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Word on the Street


Got Something JUICY? ribeye.jpgPaula wants to know.

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By Paula McConnell


Much ado about nothing! A downtown merchant called the other day with a big ‘OH MY!” claiming that “THEY” (the proverbial THEY) are planning to put more transitional (low cost) housing downtown. But is it true? I decided to poke around.


And now, the anatomy of a rumor. My specialty: A coordinator with “Project Give” said she thought it would be nice to have more housing for people in transition housed above Ric’s furniture, and the rumors started flying. It seems that a consortium of investors, including Janet Sylvain’s ex-brother-in-law, Ric Sylvain has bought the building (formerly Higgins Shoes) which now houses Ric’s Furniture and Mario Saucedo's Aids Foundation & Project Give. They have both been given notice and will have to vacate post haste. Word on the street is that Sylvain and his buddies are planning more loft space (read swankyish?), not unlike what Janet Sylvain has created upstairs from her shop Pieced on Earth. Considering the space in question was used to house the Higgins Shoe Store for many years, wonder what good-ole-boy Jack Higgins is thinking about now? It doesn’t really matter because Jack got himself a hefty security contract on Mare Island after he closed his father’s downtown shoe store. You would need to sell a lot of shoes to make up for that kinda deal. Right Jack?

Is downtown Vallejo trying to become the new SOMA? or the lower East Village of Manhattan? Well, maybe not, but lofts are sure preferable to transitional housing.



And speaking of property, Ken Ingersoll is about to close a deal on buying yet another property downtown at 345 Georgia Street. Artist Harold Beaulieu is already packing to leave. Ingersoll already co-owns the liquor store near his restaurant which unfortunately has another 3 ½ year lease on it. Sure there will be a change for the better after that. Also, the Casa de Vallejo is being sold to a San Francisco investment consortium. Let’s hope they clean it up. Word has it that investor David Fischer, owner of the property currently housing Indian Alley Antiques, passed up on some of those deals. It seems that he deems it a little too difficult to find good tenants who will rent and stay downtown. After all, they don’t come much better than one of his current tenants Fred Menard who runs the Indian Alley Antiques Shop. And we all owe Fred much appreciation for creating the tree lighting project downtown, among other things. The lights look great, don’t they? Please drop in to tell Fred thanks when you have time. We cannot say that enough. “The lights really do help to deter crime downtown,” said Tim MacDonald of the Empress. Remember, Fred got hit in the head by a mugger, and needs to know that we still very much support him.



Koham Books on downtown’s Marin Street is off to a start after her Kickstarter efforts on the internet. People have given owner Rar Farmer some books, money, and downtown promoter and Mad Hatter Frank Malifrando even offered her some cozy furniture to make the place more inviting. In the meantime, while there are very few books on the shelf it's a start. There is an adorable baby in a play area. Maybe she should call her store ‘Babies & Books.’ And don’t forget the ‘Unconventional Garden Shop’ down the street on Marin also. Not only is owner Michelle Eliker pretty, but she is intelligent, gracious and engaging, so do stop by and say hello. Despite the lack of rain, she is hoping that that business will pick up so that she can survive the first year. Remember, the first two years are critical in a business, so please shop downtown first and keep these businesses alive!


Also new on Marin Street, near Kentucky Street, you will find Vallejo’s first ever privately run laser clinic. The Aesthetic Laser Concept is already opened as an extended office from the San Francisco office. Known as ALC Vallejo they began seeing clients a few weeks ago. Well known in the City, they will bring Laser Technology to clients throughout the northern bay area. Owner Nui Laosaengthong hires only the best physicians and technicians available. The ‘Grand Opening’ of ALC Vallejo at 1100 Marin St.( formerly Dental offices) will be announced soon. They feature IPL (Intense Pulse Light) which helps to remove freckles and age spots. They also perform Fractionals which help resurface the skin. If you stop by, be sure to use the code word “NUI” for a 40% discount off your first treatment.


For your next exotic costume, please check out Mackenzie Day Costuming at the Coal Shed Studios on Mare Island. Mackenzie is a creative artist extraordinaire and can create the finest of costumes even beyond your imagination. No idea or fabric is out of reach for Mackenzie. Take her your idea, and she will create it for you with spirit, love and enjoyment.


And don’t forget to look for the Dollar General store on the corner of Tuolumne and Tennessee Streets, word has it that they will open within the next two months. I know, I know, not yet another discount or dollar store, but this one promises to be very different. Trader Joes’ mucky-,mucks say that the Vallejo population profile does not house enough Master’s Degrees in the to make it worth their while to set up shop in town. So check into Sonoma State through Vallejo’s Solano College division out on Columbus Parkway, or ask around out at Touro University and see if you can’t start working on that Master’s Degree; whatever it takes to bring Trader Joes here, right? Until then, Dollar General it is.


The first ever Northern California Sears Appliance Showroom opened near Target in mid-December. “From the beginning, the Vallejo store has been the most difficult store I have ever opened, mainly due to Vallejo planning and permits,” said Regional Mgr. Javier, “and I have opened stores up and down the coast from Northern Oregon to Southern California.” Heads up on that one Mr. City Mgr. Dan Keen. On a positive note, the Regional Mgr. does say that it is already one of the top producing West Coast stores. Way to go, Vallejo! The sad news? Since the appliances are off loaded in Benicia, Benicia gets all of the sales tax. Isn’t that a crock of (insert expletive here). “That is the law,” says on-site assistant manager, George, “look it up.”

Finally, be sure to stop in to visit the ‘Urban Jungle Buddies’ with owner Earl Stevens at 627 Marin St. for an eclectic review of interesting art.



I have already told John Riley that I have made my final decision, and despite what was said on the campaign, I will not agree to put ‘Binding Arbitration’ on the ballot,” said a recently elected, JumpStart supported City Council member. After all the money the unions poured into the campaign, these officials had better have another think a comin’. And yet another newly elected councilmember said that they “know there is more money in the Vallejo budget for the police.” Maybe we should shut down Public Works as once suggested by Erin Hannigan to find the money. Really? One of the current sitting council members said that they would like to give that one a pail and a shovel and send the newly elected thinker out to the shores on Mare Island to begin digging. Stop guessing. It was not Katy Miessner. Katy, possibly more than anyone else on the current council, has been following the city’s budget closely for many years. She, above all, really gets the financial picture.



We last reported that Monica Tipton, thank goodness, will run for Vallejo School Board, but we need more people to step up to the plate. When recently asked, School Board Member Adrienne Waterman stated: “I am still on the fence still; it is truly a thankless job, and I have many family concerns right now.” Adrienne was extremely popular with the progressive voting voices when she first ran for office four years ago. She is only one voice out of five board members. We truly would need progressive, intelligent support to help make significant changes in Vallejo schools. Please lobby your qualified friends to run for School Board. Remember that diversity is a key factor (next to intelligence and independence), and a school district upgrade is also key to making positive changes ( and increasing Vallejo property values). We should also be carefully considering a lobby for term limits on that board. Witness: Hazel Wilson who’s been there a long time now!!!



Word on the Street finds that newly elected Planning Commissioner Karima Karah has it in the back of her mind to run for the City Council. Do with that what you will, but watch her closely on Channel 28 during the Planning Commission television replays. And a new female Provost, former Las Vegas Congresswoman Kelly Berkley, is in place at Touro University. And as you have heard, Cal Maritime Academy (aka Cal Vallejo) have bought one of our less than desirable motels, The Vallejo Inn and are in the process of greatly expanding their sports facilities.


Jim Kern of the Vallejo Naval & Historical Museum was just given kudos for twenty-five years of service as the museum’s director. Also recently elected to the museum board were Kathy Hoffman (former rep for Congressman George Miller) and Tony Pearsall (former member of Vallejo City Council). They bring much experience and many contacts to the table. And one final note, Councilmember Bob Sampayan was named Vice Mayor of the Vallejo City Council after a slighty controversial discrepancy which will forever never more pass our lips. Congrats Councilmember Sampayan – way to go! Who loves ya baby?


The Bayard Rustin Democratic Club (BRC) is well underway. Since their first meeting at Vallejo’s Goudeau Art Gallery, they have held two subsequent meetings, one in Fairfield, and one in Napa. The goal is to incorporate as many people in both Solano and Napa counties as possible. The second meeting hosted a mere thirty-five people in Fairfield. Prez Craig Scott is doing a good job. One of the speakers was Napa Planning Commissioner Matt Pope who is currently working with Senator Noreen Evans. Pope is running for office on the Democratic ticket for State Assembly. He has a background in Security Management and was even a sworn reserve police officer for the City of Fremont. Pope not only has the support of Evans, but Mariko Yamada as well. You will hear a lot more from him particularly in the Napa county and Santa Rosa areas. By his own admission, he must work hard to appeal to the voters of these regions who historically tend to vote conservatively. At the most recent BRC meeting, Derek Cressman announced his intent to run for Secretary of State. He lobbied hard for campaign finance/spending reform and more open government as well as upgrading the voter’s guides so that all voters can be more fully informed. These are issues we can all appreciate, but sadly, it will still take big bucks for him to win to begin these reforms. The BRC will soon hold meetings in Vallejo at the Episcopal Ascension Church on Tuolumne. The Rector there has offered space to the newly formed group. Boy Bonilla sure groveled, am I right?



And the Vallejo General Plan is finally going to be revised after many years. Looks like it will take some three plus years to develop! There are supposed to be fifteen members from the community involved in the work. We’ll see how many remain by the end. On their kick-off meeting, Planning Commissioner Jim Scoggin, liaison to the commission weighed in on the telephone. What’s up with that?? Overall it is in excellent hands with such people as Marion Swanson, Nathan Stout, Tony Adams , Patricia Gatz and Jimmy Genn as committee members. Planning Commissioner Tony Adams is on board and was appointed as Chairperson with the extremely capable Patricia Gatz as Vice Chairperson. Trust that we are in very good hands with these players. “I am so excited to be able to work on the General Plan, I can’t wait to get started,” said devoted community member Jimmy Genn. As you know, the General Plan is a city planning document relating to land and development use among other things. Heaven knows we need help there! There was little planning, for example, when Sonoma Blvd. was created with buildings right up to the lot line practically encroaching the sidewalks. Gheez.


Vallejo Activist Ann Carr recently railed against the City for having some of the highest salaries for city employees in the entire state of California. What say ye about that Mr. City Manager Dan Keen? Apparently, the Vallejo Planning Department which oversees the General Plan Committee is planning a few surveys to obtain more public input. So watch for that. It’s important we all weigh in on it.



Chris Vardijan of the Hub Artists on the corner of Georgia Street and Marin streets, took the name of his wife Katy. “There was nothing more boring than Chris Barnes so I took Katy’s name,” says Chris. What a guy!

He recently announced that the downtown artists will be hosting an Art Walk the second Friday of each month. Over fourteen artists (and counting) will be participating. And the Townhouse Bar held their first art show a few weeks back. Several artists showed their work including Erin Bakke and the very talented Rich Adams who is not only an impressive artist, but a formidable guitarist as well. When complimented, Adams, in typical artistic fashion, gave me the ‘Aw shucks’ routine. But, truly, Mr. Rich Adams, you are an artist in many senses of the word. OWN IT!! Mark, the Townhouse manager, tells us that they will hold art shows on the last Friday of each month starting in February, so peek in and support our artists. And speaking of The Hub, they are now sponsoring classes on Saturdays. On February 15th they will be featuring a Beer/Cider brewing class. BTW, did you know that one of our very high end Vallejo city officials makes beer in his garage? Yep, no foolin’. We leave it to your imagination to guess who that might be. And speaking of beer, who is winning the battle over the name Mare Island Brewery?



Don’t forget the annual Flyway Festival set to open with the annual art reception on Friday, February 7th on Mare Island @ 5p.m. at 500 Connolly Street, Bldg. 223. Many talented artists will exhibit including Vallejo’s own Pearl Tranter and Gary Cullen with the talented Mare Island Coal Shed artist Sally Evans as Curator. Word has it that Vallejo’s talented award-winning photographer Rick Mariani will be the judge for the photography division. The Mare Island Preserve (drive down Azuar past Touro) will remain open also from 7pm to 9pm that same evening with an open microphone night. So pack up your guitar and come on down. Libations and goodies will be available. Organizer and activist and event creator Myrna Hayes works laboriously every year to make it an astounding weekend event. A wild life expo will be open both Saturday and Sunday (2/8-2/9) from 9am to 4pm with plenty of other outdoor activities throughout the weekend. Literally thousands of bird watchers come from around the world to tour the area and watch the bird migration systems. For more details info go to

The FlyWay Festival is hosted by the Mare Island Heritage Trust.


Stay tuned for Vallejoan Frank Malifrando’s roster of upcoming downtown events. Frank is talking about bringing us a ‘Senior Sneaker Day’, a bicycle run day, a spring fling festival and more. He even recently scored an article about Vallejo in an architectural restoration magazine. Why Frank is so talented that even the Vallejo (White) Chamber of Commerce recognized his Mad Hatter parade concept with an award at their recent annual board installation out at Dan Foley Park. Question of the week: Has there ever been anyone on the Caucasian Chamber of Commerce board who has never benefited from the city coffers of dear old Vallejo? And is it not ridiculous that in this day and age we still have segregated Chambers of Commerce?


MAKE A DIFFERENCE…. The downtown Main Street Association is looking for new members who are willing to work to make a difference. They meet once a month; they wish to create more fundraising efforts and public awareness activities. So saddle up and come on down to check out the board.


ODDS AND ENDS and final endings...

Sadly, we announce with a heavy heart that downtown Vallejo artist Rick Tringali finally succumbed to his illness over the holidays. He will be sorrowfully missed. He contributed many volunteer hours in making Vallejo a better place. And a big shout out to Joe Blaney of Lincoln Loan who routed a hold up at his shop recently. Former boxer and current octogenarian Irish Joe fought off his dastardly attacker who ran away with little gain. The cops insisted that Blaney be checked at the hospital, but he ran back to his shop and resumed business that day as usual. “Joe is my hero,” said Fred Menard. Antique dealer and realtor Lilly Bennett was mugged by three teen and twenty something thugs on Tennessee Street recently. They stole her purse, but thank goodness she was not hurt too badly because the good folks at the Newcomb Locksmith shop saw the action and came to her rescue by scaring off the perps. Vallejo. Sadly Vallejo said good-bye to one of her champions. Sergio Pelayo who was killed crossing the street to the bank. He loved Vallejo and the person who hit him does not realize our great loss. And who says Vallejoans do not have ‘true grit’? Lastly, Vallejo said good-bye to former Councilmember Marti Brown who recently moved to Sacramento. But word is that she is in the process of creating a Political Pac here. Hmmm. Maybe it's not goodbye after all.


Note: All opinions expressed in the "Word on the Street" column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Vallejo Independent Bulletin.

Correction 1/28 - Shelley Berkley is at Touro University not CMA as previously stated. You caught me Dah-ling, and thanks for the correction!