Chautauqua Playhouse to open ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ Jan. 18

Chautauqua Playhouse in Carmichael announces the opening of "Driving Miss Daisy" by Alfred Uhry.  The show opens on January 18th and runs for 6 weeks at the Playhouse. – From the left, Janice Reade Hoberg, James Wheatley

Chautauqua Playhouse in Carmichael announces the opening of "Driving Miss Daisy" by Alfred Uhry. The show opens on January 18th and runs for 6 weeks at the Playhouse. – From the left, Janice Reade Hoberg, James Wheatley

Chautauqua Playhouse, in association with Celebration Arts, announces its production of “Driving Miss Daisy” by Alfred Uhry, opening on January 18th at the Playhouse.  The show will run on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Feb. 23. There will be an additional Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. on Feb. 23.  All performances will be held at the Chautauqua Playhouse, 5325 Engle Rd. in the La Sierra Community Center in Carmichael.  Admission is $19 general and $17 students, seniors, children and SARTA members.

Winner of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize, Driving Miss Daisy tells the post-World War II story of a rich, sharp-tongued Jewish widow who meets her new black chauffeur. Over a series of absorbing scenes spanning 25 years, the two grow to have one of theatre’s most unlikely friendships. This classic is filled with wit and wisdom, and explores the importance of tolerance and love. The show is produced in association with Celebration Arts and features James Wheatley as “Hoke”, Janice Reade-Hoberg as “Miss Daisy” and Chris Lamb as “Booley”.

The production is directed by James Wheatley.  Set design is by Rodger Hoopman with lighting design by Don Myers.

The Chautauqua Playhouse is located at 5325 Engle Rd., Carmichael.

Information and tickets are available through the Chautauqua Playhouse website: or call the box office at 489-7529, during business hours.

American Watercolor Traveling Watercolor Exhibit now showing at Sacramento Fine Arts Center

Judi Betts, "Hat Dance"

Judi Betts, "Hat Dance"

The American Watercolor Society Traveling Exhibition has made its way from New York to Carmichael at the Sacramento Fine Arts Center, the only venue on the West Coast.

World class artists, Vangeli, Wiegardt, Birnbaum and California’s own Frank Eber, whose brushes pirouette, spiral and leap across the canvas as they fence and feint with paint, flowing and splattering, opaque and transparent, create breathtaking visions of life through the magic of light and color.

Members accepted into the prestigious American Watercolor Society in New York represent the most highly technical and experimental watercolor painters in the world. California master artist Frank Eber’s “Dordongne River Valley View” dreams of Shangrila, Australian artist Joseph Zbukvic’s misty “Morning Gallop” delights of races not yet won, and China’s Zhou Tianya’s “St. Temple” beckons momentary meditation.

These masters of light and color will dazzle your pleasure now until Jan. 26 at the Sacramento Fine Arts Center. Gallery hours are daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Exhibit ticket donation $10..

A Second Saturday Reception will be held Jan. 12, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The Sacramento Fine Arts Center is located at 5330B Gibbons Drive, Carmichael, CA 95608. For more information, call 704-8611 or Visit:

Volunteers work to restore Jensen Botanical Garden

The volunteer group Friends of Jensen Botanical Garden was asked by the Carmichael Recreation and Park District to restore/rejuvenate Charles C. Jensen Botanical Garden and since January 2004, when FJBG went into action, the volunteers have logged more than 6,051 hours clearing ivy, privets and bramble, replanting existing beds, adding a few new beds, installing 11 new metal benches and two wheelchair accessible picnic tables. Since December 2005, they have planted more than 6,000 tulip bulbs.

In 2013 FJBG will switch from development to maintenance mode, say volunteers. The primary tasks will be mulching, pruning, weeding and always planting more tulips.

Instead of the previous years’ monthly work days, FJBG will host quarterly work days on the second Saturday in March, June, September and December.  A fund raising plant sale will be held on the last Saturday in March.  The annual October plant sale is canceled. All funds raised/donated are used strictly in and for Jensen Garden.

Volunteer Pat Rhine said the reason for the cancellation is because gathering and nurturing plants to sell is a lot of work and the two people providing most of the plants for sale are minimally available beginning in 2013.  Based on previous sales, the spring sale should cover the annual maintenance budget for fertilizer, replacement plants, deer repellent, tulips, and more.

To Rhine, Jensen Garden is “a peaceful, lovely place that many can enjoy.”

Rhine said there are 20 names on the volunteer list and anywhere from four to 12 people show up on a given work day. Several may show up randomly to pull weeds, etc. FJBG has an annual project list to keep things on track, which you can see on

Rhine said plants were chosen to augment what survived from Mr. Jensen’s time and to add to what CRPD has planted over the years. Then there’s the ‘wow’ factor of 6,000 tulips that compliment the design of each bed. Other plants are chosen for their yearlong color and others for their more tactile and fragrant attributes. All, in all, it goes back to keeping with the rustic tradition set by Mr. Jensen.

The History of Charles C. Jensen

According to the website, the  3-and- a-half-acre garden was, from 1958 until 1976, the property and master work of Charles C. Jensen.  Shortly after his retirement as a produce buyer, Mr. and Mrs. Jensen moved from their home in Oakland to their property in Carmichael.

According to the website, they made many trips to Oakland to bring back plants and trees.  The property already had Oaks and Coast Redwoods and blackberry brambles.  He gradually cleared the brambles. Then he began planting the many Magnolias, Azaleas, Dogwoods and Japanese Maples, which were some of the first plants brought from Oakland.  Hybridizing, grafting and acquiring new varieties of plants, he built a garden that caught the eye of passersby.  He especially enjoyed showing visitors around his garden and opened it to parties and weddings.  He also sold plants from his lath house that was located near the Coast Redwoods.  Many of his neighbors built their gardens with plants from Mr. Jensen.

After his death, a group of friends and fellow garden club members formed the Charles C. Jensen Botanical Garden, Inc. Committee to preserve the garden.  Their fund raising efforts were successful and the garden became the property of the Carmichael Recreation and Park District in 1976.

In January, 2004, the Carmichael Recreation and Park District called for volunteers to restore/rejuvenate the botanical garden.  First that required removing knee deep ivy and unwanted tree seedlings. Each December, the Friends of Jensen Botanical Garden develops a project list for the coming year and works one Saturday a month to complete the projects.  Every year one of the projects is to plant more tulips around the large Valley Oak at the entrance to the garden. Since most of the garden’s 19 beds are completed and will only require ongoing maintenance, future projects will focus on developing formal beds of California native plants in the undeveloped area immediately behind Jensen Garden.

According to the park’s website, the Carmichael Recreation and Park District recently opened a new feature to the garden. The Nature Path for the blind and visually impaired is open to the public. “By feeling the different textures and experiencing the unique fragrances of the various plants the pathway appeals to the visually impaired and those with physical challenges,” states the site. The project was inspired by a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Jacqueline Coffroth.

Planning meetings for the Friends of Jensen Botanical Garden take place the first Thursday of each month at 8516 Fair Oaks Boulevard, 7 pm.  Anyone interested in participating in the care of this community resource is welcome to attend.  Work days are held the Saturday following the planning meeting each month from 9 am to 1 pm.

Donations for the restoration of the garden may be made to CRPD, Attn: Jensen Garden.  Funds donated for the garden will be limited to use at the garden and will not be used for other District programs or facilities.  Donations of plants may be brought to any work day.

Here are a few basic rules for visitors:  Stay on pathways, no amplified music, no bikes or sports activities allowed.

Jensen Garden is open from 8 a.m. to dusk, weather permitting, since the parking lot can flood. The garden is located at 8520 Fair Oaks Blvd., Carmichael. Photographers are required to buy a $15 photo permit at the District Office, 5750 Grant Ave., Carmichael.

For more information, visit

Jack’s House of Music served local musical needs for multiple generations

Longtime local musician Eddie Lovato was a Jack’s House of Music customer from the mid-1950s until 2002, when this popular business closed. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Longtime local musician Eddie Lovato was a Jack’s House of Music customer from the mid-1950s until 2002, when this popular business closed. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s note: This is the eighth part of a series regarding the history of the “four corners” of Watt and El Camino avenues.

The northwest corner of Watt and El Camino avenues has for many years included a wide variety of businesses that serve the community.
This corner, which extends north along El Camino Avenue to Yorktown Avenue, is divided into six separate business sections.
The first of these sections, when heading eastward along El Camino Avenue, features the Farmer’s Daughter local specialty foods and café at 3405 El Camino Ave.
Located within the corner’s second section are Country Club Food & Liquor (3407), Capital City Loan & Jewelry (3409) and a store space recently vacated by Esoteric Records.
Continuing eastward is the corner’s third section, which is home to the following businesses: Pied Piper tavern (3415), Domino’s Pizza (3417), Teriyaki to Go (3419) and India Fiji Food & Fashion (3421).
The corner’s fourth business section heading eastward along El Camino Avenue is A Vicky Beauty Salon (3423), Massage Therapy (3425), Alterations to Go (3427) and Dan’s Vacuums & Sewing Machines (3429).
The final two business sections are occupied by a single business per section.
One of these businesses is J.R.’s Texas Bar-B-Que at 3435 El Camino Ave.
And sitting at the most extreme part of this corner is a Valero service station at 3449 El Camino Ave.
This area has also included businesses with Yorktown Avenue addresses.
One of the north area’s more notable businesses of the past, Jack’s House of Music, was operated for many years at 2528 Yorktown Ave.
The business was opened in about 1956 by E. Norton “Jack” Hyde (1916-2006), who resided for many years at 4512 Argonaut Way, near El Camino and Mission avenues.
For Jack, opening his own music store made perfect sense, considering his background as a musician and his employment history.
While growing up in Kansas, Jack began playing the saxophone and for some time during that era, he was a member of a traveling band.
Eventually, Jack, who also later learned to play the clarinet and piano, was on the road again, as he spent time as a traveling salesman for the band instruments company, C.G. Conn Ltd.

This 1961 Jack’s House of Music advertisement summarizes the offerings of the business’s Arden area and Carmichael stores at that time. Photo courtesy of the Lance Armstrong Collection

This 1961 Jack’s House of Music advertisement summarizes the offerings of the business’s Arden area and Carmichael stores at that time. Photo courtesy of the Lance Armstrong Collection

Jack later moved to San Diego with his first wife, Betty, and their son, Larry.
And while living in San Diego, Jack supported his family with his earnings from his employment as an employee at Thearle’s Music.
But it was in Sacramento where Jack spent the majority of his years as a salesman of musical instruments.
Among the earlier customers of Jack’s House of Music was the longtime local guitarist Eddie Lovato, who performs with his current band every week at senior dances held at the Mission Oaks Community Center in Carmichael.
“(Jack’s House of Music) is where I bought my first Stratocaster guitar,” said Lovato, who remained a customer of the store throughout the existence of this business. “That was back in either 1956 or 1957. I think it was 1957. Back then, there was hardly any traffic (in the area). At the time, I was playing at a little joint called the J & T (Club) at Franklin Boulevard and Fruitridge Road, right on the corner. I was playing with a trio. There were two guitarists (in the trio). I was one of the guitarists and Roy Haynes was the other guitarist. The drummer was Mel Stitt. Every club in Sacramento had a trio or quartet playing and we were the (house band) at the J & T (which was then owned by Joseph Morelli). (Haynes and Stitt) also went to Jack’s. I used to buy all my guitar strings there and all my (sheet) music. (Jack) was a beautiful person to deal with. He had all types of sheet music there, musical instruments, anything you wanted in music, he had it. Overall, I think (Jack’s) was a super music store.”
Another longtime local musician, Paul Narloch, who is the drummer of the local surf band, The VibroCounts, remembers visiting Jack’s House of Music and the nearby Sherman Clay & Co. at 2536 Watt Avenue, between Tower Records and Sam’s Plaza Hof Brau, during the 1960s.
“Those were the two big music stores in Sacramento at the time – Jack’s House and Sherman Clay,” Narloch said. “Jack’s House of Music was real popular and a little more high priced. That’s the first time I saw a Fender Telecaster (and a) Fender Esquire (was in the 1960s at Jack’s). (Jack) would have real high priced stuff and we were like, ‘Wow, look at that. That’s not a Stratocaster. That’s an Esquire or that’s a Telecaster.’ Surf bands would come in. They had Fender Stratocasters, Ludwig drums, Slingerland (drums). Sherman Clay, which is where I got my early drums, they were still known as a piano store and gave classical music lessons. When The (Rolling) Stones and The Beatles and all that came out, (Sherman Clay) started doing like a rock thing. People would come in with their old drums sets and guitars. They were still doing the classic piano thing at Sherman Clay, but they had all kinds of guitars and amps. That’s where the hip musicians and the surf people would hang out.”
Other early north area music stores included the California School Music Service and Ye Music Shoppe, which were both located at various times in Town and Country Village.
A 1971 advertisement for Jack’s House of Music included the following words: “Jack’s House of Music. For quality instruments and all musical needs, band instruments and accessories, pianos, radios, TV(s) and phonographs, records and sheet music, instrument repairing.”
The store was also renowned for renting out many musical instruments, mainly to young music students of area schools or for private instruction.
Jack, who was a member of local Elks and Masonic lodges, also enjoyed playing music with other musicians. His musical resume included performing in a Shriners band.
Some longtime local residents may recall that other Jack’s House of Music locations were established in the 1960s – first at 3251 Fair Oaks Blvd. in Sacramento (1961-1962) and then at 6749 Fair Oaks Blvd., near Carmichael Park (1962-1964).
Much later during the history of his business, Jack opened another Jack’s House of Music store in Roseville.
In 2002, to the disappointment of generations of Sacramentans, Jack, who outlived his second wife, Mae, closed his longtime popular north area store.
Although Jack’s House of Music ceased existing a decade ago, the memories of this business remain strong in the minds of many people who fell in love with this store at some point during its nearly half-century of serving the musical needs of its customers.

33 years of Scrooge at the Chautauqua Playhouse

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

Northern California’s favorite holiday musical, Scrooge, will be presented at the Chautauqua Playhouse, 5325 Engle Rd. in the La Sierra Community Center in Carmichael. This is the 33rd year that Scrooge will be presented during the holiday season. Scrooge opened with a performance at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7 and will continue to play on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Dec. 23. An additional performance will be held on the evening of Thursday, Dec. 20 at 8 p.m. Admission is $17 general and $10 for children age 12 and under. The Dec. 22 show will include an optional bus tour of Holiday Lights on All West Bus Lines (additional cost). Visit the theatre website at for ticket information and reservations or call the Chautauqua Playhouse at 489-7529.  Group rates are available.

The original production of Scrooge opened in 1978 in Cal Expo’s Golden Bear Playhouse, directed by Gary McFadyen and featuring Rodger Hoopman as Scrooge. Since then, Scrooge has played each holiday season to enthusiastic audiences throughout Northern California.

With Rodger Hoopman in the title role for his 33nd year, the current production of Scrooge, directed by Warren Harrison, will feature a company of local favorites including Salina Donek, Warren Harrison (who has performed the role of Bob Cratchit for the past 18 years), Chris Lamb, Karen Sandoval and many other local actors.

The production includes an original musical score by Hoopman and Rob Knable and it will also include a new opening number written by director Harrison.

For additional information contact the Chautauqua Playhouse at or call the theatre at 489-7529.

Carmichael Landscape Professionals Learn New Niche Through Green Gardener Program

Green Gardener graduates included Brandon Hurd of in Marysville (left), Carmichael-based Rebecca Wright and Steve Hauser of o2ocompost and Deborah Kruse a landscape architect based in Fresno. // Photo courtesy

Green Gardener graduates included Brandon Hurd of in Marysville (left), Carmichael-based Rebecca Wright and Steve Hauser of o2ocompost and Deborah Kruse a landscape architect based in Fresno. // Photo courtesy

Top names in the sustainable landscaping industry recently gathered to celebrate new Green Gardener graduates, including Carmichael-based Rebecca Wright and Steve Hauser of o2ocompost.

Green Gardeners are landscape professionals that undergo an intensive, 10-week training course in sustainable, River-Friendly landscaping. During the course, participants learn principles and practices that can help reduce urban runoff and conserve water.

“The Green Gardener program is important to the Sacramento region because it trains landscaping professionals to garden responsibly and to protect our resources, especially our waterways,” said Debbie Flower, Horticulture Professor at American River College and one of the industry leaders who attended the graduation. “The program also provides a niche for professionals to market their services, which can be especially important in this economic environment.”

More and more homeowners are asking their landscapers for safer, healthier gardening products and methods, said Kellogg Garden Products Manager Rex Lamb, another industry leader who attended the event.

“Homeowners are catching on that they gotta be green. They want to landscape organically, in a way that’s healthier for their family,” Lamb said, adding that Kellogg now sells more organic fertilizers than synthetic fertilizers 10 to one in Northern California.

The graduation honored 72 Green Gardener graduates. Since the program launched in fall 2009, more than 200 landscape professionals have attended Green Gardener classes, and nearly 150 have graduated. Graduates include contractors, designers, arborists, irrigation experts and maintenance professionals.

Among the 16 special industry guests who attended the event were:
•Farmer Fred Hoffman (Keynote Speaker), lifetime Master Gardener and host of the “KFBK Garden Show” on NewsTalk 1530
•John Perrino, Co-founder and Chief Operation Officer of Vermicrop Organics
•Dave Phelps, Sustainability Manager for Cagwin & Dorward landscape contractors

“Considering that more than 65 percent of a household’s water use typically goes toward landscape irrigation, and that more than 30 percent of that is lost to overwatering and evaporation, Green Gardeners provide in important service,” said RWA Water Efficiency Program Manager Amy Talbot. “They are a great resource for residents looking to create a beautiful, sustainable landscape but don’t know where to begin.”

The Green Gardener training program is sponsored by the Regional Water Authority and River-Friendly Landscaping Coalition. A list of qualified Green Gardeners can be found at

About the Regional Water Authority: RWA is a joint powers authority representing 25 water providers and affiliates in the greater Sacramento area. Its primary mission is to help its members protect and enhance the reliability, availability, affordability and quality of water resources.

Faces and Places: 6th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting

The Fulton Avenue Association decked the halls and brought good cheer to families on a wet and cold Christmas tree lighting ceremony, held annually for the sixth time on Saturday, Saturday, Dec. 1. Santa was there taking notes from children for gifts. And of course children sat in awe looking at the beautifully decorate tree on Fulton Avenue.

Faces and Places: Arden Neighborhood Planting 

Volunteers participated in the 11th Annual Tree Planting and Care event where they planted trees in Arden Park neighborhoods. This is one of dozens of re-greening efforts throughout the county with the Sacramento Tree Foundation’s NeighborWoods Program.
Lunch was provided.

Thousands to participate in 19th annual ‘Run to Feed the Hungry’

What has 56,000 legs, over 28,000 smiles and is the biggest “happening” in Sacramento every year?
If you guessed the 19th annual “Run to Feed the Hungry” for Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, you guessed correctly.
For nearly two decades, members of the Sacramento community – and their friends and families from around the nation – have gathered to give back. Whether they are elite runners, average joggers or simple walkers, this event is one of the most respected 5K/10K events in the nation.
Held every year on Thanksgiving Day, participants agree: it’s a great way to give back to the community…and burn a few calories before indulging in a piece of pumpkin pie. Last year, 26,825 people participated on the event’s first rainy day. This year, more than 28,000 participants are expected.
“Run to Feed the Hungry is a Sacramento tradition for thousands of local families,” said Kelly Siefkin, communications director for the food bank. “The event offers a 5K and 10K course through the beautiful East Sacramento neighborhood. The Run is owned and operated by Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services and raises funds to support six programs.”
Need knows no season…and seems to know every neighborhood. SFBFS serves families in need throughout Sacramento County, including local neighborhoods including Land Park, Arden and Carmichael. Some 20,000 unduplicated men, women and children receive free goods and education through SFBFS programs each month. The food program serves 16,000 unduplicated individuals each month.
The run raised $850,000 for the food bank last year – approximately 20 percent of the organization’s annual budget. Founded by Father Daniel Madigan in the basement of his Oak Park church in 1976, SFBFS runs a very lean, grassroots organization with an incredibly efficient, professional staff of 40 and a volunteer workforce of over 5,000 annually.
The Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 22) fun begins at 8:30 a.m. and concludes at approximately 11 a.m. Participants will meet at Sacramento State’s J Street entrance for the start of the run/walk. New exit points from Sac State will improve traffic flow post-race.
Siefkin is excited about a new participant category this year: Virtual Runner.
“Is your spouse dragging you to Iowa for a snow laden Thanksgiving? Do you have 49 relatives descending on your living room around 11 a.m.? Are you more of a napper than a jogger? Then sign up as a virtual participant,” Siefkin said. “Your registration fee supports programs at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services and you’ll still receive your shirt after the event, but you don’t have to run or walk on Thanksgiving morning.”
There is still time to sign up to participate, volunteer or join a team. There is also some new run attire available this year.
“Those who sign up to participate and who make an additional $50 contribution will receive a Run to Feed the Hungry knit beanie this year,” Siefkin said. “Participants are very excited about it – apparently, it’s becoming a hot collectible for those who participate every year.”

Registration for the Run to Feed the Hungry is available online until Nov. 20 at Participants can also register via mail until Nov. 10 or at REI from Nov. 17–21. For more information about SFBFS,

Country Club Plaza has rich history: Future exterior, interior upgrades, new stores, possible name change in the works for plaza

Photo #2 Caption: The old Gottschalks store space at Country Club Plaza has been vacant since 2009. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Photo #2 Caption: The old Gottschalks store space at Country Club Plaza has been vacant since 2009. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s note: This is the fourth part in a series regarding the history of the “four corners” of Watt and El Camino avenues.

Country Club Plaza, as presented in the previous article of this series, began with a supermarket anchor in 1958 and three years later had its first department store, Weinstock’s.
Weinstocks, a very impressive structure
Carmichael resident Bill Ellis, who was the first manager of the Weinstock’s store in the plaza, described the Weinstock’s building, which took more than a year to build, as a very impressive structure.
“When Weinstock’s opened (in the plaza), it was a very unique building,” Ellis said. “It had imported marble and it had all kinds of amenities. It was something like Sacramento had never seen.”
And in describing the store’s interior, Ellis, 89, said, “We imported hardwood floors from Kentucky for certain departments and we had the people from Kentucky come and install them. We had wonderful, full-wall carpeting in certain areas and we had a fine dress department and we had a fine coat department. The showcases, which is what we did in those days, were of fine quality and cost $1,000 a foot. We had china, glass, gifts, sterling silver. It was a very high class store.”
Ellis said that he was named the store’s manager while he was working as a buyer at the Weinstock, Lubin & Co. store at 12th and K streets.
“I was told I would be manager three months before (the plaza’s Weinstock’s store) opened, roughly, and I was in on the last part of the construction (of the plaza building),” said Ellis, who altogether spent 40 years working for Weinstock’s. “I was there to learn what the store was about and what the space was allocated for and to supervise the workmen who were putting things together.”
Also associated with the plaza store were Marion Armstrong, president and general manager of Weinstock, Lubin, and the store’s assistant manager, Ray L. Byers.
As mentioned in the previous article of this series, a Penny’s department store opened at the site of the plaza’s Stop-N-Shop store in the summer of 1971.
Kathy Neutz, who grew up in Fair Oaks, said that she remembers shopping at this Penny’s store and other businesses in the plaza during the 1970s and 1980s.

Photo #3 Caption: Palms line Macy’s parking lot along El Camino Avenue. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Photo #3 Caption: Palms line Macy’s parking lot along El Camino Avenue. Photo by Lance Armstrong

The plaza was the place to shop
“I remember going to some of the older stores (at the plaza) like Penny’s and Weinstock’s,” Neutz said. “It was busier back then, because there weren’t as many malls. (The plaza) was one of the malls besides Sunrise Mall (in Citrus Heights) that you could go to. I would come here (to the plaza) with my mom or with friends. It wasn’t a hang out mall though, like Sunrise (Mall) and Arden (Fair Mall).”
After many years of operation at its plaza site, Penny’s was replaced by Gottschalks.
During the summer of 2009, Gottschalks closed its plaza store and the building remains vacant.
Weinstock’s closed in 1996 and was replaced by a Macy’s department store.
In 2003, under its then Scottsdale, Ariz.-based owners, Arizona Partners Retail Investment Group, LLC, the aged plaza was remodeled.
Unfortunately for the plaza, despite this remodel, many stores left the plaza and the mall was left with many empty store spaces.
Among the last businesses to exit the plaza were Subway, American Eagle Outfitters and PacSun Clothing.
Future of the plaza
While recently shopping at the plaza, Neutz said, “There definitely used to be more to (the plaza) than there is now. I just think it’s the area. It has kind of declined a bit and there are other areas that are growing and upcoming and that’s where (people) want to go. Hopefully they can rebuild this area and get it more economically stable. It’s all about the competition.”
For those concerned about the present status and future of the plaza, Peter Morgan, vice president of Laeroc Funds, the private real estate investment company for the plaza and multiple properties from San Diego to Portland, said that this shopping center’s future appears promising.
“When we bought the center in (August 2006), we were really excited about the opportunities,” Morgan said. “The mall was basically full and performing very well. It was just our timing on acquisition by 2006, right before the worst recession since the Depression, to the demise and bankruptcy of our anchor tenant, Gottschalks, in combination with the downturn in the retail market in Greater Sacramento.
“We think we’re coming out of this recession, the letter of intents (for possible new tenants) and the capital improvements that we plan to put up, we truly believe that this is the low point of the center’s life. We’re excited about the opportunities going forward to bring the mall back to its prominence.”

Photo #1 Caption: Ross Dress for Less and Bed Bath & Beyond have both signed leases to be located at Country Club Plaza through at least 2014. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Photo #1 Caption: Ross Dress for Less and Bed Bath & Beyond have both signed leases to be located at Country Club Plaza through at least 2014. Photo by Lance Armstrong

The letters of intent are from Office Depot, which would take about 6,000 feet at the plaza, and a national grocery store, which would use the 92,000-square-foot space at the former Gottschalks site.
Bed Bath & Beyond and Ross Dress for Less leaving the plaza?
In regard to recent local news reports that Bed Bath & Beyond and Ross Dress for Less will be relocating to Town and Country Village, Morgan said, “At this point, both of those tenants have leases and Ross just extended their lease with us. If (the addition to) Town and Country is built, Bed Bath & Beyond and Ross are supposed to open stores in that location. But Bed Bath & Beyond and Ross could make a decision to have a store in both locations. They both have an option that they could exercise to extend their terms (at the plaza).”
Although Morgan would not reveal when these leases end, he did state that the leases are signed through at least 2014.
He also noted that the plaza’s Sports Chalet store has renewed its lease.
Morgan added that remodeling and other enhancements, including façade improvements from La Bou to the old Gottschalks building, are planned for the plaza.
“The grocery store is planning a remodel of the façade and the accompanying parking lot,” Morgan said. “We are planning concurrently an extensive improvement of our parking field in front of the mall, including landscaping, parking lot improvement and repair and a brand new entry façade to the mall.
“Once we get that completed, then we tackle the interior of the mall. It could be as quickly as six months. But we really can’t do any construction work in the mall during the holidays.”
And for those who find confusion in having two shopping centers with similar names at Watt and El Camino avenues, Morgan said that help may be on the way.
“We’re looking at renaming (Country Club Plaza) to reflect that (future) look of the center, although we don’t have a new name chosen,” Morgan said. “When we come up with some names, we’re probably going to float them by the market before we actually (change the name) to see how it’s received.”
In summarizing his feelings about the future of the plaza, Morgan said, “I’m very excited about where this center’s going. I think Sacramento is going to be delighted to see the improvement from where it’s been to where it’s going.”