Scoop: New team brought on to help renovate the National and Holbrooke hotels

Acme Hospitality managing partner Sherry Villanueva (Photo credit: Paul Wellman, Santa Barbara Independent)

Editor’s note: This article was updated on 2/4 with an official press release. I posted it in the comments section of this article.

Acme Hospitality, a seasoned food-and-beverage operator that helped create a burgeoning food, wine and art district in Santa Barbara, has been brought onboard to help with the renovation of the National and Holbrooke hotels, Sierra Foothills Report has learned.

“Both projects are making great progress,” said Sherry Villanueva, co-owner and managing partner at Acme Hospitality, in an interview. The hospitality firm owns seven restaurants and a hotel in Santa Barbara, she said.

Designer Jordan Fife is expected to continue scouting out hotels that would be well suited to acquisition and refurbishment, as he did with the National in Nevada City and Holbrooke in Grass Valley, Villanueva said.

“Jordan made some amazing contributions,” she said. “He had a vision that was driven by a love for these properties. He identified them and helped gather them up.”

She continued: “Eastern Real Estate needed an operator that could look at the operational flow of these properties. We have a proven track record and only the best intentions.” Eastern Real Estate, with offices in Boston and Santa Barbara, had collaborated with Fife on the National and Holbrooke.

Villanueva promised “my priority is to get the renovations done as quickly as possible,” working in concert with the cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City building departments and local contractors and tradespeople.

She was reluctant to provide a specific time for reopening the National, however. The Holbrooke will close in mid-February, as first reported on Sierra Foothills Report. “We tried to keep it open as long as possible. There is extensive plumbing and electrical work.”

The owners are sensitive to the Holbrooke’s claim as the “oldest continually operating” saloon in the West, so pop-up events are planned, she said.

Acme’s background

Acme Hospitality has won praise for its projects. The Santa Barbara arts district, affectionately known as the Funk Zone, is “the work of prolific Santa Barbara restaurant group Acme Hospitality,” according to L.A. Eater.

“They’re the ones behind popular places like the Lark, Lucky Penny, casual Spanish mainstay Loquita, and more than a few other wine and bakery tenants across the Funk Zone.

“Add in plans for Modern Times to grow a big new brewery and restaurant compound not far away, plus Phillip Frankland Lee’s projects at the Montecito Inn, and suddenly the Central Coast is looking busier than ever.”

Added the San Jose Mercury News: “The Funk Zone nestles up on the east side of State Street, between the ocean and Highway 101, offering an ever-evolving array of ways to eat, drink and play among converted warehouses that now house boutique wineries, taprooms and al fresco dining spots.”

Beyond work, Villanueva has made philanthropy a priority, according to She volunteers on several nonprofit boards and takes service trips around the world with her family.

Her husband and two daughters have completed over 30 service trips together to places in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Bolivia and Zambia.  Villanueva graduated from UC Berkeley in 1984.

The Streets of Nevada City

IMG_3910First some pinheads on the Nevada City Council refused to reimburse race organizers for the Amgen Tour of California. (Joining other residents, we rallied and donated $250 to help out; what else are you going to do? Stiff the hard-working race organizers, like the city did?)

Then there’s the 800-square-foot “granny” (AKA more like a home) that was being erected without a public hearing within about 10 feet of a poor neighbor’s house without input. And while the process isn’t right, it’s “legal,” we’re firmly told. I suspect it will require a lot of plantings to block that “view.” “Gee, thanks for nothing!”

Now welcome to the streets of Nevada City, where the crepe myrtles are in bloom — but the streets have been ripped apart for months, thanks to a new water main and a new gas line from PG&E — all at the same time. It’s a big mess.

We joke about the “temporary no parking” signs that, in fact, are dated from 5/8 to 8/31. PG&E now thinks it will last until September. There’s loose asphalt all over the street.

Come visit if you dare, but it’s going to be dusty and dirty — just like the old west. That “new” street cleaner is nowhere to be seen.

The piles of rocks, rebar and debris would make a trip down the street unfit for a baby carriage, let alone riders in the Amgen Tour of California.

Our neighbors are all joking about “Quanitytown.” LOL.

A walking Christmas tree in Nevada City that rivals Stanford’s

10806200_993070404041674_234356372884493112_nFrom the blog of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine:

The Stanford Tree is the Stanford Band’s mascot and the unofficial mascot of Stanford University. The Tree’s costume, newly created each year, is a prominent target for pranksters from rival schools, in particular Cal Berkeley.

Nestled in the Sierra foothills, Nevada City has its own tradition of a walking tree. In this case, the Walking Christmas Tree is a longtime tradition at Victorian Christmas.  This annual, family tradition takes place December 10, 14, 17 and 21, 2014, and features carriage rides, live entertainment, yuletide treats,  libations and Father Christmas.

The walking tree wanders up and down Broad Street greeting guests. “People joke that this is a happier tree than the Stanford tree,” says Cindy Moon, a Nevada City Chamber Commerce volunteer who is the current “Christmas Tree Lady.”

The handmade tree is a work of art, made of green satin, fleece, a hoop skirt and adorned with lights, ornaments and bells. The tree took about 40 hours to create.  Nevada City’s “Christmas Tree Lady” hands out candy canes to visitors. “The adults mob me more than the children,” Cindy jokes.

(Photo: Jeanne Duerst)

Reinette Senum’s Kickstarter campaign for a film “They Call Me Fruitcake”

cb3e42634fd94e7d86a5e58cc3cc381b_largeReinette Senum — our local adventuring storyteller, filmmaker, writer, community activist, and former city council member and mayor — has launched a $30,000 “Kickstarter” campaign to fund a film about her becoming the first woman to cross Alaska alone, and the inspiring family connections and revelations that followed.

Our family has seen Reinette’s one-women show documenting her walk across Alaska at the Nevada Theatre, and our son, along with the rest of us, thoroughly enjoyed it. As a result, we happily donated $100 to the filmmaking venture this morning. The hope is that that this DVD can be used by schools, organizations, and the public at-large

We also have appreciated Reinette’s pioneering effort to launch the Nevada City Farmers Market, the annual farm-to-table banquet and the Boardwalk — all of which has added vibrancy to lower Commercial Street. It has led to gatherings such as First Friday Artwalk. Reinette also helped inspire the Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co.  She is a hard-working community volunteer.

These are nonpartisan endeavors. We need to support the diversity in our community.

They Call Me Fruitcake is an inspiring true story about unparalleled self-discovery 120 years in the making, spanning the last frontier, transcending generations, and revealing an epic twist of fate and the legacy it left behind,” according to Reinette’s Kickstarter campaign.

“Humorous and compelling in its telling, They Call Me Fruitcake is the true story of Reinette Senum whose search for answers about the meaning behind her wandering life leads her to the Alaskan wilderness in 1994. Traveling over 1,500 miles and hauling a sled weighing 160 pounds with rescued sled dog, Diamond, this 27 year-old self-made adventurer battles sub-freezing temperatures, exhaustion and the vast loneliness of the Alaskan wild.”

Why is the film titled “They Call Me Fruitcake”? “When Reinette announced to the Steven Village elders that she had decided to continue her journey in a her own hand-built Athabascan style canoe – they swiftly changed her name to Fruitcake — hence the title of this film and a turning point in Reinette’s life.”

The link to a video is here: (The photo below is static but it shows Reinette’s pioneering spirit). Good luck!

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 8.49.42 AM

An Aqua Velva man

CABPRO founder and former Nevada County Supervisor Todd Juvinall recently reported on his blog that he and a “gal pal” visited Doug LaMalfa’s rice farm in Richland for a political fundraiser. “We made the rounds … the tri-tip was so tender!” he reported, adding “I got this picture at the beginning of the evening and before he was shaking all those hands.” Urban dictionary defines a “gal pal” as a “guy who hangs around with all the girls.” It got me thinking that Todd is one of those “Aqua Velva” men.

(Credit: Todd Juvinall's blog)
Todd and Doug down on the rice farm (Credit: Todd Juvinall’s blog)

Will proposed “lifestyle center” @ Dorsey Interchange cannibalize our historic downtowns?

b1a02e92-63c1-4b99-a52e-1e97fc0481d4Editor’s note: The new mall proposed at the Dorsey Drive Interchange has been likened to the Fountains at Roseville — the Sacramento region’s first “lifestyle center” that opened in 2008.  At the CDR meeting in Grass Valley this week, the word “destination” was used again  for the proposed mall — a place where people and families could hang out for five hours or so, shopping, dining, watching movies and the like. 

A lifestyle center — a term coined in the late ’80s by Memphis developers — is a shopping center or mixed-used commercial development that combines the traditional retail functions of a shopping mall with leisure amenities oriented towards upscale consumers. 

The Fountains was “designed as a destination for shoppers to relax, shop and have fun from daybreak to sundown.”  It includes holiday events, summer concerts, wine walks and more — just like a downtown. It is anchored by Whole Foods Market, restaurants and speciality shops.

The Dorsey Interchange mall could include an expanded BriarPatch Market and multi-plex Sierra Cinemas, among other tenants, according to my sources. No decision has been made, however. A big-box store is expected to be included in the mix, though not an anchor tenant, as in a traditional mall.

There is an ongoing debate across America about whether these so-called lifestyle malls are cannibalizing historic downtowns.

In our case, we have to ask if our community’s population is big enough to support historic Grass Valley and Nevada City, as well as a new “lifestyle center.” New housing at Loma Rica — part of the long-term plan, I suspect — could add to the population base. But whether the people will come here to make the plan “pan out” remains an open question. It’s a gamble on our community’s future, and we need to begin thinking more deeply about it. It also will test the vibrancy of our downtowns as “destinations.” We need real leadership too, not people thinking in “silos.”

Here’s an article from National Trust Main Street Center (a group that is focused on preserving historic downtowns) titled “From Main Street: Will Lifestyle Centers replace Downtown?” Grass Valley is a member of the Main Street Program.

“Lifestyle centers — a new open-air retail format smaller than a regional mall and often unanchored by traditional department stores — are developers’ response to a changing retail landscape. These centers cater to the specialty retailers, restaurants, and service chains that continue to add new store locations. The open-air format, design and amenities, and concentration of entertainment uses seek to create a more exciting environment to attract customers.

“Interestingly, developers of lifestyle centers looked to traditional downtowns as an inspiration in creating the new format. For example:

800px-Shopsatfriendly“•Buildings are often made to look like multiple storefronts that have evolved over time.

“•Shops open directly to the sidewalk. Cars have even been introduced into the center with streets and parking.

“•The center will usually have entertainment uses, such as theaters and fitness centers. Residential or office uses may also be incorporated into the mix.

“The format also gives mall operators an advantage over traditional downtowns in that, as private property, they are able to better regulate many of the issues that present challenges for downtown programs, such as:

“•Location. A lifestyle center, as a new creation, can be located in the best place relative to population and transportation networks.

“•New design. Designed from scratch, it can also create a pattern of uses, circulation, common spaces, and parking that addresses the desires of tenants and customers alike.

“•Ownership. Owning the properties allows operators to approve or disapprove of potential tenants, determine where they can locate in the center, regulate facades and signs, and establish policies for hours of operation.

“•Available resources. Tenant fees, paid by all, go toward providing security, maintaining common areas, and promoting the center, without the need for a member-based organization or business improvement district.

“But do lifestyle centers really succeed in recreating the experience of a true downtown? While there are some very good examples of lifestyle malls as ‘new town centers,’ the majority fall short in their design, more closely resembling the open air malls that were built until enclosed malls became the norm in the 1960s.

“Even the best of the centers, though, still miss the mark in a few key areas. Despite their design appeal, lifestyle malls are filled with the same shops selling the same merchandise and the same restaurants with the same food as every other mall in America. Although safe and clean, they may also appear a bit sterile.

“A close look at the buildings reveals them to be large structures with tacked-on facades, rather than individual structures with their own history. In fact, it is history that is missing from the picture. A true downtown has a patina, a unique feel, a randomness that can’t be duplicated.

“Downtowns will not compete by trying to be like lifestyle centers, even though there are lessons to be learned from their design and management practices.

“Instead, downtowns will succeed based on their ability to differentiate themselves from the homogeneous aspects of these malls. They will build on their history, promote their unique shops and restaurants, incorporate residential and employment uses, provide flexibility in design, and celebrate the quirks, scars, and oddities that have appeared over time.

The full article is here.

Scoop: Ol’ Republic Brewery of Nevada City to quadruple production, begin bottling in major expansion

ol-republic-matteos-1Barely just a year old, the ol’ Republic Brewery in Nevada City has won approval for a major expansion that will quadruple its production and clear the way for it to begin selling bottled beer within three months, Sierra Foothills Report has learned.

The expansion is the latest example of the boom in craft beer and other artisan-food businesses in the Sierra foothills — from crusty bread at The Baker and the Cakemaker in Auburn to chocolate at Nevada City’s Cello Chocolates to dry-cured meats at the Smokey Ridge Charcuterie in Placerville.

Ol’ Republic’s growth spurt shows the potential for entrepreneurship and economic diversification in our region — typically dominated by construction and real estate. It shows the potential for local policy-making that nurtures and supports small businesses.

Ol’ Republic’s expansion will occur in the Seven Hills business district of Nevada City where the existing brewery is located, a coup for the historic town. Ol’ Republic worked with landlord and longtime resident Lance Amaral to secure the space, and received its approvals from the city and county.

The brewery will add 4,000 square feet of space behind Nevada City Furniture and Mattress to the existing 3,200 square feet of space — more than doubling its size — co-founder and co-owner Jim Harte told Sierra Foothills Report.

Annual production will quadruple to 2,000 barrels a year from 500 barrels a year, Harte said. “We’ll be able to blanket the area from Lake Tahoe to Sacramento,” with ol’ Republic Beer, he added.

The beer is now sold at ol’ Republic’s taproom at 124 Argall Way, as well as some local restaurants, such as Matteo’s Public in downtown Nevada City. The taproom has become a popular gathering spot for beer, music and catered food. Or guests can BYOF (bring your own food).

At the start, the bottled beer, in 22- or 24-ounce bottles, is expected to be sold at SPD Market in Nevada City and Grass Valley and the Station House on East Main Street in Grass Valley, Harte said.

About three types of ol’ Republic’s beers will be bottled for the rollout. The brewery is in the process of refining its labels.

Ol’ Republic will still sell its beer in kegs and growlers. But the bottled beer — released in smaller quantities at first — will be well suited to locals and visitors alike.

Visitors can grab a bottle of locally made beer at SPD and include it with their picnic basket for an outing.

Ol’ Republic Bewery opened its doors in February 2012. Brewers Harte and partner Simon Olney handcraft their lagers. Examples include a Dortmunder Export, a Helles and their version of a California Common. Their ales include an English-style IPA, a Celtic Red and the blackest Export Stout.

Harte called this expansion “phase two” of the ol’ Republic brewery, whose launch was first reported here in March 2011. A “phase three” could include expansion to 8,000 to 15,000 barrels annually, expanding beyond the Interstate 80 corridor, he said.

(photo credit: Tom Dalldorf and Celebrator Beer News)