Looking back: Parkwest Casino Lotus owner John Park and his design team spent 18 months envisioning a first-class casino to replace the old Silver Fox card room on Stockton Boulevard. The gleaming Parkwest Casino Lotus was that dream realized. Opened in 2017, the 16,000 square-foot Lotus boasts 17 card tables plus a full bar and restaurant. Vietnamese-centric, the resort-style card room is beautifully aesthetic and pristine. Suspended above the main floor is a spectacular, one-of-a-kind fabric and crystal chandelier, and Vietnamese artwork adorns the walls.
All of this is still true today, but much has changed since COVID-19 came knocking.
And now: Like other businesses in the wave of the pandemic, Parkwest Casino Lotus went dark in March 2020. John Park went into overdrive to investigate all of the questions and answers related to COVID-19 safety requirements. A team of attorneys and government relations helped develop a plan to reopen. It took many months of research to produce the resulting 45-page document.
Building a new safe outdoor gaming and dining area, Lotus reopened on August 27, 2020, with the approval of state, county, and city agencies. The transformation is nothing short of brilliant, and they are committed to operating with the highest standards to ensure the health and well-being of their customers, staff, and community. The outdoor smoke-free gaming area is 5,500 square feet and features the same popular table games EZ Baccarat, Pai Gow Poker, Blackjack X, Three-Card Poker, and Pai Gow Tiles. For games where the patrons touch the cards, the cards are removed from the table and replaced at least once every four hours. Where the players do not touch the cards, the cards are removed from the table and replaced every eight hours. Once the cards have been removed from the table, they are either destroyed or sanitized using a specific card cleaning solution that has been approved by the EPA to be effective against the Corona virus.
Security at the one entrance is courteous and well-organized. Masks are mandatory for all patrons and staff, and temperatures are taken with an FDA medical grade thermal infrared system with thermal imaging for accurate detection of temperatures. Every staff member is provided with high-quality face masks and nitrile gloves. Stringent guidelines are followed for sanitizing tables, chairs, tiles, and restrooms – cleaning is logged every hour. When changing dealers, the new dealers wipe down everything. Air purifier systems were installed. Plexiglas dividers were inserted between dealers and patrons on all gaming tables. Social distancing is encouraged and practiced. Patrons have been very complimentary and send their thanks to John Park.
Currently serving outdoor gaming patrons and guests, the alfresco restaurant serves American and authentic Asian cuisine. The casino and dining area is normally open 24/7, but under California’s statewide curfew in effect from November 21 to December 21, the cardroom will be open 5am to 10pm. Cocktails are available only with food orders. Patrons are allowed to take drinks into the gaming area but must be wearing their masks at all times. They may pull their mask down while taking a sip of the drink but must put the mask back over their mouth and nose immediately after taking a sip.
Preparing for colder temperatures, propane heaters sit outside the card room pumping warm air into the tent. Cashiers and restrooms are available indoors. Indoors all safety precautions are in place and ready for the day COVID restrictions are lifted and allow indoor gaming to resume.
Truly a family affair, Bobby Phong inherited Phở Xe Lua from his uncle and aunt, Charlie and Michelle Phong. His father and mother, Michael and Anh Phong, were the guiding lights when the restaurant opened in 2007. Bobby has helped his family in other restaurants ventures over the last 40 years starting out as a dishwasher. He shared in the many responsibilities when opening Phở Xe Lua including serving and cooking.
“When you own a business, you do everything from A to Z so I’m very hands-on,” said Bobby.
In July 2019, Bobby took over Phở Xe Lua and enlisted his wife, Tina. Bobby, the Executive Chef, had cooked his entire life so the transition was seamless for the couple and staff. Yet, they had no idea of the challenges that lay ahead.
When announced in March 2020 that businesses had to shut down due to Covid-19, Tina and Bobby regrouped and decided to sell everything they already had in stock and close operations. By the first weekend, they were so busy with takeout orders that they scrapped that decision and stayed open. When the option to open for in-house dining came around, they kept to takeout only.
"The regulars were so happy we never closed. Fifty percent of our business is still walk-in and phone orders; the rest is 'tablet' online delivery services. Essential workers from the UC Davis Medical Center early-on were so thankful we were open. We should stay open for these people, they need us!” Bobby said.
“We decided not to open in-house dining because we didn’t want to jeopardize the health of our employees or customers. Following all the guidelines were difficult for our type of cuisine due to the number of condiments we provide and the disposable utensil requirement wasn’t feasible. Another concern was the pent-up demand for in-house dining. We would be too busy and that would cause larger numbers of people to congregate. Staying safe is our first priority. We owe it to our family and community,” said the couple.
The downside is that some of the longtime wait-staff had to be furloughed but they were able to keep most of the kitchen staff with fewer hours. They have Door Dash, Postmates, and GrubHub delivery services which allow access to customers during this time. This meant raising prices to compensate for the delivery fees. Thinking creatively, Tina and Bobby started their own website for just pick-up orders; those prices remained the same.
"Because we aren’t serving people in the restaurant we have the time to re-evaluate things we could not have done before. For example, we redesigned the menu and added a staple dish in Vietnamese cuisine – Bún Riêu, crab meatball vermicelli noodle soup. We also created new drinks and purchased a sealing machine to mitigate tampering with delivery drivers."
Tina reflected, "I miss people -- wondering and worrying about what happened to our regular customers -- and the hustle and bustle, but we appreciate the break. Friday through Sunday is still busy but less than what we used to do. We are happy and feel blessed that we still have customers and the support of the community."
Phở Xe Lua is still open for delivery and takeout but has reduced their hours from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Please place your orders by 8:15 p.m. They have been open throughout the Covid-19 crisis for takeout or delivery. They are not offering sit-down dining inside or out yet. The entire staff wears masks and/or face shields along with gloves. They require masks, so please be sure to put one on before entering. They have Plexiglas installed at the register when you pay to pick-up your order.
Side note: Celebrated Sacramento chef and author Mai Pham opened Lemon Grass Restaurant, Sacramento’s first full-service and high-end Vietnamese restaurant in 1989. Born in Vietnam and raised in Thailand, Mai was one of the first authoritative voices behind Vietnamese and Thai food in America, a distinction that grew out of her family exodus from Vietnam and her passion to share that experience through food and culture.
“Stockton Boulevard is so convenient. I used to go to Little Saigon quite a bit when my father was alive. It was a Sunday outing for the family for phở or dim sum,” Mai reminisced. “The name ‘phở xe lua’ is endearing as it means ‘train-size pho,’ a code word to phở connoisseurs.”
Thank you so much for being there on one of those painfully hot days. One of our rare "eat out" moments during Covid-19 - we were so happy to see Mariam there behind the counter. We went home with hand-packed pints of salted caramel and vanilla bean - brought miles of smiles and lovingly enjoyed that evening on fresh baked peach cobbler.They carry delicious Gunther's Ice Cream - a Sacramento tradition for many decades. Thank you Long Island Ice Cream for being there for the long haul in the neighborhood on the Boulevard. This wasn't our first tasty foray and it won't be our last.
Don't miss out on all of the deliciously prepared ice cream delights and cupcakes! Custom crafted milkshakes and smoothies, too! Oh, yes, made to order coffee drinks - every cup freshly brewed featuring (take your pick) Pete's, Starbucks, and the very local, Temple Coffee. It's all perfection and about keeping you happy and coming back for more.
When you walk the #shoplocal #shopsmall #supportyoursmallbusiness talk you should know that Ken, the owner, born, raised, and living in Oak Park.
In an effort to keep our community, visitors, farmers and wineries safe, the Sierra Oro Farm Trail is pivoting to a virtual effort this year with deliciously creative options in place. Instead of in-person visits, direct-order tasting boxes from farms and wineries on the trail will be available for delivery or curbside pick-up the first week of October. Boxes will arrive in time to coincide with the virtual farm-to-fork tasting opportunities presented through hosted interactive online tasting videos through a partnership with California State University, Chico’s Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement .
“This year, residents and guests can tour, taste and toast their way through the Sierra Oro Farm Trail without leaving their homes,” said Nicole Johansson, organizer of the Sierra Oro Farm Trail since 2004. “A purchase of a tasting box supports family farms and wineries and allows everyone to partake in a variety of virtual tasting experiences that keep our ‘meet the farmer’ experience alive for loyal trail goers.”
California State University, Chico’s Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement, a 16-year partner in the Sierra Oro Farm Trail’s signature passport weekend, is inviting parents and alumni to celebrate Virtual Alumni and Family Weekend by participating in the tastings and tasting box delivery.
“This is a great way for us to engage parents and alumni in celebrating our local community and college atmosphere while students are distance learning,” said Shari Anderson, director of the University’s Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement. Plans for virtual family weekend can be found here. The site will be updated as plans unfold.
Food, wine and craft beer enthusiasts can order a Sierra Oro Farm Trail tasting box starting August 17, 2020. For less than the price of two passports and a tank of gas (valued at $150), guests can experience a virtual tasting experience by selecting from three tasting options at www.sierraoro.org.
As part of the University’s participation, beef sticks from the California State University, Chico Meats Lab are included in the tasting boxes. The University Farm has also provided peaches from its beloved peach orchard for Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Farm Trail Harvest Baltic Porter.
Virtual tastings will take place to coincide with the items in the tasting box. Interactive videos will run on the University’s GoToMeeting Platform, registration will be required to attend , space is limited. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. will debut Sierra Oro Farm Trail Baltic Porter and a toast to Butte County. Maisie Jane Hurtado, Anders Lundberg, Dave Daley from the University Farm will participate in the video.
Three great choices of boxed Butte County foods, wine, and beer delivered right to your door! My box is already on order and will be ready for pick-up the first week in October. I can't wait! Order #1257 confirmed.
With or without Covid-19, the concept of responsible recreation should come as naturally as breathing. Loving the land. Leaving no trace. Following the rules. Building an inclusive outdoors for all people regardless of race, color, religious, or sexual orientation access to natural resources. It is a human right. Nurturing the soul by thanking Mother Nature for all she has provided - she sets no barriers or borders.
The new #RecreateResponsibly coalition embraces all of these guidelines and more. Seven guidelines, in fact. The guidelines are meant to provide a starting point for getting outside during COVID-19, and as things have evolved in 2020, the guidelines have too. Most importantly, the critical seventh guideline, “Build an Inclusive Outdoors,” recognizing that safety in the outdoors is not just about packing the right gear or bringing a face covering, but ensuring everyone feels safe and welcome.
As we venture more into the great outdoors - urban and rural open spaces, public and private lands - #recreateresponsibly! We have just this one planet that is depending on all of us to help Her survive.
More than 400 organizations have signed onto #RecreateResponsibly. An all volunteer organization, you can join the coalition. Or just adopt and share the guidelines. We all win!
The Public Works Department of the City of Sacramento is planning future transportation improvements on Stockton Boulevard. The two main focuses of this effort are improving traffic safety and mobility. The plan will be adopted by City Council in the summer of 2020. Between then and now, city staff is seeking feedback on how you’d like to move on Stockton Boulevard in the future. With the number of people traveling along or across Stockton Boulevard increasing, and doing so in a fixed amount of space, we’ll need to think differently about transportation.
What is a corridor study?
The study will develop a plan to make changes to the physical street based on research, analysis, and listening to the public – those who use (or avoid) Stockton Boulevard today. The result will be a document that recommends changes to the sidewalks, roadways, and intersections. Often called a Complete Streets plan, a plan like this focuses on the mobility of all modes – pedestrians, transit riders, drivers, and bicyclists.
The project team spent time listening to the community and going to where people are to seek feedback from the community including at Junior Giants games, Colonial Heights Library, bus stops, a local church congregation, Oak Park Farmers Market, and presented at Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall and an Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce events. An online survey in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese saw about 300 responses and interviews were conducted in person and on the phone with 28 more stakeholders.
Neighboring communities – Broadway and Franklin Boulevard – have already concluded their Complete Streets Plans.
“Franklin Boulevard is doing about half the length of what Stockton Boulevard is doing,” said Executive Director Nathan Ulsh, Franklin Boulevard Business Association. “This has been a positive process. You need a strong community voice to get this done and make sure it’s in the best interest of the community. Ultimately it’s about what the community wants and reaching out to them and taking the initiative.”
Why Stockton Boulevard?
Between 2009 and 2018, 266 people lost their lives in crashes on Sacramento streets. To address this public health and community crisis, the City of Sacramento developed and then adopted a Vision Zero Action Plan (2018). Through that effort, staff identified the High Injury Network – 14% of the streets that account for 79% of fatal and severe injury crashes. Further, staff identified the top 5 one-mile segments with the highest rate of fatal and severe injury crashes. Stockton Boulevard has two of the five segments. The project team is focused on improving safety for all roadway users on the former Highway 99.
Many eyes are on Stockton Boulevard with multiple development interests. Aggie Square, the UC Davis expansion, is expected to add jobs and housing units which will certainly have an impact on the corridor. Finding a way to move more people in a fixed amount of space will be central to the Corridor Study recommendations. Sustainable transportation, like transit, walking, and bicycling, must be a convenient and reliable option. City staff is also coordinating with Sacramento Regional Transit staff as they study ways to improve bus service along the corridor by increasing frequency and reliability while decreasing delay along the routes.
How the public responded:
After 292 online survey responses and 358 surveys taken while riding transit along Stockton Boulevard, the project team summarized the following themes:
Corridor Study Timelines and Costs:
The project team is developing three alternatives to share with the public beginning in February 2020 and solicit feedback through an online survey and various public meetings. The feedback will determine a preferred alternative, after which cost estimates and final recommendations will be taken to City Council in the summer for final adoption. Besides basic maintenance and pothole repairs funded by gas tax dollars, the city does not have funding for transportation projects such as this. Therefore, once the plan is adopted, city staff will begin applying for competitive grant funding to design and construct changes. The public can expect to see some low-cost, short-term changes around 2022, with larger projects that will follow years into the future.
Let the Wind Chimes
To hear the most heavenly sounds click on the wind chime images—harmonically tuned aluminum—longer, clearer resonance. I tell you, once you've heard a Grace Note Chime you'll forever recognize these incredible tones. With a long history (more than 25 years), the business was born out of the inspiration and dreams of brothers Jeff and Mark Kile. And a successful history it's been. This talented California duo still creates their magic in the small community of Mariposa California not far from Yosemite National Park in a warehouse along scenic Hwy. 49 and the back roads of California's Gold Country.
The chimes are addictive and have a dedicated following. With prices ranging from $42 to hundreds of dollars, lovers of Grace Note are true fans. You too can own one, two, or more of these fabulous California made wind chimes - lyrical works of art. The chimes are available online and also at the Grace Note facility in Mariposa, California.
Grace Note also practices environmentally safe policies in the making of each and every wind chime. To help safeguard the planet for current and future generations Grace Note:
Recycles 95% or more of total waste
Scraps of aluminum, saw dust, and shavings always recycled
Grace Notes Wind Chimes are designed for a lifetime, not the trash can!
Use only biodegradable soaps and oils for cutting
No Toxic By-Products Produced When Making Wind Chimes
They primarily use post consumer cardboard and paper for shipping
All wind chimes are guaranteed for 10 years and any that are damaged beyond repair will be recycled by Grace Notes.
Buy California-made and California-grown, the job you save may be your own. Lots more great California-made products are coming your way through the Are You That Woman.
Back to Made in U.S.A. 2020 - In 2012, I started Made in the U.S.A. 2012. For 12 months, I bought only Made in the U.S.A. or recycled (second hand) products. Well almost. Some things simply can't be bought secondhand or in the U.S.A. We all know this truth. Anyway, my search and dedication brought some amazing products to my attention. Interesting to look back to see how many of these local and/or small companies are still flourishing. Of course, in this most insane time of "corona" those that were still on the front lines, may soon and sadly be a thing of the past. Unless, of course, we continue to reach out and support their efforts.
When all is said and done, we must change how we live and spend in the U.S.A. This crisis will bring about new manufacturing and creative products out of simple necessity. And, again, when all is said and done we cannot or should not abandon these amazing Americans who have risen above the insanity to makes our lives better and safe!
So today I begin again and commit to Made in the U.S.A. (aka Meet Your Maker) by sharing the first of what I hope are many inspirational stories. If there's a product or company you want to share, please send me the information.
Just two weeks ago we were exploring the wilds of Visit Yolo - much of this included small local businesses. We met and enjoyed an afternoon with the Boone family at the recently opened Patio29 Spirits Company Distillery. We tasted a wide range of products and came away with a bottle of their fabulous Yolo County Craft Vodka. Even then, the jokes were flying about using it to sanitize your hands. The magnitude of Covid-19 hadn't yet hit home.
Fast forward two weeks: March 28, 2020.
Like millions of others, we are "sheltered in place" and watching life unfold through social media. This morning an amazing post from Patio29 Spirits Company brought a smile and an "a-ha moment" to my morning routine! Yes, necessity is the mother of invention! Here's what was posted:
We'll all be wondering where we were - where we had been - before, during, and after the pandemic! I'm thankful to have enjoyed my first stay at the Abbey House Inn, Winters, California, just before everything went crazy and to reflect on the memory. Once the dust settles, I'll be back again to enjoy the warm hospitality. Every detail! Nothing was overlooked. Intimate seating areas throughout the garden and porches. Public spaces were cozy and, yes, just like coming home - especially if you love small-town life! This is not a B&B in the traditional sense - breakfast is not cooked to order. All types of snacks, beverages, cereals, yogurts, jams, jellies, breads, eggs - uncooked and hard boiled - are there for the taking. Dining room or alfresco, it's up to you.
After settling into our room we enjoyed a quiet beer and glass of wine on the front porch. Then the manager, Annette, treated us to a complimentary pedicab tour around town before dropping us off at Hooby's Brewing - the newest brew in town and locally owned and operated by twin sisters Courtney and Jackie - so much of Winter's seems to be a family affair. Again, you'll feel right at home once you arrive. All the best foods, brews, wines and spirits are within walking distance of the Abbey House Inn, a park and walk destination. Or biking, of course!
Under new ownership since 2017, Abbey House Inn has been meticulously decorated and outfitted to address your every need including free WiFi and flat-screen TVs. Pam and Eric Tavenier, the owners, and Annette appreciate my "feels like home" mantra.
We look forward to coming home to Abbey House Inn in the weeks ahead and the rest of our Visit Yolo story! Stay tuned and stay safe says this California omni-local!