One of the nifty things about this job is learning about all the new businesses coming to town. And I recently heard about one of the more intriguing ideas.
Melinda Stephens has opened Van Gogh and Vino. Its just what it sounds like an evening of art and wine. But instead of viewing or appreciating the art, customers make it. And while they do, they have a glass of wine.
Stephens, a longtime artist, doesnt just give you the tools to make a painting; she walks you through it and, step by step, makes the same painting. I recently attended a session Stephens has them every month or so at area restaurants to see how it works. The evening I went, Van Gogh and Vino met at Greens in downtown Modesto.
Several of the women who signed up had artistic backgrounds, but Stephens insisted that isnt necessary. One of her customers quickly agreed, saying she has no artistic ability but, by following along, has produced lovely paintings.
Stephens said its a nice way to spend an evening, a good alternative to dinner and a movie for a date night. She also does private events.
As I watched, each painting started to come into focus. They all looked a little different, but they all appeared, to my uneducated eye, very promising. And the wine looked pretty good, too.
Contact Stephens at (209) 402-7337 or check out her website, www.vangoghandvinoca.com.
Elsewhere around the Business Beat
• Dollar General continues its proliferation in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. The discount chain recently opened a store in Newman.
Dollar General is committed to delivering a pleasant shopping experience that includes a convenient location, a wide assortment of merchandise and great prices on quality products, Dan Nieser, Dollar Generals senior vice president of real estate and store development, said in a news release. We hope our Newman customers will enjoy shopping at Dollar Generals new location.
The company said each time it opens a store, it employs about 10 people. The new store is at 1930 N St.
• Coldwater Creek issued some bad news Friday to customers. The clothier, which has a store in the shops at Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and will begin the process of closing its stores. According to the companys website, its business as usual for now; closing sales will be scheduled at a later date.
• Though he doesnt get the ink that his Christmastime counterpart does, the Easter Bunny is cause for excitement when he shows up every year. And though Easter is still a week away, you can go see the Easter Bunny, and get a photo with him, at Vintage Faire Mall. The Easter Bunny has taken over a spot in Center Court, where hell be available for photos. Unlike Santa, the Easter Bunny doesnt have elves, but he does have helpers who handle photo sales.
• And finally, I spoke this week with a caterer and instructor at the Institute of Technology culinary school in Modesto. Hank Olson is chasing a dream, and he wants some help. Hes turned to Kickstarter, an online fundraising tool, to gather investors for a gourmet food truck.
Olson said he started cooking at 15 for a Foster Farms restaurant on Coffee Road. And, through stints in Chicago and the Bay Area, hes been cooking ever since. For the past six years, hes worked at the Institute of Technology and had his own catering business.
Four days in, Olson had about 23 percent of his $18,000 goal. He has a month to get the rest.
You can find him at www.kickstarter.com. Search projects in Modesto and find the Food Fix Truck.
He envisions a gourmet food truck. Ill make everything from scratch, he said. Its been a growing trend, and Olson thinks its only beginning. As for latching onto the Kickstarter trend, he said its not going to hurt to give it a shot.
Looking at the food Olson makes, after a long morning with no lunch yet, left me famished. Sandwiches on homemade pretzel rolls, fresh chips, root beer pulled pork. I asked Olson to keep us posted on his progress. I, for one, could use a fix.