can move in while keeping the original architecture of the building intact.

Camellia Waldorf plans move to CP Huntington campus

Camellia Waldorf School, a private Waldorf elementary on Freeport Boulevard, is currently looking to move on over to the closed down CP Huntington public school campus in the Brentwood neighborhood.

Camellia Waldorf has been at the current site on Freeport Boulevard for 25 years. They started out by renting one room from the storefront and that was their kindergarten. They have grown over the years to include a toddler program through eighth grade.

According to school administrator Ardyth Sokolor, “It was never intended to be a long term site, but it has worked nicely. At this point, it’s just not large enough.”

They are very interested in moving to the former CP Huntington campus and are working with the Sacramento City Unified School District to get it finalized. “(It’s) just a matter of process,” Sokolor said.

They are very interested in increasing their enrollment, but the space they are currently in is just not big enough.

The classrooms are small and they need more space for things like a woodworking studio, art space, and a strings room for an instrumental music program.

“We do more space sharing than we really would like,” Sokolar said.

“Our teachers want larger classrooms because one of the things that is unique about a Waldorf education is the children aren’t just sitting at their desks doing worksheets. They integrate a lot of movement and games and outdoor space and it would be wonderful to have more room.”

The grounds at the current site are all about the outdoors and nature. The children help to take care of the animals and they also have chores. The development of a strong will and work ethic is very important to a Waldorf education.

They use different types of play structures which means they’ll have to transform the CP Huntington school grounds from a mainstream public school to a Waldorf private school.

That’s where the permits and red tape come into play.

Camellia Waldorf has made efforts to inform parents of their proposed site relocation. They’ve had quite a few parent education offerings to let the parents know why they are interested in moving and why they think CP Hunnington works well for them.

They have also reached out to the Brentwood Neighborhood by canvassing the neighborhood and have had members of the Brentwood Neighborhood Association tour the campus and learn what a Waldorf education is all about.

“We also like the idea of being in a neighborhood instead of a shopping center. Community is an important part of who we are and what our parents are looking for and what we instill in our children. It’s very attractive to us to be in more of a community setting like that,” Sokolor said.

What will happen to the building and area Camellia Waldorf will be vacating?

Over the Fence has learned there have been some preliminary discussions to house a Safe Ground type facility on the 4.6-acre Sacramento City nursery once Camellia Waldorf relocates to the CP Huntington site. Stay tuned.

Got a local neighborhood news story? Email Greg@valcomnews.com

Run With a Recruiter

Like to jog through the neighborhood? Interested in law enforcement? The Sacramento Police Department hosts “Run with a Recruiter” every Friday morning at the Public Safety Center on Freeport Boulevard.

Just meet at the front doors at 6 a.m. and be ready to run.

Run with a Recruiter is a great way to burn some carbs with Sac PD and learn about what it takes to be a police officer. You’ll also get to run along with others who have an interest in law enforcement.

And, no, they’re not running to Marie’s Donuts and back.

They run all throughout the neighborhood and try to switch it up every week, whether it’s jogging the tree-lined winding hills of South Land Park or through the foggy mist of William Land Park. Different scenery makes it more interesting. Sometimes they run near the Sacramento Zoo and do some stretching exercises at the halfway point; then head west.

Run with a Recruiter is no pressure. It’s not a race or mad dash to the finish line. It is a group activity with group exercises, which is what they do at the Sacramento Police Academy. “We try and foster that kind of community sense of exercise,” Officer Nevik told me.

Officer Nevik also said, “It’s not only meant to evaluate fitness, it’s about getting out, getting to know people, and having the opportunity to talk with other officers and other applicants in the process.”

I wonder if they’ve ever been running through Land Park and they come across a crime in progress? Some guy is hauling a big screen TV through a shattered window just when the cops and recruits come jogging up the street.

I guess I’ll have to ask them if that’s happened on the next…Run With A Recruiter. Every Friday at 6 a.m.

Dash To Marie’s For Some Donuts

Shown here is are two runners from the Fifth Annual Donut Dash, in support of Child Life Program at Sutter Children’s Center, was held on Saturday, March 9, 2013. This year’s run will be held on Saturday, March 7. The four-mile race starts and ends in William Land Park with Marie’s Donuts as a turnaround spot. / File photo by Stephen Crowley

Shown here is are two runners from the Fifth Annual Donut Dash, in support of Child Life Program at Sutter Children’s Center, was held on Saturday, March 9, 2013. This year’s run will be held on Saturday, March 7. The four-mile race starts and ends in William Land Park with Marie’s Donuts as a turnaround spot. / File photo by Stephen Crowley

If you like chocolate sprinkles with your run, you may want to participate in the upcoming Donut Dash March 7 in William Land Park. Run, jog, or walk two miles, chomp on some Marie’s Donuts and dash back to the finish line at William Land Park.

The Donut Dash is gluttony for a good cause.

The proceeds go to The Child Life Program at Sutter’s Children Center, which is more than a good cause. The program helps purchase iPads, video game systems, and arts and craft projects for the sick kids. Hospitals aren’t exactly an amusement park. The games and gadgets help pass the time in a fun way while children recover from their illness at the hospital.

The Donut Dash brings the local community together and has been growing every year since 2009. Last year’s Donut Dash raised $60,000 for the Child Life Program. That’s a lot of donut holes.

I asked event organizer Zack Wandell: Why Marie’s Donuts? I mean, they ARE a Land Park institution and they have delicious donuts.

Zack said, “Oh yeah. Best in town.” And Zack knows donuts.

He actually grew up in the Greenhaven-Pocket area and was always a Marie’s Donuts fan. He told me about Greenhaven Donuts and how he and his friends used to go over there after their paper routes and get the glazed; once he became a teen and was able to drive, “it was Marie’s Donuts,” he said.

Donut Dash Factoid: 260 dozen donuts and 500-600 dozen donut holes will be consumed at the Donut Dash.

For registration info go to www.donutdash.org. You can also find them on Facebook.

CPV Safeway gas station proposal still simmering

Things seem to be heating up with the Curtis Park Village development. Aren’t they always?

The latest is a mass email being circulated by Paul Petrovich to local residents about the Safeway supermarket and gas station proposal. In the email he states, “My effort to bring Safeway and its $25 per hour jobs to Curtis Park Village is in trouble.”

The hourly wage is a bit overstated. According to Glassdoor.com, the average salary for a Safeway checker is $11.27. A food clerk makes $14.27 and a head clerk can average up to $18.34 – a good hourly wage, but it’s no $25 an hour.

Looks like Petrovich is using union labor jobs as a PR tool to get the Safeway gas station approved. Will it sway public opinion? Petrovich Development hopes so.

The personal email from Paul ends with “Should I continue to fight for Safeway or give up and let a lower-wage operator take their place? This is the last issue. I don’t want to make the wrong decision.”

Some recipients weren’t too happy with the email correspondence from Paul. “How did he get my email?” one Hollywood Park resident complained. Sounds like Paul has a master list of emails he’s sending out to the outskirts of the community.

Another recipient, Dustin Dyer, wrote a scathing response to Paul: “As an attorney I do respect the tactic of misdirection in your argument to attempt to characterize the main purpose your development as an opportunity to benefit the community rather than the opportunity to maximize profits.”

The Safeway gas station is Petrovich’s last stand. Safeway and Petrovich say if they don’t get the fueling station along with the Supermarket, they can’t compete. They noted they especially can’t compete with the new Raley’s flagship market that will be taking over the old abandoned Capital Nursery spot. Steve Berndt specifically mentioned “the Raley’s fuel center” at the SCNA meeting last month. Recently, I was told there would no Raley’s gas station although there were blueprints as far back as a couple years ago. The Raley’s Development team had been scheduled to appear twice at the Land Park Neighborhood Association, but they canceled both times saying they were not ready to present to the board.


I think Raley’s is waiting to see how the Safeway gas station pans out before revealing their blueprints for the new Land Park Raley’s.

The Petrovich email also suggests what will happen if Safeway and the gas station do not become part of the Curtis Park Village Development. They might have to put up with a Food Source, Winco, or the fear of all fears…a Wal-Mart.

It’s either A or B. I would think Petrovich would want his signature development to be something the entire Sacramento region would be proud of.


Over The Fence

A large turnout of concerned neighbors gathered at the Sierra 2 Community Center to listen developer Paul Petrovich's proposal for a Safeway gas station. / Photos by Greg Brown

A large turnout of concerned neighbors gathered at the Sierra 2 Community Center to listen developer Paul Petrovich's proposal for a Safeway gas station. / Photos by Greg Brown

Longtime Land Park Raley’s Clerk Retires

Land Park Raley’s won’t be the same without the affable Tom Tisdale, better known as Tom T. by his customers and fellow employees. After 33 years at the Raley’s Supermarket on Freeport Boulevard, Tom decided to hang up his plumb-colored apron.

“After 33 years it was time,” Tom decided.

I heard about it by accident, really. I was in the check-out line and I asked, “Where’s Tommy T?” The clerk told me, “He retired.” What? Without saying goodbye? After a vacation, he came back just to leave a note saying he was retiring.

When I spoke with Tom over the phone, he told me he didn’t want the hoopla of a long drawn-out farewell or party. “There’s a small-knit group of people that have been there the whole time, and those are the people I feel obligated to.” He mentioned that there may be a little party at the Swiss Buda when “things die down a little.”

Then Tom admitted, “I’ll miss a lot of the customers and I miss seeing some of the workers and management.”

Loved by customers as well as fellow employees, Tom T. was a Land Park Institution. You can’t teach his kind of customer service. You either have it or you don’t, and Tom T. had it. He was always friendly, helpful, and easy to talk with. Just a natural at small talk when you’re buying a week’s worth of groceries for your family.

Customers could occasionally hear him over the speaker system talking about the “Great stuff on sale this week at Raley’s.” He had a folksy way of telling guests about the beef tri-tip or watermelon that was on sale that day at Raley’s. He did it just as good as any commercial voice-over announcer.

I asked Tom T., since he’s such a local legend, what he did with his Raley’s gear…auction it off on e-Bay or what? He said, “Oh jeez.” Then he added, “I left my apron with the girls over at the floral department. It’s hanging up in the back room so they can think about me when they walk by.”

Land Park Raley’s on Freeport just won’t be the same without Tom T. They really ought to hang his apron up in the rafters for all to see. A little salute to our favorite neighborhood grocery clerk.

Townhomes Proposed For Upper Land Park

There’s a brand new development plan in the works on 500 Swanston Dr. in upper Land Park. It’s a 20-townhouse infill project at the end of the road on an empty plot of land. The plan is to rezone the property and build 20 townhouses similar to Tapestri Square on 21st and T, as Russ Patton, who represents Michael Moser Development, told residents at the last LPCA meeting at Eskaton.

Currently the parcel is only zoned for one house. Russ called it the “Full Meal Deal of the planning process.” Lots of rezoning, remapping, and a whole lot of hearings.

The only access to the townhouses will be Swanston or Santa Buena Way. There will be no roads leading to the back of the proposed development. There was mention of perhaps an emergency road for emergency vehicle traffic.

Patton encouraged people attending the meeting to take a look at the lot, which I did. The first thing I noticed was the loud traffic buzzing by on Interstate 5, especially the big rigs. After a while I guess you’d get used to it. I also noticed plenty of trash, discarded clothing, and graffiti all over the sound wall with a lot of empty spray paint cans strewn all over the property.

One resident expressed concern about the townhouses being entry-level and ending up as rentals. Others expressed concern about traffic going in and out of the project since there would be no back street.

The good thing about the Moser Development team sharing their preliminary plans with the neighborhood is the transparency and feedback from residents. The discussion was a good give-and-take, and the development team will listen to neighborhood concerns about the design process and also take guidance from the city.

I spoke with Randy Gillum, a neighbor across the street from the property, he told me they had a lot of trouble with the empty grass field. “That’s already drug central over there. They just popped three guys about a week ago.”

Randy characterized the empty lot and space along the sound wall as a magnet for drug dealing, illegal dumping, graffiti, sexual activity, along with a giant fecal field full of dog poop.

Wouldn’t a townhouse development, or even a few single-family homes, be a good way to rid the neighborhood of that sort of activity?

Randy said, “I’d like to see something in there just to slow that kind of traffic down. As soon as we see somebody with a backpack, boom!, we have problems.”

“We’re fed up with it.”

Randy isn’t opposed to townhouses, but he doesn’t like the idea of one entrance going in and out of the development. He said if there’s only one entry and exit, “I’ll fight it tooth and nail. We have more traffic than a residential neighborhood needs.”

Safeway Gas Station Faces Vocal Opposition in Curtis Park

There was a big meeting at the Sierra 2 Center about the Safeway Supermarket and fueling station being proposed for Curtis Park Village. Council member Jay Schenirer even brought “clickers” by Meridia Audience Response for residents to take a poll after the meeting. Like he needed to take a poll on how those in attendance felt about the proposed Safeway gas station. They were loud and clear with their voices and sarcastic laughter.

Petrovich Development has said, no Safeway fueling station, no Safeway grocery store and the high-end retail that would come with it. Steve Berndt, who’s in charge of Safeway real estate for the Northwestern United States, addressed the crowd and restated that fact during the Q & A portion of the meeting.

Berndt introduced himself by mentioning he worked with Petrovich on the Safeway at 19th and R streets and was also was instrumental in remodeling the Alhambra Safeway years ago…and that’s when the cat-calls came out. He interrupted the cat-calls with “I didn’t actually tear down the theater; that was my ex-boss Ray Oswald. He left the state. He’s in Carson City, now.”

A little black humor to kick things off, I guess.

Berndt went on to say that Safeway is up against a lot of competition and that’s why they need the gas station along with the grocery store. “In order for us to compete in Sacramento, we feel we do need fuel.”

He added, “Fuel can be a good quiet neighbor.” More cat-calls.

Patrick Soluri, representing the SCNA, discussed why the gas station is not a good neighbor and warned those in attendance about the “red herring of economic infeasibility.”

Soluri mentioned the city received a $10 million grant to construct a pedestrian over-crossing. Petrovich Development also received more than 10 million in grants in order to construct “one of the regions per-eminent transit-oriented developments.”

“Millions of public funds have been spent to facilitate transit-oriented development. What public policy is being promoted to allow a gas station where city policy specifically says they should be prohibited because they (gas stations) do not support transit?”

That’s when the crowd roared with applause.

Soluri also mentioned the SCNA found four instances of recent Safeway’s being opened without a gas station. One in Oakland, Los Altos, Cupertino, and Petaluma. So Safeway does open grocery stores without fueling stations.

It’s just not going to happen in Curtis Park Village.

The powerful neighborhood and its residents were very clear with their voices and with their clickers. Eighty percent of those in attendance were opposed to the Safeway gas station according to the audience survey.

What’s next?

The conditional use permit for the gas station will soon go to the planning commission. If they deny it, that’s the end of the story. If they approve it, it will most certainly be appealed, before reaching the city council for a vote.

If you have a tidbit for Over the Fence, email


Gem Auto Wash removes beloved neon sign

Gem Auto Wash owner Reed Hollingshead poses with the old Gem Auto Wash sign. / Photo by Greg Brown

Gem Auto Wash owner Reed Hollingshead poses with the old Gem Auto Wash sign. / Photo by Greg Brown

Some might say I’m obsessed with signs. It probably started when I was a young boy in the backseat of a blue Buick Skylark.  I’d always look out the window at the cool business signs as we’d drive down the road.
I was driving down the road a couple weeks ago gazing out the window when I noticed Gem Auto Wash had a big crane taking down the cool neon 1960s sign and replacing it with a new large run-of-the-mill sign. I panicked a little.
I made a quick u-turn, parked the car, and immediately started asking questions. I was able to speak to Reed Hollingshead, the owner of Gem Auto Wash,  and he alleviated some of my panicky concerns about the iconic sign, although my hands are still a little clammy about it.
He and his brother Peter have taken over the family business their dad Richard started in 1974. Reed said, “He left a great legacy.” Gem Auto Wash and the neon sign have been operating on Freeport Boulevard  since 1962. In all that time, the sign has never had to be repaired, according to Peter. “The tubes have been taken care of nicely ,” he said.
I was assured by Mr. Hollingshead that they were going to preserve the sign.  The plan is to strip, paint, and repair the old Gem Auto Wash sign and mount it in the middle of the façade above the car wash tunnel. It’s currently in storage at the business.
The removal of the neon sign is part of a “re-branding of the business,” Peter told me. He added, “Besides, nobody uses the term ‘auto’ anymore.” Gem Auto Wash is now Gem Car Wash And Detail Center.
On Facebook, I posted a photo of the vintage sign being taken down and nobody was happy about it.  Comments included, “Oh no,” “Bummer,” and “That’s terrible. Why would they do that? At least the old 50s Raley’s sign is still there.”
One person drastically stated, “So sad, this destroys the character of the city and neighborhood.”
Let’s hope Mr. Hollingshead is a man of his word and the classic neon Gem Auto Wash sign glowingly reappears on Freeport Boulevard.

Fairytale Town Looking to Expand

Fairytale Town wants to expand. Executive Director Kathy Fleming and board member Brian Crilly presented to the Land Park Community Association Board an impressive renovation project idea. Brian, who’s an architect at Lionakis, gave the enthusiastic presentation to the Land Park Community Association as well as those in attendance at the monthly board meeting.
The proposal calls for an expansion to the east near the soccer field and to the south, adding approximately half an acre to the current grounds (of 2 and a half acres). The current cost estimate for expansion and improvements is between $5‐8 million. The funds will all come from private donations. I spoke with Kathy Fleming as she said, “We’re floating ideas out there and getting input from community members. We’ve talked conceptually about it with the Land Park soccer and the city parks department. This is a very long-term project if it goes forward and I think there will be a lot of conversations with the community, and the Land Park community in particular.”
She added, “It’s really embryonic right now.”
Some in attendance at the meeting expressed concerns about more open park space being gobbled up and fenced in diminishing the area available for free and open use. Others pointed out it would diminish views and vistas in William Lnand Park. Another attendee mentioned how the neighborhood resisted the expansion of the Sacramento Zoo’s footprint when it proposed an expansion. It definitely sparked a spirited conversation at the meeting. The Land Park Community Association did not take a stance on the proposed expansion and will address the topic at upcoming board meetings.

Fountainhead Brewing Almost Ready To Brew

Hollywood Park residents who enjoy tipping back a pint of local craft beer were giddy with excitement when they heard a new brewery was replacing an old auto repair shop on 24th Street a few doors down from Panama Pottery.  Fountainhead Brewing Company was movin’ in! That was last year. Local folks recently started asking me, “What’s the latest on Fountainhead?”
Fear not my lager-loving friends. I asked Fountainhead’s  brewer and owner and he told me, “Everything’s all set with ABC and Fed and we’ll be installing glycol next week,” which means they’ll be brewing soon. And for the brewing nerds, glycol, mixed with city water, enables them to operate their chiller systems in the 25-27 F temperature range that breweries require.
They still need to have some work done to the building, but they will have brew available in house and at a couple locations “within the next two months or so,” according to Moffat.
So, stay giddy Hollywood Park. There will be something brewing soon on 24th Street.
Got an item for Over The Fence? Greg@valcomnews.com

Over the Fence

New Replacement For The Irreplaceable Daisy Mah?

Land Park Rock Garden superstar Daisy Mah has been retired from the city of Sacramento for over a year now. She’s probably furiously mulching and tending to her own backyard garden right now. A lot of Land Park residents who enjoy the Land Park Rock Garden were concerned they’d never find a suitable replacement for Daisy. Those are some tough garden gloves to fill. There was an online petition with more than 600 signatures that pleaded with the city of Sacramento to find a qualified replacement for Daisy.

The petition and saber rattling worked because Parks and Recreation was listening.

Parks and Rec spoke to Human Resources and have finished a brand new classification for the position Daisy Mah once occupied. According to Parks and Rec’s Lori Harder, who spoke at the Land Park Community Association meeting last month, “It’s to not just address the Land Park Rock Garden, but also other specialty gardens like community gardens and those that take a lot of input from the community.” This newly created position will be given a grand title, and a salary scale just below Park Supervisor. In other words…more money for more expertise. A Land Park garden superstar!

One Land Park resident stood up at the meeting and expressed concern it wouldn’t work out after speaking to the Parks Director. He mentioned issues on “salary and such” and that the issue isn’t settled, but he hoped it would be. Lori Harder then said, “It’s actually coming together nicely.”

So, it looks like there will be a new replacement for the hard to replace Daisy Mah early next year. Let’s hope Parks and Recreation is under the “salary cap.”

You’ve Been Framed

Terry Spencer poses with one her custom frames inside the shop. / Photo by Greg Brown

Terry Spencer poses with one her custom frames inside the shop. / Photo by Greg Brown

Spencer’s Custom Framing, located in the strip mall at 5101 Freeport Blvd., will soon be celebrating their 30th anniversary in Hollywood Park. It’s a true local treasure. I recently talked to the owner Terry Spencer, who was sipping coffee and working on a couple of framing projects. She said, “I get to start where the artist stops.”

It’s fun to shoot the breeze with Terry and talk about the neighborhood. She’s lived in Hollywood Park with her husband Roger for more than 35 years. “I’ve been walking to work for 30 years,” Terry told me.

Her loyal customers rave about her talent and skill with custom framing. Just ask Yelp, she gets rave reviews! Terry was working on some beautiful antique oval portrait frames and rejuvenating some civil war memorabilia when I was at the shop. If you need anything framed for the holidays, check out Spencer’s and tell Terry, “Happy Anniversary!”

Got an item for Over The Fence? Email greg@valcomnews.com

Over The Fence

Bring us your Tootsie Pops

Dr. Jill Whitney is a dentist on Freeport Boulevard who is also good deed doer. Every year, she and her staff have a Halloween Candy Buyback Program. The program encourages kids to bring in their leftover Halloween candy they begged all night for in exchange for cold hard cash.

They better not buy candy with it!

This year, Dr. Whitney’s office collected 84 pounds of candy. They gave a dollar for every pound. Not to mention the 16 pounds her husband collected at his work.

It’s for a good cause, too. All the candy they collect gets sent to Operation Gratitude along with lots of toothbrushes. Operation Gratitude sends it to U.S. soldiers overseas in holiday care packages. I bet it’s a nice treat for our men and women in uniform. Tootsie Rolls, Snickers, and Smarties probably remind them of home.

Another benefit of the Candy buyback is saving the kid’s teeth from high sugar exposure for an extended period of time. I remember when I was a kid we covered a large swath of trick-or-treating ground, which meant a pillowcase full of sugar-filled Halloween candy. I had leftovers ’til Christmas! I also made quite a few unpleasant trips to the dentist.

Debbie Podesta, the office manager, told me “Dr. Whitney does things she likes to do. Little charities. She’s just that way.”

BBQ and new bikes
Sutterville Bicycle Company recently had a big grand opening and barbecue with all the fixin’s. There were hotdogs, hamburgers, even some turkey burgers. They also were playing some groovy funky tunes that complemented some of the groovy bikes the shop had for sale. The new owner, Jeff Dzurinko, took over ownership of the bike shop about six weeks ago from the initial owner, so it was more like an Open House than a Grand Opening. Jeff said, “I can’t wait to get to know some of the neighbors.”

He’s already getting some local love from the neighborhood. (See posts on the Facebook page.)

“The people in the neighborhood have been nothing but supportive to me and I’m happy to help them out with their bicycling needs,” Jeff said, referring to it as “a grassroots kind of bike shop.”

“I think having this sized shop allows me to be more personable and allows me to give that one on one experience that customers can appreciate,” he added. And Jeff definitely has that. He was greeting the folks who came to the grand opening with handshakes and a friendly “hello.”

One thing Jeff wants to put a big emphasis on is service and repairs. Jeff is a very experienced technician and is capable of working on all sorts of bikes. Does your bike chain keep slipping? Need a tune-up? Head on over to see Jeff. He also does custom-built bikes and custom orders.

He had some cool old school used bikes in the shop, a wide array of different style bikes. He’s got vintage bikes from the pre-war era along with accessories and parts to those old bikes. He’s also got a lot of ’70s, ’80s and ’90s era BMX bikes. It kind of reminded me of being a kid hanging around the bike shop.

Jeff said, “The BMX bikes are cool, and not only are kids buying them, but adults that had them when they were kids want to buy them for their kids now.”

They also have comfortable, efficient, modern bikes that are perfect for a work commute.

The Sutterville Bicycle Company is located in a tricky area. Sutterville and Attawa right next to the Sutterville Bypass. That hill will get your quads in shape once you get your bike in perfect working condition at the new bike shop on the block.

The Safeway Gas Station at Natomas Town Center on Del Paso Road is very busy. Photo by Greg Brown

The Safeway Gas Station at Natomas Town Center on Del Paso Road is very busy. Photo by Greg Brown

Curtis Park Village voices say ‘no’ to proposed gas station

A fight’s a brewin’ in the Curtis Park Village development. Developer Paul Petrovich and members of the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association are duking it out again – this time over a Safeway gas station, err, make that the Curtis Park Village Neighborhood Fuel Center as the project is being called.

Wordy. They’re gonna need a giant glowing sign for that.

The Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association has come out against the fueling station and kiosk that would be part of the Safeway Supermarket being proposed.

The Curtis Park Village Neighborhood Fuel Center, or the Safeway Gas Station, would be open 24 hours a day. There will also be a large kiosk where busy commuters can get their Redbull, snacks, beer, cigarettes and anything else they need at 3 in the morning.

The proposed gas station will have eight pumping stations, including 16 gas pumps and will be open 24 hours a day.

I spoke with Curtis Park resident Nancy McKeever over the phone and she really did her homework on the proposed friendly neighborhood fueling station. She is very much opposed to any gas station in Curtis Park Village. She’s uber opposed.

When I asked her about it, she sarcastically said, “We didn’t know we needed one.”

Nancy told me about how the Curtis Park neighborhood has worked hard for a high quality urban infill project. Every step of the way they have fought tooth and nail for this infill development to be the kind of project the neighborhood could be proud of. They’ve worked to increase densities of housing, to make streets punch through so the old neighborhood is connected, to get a bridge over the railroad to connect the neighborhood with the transit station. They’ve also butted heads with Paul Petrovich over park space.

Now they’re going toe to toe over the Safeway gas station and kiosk.

The grocery store is not the problem. It’s the gas station. Nancy said, “It’s not transit serving. It does not honor multi-million dollar public investment; it degrades it. Not only does it not provide transit riders and value to that investment and the bridge that’s going over it, it greatly detracts because of the amount of traffic it’s going to pull in to get gas at the fueling station.”

I drove on out to the Natomas Town Center on Del Paso Road and the Safeway gas station was doing brisk business. This gas station on Del Paso Road has six pumps, the one proposed for Curtis Park Village is eight pumps so it would be larger. A lot of Safeway gas was being guzzled up, so much in fact there was also a huge gasoline truck parked at the gas station. They can’t keep the gas tanks filled! The truck driver was taking a smoke break along the sidewalk before he hit the road to the next Safeway gas station to fill ’er up.

In their letter to the Sacramento City Planning Division, the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association states, “The overall purpose of this PUD’s development guidelines is to ensure that the proposed uses of this infill development blend with and enhance the quality of life and charm of the existing Curtis Park neighborhood. Compatibility with the existing neighborhood has been the watchword for a very long time. The proposed gas station works against this general purpose. One of the objectives for this goal is to encourage the use of public transportation and to develop appropriate linkages to surrounding neighborhoods including pedestrian, bicycle, vehicle and alternative transportation modes. A gas station in this location frustrates this goal.”

I reached out to Paul Petrovich via email and he referred me to former City Council member Rob Fong. I guess Paul is handling some media matters for Petrovich Development. I wanted to know what Petrovich thought of the neighborhood’s opposition to the fuel station and the rumor that Safeway won’t move in without a gas station. Fong said via email, “As part of the final executed lease, Safeway required that its lease be contingent upon the Landlord obtaining the necessary approvals to build the fuel center. Vice Mayor Jay Schenirer will be organizing a community meeting in early January to discuss all of the retail options for Curtis Park Village and to receive input from the neighborhood.”

No fuel center? No Safeway?

The Curtis Park Village Neighborhood Fueling Station Battle Royale continues in January at the Sierra 2 Center.

If you have an item for Over The Fence, email Greg@valcomnews.com

OVER THE FENCE: Patio expansion at Land Park Golf Course

The outside of Mulligan's Café before the plaza expansion. Photo by Greg Brown

The outside of Mulligan's Café before the plaza expansion. Photo by Greg Brown

The Land Park Golf Course is planning to expand the clubhouse patio area outside Mulligan’s Café. They’re going to open things. They’ll add 10 additional tables with colorful sun-shade umbrellas. The added tables would be used by golfers as well as soccer parents and other park users. One park user, Hollywood Park resident Kerry Herd-Babich, was getting a hot cup of coffee at the café while her husband David practiced his short game on the putting green. She told me “Every morning we walk around the park, it’s wonderful.” Then they relax and hang out on the patio outside of Mulligan’s Café.
The $42,500 expansion is being done thanks to retiring County Supervisor Jimmie Yee. Jimmie has always been a huge supporter of The First Tee, their core values, and what they do for the kids.
Jimmie told me over the phone he likes to visit William Land to relax, sit around the clubhouse, and watch golfers enjoy the putting green. Jimmie is also an avid golfer and hopes to play once a week in retirement.
The golf course put a new cart barn near the putting green a few years ago and that got Jimmie thinking, “that’s nice to have the cart barn there but they need something between the two…there’s just nothing there.”
He told this to Tom Morton, the head of Morton Golf, which operates quite a few golf courses in the Sacramento area. That’s when they came up with the idea of expanding the plaza between the cart barn and Mulligan’s Café.
Jimmie had some leftover tobacco litigation funds from the County and was able to use the money to help fund the new plaza expansion. Jimmie also generously donated money from his campaign fund to the Land Park Volunteer Corps that does a lot of work to keep Land Park clean.
The Land Park Volunteer Corp gets to have lunch on Jimmie!
Jimmie told me, “I’m winding down. The only way to donate my remaining funds is to give it to charitable organizations.”
Jimmie added, “That’s the big story, in a little nutshell.”

The Elvis and AC/DC pinball machines were getting a good workout at Phono Select Records. Photo by Greg Brown

The Elvis and AC/DC pinball machines were getting a good workout at Phono Select Records. Photo by Greg Brown

Pinball At Phono Select
Phono Select Records in Hollywood Park recently had a fun pinball and toy event. The clacks and dings of the pinball machines wafted through the Phono Select building while music played in conjunction. Free pinball! The machines were some of the coolest, too. Metallica, AC/DC, Elvis and Medieval Madness were all lined up in a row for folks to “play the silver ball.”
Phono Select Records plans on more pinball parties as well as having pinball and other video games permanently at the shop. And this should make your day…The Dirty Harry pinball machine is coming soon!

Purple Fox Takes Over Trezhers
The Purple Fox is a new arts and crafts store on Riverside Boulevard in Land Park. It is taking over the old Trezhers Gift Shop location in the strip mall across from Vic’s Ice Cream.
The Purple Fox features arts and crafts from a variety of local artists. The store is part consignment, part retail, according to the new owner Linda Cobarruvies. Linda told me, “I’ve been wanting to open a shop for a long time and I thought, now’s the time.”
Linda, a former teacher, was eager to show me around her little shop. There was a smorgasbord of handcrafted decorative items, jewelry, and one-of-a-kind gifts. I mentioned I had a 5-year-old son and she went over to the display of handmade animal plushies, chose the light blue kitty and said, “Please give this to your boy to cuddle with.” He loved it when I brought it home and immediately squeezed and cuddled with the soft Bellzi Plush toy.
One of the products on display I noticed immediately were the Dammit Dolls. When you get frustrated or irritated instead of pounding the desk, you slam the doll against something and yell, “Dammit!” It’s the perfect thing to own when the in-laws visit for the holidays.
The Purple Fox will be a convenient place for teachers in the area to pick up craft supplies for the classroom. They also offer classes on crafts, card-making, knitting, quilting and more.
I asked Linda where she came up with the name Purple Fox and she told me, “Purple is my favorite color, and a fox is very crafty. I sent the idea to my friends and they all loved it!”
The Purple Fox is located at 3214 Riverside Blvd. They’re on the web at www.purplefoxgifts.com

New Porcelain Neon Sign at Freeport Bakery. Photo by Greg Brown

New Porcelain Neon Sign at Freeport Bakery. Photo by Greg Brown

Freeport Bakery gets neon signage
Next time you drive past Freeport Bakery in the evening take a look at the classic porcelain neon sign they just installed. It gives off a nice warmish glow. The sign with pink neon flowers is patterned after the decadent Freeport Bakery cakes.
Owner Marlene Goetzeler said, “I’ve been wanting to do an iconic sign for a while. I wanted our logo, but with some style, old school signs with a modern flair.”
Marlene talked to quite a few sign makers, even one from Austin, Texas, but couldn’t find the right fit.
Then she met Ben Kenealey of “Light In The Night Neon.” It was a perfect match. “From the minute we met, I knew he was the right person,” Marlene said.
“That was a fun sign to do,” Ben told me. “I started telling Marlene my ideas and she kept getting more and more excited, even to the point to where she was giddy about it. She was a great person to work with.”
They actually had to send the signs out of state for the porcelain work. No one really makes them much anymore because other materials are less expensive. Ben said, “The porcelain has an old nostalgic feel you’re not gonna get anywhere else. If you watch American Pickers and that kind of thing they’ll pull out these old porcelain signs they always rave about.”
Ben, who is one of the few glass benders left in the Sacramento area, bent the glass used for the signs at his shop on Keifer Boulevard. It was then assembled at Pacific West Signs and installed on the North and South ends of the Freeport Bakery building.
Marlene said, “Finally after all these years Freeport Bakery has some great signage!”
Got an item for Over The Fence? Greg@valcomnews.com

Over the Fence: Look, up in the sky, it’s a drone in Land Park!

Some drone videos showcase remote Alaskan ice caves, cascading waterfalls in Costa Rica, even earthquake damage in Napa. Sacramento resident Tim Pantle showcases the beauty of the Sacramento area with his aerial photos and drone videos on his blog “Love Where You Live”.

I hung out with Tim while he was getting aerial views of the Urban Cow Half Marathon that was held in William Land Park recently. He also filmed some nice shots of the golf course, Fairytale Town and the Sacramento Zoo.

We spoke about the good, the bad, and the ugly of quadcopters. Drone videos have been somewhat controversial but Tim is the “Mister Rogers of drone video operators.” He does nothing nefarious — just good, wholesome, fun videos of the Sacramento area.

What spurred Tim’s quadcopter hobby is he wanted to start a blog of some kind. One day, he saw a picturesque drone video of the old Fair Oaks Bridge and he was hooked. “I’ve always been that tech-geek and used to be really into photography,” Tim said. He loves the challenge of “getting the good shot.”

He was getting plenty of good shots of the Urban Cow Half Marathon and William Land Park the day we got together.

At the start of the half marathon, the announcer told runners to “wave to teh drone,” as Tim’s Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter was filming over head.

When Tim was filming on the fifth hole at Land Park Golf Course, a golfer took a practice swing from the fairway then turned around to smile and wave. The drone makes a loud buzzing, swarm-of-bees sound, so I was surprised the golfer let the quadcopter bother him. Most golfers demand complete silence before hitting a fairway wood on a par 4 hole.

The Phantom 2 Vision reminds me of the Starship Enterprise from the old Star Trek series. It has a similar look. If you can operate a joystick, you can certainly operate a quadcopter. Tim syncs it up with GPS. It’s the ultimate in tech gadgetry for a photographer. If the battery goes dead, or it loses connection with his remote it’ll fly back to where it started and land. It has a brain! The controller has a WiFi extender that allows the drone to send a signal to his phone so he can see what the camera sees.

The Phantom 2 Vison has quite a few different names, including an aerial drone, quadcopter, UAV or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The term drone came about because the vehicles sounded like worker bees known as “drones.”

Tim’s a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker and he thought the quadcopter or drone would be a great aspect of selling real estate. “Unfortunately I can’t use it for real estate because of FAA rules of no commercial, at the time that I bought it that rule wasn’t in place.”

There are a few rules when it comes to the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The laws are still trying to catch up with the technology.

You cannot use it for commercial purposes. You can’t go above 400 feet. It’s also a big “no no” in national parks. Yosemite National Park has banned drones after they became a nuisance to vistors of the park. Another rule is you can’t fly within three miles of an airport.

Whereas Tim uses his drone for good, clean, wholesome fun, other drone operators aren’t as level headed and responsible as Tim.

There have been many publicized incidents of aerial drones causing problems. One drone operator flew over a nude beach in Hawaii that created an online stir.

Technically, there’s nothing illegal about being a “creepy pest” because it was a public beach. When the operator was confronted by one of the sunbathers he accused him of breaking the law by being nude in public, which is technically illegal in Hawaii.

Got that? Being nude illegal, filming people nude, legal.

One man actually shot down a New Jersey man’s drone after it hovered near his home. He blew it out of the sky with his shotgun. Kaboom! The guy who shot down the drone was arrested and charged with Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose and Criminal Mischief. Oops.

Then there is the case of a 17-year-old teen who was innocently filming the shoreline of a beach in Florida. A woman became enraged and assaulted him because she thought he was filming bikini-baring beach goers. The video of the confrontation is quite disturbing. The woman called the police; but, after they viewed the I-Phone video from the teen’s camera, she was arrested for assault.

Tim told me he thinks “some of the news coverage is overblown.”

I spoke with Rob Watkins at RC Country Hobby on Folsom Boulevard and he said, “I’m more concerned in the type of person and how they’re flying them than the quadcopters themselves.”

Rob mentioned an incident where a guy was flying his drone over the Sand Fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills. It caused the grounding firefighting aircraft.

“We sell a lot of them here and they’re fun to fly. It just concerns me what people are doing with them,” Rob said.

What Tim is doing with his drone videos is making people feel good. The feedback Tim gets is all positive. His most popular drone video is the Del Campo High School campus. He’s actually from the graduating class of ’86. His quadcopter gives an aerial documentation of the campus as it slowly glides over the mighty oak tree that is at the center of the campus. The aerial video ends on the newly build Cougar football stadium. He also has an ethereal soundtrack that plays during the video. It elicited quite a few emotional responses on a Del Campo High School reunion page. Gregory Hansel, a class of 1984 alumni said, “Am I the only one who got a bit emotional seeing that? School hasn’t changed much. A lot of memories.”

Tim also has an enchanting drone video of the Sacramento River at the Tower Bridge. The quadcopter glides right over the golden bridge to reveal an aerial shot not many people have seen — the tip top of the Tower Bridge. It’s accompanied by some Joe Satriani-style guitar riffs. He also filmed a video of the American River near the Fair Oaks bluffs and bridge, another picturesque drone video of the area Tim calls home.

If you search You Tube, there are numerous beautiful, edgy, and just plain magical videos of nature’s beauty. These drone videos, by far, outnumber the irresponsible and innocuous ones that tend to get headlines. Waterfalls, cliff diving, and amazing Alaskan glacier views are just some of the subjects drone videos have beautifully captured.

Drone videos are also publicizing social justice like the Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong. There is an aerial drone video of hundreds of thousands of people in the street peacefully protesting.

There’s also aerial drone videos by The Swandiri Institute, an organization focusing its research on the political-ecology and social-ecological analysis of environmental change happening in Indonesia.

Drones are even helping to save the whales. The Ocean Alliance is a group that uses aerial drones to collect a broad spectrum of data from the whales without disturbing them. From the data, they advise scientists and policy makers on pollution and how to prevent the collapse of marine mammals and other sea life.

See? Aerial Drones are being used for good.

Which brings me back to Sacramento’s drone video photographer, Tim Pantle. He takes great pleasure in making drone videos that people have an emotional connection to. Tim also uses his common sense. “I don’t fly over people’s houses and if somebody shows any inkling they’re upset, I just leave. I’m not looking for any trouble.”

Tim is very careful and cautious with his quadcopter. When we were together, his plan was to fly over the Sacramento Zoo, but he was also a bit hesitant. Tim said, “I don’t know if I could fly over the zoo because it might disturb the animals. Common sense says, don’t bug the animals.”

He did manage to get some aerial footage of the zoo and no animals were disturbed.

Whether it’s Sacramento parks, historic bridges or our beautiful waterways Tim only uses his quadcopter for good. He also takes pride in giving Sacramento a bird’s eye view of the city he loves.

To check out all of Tim’s videos go to www.LoveSacramento.Blogspot.com

Got an item for Over The Fence? Greg@valcomnews.com

Over the Fence: Slow down for wildlife in Land Park

John and Christina Maradik-Symkowick stand where they hope a new Hollywood Park sign will be constructed along Freeport Boulevard.

John and Christina Maradik-Symkowick stand where they hope a new Hollywood Park sign will be constructed along Freeport Boulevard.

Feathers flew everywhere in Land Park when a driver hit a goose slowly waddling across Land Park Drive between the baseball fields and the pond area. Details of the fowl fatality are sketchy. Perhaps the driver was speeding, texting, or just not paying attention. No clue on the make and model of the car.
A witness said the goose was suffering and in obvious pain. Suzanne Vice of Land Park told me via e-mail “It was very difficult for me to see.” She went on to say, she was tearful and what got to her the most was the gaggle of geese standing next to the dying goose. The geese gathered around their fatally injured friend and made loud, frantic noises.
It was a chaotic scene.
The City of Sacramento Parks and Recreation website mentions “do not feed the wildlife” They should add, “and don’t hit them with your Ford Focus either.”
Suzanne mentioned to me that “maybe better signage for drivers to be aware of wildlife crossing the street as well as many pedestrians, children, and joggers that cross the street as well.” She just thinks people should slow down.
Maybe a wildlife crossing sign could get drivers to slow down on that stretch of Land Park Drive. Maybe a goose crossing guard…hey, they have one for DMV workers on 24th!
I see a sign
Hollywood Park deserves a sign. Plenty of other established Sacramento neighborhoods have signs marking their territory. Why not Hollywood Park? Hollywood Park resident John Maradik-Symkowick is sprearheading an effort along with his wife Christina to get a Hollywood Park sign placed along Freeport Boulevard to “put the neighborhood on the map,” as John put it.
They found a perfect spot too. A small rectangular piece of city-owned property next to the Regional Transit bus stop. The little strip of land is located between the King of Curls and the Freeport Dental office. There’s a beautiful large pine tree and even some small palm trees growing on the “perfect place for a sign” spot. John joked about making the sign look like the Hollywood sign in the hills of Hollywood.
It obviously wouldn’t be that large and extravagant but John hopes it would make a similar impact. Maybe a 1950s era type sign.
A lot of Sacramento residents don’t even know where Hollywood Park is. When people ask “Where is Hollywood Park?,” the replies are usually, “Across from Raley’s” or “Do you know where Hollywood Hardware is?”
If there’s a sign, residents can say, “Look for the Hollywood Park sign.”
At least that’s the plan. John, who is also on the HPNA Board, has met with Sacramento City Council member Jay Schenirer’s office to discuss the possibility of a Hollywood Park sign. The proposed site is on city owned property. There’s even electrical that can be used to shine a light on the sign and surrounding area at night.
John and his wife came up with the idea together. Then John brought it to the attention of the HPNA.
When we were standing at the proposed spot for the sign, his wife Christina told me, “This is the fun phase. The dreams and aspirations as well as engaging with the community. Then comes the nitty gritty stuff”.
The nitty gritty stuff… like funding for the sign and implementation.
Where will the dough come from? The HPNA could pitch in some funds. The City of Sacramento might be able to contribute as well. There has been discussions about fundraisers too.
Local volunteers are also welcome. John put out a call for local artists, craftspeople, or “anyone with a creative itch that needs scratching”. He’s also been in talks with City Signs on Freeport with design ideas.
If the project moves forward, the HPNA board plans to pick a set of final designs to be voted on at a future Neighborhood Association General Meeting. A neighborhood sign that would reflect the neighborhood. Nothing too flashy….but something that would complement all the 1950s-era homes in the quaint little neighborhood that wants to burst out of the shadows of the more popular local neighborhoods.

Pho comes to Freeport Boulevard
Fatty Cow Hot Pot along Freeport Boulevard is the restaurant that never opened. They never served one hot pot. A lot of remodeling was done inside the former Futami Japanese Restaurant earlier this year but Fatty Cow never actually opened its doors for business.
People who like Hot Pot will have to set their sights elsewhere. I noticed a new sign had replaced the old sign of the fat cow licking his spoon.
The new restaurant will now be called Pho Garden, only this time the restaurant will actually open. The doors were not open when I dropped by but Sherry the psychic next door looked into her crystal ball and told me they would open Oct. 6.
Never doubt a psychic.
There are new neon signs in the window and some giant palm tree like plants ready to be placed around the restaurant.
I spoke over the phone with Jonathon Lam, who’s in charge of hiring the restaurant employees, and he told me they are “very excited about opening in the neighborhood.” He couldn’t give me any information on why Fatty Cow Hot Pot never actually opened. They never served one hot pot. So forget the hot pot and get ready for some pho on Freeport.
Got an item for Over The Fence? Greg@valcomnews.com

They write the songs in Land Park

Ted Bazarnik, a Land Park resident, is part of the Nashville Songwriters Association. He's trying to get one of his songs recorded by an artist. Photo by Greg Brown

Ted Bazarnik, a Land Park resident, is part of the Nashville Songwriters Association. He's trying to get one of his songs recorded by an artist. Photo by Greg Brown

An artist can’t record a song without the words and music of a songwriter, but a catchy ditty with a good hook line can catapult an artist to the top.

The recording artist is always on the lookout for THAT BIG HIT.

That’s where the Nashville Songwriters Association International comes into play. NSAI is the world’s largest not-for-profit songwriters’ trade association. Established in 1967, the membership of more than 5,000 active and pro members spans the United States and six other countries. NSAI is dedicated to protecting the rights of and serving aspiring and professional songwriters in all musical genres.

The Northern California chapter is located right here in Sacramento and has more than 450 members.

The Northern California Chapter of the NSAI gathers at the Sierra 2 Center in Curtis Park on the second Wednesday night of each month. They get together to discuss and share their songs, bouncing ideas off of one another in a supportive and collaborative way. It’s a great way for them to inspire each other and have fun too.

I spoke with Gabrielle Kennedy, who is the Northern California coordinator for the NSAI and she told me, “We have pros, people that make their living being songwriters and musicians, come to Sacramento from Nashville quite often.”

A wide range of music industry professionals travel from Nashville several times a year to visit the local chapter of the NSAI. Last month, Rick Beresford, best known as the writer of the George Jones hit “If the Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me Her Memory Will,” hosted an all day workshop and gave feedback to folks attending. In September, Dan Hodges, a prominent music publisher, will be looking for songs to pitch to today’s country stars in a special event being held at Sidedoor Studios in Fair Oaks.

Another special event that will be held in late September is a workshop called “Arranging The Hits,” where writers can find out how to write and record their songs to sound like commercial hits. Larry Beaird from Nashville-based Beaird Music Group will be hosting the workshop. He’s one of Nashville’s top musicians who has played on the recordings of stars like Rascal Flatts, Faith Hill and Trace Adkins.

Members of the NSAI get feedback based on what their goals are. “Not everybody’s goal is to be on the radio, but if your goal is to be on the radio, then there is a certain type of structure that’s more common. You want it to be catchy and have a good hook,” Gabrielle said.

Most country music artists do not write their own songs, but there’s actually a greater opportunity in country versus pop to be a songwriter because your chances of getting something commercially cut are greater. “But it’s really tough,” Gabrielle told me.

If you are a member of the NSAI, you can send a song in once a month and they’ll have a pro critique it for you and send it back. You get professional guidance.

Members are also supporting one of the only organizations that go to Congress and lobby for the rights of songwriters. “That’s what NSAI’s primary purpose is,” Gabrielle said.

You’re paying a yearly due to fight legislation and to make sure your rights as a songwriter are protected. Right now they’re trying to get the royalty rate for songwriters increased for digital music. Currently the songwriters get 9 cents, and if they collaborate, they have to divvy that up.

NSAI is more important than ever due to the digital world like streaming music through Pandora. Pandora is a little “loosey goosey” when it comes to reporting which songs and artists are being listened to. It’s very difficult to keep track.

Gabrielle, who worked for CBS/Sacramento radio 10 years ago, set her radio career aside and decided to pursue her music dreams. She initially started a band with her sister called Gabscourt. Her sister got married and had two children and that left Gabrielle to continue to pursue her singer-songwriting career alone.

Gabrielle excitedly told me it looks as though she may get her first label cut soon. An artist named Canaan Smith signed to Mercury Records and he’s going to be coming out with his first album after the first of the year. They wrote a song five years ago with “some guy from Bermuda named Richard” as they like to refer to him.

Richard Bassett and Gabrielle actually met at an NSAI event in Lake Tahoe and began to collaborate. A Nashville publisher came to Sacramento at an NSAI event and she pitched the song to him and he loved it! He thought they both had a lot of talent so he invited them to come to Nashville to write with some seasoned Nashville writers.

“That was my first introduction about how Nashville does its songwriting. From that initial trip, I met Caanan and we all started writing songs together. One of those songs we wrote with him is looking like it’s gonna be a part of his first album,” Gabrielle said.

I mentioned to her “I bet that’s exciting,” and she told me, “Until it’s at Target or I can go to iTunes to buy it, I’m not gonna believe it til I see it.”

The song titled, “This Cigarette,” is about how a love, or person you’re in a relationship with, can treat you like their cigarette. “It’s kind of gritty country,” Gabrielle told me.

Shown here are local members of the Nashville Songwriters Association. The local chapter meets at Sierra 2. Photo by Greg Brown

Shown here are local members of the Nashville Songwriters Association. The local chapter meets at Sierra 2. Photo by Greg Brown

In a matter of time

You’re gonna burn me again
Light me up just long enough
For me to feel like it’s something
You’ll give me what I want
Pressing me to your lips
But you’ll put me out again
Like the end of this cigarette

She sent me the demo and I have a feeling the song will be headed to iTunes and the Target on Broadway next year!

You also may run into Gabrielle in the aisles at Target too, since she’s a Land Park resident.

Another member of the local chapter of the NSAI is Ted Bazarnik. He also lives in Land Park. He’s 72 years old and he’s not satisfied sitting around watching Matlock reruns, although he did quip, “I sometimes do that too.”

“When I was young, I was a musician,” Ted said. He started making music when he was about 16 years old in Auburn, New York. Mainly rock and roll and R&B. They performed on the college circuit: Syracuse University, Cornell, Colgate, and all those places back in the 1950s into the 1960s.

His band was called “Chuck Rubberlegs Shady and the Esquires,” which is quite a mouthful.

He decided to get out of the music business and go into law enforcement. He has a degree in Criminal Justice and worked for the University of California Police Department for 20 years. When he retired, he went to Utah and worked for the State Department Of Public Safety for 17 years and while he was in Utah he became interested in country music.

Ted went from fighting crime to writing country songs.

“I dated a cowgirl for awhile and she loved country music.” It kind of rubbed off on Ted. “She loved to sing along to all the country songs in the car.” He thought the music had great storytelling.

Ted was inspired to write her a song and everybody loved it. It was called “A Girl Named Tracey.” They still keep in touch to this day.

He got serious about song-writing once he moved back to California. Ted thought to himself, “I need something to do. I’m too old to get out on the road and play clubs and stuff…I’m 72 and have bad knees. But my brain still works!”

He started surfing the web and found NSAI. He went down to Nashville to visit a friend and he “fell in love with the place. I absolutely went crazy. I stopped by the NSAI office and told them, ‘sign me up.’”

When he got back to Sacramento, he contacted Gabrielle Kennedy, who headed up the Sacramento chapter, and that’s how it all started.

Ted isn’t afraid of technology either. He uses Facebook regularly and even pitched his first demo via Skype. He pitched it to Curb Records and they loved so much they added it to their catalog. He also pitched the demo at a local NSAI workshop. Steve Bloch, who has a publishing company in Nashville, liked it and took it with him back to Nashville. It’s a big deal having a music publisher put a song in their catalog. The song is called, “Wish I May.” The idea came to Ted while he was sitting on his deck and he had the TV going at the same time. As Ted tells it, “I heard the Disney ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ that comes on before the movie…and I thought I’ll write a song about wishes.”

“Wish I May” is about a guy who’s been searching for somebody special and he knows that somebody special is out there for him.

Ted regularly collaborates with the other members of the NSAI including Chris Burrows of Sacramento and singer-songwriter Andrea Stray who lives in San Francisco. He appreciates the collaborations and thinks it makes the songs much better when there are different voices and talents contributing. He’s definitely not a one-man band.

Ted stays really active and gets out and goes to local concerts. He went to the Palms Playhouse in Winters to see singer-songwiter Holly Williams, who is Hank’s granddaughter. He also recently saw Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. He also hasn’t forgotten his rock roots. Ted attended the Kiss concert with one of his sons when they came to town. It was on his bucket list.

Ted really doesn’t date, he says, because he’s “having too much fun.” He told me his wife passed away from cancer back in 1997 and he would do anything to have her back. “I’ll never find anybody like her. When you find a jewel, it’s pretty difficult to find another one.”

After his wife passed, he did meet a couple of women, like the cowgirl in Utah, but he pretty much focuses on his songwriting, friends, and family these days.

“I fell in love with this songwriting thing and we have a great group of people. This group has brought me more happiness than you’ll ever know.”

Ted loves the songwriting process, heading to Nashville, going to the meetings, and the studio, and meeting all the artists. Ted said, “For me, it’s a brand new world.”

Ted’s ultimate goal is to get one of his songs recorded by an artist, which is very difficult because in Nashville alone there’s over 45, 000 writers. “The thing is if you don’t try, nothing will ever happen. I’m having a hell of a good time trying,” Ted said.

To learn more about the Sacramento chapter of the NSAI call 476-5073 or e-mail Gabrielle Kennedy at Gabrielle@Gabscourt.com They’re also on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/NSAISacramentoChapter