From Florida to Georgia

Yesterday afternoon, after I picked up my boys from school, we decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. The Listen & Be Heard office and Listen & Be Heard Poetry Caf?, share the same location at 818 Marin Street in [tag]Downtown Vallejo[/tag], California. Located about halfway between Florida and Marin Streets, we walked in a circle from 818 Marin Street to Georgia Street. Then we crossed [tag]Marin street[/tag] and walked all the way to [tag]Florida Street[/tag], crossed Marin Street again and came back to the caf?. We stopped to talk to some folks along the way, and get an update on what’s happening on Marin Street here in downtown, where small businesses and artists and busy or not-so-busy creating and recreating a hopeful future.

Heading toward Georgia street from Listen & Be Heard Poetry Caf?, we passed the [tag]Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum[/tag] at 734 Marin St. We would have stopped in and asked Janet or Jim what the latest news is around there, but unfortunately, even though the hours posted say they are open until 4:30pm on Tuesdays, it was 4pm and they were closed. I can tell you though, that the Museum Board is looking for some fresh energy, and would welcome you to join them in fundraising and programming activities.

After crossing Virginia Street, right on the corner at 630 Marin Street is a new shop, not yet open called Davidson’s Clocks and Collectibles. The owner, [tag]Marvin Davidson[/tag] was busy getting ready for his opening on Saturday August 19. I asked Marvin why he decided to open his shop in Downtown Vallejo, he told me that he’s been a resident for ten years, and it “seemed like a great place.” He has already been doing business under the auspices of Remember When on Georgia Street. This is the first time he will break out entirely on his own and he appreciates “all the good wishes from people walking by.” His friend Jim Wingfield was there helping him out and told me that his Ska band, [tag]Danny’s House[/tag], will be performing in the (corner of Georgia and Sonoma) parking lot on Wednesday September 20 from 5:30-6:30pm. (That’s before the first set of the band on the second stage on Georgia Street that will be performing in the Wednesday Night Celebrations taking place on Georgia Street between Sonoma Blvd. and Santa Clara Street from 4-8pm.

Right next door to Davidson’s CLocks and Collectibles is a storefront called Dreams, but no one answered the bell when we rang, so I can’t tell you what that’s about except that my boys always want to stop to look at all the little collectibles and antiques in the windows. Likewise for Mneme Gallery, no answer. But here’s something from their website: located at 620 Marin St, our intention is to open a large scale art gallery in the main space within the store (approx 4000 sq ft); however, at the moment, such a venture is simply not sustainable by Vallejo’s economy. In order to keep moving forward, therefore, we are launching a bite sized, low fat, low carb, minimalist edition of the gallery: mneme (storefront) gallery. The storefront exhibition series is curated by Reuben Firmin. The exhibitions are being hosted as a community service, to help bring art into the public life of downtown Vallejo. The exhibitions are located in the storefront (hence the series name), while the main store area is taking shape.

At 612 Marin Street is Vallejo Street Show, named by the owner Joe Heard who also owns Oakland Street Show and the original Frisco Street Show. I asked him why he opened a store in downtown Vallejo and he told me that he bought a house here in Vallejo. To the question “how’s business” he answered it’s “been good for me. We’ve got a following. People come here to buy old rap music that you can’t find at Circuit City or Best Buy. We specialize in bay area musicians and cater to strictly local artists.” I asked him who his most popular artists are. The top three would be [tag]Mac Dre[/tag], [tag]Messy Marv[/tag] and [tag]San Quinn[/tag]. This man is a born entrepreneur I suspect. [tag]Frisco Street Show[/tag] is also a record label, with “tons of cd’s” in its catalog. There’s a new energy drink and other merchandise to be unveiled in the near future. I asked Joe how he gets his business and found that he advertises heavily in industry magazines and gets a fair amount of foot traffic as well. While others may appear to be struggling for customers on Marin Street, business appears to be booming inside Vallejo Street Show.

Crossing to the other side of Marin Street, I thought I might buy some spices at It’s a New Season, but alas it was closed. Chunky Harrigan’s Afro-Cuban Dance and Drum Academy wasn’t open yet either, but presumably would be in a few minutes, since the hours posted for Vallejo are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30pm to 8pm. The large ground level room at 707 Marin Street, was dark and empty. No posters, no activity, no news to tell you there. Kyodo Judo club was also dark, but their hours don’t start until 7pm according to the sign on their door. Bellissimo Home and Class Act, two boutiques, were likewise closed. I guess Tuesday afternoons are slow? I don’t know, but you can always get some coffee or tea on a Tuesday afternoon at [tag]Listen & Be Heard Poetry Caf?[/tag].

As usual, Mr. Ric was sitting outside [tag]Mr. Ric’s Fine Clothing for Men[/tag] at the corner of Virginia Street and Marin Street. I asked him what’s going on and he asked me “when is the groundbreaking? We’re all looking forward to the groundbreaking.” He was referring to Triad’s plans for the parking lot on Virginia Street behind his store, where construction of condos was halted when the construction company backed out of the deal. I had no answer for Mr. Ric, and so far calls to [tag]Triad[/tag] for an update have gone unanswered. Mr. Ric also told me that he has a new tenant planning to open a “boutique” a few doors down, and there is a “new flower arranging shop on Virginia Street.”

At [tag]Adolfo’s Hair Salon[/tag], Adolfo was busy with a customer in his single chair salon/gallery. You can currently see what Adolfo looks like in Pixels of Us, an exhibition at Vallejo Artists’ Guild, in which there is a photograph of him. To see Adolfo’s art you can always stop by his salon. I would venture to say that he has the most creative window on Marin Street. He also has several of his paintings hanging in the salon, and gives a great trim, (I know because I go there myself.)

Across from Listen & Be Heard Poetry Caf? on Marin Street is the old Federal Building, which was the old Post Office, and is currently inhabited by [tag]Vallejo Music Theatre[/tag]. Judith Brown recently relieved herself of duties on the board of Vallejo Community Arts Foundation which is working to launch the Empress Theatre on Virginia Street (no update on that at press time), so that she could devote herself fully to the project of creating a performing arts center in this landmark building they are currently struggling to keep the mortgage paid on. The plan is to pay off the mortgage “so we can move ahead with renovations.” They are hopeful that “the community will get behind us and support our efforts.” If you get inspired by the idea of a true performing arts center, with two theatres, rehearsal spaces, and much more, then perhaps you could support the people laboring to make it real with money or effort. You can call Vallejo Music Theatre at 707-649-2787 to pledge your support, or visit them on-line at http://www.vallejomusictheatre.org.

Things were bustling at the [tag]Police Athletic League[/tag], where several young men, and a tough looking young lady too, were going through their paces getting ready for the 2nd Annual Hot August Fight Night to be held at the Elks Lodge #559 on Saturday August 12 at 5pm. There will be special appearances by Michael Carbajal a 5 times world champion, Tony “The Tiger” Lopez, 3 times world champion, and Andy Nance a world ranked contender. For matchmaking and other information, you can call Leonard Terrazas at the P.A.L. Boxing Club at 707-562-3182.

At the corner of Florida and Marin, at 548 Florida Street, is a new store called [tag]Material Visions[/tag], with some enticing and unique gift objects in its windows. Its owner Nathell Buford has been visible in the last few weeks getting this store ready for you. It is now open Wednesday through Saturday from 12-7pm. If you’re looking for original art, you can start with this store and continue through the rest of this tour with me, which is all about visual art. Crossing Marin Street again, back to the east side, diagonally across from Material Visions is the [tag]Vallejo Artists’ Guild[/tag] at 930 Marin Street. I found boardmember Nell Blackwell inside, who was “trying to get Open Studios covered.” By that she meant having people to cover the gallery located at the guild during the upcoming annual Open Studios. I asked her what the Vallejo Artists’ Guild needs right now, and she replied that “we need people to be on the board and work.” They could use a lawyer, accountant and grantwriter, so if you fit the bill and want to help give Sheila Ryan a call at 707.556.9710.

At 906 Marin Street is the studio of [tag]Robert Gepford[/tag]. He has been there since January and is “almost moved in.” He moved his studio and friendly Siberian Husky Brody, to downtown Vallejo because he wanted to “be able to work and live with other artists and I like the rent.” He said it’s “working out” although he doesn’t get much foot traffic. He mostly sells his metal sculptures at bay area galleries. Next door to Robert is Bill Bloom’s studio, there for the last five months. Bill also wanted to “live as an artist among artists in this area.” He said “I’m finding my way, meeting new people, making new art.” Bill can be found presenting his beautiful one-of-a-kind pottery at the Napa Chef’s Market on Friday nights and on Wednesday nights here in Vallejo during the Wednesday Night Celebrations on Georgia Street.

The next stop is 818 Marin Street, home of Listen & Be Heard, time for a cup of the best coffee in Vallejo, and to write this Letter from the Editor which is now coming to and end. You will find us open on Tuesday afternoons and every other afternoon except Sundays, when we are closed all day. Tony opens the caf? every morning at 7am, and we never close before 5pm. We’re open late on Tuesday nights, when we present comedy, some Thursdays when we have music, Fridays for the Open Mic and Saturdays until midnight when we present Jazz with a poetry intermission.

Wishing each of you Peace and Poetry
martha cinader mims

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