A Classical Revolution brings chamber music to the masses

Photo courtesy Members of Classical Revolution at a previous chamber jam.

Photo courtesy Members of Classical Revolution at a previous chamber jam.

A grassroots movement is turning cafes, clothing boutiques and street art festivals into lowbrow chamber music venues. Called a Classical Revolution, this group of volunteer musicians meet and sight-read pieces together all in an effort to provide more exposure of classical music and gain younger listeners and fans.

East Sacramento resident Skye Bergen organizes the seven-month-old chapter. While the group performs mainly in midtown, the musicians hail from all over Sacramento. Many are professional musicians with advanced degrees, and some are currently college students. Many play in multiple bands, ensembles, and orchestras.

They are also the hardest working musicians Bergen has ever met.

With works by Bach to Phillip Glass to Popper to Björk, to local composers, Bergen said she believes the experts should be allowed to play what they know.

“All the musicians in the group are the experts and therefore they should have control over what they want to perform,” she said. For every show, Bergen asks for a volunteer to be a lead musician.

One of the musicians in Classical Revolution, Holly Harrison (also a member of Be Brave Bold Robot), is a general music teacher at Theodore Judah and is starting an orchestra of her own this year. Her program is funded entirely by the PTA: they get no support from the district (other than the use of the music library) or any other outside organization. Many of the students cannot afford to rent instruments so Holly has managed to get some instruments from the school district- but none of them have bows.

So, Bows and Arrows, located at 19th and S St. in midtown, put on a fundraiser on Nov. 27 called “Bows for Bows” to support Theodore Judah elementary school’s music program, since the school’s budding instrumentalists are desperately in need of funds for bows to go with their district instruments and for other supplies such as music books, music stands, rosin, shoulder rests, and all of the other accessories needed to keep a string orchestra going.

Several local musicians and bands featuring string players volunteered their time to play in the benefit: Be Brave Bold Robot (folk rock), The Sweet By and By (bluegrass), and, of course, musicians from Classical Revolution. Student musicians were also featured.

Founded six years ago at Revolution Café in the Mission District of San Francisco, Classical Revolution presented more than 700 chamber music events in more than 90 Bay Area venues with the goal of bringing live chamber music to neighborhoods. The Classical Revolution model has spread around the world, with nearly 30 active chapters around the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
Sacramento is one of the most recent chapters to be established.

Named after the Revolution Café, the founder began putting on chamber jams there. Bergen said a chamber jam is where a bunch of musicians show up and sight-read pieces together. She said that really caught on and thus the name was born.

Photo courtesy Members of Classical Revolution at a previous chamber jam.

Photo courtesy Members of Classical Revolution at a previous chamber jam.

Locally, Bergen said audience response has been very good, the shows are often standing room only. In fact, she said the turnout at Bows and Arrows was so large that they invited the group back for a monthly gig.

“It’s actually a perfect space- beer and wine, great food, coffee, great space, great art, great people, great location. We couldn’t have asked for a better monthly home,” she said.

The musicians have also performed at Shady Coffee & Tea in Roseville, Insight Coffee, and Luna’s Café.

“We are steadily building a following, which is outstanding. I do worry though that the musicians aren’t getting compensated enough for it. They know it’s volunteer, but we really need more people coming out to support the musicians and to show that support with their wallets,” she said.

While Bergen acknowledges the point is basically outreach and exposure she also wishes they could get a little more out of it — at least enough for the gas that they used to get to the venue.

“They have dedicated their lives to a beautiful art form, and while Classical Revolution is helping to gain an audience that respects them, they deserve to be compensated for their efforts. I want this to happen because I would like to see this continue,” she said.

There are many musicians in the group and all are volunteers.

Here are a few of the ones who play the most often:
Tim Stanly – cello
Cathie Apple- flute
Jennifer Reason- piano
Jia-mo Chen- cello
George Hayes- violin
Rei Luu- violin
Casey Lipka- upright bass
Kim Davis- flute
Coco Cocozella- violin
Alex Winter- cello
Liz Barton- French horn
Holly Harrison- violin
Sondro Ladu- violin

For more information, email at classicalrevsac@gmail.com.
https://www.facebook.com/ClassicalRevolutionSac

Follow the group on twitter:
@ClassicalRevSAC

Remembering Carmichael’s “Taj Mahal” executive mansion

Carmichael’s rejected governor’s mansion at 2300 California Ave. is now a private residence with no connection to state government. / Photo by Lance Armstrong

Carmichael’s rejected governor’s mansion at 2300 California Ave. is now a private residence with no connection to state government. / Photo by Lance Armstrong

When Californians refer to the “governor’s mansion,” they are generally speaking about the Second Empire Italianate-style Victorian mansion on 16th Street, along the old Highway 40. But at times, some of these references are directed toward the historic Stanford Mansion at 800 N Street or the mansion built for this state’s governors in Carmichael.

Many people in the Sacramento area recall this latter, controversial estate overlooking the American River.

It was that very mansion at 2300 California Ave. that was to solve this state’s void of a permanent structure for its chief executive.

But this mansion was already a major issue of debate while it was still under construction in 1974, as Gov. Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown, Jr., during his second term in office, refused to reside in the structure.

Despite the fact that nearly every other state in the Union has a designated, permanent governor’s residence, it has been 45 years since such a place has existed in California.
The French Second Empire/Renaissance Revival-style Stanford Mansion was once home to the state’s eighth governor, Leland Stanford, and the following two governors, Frederick F. Low and Henry H. Haight.

The mansion on the 16th Street
And the aforementioned 16th Street mansion, which was built in 1877 for Albert Gallatin of the hardware business, Huntington, Hopkins & Co., was the home of every California state governor from 1903 to 1967.

Following the 16th Street mansion’s nine decades as a residence, then-Gov. Ronald Reagan and his family became the final residents of the mansion. The Reagans moved from the mansion into a leased home in the upscale East Sacramento neighborhood, known as the Fabulous Forties.

This move occurred only four months after the Reagans moved into the 16th Street mansion.

California First Lady Nancy Reagan was dissatisfied with the structure’s living conditions and declared it a “firetrap” with a neighborhood that was unsafe for small children.

The 16th Street mansion and its property, which is known today as the Governor’s Mansion State Historic Park, is now recognized as one of Sacramento’s most important historic sites and is a popular destination for visitors and locals seeking to learn some history through daily, guided tours.

Carmichael Mansion construction begins
Construction on the 12,000-square-foot, concrete block Carmichael mansion began during the final stretch of Gov. Reagan’s second and last term in office. Contracts for the job were let in October 1974 and construction began shortly thereafter.

The mansion, which was completed in 1975, was built within 11.3 acres on the bluffs that were donated by friends of Gov. Reagan.

Brown criticizes construction
On Tuesday, Nov. 5, 1974, Brown, a then-36-year-old bachelor, was elected to replace Reagan as governor.

Brown had made it an issue in his campaign to refer to the construction of the $1.3 million, 17-room governor’s residence, which Gov. Reagan was determined to have built, as an inappropriate use of funds during a recession, in which many California residents could not afford adequate housing.

Gov. Reagan, however, stressed that the construction of the Carmichael mansion was appropriate in that it would fill the void of a permanent governor’s residence, and serve in this capacity for at least a century.

“It is not a residence for one particular governor,” Gov. Reagan told reporters in 1974. “It is a residence for governors on down through the years, a hundred years or more.”

Continuing, Reagan said, “I recognize there are some forces in Sacramento that believe the residence should not be a residence, so much as a tourist attraction downtown. I think that’s unfair to anybody who occupies this job.”

A Venus-like statue stands amidst greenery just inside the entrance to the old governor’s mansion grounds. / Photo by Lance Armstrong

A Venus-like statue stands amidst greenery just inside the entrance to the old governor’s mansion grounds. / Photo by Lance Armstrong

Brown dubbs it “Taj Mahal”
Although Brown did not take office until Jan. 6, 1975, soon after being elected governor, he continued to publicly voice his opinion and intentions regarding the construction of the governor’s mansion, which was patterned after a Spanish villa.

In speaking to local reporters only two days after he was elected as the state’s next chief executive, Brown said, “I have not looked at (the under construction Carmichael mansion) yet. I want to take a look at the contract and see if it is legally and economically feasible to terminate it. I certainly want to, if I can.”

Brown was unable to halt the construction of the mansion, which he famously dubbed a “Taj Mahal.” However, he held true to his words that he would not live in the structure, as he instead opted to make a sparsely-furnished, two-bedroom apartment at the Dean Apartments at 1400 N St. his gubernatorial home.

Others were also critical of the Carmichael mansion, which some people referred to as having the appearance of a Safeway supermarket.

The Sacramento-born writer Joan Didion called the mansion “an enlarged version of a very common kind of California tract house.”

The mansion’s loyal caretakers
A 1979 United Press International article, however, described two couples who were very fond of the mansion.

According to the article, Lonnie and Mildred Eastmade and Jim and Ruth Bryner were at the time dividing the monthly cost of $1,600 per month to live in and take care of the estate. The couples were responsible for security of the place, various upkeep and escorting reporters and state visitors around the mansion.

The article noted that the Eastmades and Bryners did not “take kindly to putdowns of the river bluff villa – even from Gov. Brown.”

Deukmejian takes office
Unlike Brown, Gov. George Deukmejian, who served as Brown’s successor from 1983 to 1991, said on multiple occasions that he wanted to reside with his family in the Carmichael mansion.

However, Senate Democrats insisted on the sale of the mansion, and on July 15, 1983, Deukmejian changed his stance on the matter and advised lawmakers that there was no need to block the sale of the Carmichael estate.

The Deukmejian administration had rejected a $1.5 million bid to purchase the mansion in June 1983.

In its Sept. 14, 1984 edition, The Sacramento Union announced that Southern California developer Matt Franich had submitted the winning bid of $1.53 million for the Carmichael mansion.

According to the article, Franich offered Deukmejian the opportunity to reside at the mansion, but Deukmejian found the $18,000 per month minimum rent payment to be too costly.

Current owners
Today, the old Carmichael mansion that was built as a governor’s residence is the privately-owned home of a local physician and his wife.

Altogether the original, 11.3-acre property includes eight lots, four of which have houses. The lots for the non-governor’s mansion homes were sold in 2003 and 2004.

The entire property is gated in from the street. And on a brick pillar supporting the entrance gate is a plaque bearing the Spanish name, La Casa de los Gobernadores – “The House of the Governors.”

Kim Pacini-Hauch, Lyon Real Estate agent and a resident of the gated community, said that presently there is a rare opportunity for one to purchase a home within the community.

“The (available) house was built in 2007 and it’s listed for sale for $1,595,000,” said Pacini-Hauch, who grew up in Incline Village on the north shore of Lake Tahoe and has resided in the Sacramento area for nearly 30 years. “It’s about 4,200 square feet on just a little under an acre and it (has) beautiful quality construction. There’s just two (homes) here overlooking the bluff in a gated community and there’s nothing like it.”

And in describing her very unique neighborhood, she added, “It’s just a beautiful (community). It’s peaceful and quiet and it’s just a lovely place to live.”

City’s first Jewish cemetery was located in today’s East Sacramento

The East Sacramento/midtown Sacramento area is undoubtedly one of the most historic sections of the city, considering that this area is home to Sutter’s Fort, the site of the 1839 settlement, which predates the founding of the city of Sacramento by a decade. When the city was only about a year old, Sacramento’s first Jewish cemetery was founded about a half-mile north of the fort.
The Home of Peace cemetery on Stockton Boulevard replaced the original Jewish cemetery in East Sacramento in 1924. / Photo courtesy of Robert Wascou

The Home of Peace cemetery on Stockton Boulevard replaced the original Jewish cemetery in East Sacramento in 1924. / Photo courtesy of Robert Wascou

Across the street from the area’s first cemetery, Sutter’s Burial Ground – later known as the New Helvetia Cemetery – which had its first interment in 1845, was the aforementioned Jewish cemetery.

Property for this Jewish cemetery, which was located on J Street, between what would be 32nd Street, if the street were to extend to this location, and 33rd streets, was purchased in 1850 from Ring Rose J. Watson by Louis Schaub, in trust for the Hebrew Benevolent Society.

Moses Hyman, a prominent merchant who came to the area from New Orleans in 1849 with Samuel Harris Goldstein, donated $150 to the Jewish Benevolent Society for the establishment of the cemetery.

Cemetery’s first resident

An account regarding Hyman and Goldstein is documented in the June 3, 1850 edition of the Placer Times – Sacramento’s first newspaper – as follows:

“On the downward trip of the (steamboat) Gov. Dana on Friday (May 30, 1850), Mr. Harris Goldstein, a merchant of Marysville, fell overboard in an attempt to get a bucket of water from the (Feather) River, about four miles below Marysville. He swam well at first, and all aboard, including his son, about 14 years of age, had perfect confidence that he would reach the shore. He was observed to turn on his back, as if to rest himself, and then sank to rise no more. He had some $1,600 in (gold) dust on his person. We are furnished with numerous testimony to Capt. Young’s exertions to rescue him. The scene, when hope had fled, was most distressing. The agony of his son (Jacob) drew forth many a manly tear of sympathy and the truest commisseration (sic) was expressed for the wife (Rosina) and children home in New Orleans.”

This headstone marks the gravesite of Samuel Harris Goldstein, who was possibly the first person buried at the Jewish cemetery in East Sacramento. / Photo courtesy of Robert Wascou

This headstone marks the gravesite of Samuel Harris Goldstein, who was possibly the first person buried at the Jewish cemetery in East Sacramento. / Photo courtesy of Robert Wascou

Although it is unknown where Goldstein was originally buried, his remains were re-interred in the Jewish cemetery on J Street and later moved to the city’s current Jewish cemetery, Home of Peace of Sacramento, which is located on Stockton Boulevard at El Paraiso Avenue.

Robert Wascou, cemetery project coordinator of the Jewish Genealogical Society, said that based on his personal research, he believes Goldstein may have been the first person to be buried at the Jewish cemetery on J Street.

“At the time of Goldstein’s death, there was no Jewish cemetery in Sacramento, so therefore he would have been buried in another cemetery,” Wascou said. “Since the New Helvetia Cemetery was closed to burials due to recurrent flooding, he was likely buried in the city cemetery (which was established at the present day corner of Broadway and Riverside Boulevard in 1849). Unfortunately, there was no superintendent of the city cemetery at that time and no records were kept. My feeling is that he was probably the first or one of the first people buried in the Jewish cemetery, because of his friendship with Moses Hyman.”

Hyman later had another connection with Goldstein, as he married his widow, Rosina.

Original location on J Street

During the existence of the city’s original Jewish cemetery, which is presently the site of about a dozen businesses, including the historic Club Raven at 3246 J St., about 500 bodies were buried at the cemetery.

Early additions to the Jewish cemetery occurred in 1863 with the construction of a chapel and a brick wall, which bordered the cemetery.

This present day view of J Street in East Sacramento shows the site of the city’s first Jewish cemetery. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

This present day view of J Street in East Sacramento shows the site of the city’s first Jewish cemetery. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

A reference to the Jewish cemetery in the May 29, 1886 edition of The Sacramento Union describes the site as follows: “This cemetery is well kept and contains many handsome monuments, five of which were placed in position during the last month. This cemetery is under the charge of Nicholas Mohns.”

Mohns, who resided at 2830 O St., where Meritage Insurance is presently located, maintained the title of the cemetery’s sexton, a position that he also held at the New Helvetia Cemetery by as early as 1889.

During this era, the cemetery was located near Nehemiah, Albert and George Clark’s Pacific Pottery at 34th and J streets.

The Clarks’ business, however, was destroyed by fire during the afternoon of Dec. 18, 1887. The fire was reported to have originated in the kiln room on the eastern end of the business’s two-story, wood-frame, main structure.

Move to present location

In 1924, the property for the Jewish cemetery on Stockton Boulevard was purchased from Walter W. Bassett, a bank cashier who resided at 1224 40th St.

Club Raven at 3246 J St. is the most notable landmark on the former site of the Jewish cemetery in East Sacramento. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Club Raven at 3246 J St. is the most notable landmark on the former site of the Jewish cemetery in East Sacramento. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

While observing historic Home of Peace records, Wascou presented the following information regarding the relocation of the remains at Sacramento’s original Jewish cemetery: “They started moving the 500 remains to Home of Peace in the spring of 1926 and by June 1926, 104 bodies had been moved,” Wascou said. “It was noted in the cemetery’s minutes of May 16, 1927 that 70 bodies were moved and 10 more would be moved in the coming week. In the May 21, 1928 minutes, there were yet 48 bodies to be moved from the old cemetery. In the Nov. 14, 1929 minutes, there were about 25 graves yet to be moved. The last section of the old Jewish cemetery was sold to Paul and Isabel Prom (of 1545 38th St.) on Nov. 6, 1945.”

Wascou added that about 250 bodies were moved to the Home of Peace cemetery and that other bodies were moved to the Jewish cemeteries in Colma in San Mateo County, or to other Jewish sites.

Today, the Home of Peace cemetery, which consists of more than 2,500 burials and is under the direction of its executive director, Lewis Rosenberg, represents a continuation of 160 years of serving the Jewish community of the Sacramento region.

The original main gate of the Home of Peace cemetery is located at the corner of Stockton Boulevard at El Paraiso Avenue. / Photo courtesy of Robert Wascou

The original main gate of the Home of Peace cemetery is located at the corner of Stockton Boulevard at El Paraiso Avenue. / Photo courtesy of Robert Wascou

Golden 1 donates $5,000 to River City Food Bank in wake of devastating fire

Donna Bland, Golden 1 interim president & CEO / Photo courtesy of Golden 1

Donna Bland, Golden 1 interim president & CEO / Photo courtesy of Golden 1

SACRAMENTO – The Golden 1 Credit Union announced today that they will present River City Food Bank in midtown Sacramento with a check for $5,000, following the devastating fire that damaged both the organization’s building and its stockpile of food.

“Golden 1 has been a longtime supporter of organizations in the communities we serve,” said Donna Bland, interim president and CEO. “We are saddened by this turn of events and decided to take immediate action.”

In addition to this donation of cash, Golden 1 employees plan to show their support by contributing to a canned food drive at all of Golden 1’s Sacramento-area offices and its Operations Center.

“With the holidays just around the corner, we know the food bank is going to face increased demand,” added Bland. “Golden 1 is committed to helping River City Food Bank meet that demand and challenges all other area businesses to help in this time of great need.”

The Golden 1 Credit Union is California’s leading credit union, with more than 80 offices, $7 billion in assets and 680,000 members.

Sacramento ‘Midtown Trick or Treat’ is Oct. 30

Annual Midtown Trick or Treat

The Midtown Business Association and Midtown Merchants are happy to once again host “Midtown Trick or Treat” to take place on Saturday, Oct. 30 from 11 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Visit participating businesses for tasty treats.

Be sure to stop by Relles Florist (located at 2400 J St.) for some spooky fun.

Kenney Gallery, located at 1114 20th St., will host a Costume Pooch Parade and Contest from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. A $10 donation is requested and proceeds will be donated to United Animal Nations.

*Note that children must be accompanied by an adult. Pets & zombies must be on a leash at all times. For more information, visit www.mbasac.com or call (916) 442-1500.

State Indian Museum at Sutter’s Fort to close

Sitting in his office at the California State Indian Museum last week, Rob Wood spoke about the current California Indian Heritage Center project, which would eliminate the necessity of the longtime East Sacramento museum on the grounds of Sutter’s Fort.

Rob Wood, who serves as the heritage center’s project manager, has played an integral role in the efforts to bring the new center to West Sacramento by 2016. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
Rob Wood, who serves as the heritage center’s project manager, has played an integral role in the efforts to bring the new center to West Sacramento by 2016. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
The new center is scheduled to open in the summer of 2016, following the completion of the 50,000-square-foot first phase of the project at its selected 43-acre West Sacramento site, across from Discovery Park and overlooking the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers.

 

Revisiting history

Although the museum has continuously operated between its adobe walls that were built in the likeness of the fort 70 years ago, Wood, who serves as the heritage center’s project manager, said that the museum’s size has always been a problem.

“From the date (the museum) was built, it was inadequate in terms of its size,” Wood said. “This (museum) is probably about 4,000 square feet and we’re projecting that at final build-out, (the new center) will be 125,000 square feet.”

Wood added that the vastness of the museum’s off-site collections, which he endearingly, yet unofficially refers to as “tribal treasures,” is so great that only about 5 percent of the entire museum archives are currently on display in the museum, which for the most part consists of displays created in the mid-1980s under the direction of the museum’s former curator, Mike Tucker.

Further emphasizing the magnitude of the inadequate size of the museum, Wood said, “We have about 3,500 baskets (in storage) alone.”

But looking forward, Wood shared details about the future heritage center, which he has so passionately devoted his time to helping it become a reality.

The now-70-year-old California State Indian Museum is shown in this 1950s photograph. (Photo courtesy of the California State Indian Museum)
The now-70-year-old California State Indian Museum is shown in this 1950s photograph. (Photo courtesy of the California State Indian Museum)
“(California) State Parks has been trying to make this (center) happen probably since about the 1970s and it is part of the relationship that State Parks has with the Native American community,” Wood said. “This project is extremely exciting. It gives us an opportunity to do what we haven’t been able to do in terms of telling the story of California Indians. Mostly what’s shown here (at the museum) are things from the North Coast and there are some dabblings from some other stuff from throughout the state. The idea of this (future) facility, too, is to take a greater statewide look of what we’re able to do there.”

Wood added that it is also an important element of the project to create a place where California Native Americans can “tell their own story in their own way.”

“It’s been a big deal throughout this project through consultations with native folks to have them involved in this project, so it speaks with what we call the ‘native voice,’” Wood said. “There was an interpretive document created in consultation with Indian advisors and academic advisors to accomplish that.”

 

The new museum

Although Wood recalled seeing concepts for a new State Indian Museum in Folsom as early as 1978, it was not until this century that much progress was made on this endeavor.

With the 2002 legislation through SB 2063, the center’s task force was established for the purpose of assisting in the development of the center and seed money was acquired for preliminary planning.

The future California Indian Heritage Center will be located on a 43-acre site, along the Sacramento River in West Sacramento. (Photo courtesy of the California State Indian Museum)
The future California Indian Heritage Center will be located on a 43-acre site, along the Sacramento River in West Sacramento. (Photo courtesy of the California State Indian Museum)
From 2003 to 2007, the task force conducted a statewide site search with the Folsom Lake area being held as the backup plan for the project’s site.

During a large portion of this search, the Richards Boulevard area was considered, but the land acquisition, Wood said, “got too complicated and too expensive.”

In 2007, West Sacramento came forward with the now-selected site, which was offered as a donation.

A 20-acre parcel, which is owned by an Alaskan native corporation and located just north of the Broderick Boat Ramp, may also be incorporated into the overall project.

Additionally, the project consists of a secondary site in the Natomas area, just across from the Richards Boulevard area and near Camp Pollock, a Boy Scout camp located at 1501 Northgate Blvd.

Cathy Taylor, district superintendent of the Capital District for California State Parks, said that the (Natomas area) site was once considered as a main site for the project.

“For quite a long time, we had negotiated with the city of Sacramento about locating the facility out in (the Natomas) area,” Taylor said. “The American River Parkway, however, has a lot of restrictions about what can be built (there). There are limitations in the parkway about how large a facility can be and so we looked at the Natomas area as really more of an outdoor, interpretive space that could be used for large events. We aren’t going to do a lot of huge overnight gatherings in the West Sacramento site, where the center is itself, but we can certainly do that at the Natomas site.”

Taylor added that the parkway plan is limited to about 30,000 square feet of interpretive space and as a gathering area, it could include such amenities as an amphitheater, a stage and an outdoor, shaded interpretive programming site.

“It would be more of an outdoor type of facility than a (large) interpretive center,” Taylor said.

The center, which is projected to be paid for through one-third state funds and two-thirds private funding, is in its general plan stage for about the next 18 months and once this stage is completed, work on the project’s preliminary plans and working drawings will begin.

Taylor said that when the working drawings are completed – which may be about a two-year process – actual construction on the project can proceed.

Although it is uncertain when the project will be completed in its entirety, Taylor said that the center will be a world-class facility that will be well worth the wait.

“The California Indian Heritage Center has been a long time coming,” Taylor said. “It’s important for California Indians, but it’s also important for this community to have a project of this importance with this subject matter in the capital city. It’s a huge attraction for the city.”

 

E-mail Lance Armstrong at lance@valcomnews.com.

Now open for business: Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe

There are several reasons people choose to go vegan. Some are driven to it due to food allergies; others do it to stay away from processed foods; and some just think it’s wrong to use animals as a food source. Thanks to a new vegan cafe in midtown near East Sacramento, there might be many more vegans in our neighborhood.

During the nearly two weeks since the Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe opened at 2315 K St. in midtown, business has been good for co-owners Khyem Amri and Melissa Wilhelm. (Photo by Benn Hodapp)
During the nearly two weeks since the Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe opened at 2315 K St. in midtown, business has been good for co-owners Khyem Amri and Melissa Wilhelm. (Photo by Benn Hodapp)
The Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe opened as a rousing success on March 14 during Second Saturday festivities. Co-owner Khyem Amri said that the line was out the door with folks ready to try all manner of baked goods and other vegan delicacies.

During the nearly two weeks since it opened at 2315 K St. in midtown, business has been good for Amri and his wife Melissa Wilhelm. Together, they hope to bring a taste of something of which Sacramento just doesn’t have much.

The idea, however, did not materialize overnight.

Khyem and Melissa met in a farmer’s market in Brentwood three and a half years ago. Melissa, who is the head chef and baker at the Sugar Plum, was there selling some of her vegan delights. Khyem remembers his initial reaction to seeing Melissa that day.

“I had just gotten out of a relationship, so I tried to ignore what I was feeling when I saw her,” Amri said. “But I couldn’t ignore the fireworks.”

He helped Melissa develop her business, which was a vegan food company called Jivana Vegan. They were a natural fit as far as business went, as Melissa did all the food preparation while Khyem drove the attention-getting portion that got people to stop at their booth. Eventually they went on to sell their products in a much more lucrative Los Angeles farmers’ market where they soon quadrupled their profits.

 

Sugar Plum in Sacramento 

One of the early signs that they might have a chance at starting a restaurant was when one of Melissa’s gluten-free carrot cakes took a silver medal in a culinary competition. Impressive considering it was the only vegan entry. While still in Los Angeles, Melissa became pregnant with the couple’s first child. The business went on hiatus and the two thought about where they wanted to raise their son. Amri, who grew up in Sacramento and graduated from El Camino High School in 1999, suggested moving back up north.

Both have held a number of jobs since the birth of their child, but a fortuitous meeting set in motion what would one day become the Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe.

Melissa spoke at a meeting for the Sacramento Vegetarian Society and was immediately approached by an investor. They found a place in midtown that could accommodate all they needed and six months later, they were moving in.

The two-story Victorian house-turned-business was formerly a restaurant that featured Mediterranean cuisine. A temporary sign hangs above the entrance, making it difficult to know the café is there unless you knew beforehand.

“I think people are finding us pretty well,” Wilhelm said. “We’re working on a permanent sign to put out front.”

Since the opening, there has been little rest for either of them, but both are quick to acknowledge that being too busy is better than not being busy enough.

Moving back up to Sacramento allowed the couple to be close to Amri’s family and they saw it as an ideal place to raise a child. But they also saw it as an opportunity to open up a place in an area brimming with vegans, vegetarians and quality-conscious foodies. In fact, the Sugar Plum is the first vegan bakery in Sacramento.

So far, it looks like the cafe might have found a permanent home.

“There are a lot of excited vegans around Sacramento,” Wilhelm said. “There have been a lot of curious people coming in because they want to try a healthier way to eat.”

Unlike vegetarians, vegans choose not to eat any animal products in food preparation – no milk, cheese or the like. It is a lifestyle choice for a growing number of people who are worried about what they are putting into their bodies.

Wilhelm went over a number of things having to do with veganism and why it may be a good idea for people to consider it as an alternative.

“Everything is fresh and organic,” she said. “There are no preservatives or pesticides, so obviously that is good for your health.”

 

The Menu

While you may notice that everything on display in the front of the store is of the dessert variety, the cafe does have a lunch and dinner menu featuring panini sandwiches, salads and nachos. They also recently featured a Portobello mushroom meatloaf.

The most popular lunch/dinner item is the nachos, according to Wilhelm. It consists of corn chips topped with black beans, olives, vegan meat alternatives, vegan cheese, avocados, salsa and vegan sour cream. A plate of them will cost you $11, but will comfortably serve three.

As far as the dessert menu is concerned, the Sugar Plum has your sweet tooth covered. The cafe features 12 different types of dessert items ranging from cinnamon rolls to cookies, cupcakes and muffins, all made fresh daily.

Also on the menu are a number of gluten-free products for people who have problems digesting it.

The cafe also features a catering service for all kinds of private functions.

 

Visiting the Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe

The Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe is located at 2315 K St. Business hours for the café are Mondays, closed; Tuesday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, call (916) 706-3302 or visit sugarplumvegan.com. Free wifi Internet access is available.

 

E-mail Benn Hodapp at benn@valcomnews.com.

September 18, 2014 Edition

view latest issueview archives
Within the boundaries of the East Sacramento News are Midtown Sacramento, an up-and-coming center for economic and residential activity; the McKinley Park and Fabulous Forties neighborhoods, homes and homeowners so famous they have been featured in major Hollywood films; River Park, a welcoming community along the American River; and St. Francis High School and Sacramento State University.

September 11, 2014 Edition

view latest issueview archives
The Land Park News markets to one of the most influential neighborhoods in Sacramento. Land Park residents are many of the Sacramento regions’ opinion makers and business leaders. Also among the readers of this publication is Curtis Park; a family-friendly community bordering Sacramento City College; and Hollywood Park, a neighborhood recently experiencing an economic revival.