Wednesday, January 18, 2012

2012-01-18 "Three women create conversation venue in Vallejo neighborhood as a crime deterrent" by Rachel Raskin-Zrihen from "Vallejo Times Herald"
The idea behind St. Vinnie's Culture Club is to create light, life and a great, big, open eye onto the streets to discourage crime, organizers said.
The corner of Marin and Florida streets in central Vallejo, where the club is located, has been a haven for prostitution for a long while, landscape contractor and club co-founder Sarah Nichols said.
About a year ago, Nichols, along with artist and business woman B.J. Conrad and art gallery owner Jeanette McCree Goudeau, conceived of the idea of offering the front part of the gallery at 930 Marin St. as a meeting/party venue and afternoon hangout. Named for the federally recognized historic St. Vincent's Hill district it borders, St. Vinnie's Culture Club is already attracting daily visitors, Nichols and recent visitors Maureen and Bill Moore said. The club's been open about a week, Nichols said.
"Sarah got sick, so it was put on hold," Conrad said. "She's the driving force."
The women want to "see the corner get very dynamic and have more people coming out, and having a good social experience," Conrad said. "We're hearing about possible poetry readings and some musicians are talking about playing here. Maybe some political stuff, sharing ideas, thoughts, concepts. We're looking at having it be a lively place."
Recent club visitor Maureen Moore said she thinks, "this is going to be great. It's a nice place and just what the neighborhood needs."
First-time visitor, musician Leo Cavanagh agreed, saying,"if Sarah's involved, it must be great."
Nichols said that unlike area cafés that have come and gone, like Booklover's Haven, Listen and Be Heard and Mel's Roast, St. Vinnie's Culture Club will survive because it's being sponsored by Nichols' Solano Advocates Green Environments (S.A.G.E.) and staffed entirely by volunteers.
"It began with the terrible prostitution problem we've been having along Marin Street from Tennessee Street to Georgia Street," Nichols said. "They were there all day and all night. They were coming from out of town because they knew no one was going to bother them about it."
Conrad, McCree Goudeau and Nichols said they figured that the more people and activity at that corner, the less likely that prostitutes and other criminals will gravitate there.
"We had more than 50 people at a Thanksgiving dinner here, and we had a wonderful after New Year's party," Nichols said. "And, we're open Monday through Friday from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., basically tea time."
Not wanting to create competition for existing cafés, the club opens after Java Jax closes and is closed Saturday mornings to avoid interfering with Moschetti's Coffee's weekly coffee tastings, Nichols said. The club offers Moschetti's coffee, loose-leaf tea and bottled water for $1 each. A $5 club card entitles its owner to six beverages. Artists can display their work at the club in exchange for hosting once a week during their month-long exhibit, she said.
"We hope to be successful enough to encourage the owners of some of these empty buildings down here to find tenants, and this will revitalize the neighborhood," Nichols said. "We hope to break even, but if, by some off-chance, we make money, that will go to help beautify the neighborhood."
For information, call (707) 649-0996.

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