Sights (anything but) unseen

When Maritza and Roshaun Davis met at Sacramento State in their first communication studies class together, they had no idea how profound an impact they would have on the cultural landscape of the capital region.

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Maritza Davis (Unseen Heroes)

The Davises are the founders of Unseen Heroes, the events-marketing company behind some of the region’s biggest celebrations of local culture. Having helped launch and manage everything from local urban markets and art festivals to businesses and major conferences, these heroes are anything but unseen.

Last month, Comstocks Magazine recognized Maritza (’07, Communications) and Roshaun (’08, Journalism) as two of the capital’s top emerging young leaders, and this month they’re expanding their already-extensive portfolio in more ways than ever.

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Roshaun Davis (Unseen Heroes)

Kicking off April 15 at Folsom Boulevard and Power Inn Road, the Unseen Heroes’ latest venture, The Market at Power Inn, will feature the team’s signature blend of local food, art, design, beer, music, and more, transforming an otherwise empty lot into a bustling neighborhood hub for a few hours each Friday. “It was a blank canvas for us,” says Roshaun.

In addition, the company’s popular monthly neighborhood block party – Gather: Oak Park – is adding a second location in Rocklin, and its Midtown Farmers Market, which the Unseen Heroes took over in March 2015, is expanding down the block to accommodate nearly 100 vendors after starting out with a couple of dozen.

“Our intentions are always to build these third spaces so people can come out and connect,” Davis says. “It’s a connection point for people to have and explore and learn more about what’s going on in the region and their district, and then also have this place that they’re proud of as well.”

As the Unseen Heroes team gears up for the launch of The Market at Power Inn, which will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Friday, April through October, take a look at some of the sights from past events:

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Former CAMPers shoot for the green at charity golf tournament

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For two sons of migrant workers, the move to Sacramento for college was a night-and-day change from their small farming community homes: Sacramento State is home to more students than the combined populations of Galt and Esparto, the respective hometowns of David Garcia and Cuahutemoc Vargas, owners and co-founders of the midtown boutique Kulture.

Despite the dramatic change of scenery, Garcia and Vargas found a home away from home on campus in the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), a federally funded scholarship program that helps first-year students from migrant and seasonal farmworker backgrounds transition to and succeed in college.

Years later, the former “CAMPers” are parlaying their successful business into a way to give back to the program that gave them so much.

“Sacramento for other people might not seem that big, but to me it was,” Vargas says. “So CAMP helped me a lot and made it easier. Since they did that for me, why wouldn’t I want to give back to them?”

Since 1981, CAMP has helped thousands of students from migrant families adjust to college life. Each year, the program fosters a family-like environment for a cohort of 70 students and provides assistance with everything from financial aid and housing to tutoring and counseling.

Garcia and Vargas met at Sacramento State through mutual friends at CAMP, connecting with each other and other CAMPers through shared experiences and humor. In 2013 at the urging of friends, the duo launched their own clothing line, Keepin’ It Paisa, and two years later opened Kulture at 1006 24th St.

The store celebrates the Latino migrant experience through clothing, art, home decor, and more. Their casual wear line Keepin’ It Paisa – a play on the phrase “keeping it real” – features shirts, hoodies, and hats with Spanish-language slogans and phrases that put a twist on colloquialisms and pop culture references. All the additional art, decorations, and products are hand-selected by Garcia and Vargas with a focus on bringing in local and authentic items.

“Pretty much all of the stuff that’s in here we can relate to,” Vargas says.

“People like hearing stories about, ‘Oh, where did this come from?'” Garcia says. “So they buy the story behind it, too; it’s not just an object.”

But for the two entrepreneurs, the best byproduct of their business is the ability to provide the same opportunities CAMP provided them to the next generation of CAMPers, which is what the Keepin’ It Paisa Charity Golf Tournament is all about.

Now in its third year, the tournament raises money that benefits CAMP students. The field has expanded from 80 players its first year to more than 140 in the 2016 competition, which will be held May 27 at Cherry Island Golf Course in Elverta. Proceeds go toward scholarships and an end-of-the-year mixer for CAMP students.

“In a classroom setting, some people are going to listen and focus, some people are going to tune out,” says Garcia, who met his wife through CAMP. “But in that atmosphere, it’s different if you’re out there playing volleyball or whatever, [students] come up to you and feel more comfortable.”

Few better understand the impact of CAMP than Vargas and Garcia; today, they are able to inspire a new generation of CAMPers to pursue their loftiest aspirations.

“I want to let people know that, yes, you can do it,” Vargas says. “Even if it doesn’t work out, go for it and follow your instincts. Don’t be afraid.”

Click here for more information about the Keepin It Paisa Golf Tournament and how to register.

Beijing restaurateur brings some California love to China’s dining scene

Alan Wong at his restaurant Hatsune Sushi in Beijing
Alan Wong at his Hatsune Sushi restaurant in Beijing in 2008. (Sacramento State/Craig Koscho)

In a city with 22 million people and thousands of dining options, Alan Wong has carved out a veritable culinary empire. This summer, his gastronomic domain will expand to the one of the happiest places on earth.

Wong (’00, Philosophy) owns and operates 12 upscale, California-style sushi restaurants in Beijing and Shanghai, and this June, he will open his 13th in the brand-new Shanghai Disneyland.

In the 15 years since he moved to China, the Sacramento native has established himself as a pioneer of the dining scene in the second-largest consumer market in the world. But his eatery in the extraordinarily exclusive Shanghai Disneyland – which opens June 16 – will be one of the crown jewels of his expansive portfolio.

Wong was the first to bring California-style sushi to Beijing, in 2001. His first venture, Hatsune Sushi, was a hit with international tourists and expatriates.

A dozen restaurants and more than 800 employees later, Wong says his philosophy education from Sacramento State still informs his business practices.

“I look at any given problem from various directions so I have a wider insight to find a solution,” Wong told Sac State Magazine in 2008. “Critical thinking, logic, and theories of metaphysics train you to be open-minded.”

That metaphysical thinking has certainly paid off, and by this summer, more diners than ever will be getting a taste of Sacramento more than 6,000 miles away.

Learn more about Alan Wong and check out his story at The Sacramento Bee.