From the Kiddo Carnival and the Pancake Breakfast to the Lytton Square Memorial Ceremony, Parade and the 15th Anniversary Celebration for the Community Center, it was a massive day for Mill Valley.
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The Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center’s annual series of Sidewalk Sales gives shops & boutiques all over town the opportunity to spread their wings onto the sidewalk and offer discounts to shoppers on some of the busiest days of the year. The sales run at least monthly through the end of the year, and one of the biggest sales of the year is Memorial Day weekend, with thousands of people gathering around town for events like the massive Pancake Breakfast, the Memorial Day Parade and the 15th Anniversary Celebration for the Community Center.
Here are the merchants participating in the Sidewalk Sales:
And here are the Sidewalk Sale dates for the rest of 2016:
The restaurant landscape in Marin – and Mill Valley in particular – is home to an array of restaurants that more than hold their own with their neighbors to the north and south.
But there are gaps, and Monica Chang is on a mission to fill one of them: Korean food.
Chang has launched SAN Korean Kitchen, a local specialty food company focusing on infusing traditional fare like Kimchi with a modern flair. Chang will showcase her delicious wares at the 35th Annual Mill Valley Wine, Beer & Gourmet Food Tasting on June 5, serving up a little bit of everything, including Kimchi on rice and grilled BBQ beef on beds of lettuce.
“I’m so excited – the BBQ scent is really going to hit people,” she says.
Born in Korea and having spent most of her life in Toronto, Chang knows she’s taking a huge leap to launch a Korean specialty food company in Marin. But she also knows that she has two huge factors on her side.
First is the fact that Korean food has boomed in popularity in the United States in recent years, from the explosion of “Korean taco” trucks all over the place to David Chang’s Momufuku empire of restaurants. A Serious Eats story called “How Korean Cuisine Got Huge in America” calls Kimchi, a traditional fermented Korean side dish made of vegetables with a variety of seasonings, “the new miso.”
According Matt Rodbard, co-author of the new “Koreatown: A Cookbook,” it’s no accident that Korean food is having its moment in the U.S. much later than Thai or Japanese food, for instance. "Korean restaurants, at first, were more of a clubby environment, for Koreans, by Koreans," he told Serious Eats. "There wasn't really much of an effort to draw in non-Korean guests."
As a result, Rodbard says, “Korean cuisine is virtually ‘unspoiled’ in American restaurants, with no pad Thai or General Tso's Chicken equivalent.”
The second factor from which Chang draws confidence is her own experience: she’s taken a massive leap of faith like this before – and it was a smashing success. In 1998, years before Momofuku and Korean tacos, Chang had a bit of an epiphany: she wanted to open her own Korean restaurant. She did just that, opening San Korean Restaurant near Koreatown in Toronto.
“We were slammed as soon as we opened our doors, before we had even our sign up,” Chang says. “People were ready for something new and fresh and different.”
Chang emigrated to Toronto as a toddler when, after her brother was hit by a truck, her parents decided that they wanted a better life for their children. Her father came to Canada first “with $50 in his pocket” and slowly built a foundation that would allow his family to follow him: apartment, job, opening their own convenience store, growing and selling it and then buying the rights to Terra Trading, a Korean department store and opening a location in Toronto.
“Blood, sweat and tears, literally,” Chang says. “And I have always valued that work ethic and made it my own.”
Though she “was almost embarrassed of my Korean heritage” as a young girl, a trip she took to Korea when she was 16 changed everything.
“A lot of things began to make sense – there was context for me there,” she says. “I understood why certain things were done a certain way in my house, and I started to embrace my culture and my food. I decided that I wanted to try to blend those two worlds by opening a restaurant that embraced my food heritage but with a western person in mind.”
After a stint living in New York City and seeing how non-Koreans were being drawn to the probiotic-driven health benefits of Kimchi and other Korean food, Chang opened San Korean Restaurant. It was a labor of love for nine years, as Chang sold it in 2007 as she grew tired of the juggling act of raising her 5-year-old daughter Tara while simultaneously running the restaurant, “her first baby.”
“I knew something was going to give – it was either my sanity, the restaurant or my daughter,” Chang says.
But while SAN Korean Kitchen has Korean food’s growing popularity and Chang’s own experience on her side, she says the most critical driver of her success will be the food itself, and the deep care she brings to it.
“It is somehow in my DNA to want to feed people,” she says. “It is crucial to me that our food is delicious and nutritious. People can feel the love that a caring hand has put into a meal. I try to evoke that feeling with everything I make.”
“These are the foods and recipes that were handed down to me from generation to generation,” she adds. “They have been entrusted with me. I want to provide an authentic experience of the foods that were shared with me from my mother.”
Chang, who is also a yoga instructor and a Thai Yoga Massage therapist, has a house in Lake Tahoe and had been spending more time in the Bay Area in recent years. Two years ago, she was staying at the Mill Valley Inn when she met John Martin, who was hosting the hotel’s nightly wine-and-cheese reception. They hit it off and, apart of Chang’s regular visits to Toronto to see her now-teenaged daughter, are inseparable.
“He has been my greatest champion and keeps me grounded with his wisdom and smile,” she says.
Chang says she’s on schedule to have an array of products in stores, including Mill Valley Market, very soon. They include: Traditional Spicy Napa Cabbage Kimchi, Vegan Spicy Napa Cabbage Kimchi, White Radish Kimchi, From the Root (pickled radish, onion and garlic), Korean BBQ Marinade and Spicy Korean Marinade.
“Kimchi runs through our blood,” she says with a laugh, noting Kimchi’s vast health benefits, particularly digestive.
“We want to encourage eating and cleansing at the same time. And we want everyone to have a jar of our kimchi in their fridge!”
Inside the span of 72 hours, the historic season of the Golden State Warriors has taken a shocking turn with a pair of losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder. But while the packed house at the 2am Club on Tuesday evening was ensconced in blue – both literally and figuratively – there likely was no better bar in Marin to watch our hometown team than the Deuce, Mill Valley's oldest bar.
"Although it was a really rough loss, it was such a great experience to be surrounded by such a great group of loyal fans in a local bar," says Janelle Jacoban, a marketing consultant with the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center. "It felt fantastic to be in a room full of diehard fans in a gathering place that has withstood generational and demographic changes in town for more than 75 years."
Longtime 2am Club bartenders Dave Marshall and Amanda Solloway bought the bar from previous owners Dirk Payne and Steve Powers in 2010. They gave it a makeover, including new paint, new floors and lighting, new flat-panel TVs, rebuilt pool tables and new refrigeration equipment and lines for soda and beer. But they did so without losing the venerated dive bar character of the place.
The 2am Club's history goes as far back as 1933, when Joe Hornsby opened the Brown Jug at Miller and Montford avenues because it sat just outside the Mill Valley city limits and therefore could have a 2am curfew as opposed to a midnight closure inside the city. The bar was made famous in 1983, when Mill Valley native Huey Lewis picked it as the cover photo of Huey Lewis and the News' platinum album "Sports."
Despite the outcome, Jacoban says she knows where she'll be for Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
"I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of watching the game, in spite of the dismal scoreboard result," Jacoban says. "For those of us who can't watch the next game at the arena, we'll take refuge in a home-like environment of the 2am Club."
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A 7 on Locust customer recently told owner Nadine Storyk Curtis that the flourishing stretch of shops on Locust Avenue "is Mill Valley’s version of SoHo," Curtis recounted to the San Francisco Chronicle in a feature on "Mill Valley's design destinations. "That made me smile."
The Chronicle's piece also highlights 7 on Locust's neighbors Poet and/the Bench and Kress Jack at Home, as well kitchen system maker Henrybuilt on the other side of Miller Avenue.
Those four and many more are part of the burgeoning Mill Valley Design District, a collective of innovative design-focused businesses on and off Miller Avenue. Here's a list of its members:
The Mill Valley Historical Society's 39th Annual "Walk Into History," co-hosted by the Outdoor Art Club, dives into Sunnyside Avenue and its periphery, a part of town that the walk's guidebook says was "once populated by local merchants, teachers, ferry and railroad workers, blue collar workers and professionals, transplants from the 1906 SF earthquake and fire, and outdoor enthusiasts. Today’s smooth roads and tidy neighborhoods have replaced the open fields and muddy, rutted streets once so common to this area. However, love of home and community continue to be a unifying theme for all people living in MillValley from its earliest days to now."
The 411: Tours leave from the Outdoor Art Club, 1 West Blithedale Ave., every 15 minutes between 9:30am and 4pm on Sunday, May 22. Tickets are $15 for Historical Society members, $20 for non-members, $10 for teens with a student ID and free for children under 10. More info and tix.
Here are a few Then & Now photo comparisons of some of the buildings on the 39th Annual "Walk Into History":
It's safe to say that Steve and Kate Susskind have carved out their own unique niche in the ever-crowded world of summer camps. With their acclaimed Steve & Kate's Camps, they've done so by running as fast as possible in the opposite direction of much of the "helicopter parenting" they see that "is threatening a generation of children’s potential."
“As adults, it’s sometimes easy to forget that we have no idea what our kids are truly capable of,” Steve Susskind says. “We’re on a mission to help kids tap into every ounce of their creative potential by trusting them with the freedom to try, fail, learn and grow. And to do that, we need to rethink what a summer camp even looks like.”
The Susskinds launched Steve & Kate's Camp 36 years ago here in Mill Valley. They expanded for the first time in 2006, opening a location in Kentfield. And over the past 10 years, they've had an incredible amount of growth, and now they have 40+ locations in nine states and serve 28,000 kids a year.
Instead of rigid schedules and mandatory curricula, Steve and Kate’s lets kids choose their own path from an endless range of technology-enabled creative activities: coding, filmmaking, music-making, dancing, sewing, cooking, sports, and much more. And although helicopter parenting is a more recent trend
Chas Fricke, a native of the Rockford, Illinois area who has been teaching and working at summer camps in a variety of capacities for more than a dozen years, serves as the director of Steve & Kate's Camp flagship location at the Tam Valley Elementary School.
Fricke says Steve & Kate's approach is a much-needed throwback to a simpler time. “It sort of reminds me of the neighborhood where I grew up in, where i could come home from school and just head outside to play with friends and do whatever,” Fricke says. “It wasn’t the over-scheduled situation that many kids have these days.”
And while they've created a new "Launchpad" program "for kids who need help getting used to choosing their own adventure, offering a guided learning path to help them get comfortable with all of the activities at camp," there are no shortage of activities, including a number of new programs in 2016:
"Parents are just looking for a place where their kids can just be a kid," he adds.
To make sure they have plenty of energy to do just that, Steve & Kate's hired chef Ryan Smith as their in-house chef and food program designer. The San Jose native told the Pacific Sun that his goal "is to make every single item a well-balanced meal. The opportunity to feed kids and give them insight to where their food comes from was too compelling to pass up.”
Smith says he serves as much organic and clean-label food as possible, and he’s incorporating and substituting ingredients to provide healthier, more nutrient-dense meals. Smith told the Sun that he's also mindful to keep many dishes familiar, but he might swap out mayonnaise for a puréed chickpea hummus or a roasted red pepper spread. He calls it “stealth nutrition.
Steve & Kate's have wracked up an abundance of praise over the years, most notable from fellow Mill Valley resident and Academy Award-winning writer/director of Pixar's Finding Nemo and Wall•E Andrew Stanton: "The children that attend Steve and Kate's blossom and discover a freedom of identity that, in a way, no other institution I've experienced has ever managed. Kids find their thumbprint at Steve and Kate's. My one complaint is: Where were they when I was a kid?"
The 411: Steve & Kate's Camp in Mill Valley is at Tam Valley Elementary School, 350 Bell Lane, from June 20 to August 12. Parent can buy day passes in blocks of 1, 5 or 20, as well as full summer memberships. Email them with questions.
Event will feature updates on the major issues of the day, including traffic and potential improvement efforts, construction, bicycle/pedestrian safety, the upcoming Miller Avenue Streetscape Project, the Municipal Service Tax (MST) and much more.
The Mill Valley City Council hosts its annual Community Meeting on May 31 at the Community Center (180 Camino Alto), providing residents a chance to get an update on current City initiatives and events and meet with Councilmembers and staff from each department and share your questions, comments and concerns.
"This event offers the members of our community a unique chance to speak to us directly in an open forum, with all of our departments represented in one room,” City Manager Jim McCann said. “For our staff and elected and appointed officials, it is a fantastic opportunity to hear from the community on a broad range of issues.”
The May 31st Community Meeting will be structured similarly to those of recent years, with approximately 45 minutes dedicated to allowing residents to visit the tables hosted by each City department and ask questions, receive information and share suggestions and concerns. After that, the rest of the event is dedicated to open Q&A.
5:30pm: Doors open. Refreshments will be served.
6–7pm: Informal Reception
7–8pm: Welcome and Q&A
Though City leaders say they are open to hearing about any and all topics, the major issues of the day will surely be discussed, including traffic congestion and the potential improvement efforts, construction activity, bicycle/pedestrian safety, the upcoming Miller Avenue Streetscape Project, heightened fire prevention measures, and much more. City officials will also likely discuss the City’s plans for the renewal of the Municipal Service Tax (MST), which was first approved in 1987 and generates $1.2 million in revenue annually toward road maintenance and repairs and fire prevention services like vegetation management. The MST expires in 2018.
More than 150 Mill Valley residents and business owners turned out last year for a snapshot of dozens of the City services, programs, priorities and accomplishments, the challenges that lie ahead and to offer observations and suggestions.
Over the past few years, Mill Valley filmmaker Gary Yost has made it his mission to draw attention to the much-needed restoration of Mt. Tam's western peak. He's done so with a series of three short films, the third of which, “Song of the Last Place,” debuted at "The Mountain Calls," a One Tam evening hosted by Tomales Bay Miwok descendent Sky Road Webb and television host Doug McConnell at the Throckmorton Theatre earlier this month.
The series spans from 1950, when "the military bulldozed the highest peak of Mt. Tam to build an Air Force radar station tasked with directing jet interceptors and short range nuclear missiles against the potential threat of Russian nuclear bombers," to 1980, when "the base was obsolete and summarily closed. The military walked away from dozens of structures, leaving behind a huge toxic mess on the mountain," Yost writes.
“West Peak Trilogy.”
Yost told the Marin Independent Journal that "Song of the Last Place" is his "most ambitious project yet. It’s meant to evoke a direct emotional experience of the sacred and melancholy feeling of being on Tam’s true summit in the ruins of the old Air Force station.”
To do so, Yost brought in local cellist Katy Boyd and guitarist Jimmy Dillon to perform a "variation on a sarabande (dance) from a Bach cello suite among the junkyard remains that scar a place long considered the spiritual heart of Marin County."
“We envisioned a call-and-response between the cello and guitar while being surrounded by the spirits there,” the filmmaker explains. “The film was inspired by one of our great beat poets, Lew Welch, who wrote the poem ‘The Song Mt. Tamalpais Sings’ in 1969.”
The 10-minute film comes on the heels of “The Invisible Peak,” a 22-minute documentary narrated by Peter Coyote that Yost debuted in 2014, and “Mountains Made of Chalk, Fall Into the Sea,” a short film he shot in 2015 showing street painting artist Genna Panzarella creating a Mount Tam landscape in chalk on the concrete slab of the station’s mess hall.
Watch it here:
And here are the first two films: