An impressive variety of remarkable goods and goodies are made in the Sacramento area; choosing just 10 to feature was no small feat.
Even more impressive than the products are the people who make and sell them. They doggedly turn out foods and wares born of their visions and imprinted with their personal stamps of quality and pride.
Their motivations are as diverse as their products, from being able to spend more time with family, to helping people look and feel good, to educating and giving back to the community and keeping alive trades and traditions. But they all have found a niche to fill and are standard-bearers of American entrepreneurship.
Accents by Victoria
Victoria Coots cooks up a luscious line of bath and body products to help her customers enjoy life’s quiet moments.
Handmade in small batches from natural ingredients, many of which she grows herself, Coots’ lotions and bath products come in a garden of scents that include lavender, mango and lemon verbena; she also offers several “designer duplicate” fragrances. Try her soothing milk bath tea bag ($1.50) or fun and fruity lip glosses ($1).
“Our prices are extremely, extremely low, the reason being I obviously don’t have the overhead a normal store would have,” Coots says of her year-old business, which offers her products via the Internet and at craft fairs.
Individual products range from $1 to $8.99, gift baskets from $25 to $50. Want to add a personal touch? Coots can add a photo, logo or message to a product’s label.
Accents by Victoria products for men, women, children, home and business are available at accentsbyvictoria.com, at home parties, craft fairs and festivals, and several retailers in Twain Harte and Sonora. Call (916) 941-9124 for more information.
APC—A Personal Creation
Loretta Kim and her skilled staff turn out a colorful array of preserved floral arrangements that includes wreaths, baskets, swags and bouquets at APC’s recently expanded store and workshop.
Using dried caspia, statice, eucalyptus and manzanita, all grown especially for APC, along with roses dried on the premises, Kim and her staff are committed to delighting their customers with arrangements designed, prepared and preserved to last many years.
“What’s special about our arrangements is we use all number-one stuff,” Kim says. “I’m very particular before one goes out. And anybody can bring anything back.”
APC floral creations come in a variety of sizes priced from $2.99 to $89.95. Besides offering a large selection, including its popular manzanita wreath, APC does custom work and is able to match virtually any color fabric or décor.
“Our prices are really good,” Kim says. “When anybody comes into our store, the first thing out of their mouth is, ‘Wow, the price!’”
4514 Pony Express Trail, Camino; (530) 644-8441; Daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m. APC products also are available at Abel’s Apple Acres, Apple Hill and at Placerville and Folsom craft shows.
Aura Bella Eclectic Jewels
Maryann Minaesian Hodgson and Shirin Rahimian started Aura Bella Eclectic Jewels in Sacramento a year and a half ago to find a creative way to give back to the community.
Although some pieces are available directly at aurabellajewels.com, Aura Bella’s mainstay is designing and selling one-of-a-kind necklaces, bracelets and earrings at charitable events and donating 20 percent of the proceeds to the sponsoring charity. Donors can order more jewelry from Aura Bella’s website after an event and designate the charity they wish to support.
Hodgson and Rahimian make the jewelry from semiprecious stones, crystals, pearls and sterling silver, with unique handmade clasps.
“The other thing that sets us apart from other jewelry designers is the little blue eye on all our pieces,” says Hodgson. “In ancient Mediterranean tradition, this eye was used as [a symbol] of protection.”
Prices start at $20; higher-end pieces run from $90 to $1,200.
For more information call (916) 952-2283 or visit aurabellajewels.com.
Clouds Porcelain, Inc.
For 25 years, the skilled artists and technicians of Clouds Porcelain have been making beautiful, durable pieces at the Folsom studio owned by G.F. and Penny Cloud. Each item goes through 16 steps and can take six or more weeks to complete.
The Clouds collections include kitchen and dining ware, bath accessories and sinks, lamps, teapots, wine buckets, clocks, planters, bird feeders and much more, all in floral and fruit patterns. Clouds also offers a collection of Asian-inspired tableware.
“We have a large enough body of work that there is developing a secondary market for it,” says G.F. Cloud. “So it’s very collectible.”
Gift items range from $10 to $200. One-of-a-kind pieces can run from $100 up to $5,000 for a porcelain mural.
609 Sutter St., Historic Folsom; (916) 985-3411 or (800) 472-4591; cloudsporcelain.com, sushiware.com. Sunday & Monday 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Tuesday–Thursday 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Seconds sales of imperfect merchandise on the first Saturday of each month from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Studio tours most Saturdays at 2 p.m.; call ahead for confirmation.
Jake Hoffart played college and arena football and brother-in-law Mark Wright worked in low-voltage construction. Together, these regular guys are baking scrumptious cookies, pumpkin bars and banana bread in a brand new store, using recipes acquired from a family friend.
“We have around 14 cookie varieties a day that we stay pretty constant with right now,” Wright says, “and we rotate in a cookie of the day, or two cookies of the day, every day. We’re going to listen to our customers because we know without them we won’t survive.”
Among their best sellers are the frosted sugar cookie, the always popular chocolate chip and the decadent Mandy’s Marvelous Crackle (named for Hoffart’s mom, who encouraged them to start the business), a soft, cakelike chocolate cookie rolled in powdered sugar. Prices are $1.25 for one, $7 for 6 and $12 for a dozen cookies. And for gift giving, Hoffart can whip up a sweet gift basket ($16–$75) for any occasion.
3992 Douglas Blvd., Roseville (Renaissance Creek Center, corner of Sierra College and Douglas boulevards); (916) 789-7737; cookieconnectionweb.com; Monday–Thursday 7 a.m.–8 p.m., Friday 7 a.m.–9 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Some cookies may not be ready until 9 a.m. on the days the shop opens early. Phone orders are encouraged.
Dennis “Biscuits” Brehm, Blacksmithing & Mountain Man Programs
Sacramento-based blacksmith Dennis “Biscuits” Brehm makes and sells wares for those who enjoy camping and cooking outdoors or who just appreciate the rustic look and durability of metal for their homes and back yards.
Working over his coal-fueled forge at temperatures up to 3,000 degrees, Brehm transforms steel into any number of functional and novelty items such as nails, hooks, meat turners, barbecue and roasting forks, forks and spoons, dinner bells, tent stakes, paper-towel holders, bottle openers, necklace charms, decorative leaves—the list is endless.
And as an added attraction, you can often catch Brehm making his goods at fairs, while he explains his craft and educates onlookers with bits of Americana, such as the origins of the expression “dead as a doornail.”
Prices range from $1 to $50, and Brehm accepts custom orders.
“Anything you can think of, I can make, generally,” he says. “If you want to buy something good, buy metal—don’t buy plastic—and it’ll last you a long time.”
Appearing mostly at fairs and special events, Brehm also is available for school presentations and parties. Brehm’s Mountain Man Programs offer a glimpse into the life of a fur trader/ explorer in the era before the westward migration of wagon trains. For more information, call (916) 456-2593.
The world’s first liquid mineral makeup, Illuminaré foundations, blushes and eye colors are designed not only to produce instant, long-lasting beauty—in fact, illuminare means “illuminate” in Italian—but also to be extra gentle and protect skin from the sun.
Created by company President Ruthie Molloy of El Dorado Hills, an esthetician and physical therapist, Illuminaré foundations and blushes contain patented sunscreen boosters for SPF 21 (SPF 15 for eye colors) and 98 percent UVA protection. Products are free from plant extracts, animal derivatives, talc, artificial dyes, perfumes and other irritants, and are never tested on animals.
“It doesn’t look like you’re wearing makeup,” Molloy says. “We try to keep it simple so women aren’t overwhelmed with choices, and we try to make it so that it’s easy to apply.”
Foundations and blushes are priced at $24 for a .5-ounce tube, which lasts about two months. Eye color is $15 for a .25-ounce tube. Trial sizes and application tools also are available.
“Everything we make is mixable; everything is multifunctional,” Molloy says. “Everything we make has the sunscreen in it already, so you don’t even need to use a sunscreen underneath it.”
Illuminaré plans to expand its line to include body lotions, lipsticks, more color choices and men’s products.
Call (916) 939-9888 or (866) 999-2033 to order, Monday–Friday 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; illuminarecosmetics.com. Products also are sold at salons throughout the region; see website for locations.
Cooking in ceramics is not a new idea, but Kamado Corporation makes it state-of-the-art with its efficient, versatile and beautiful ceramic grills.
Described by Kamado President Deborah Johnson as “functional yard art,” Kamado charcoal, gas and electric grills are built for a lifetime of cooking in all weather and climates. The round design ensures uniform, stable temperatures, and food that stays moist.
“Functionally, it is truly the best cooker out there,” says CEO Richard Johnson. “Cooking in ceramics is just terrific. The food looks and tastes different and better.”
The Kamado comes in five grill diameter sizes embellished with a variety of handmade mosaic tile colors to complement your yard or patio decor. Or choose larger, custom tiles or a textured finish. Accessories include meat hangers, brackets, additional grills, side tables and smokeless coconut charcoal.
The grills come fully assembled and ready to use. Prices range from $399 to $1,500—higher for some custom designs.
2200 Rice Ave. West Sacramento; (916) 373-9890 or (888) 526-2367; kamado.com.
Indulge your inner gourmet with foods from Sheldon Farms’ full-service market.
Tasty treats include homemade pies in 8- or 10-inch sizes ($9.95 and $11.95) baked on the premises using recipes owner Machelle Emmerich first learned as a youngster from her restaurateur grandmother.
“They’re all made with fresh fruit, no preservatives, spices to perfection,” Emmerich says.
Buy them fresh-baked or frozen in apple, apricot, peach, cherry, all the berries, strawberry-rhubarb, rhubarb and pumpkin for the holidays. If you choose to take and bake, you’ll receive instructions guaranteeing a perfect pie every time.
Want to turn that pie into a gourmet dessert? Sheldon Farms carries a variety of dessert sauces, such as Apricot Cherry Amaretto, from Earth & Vine Provisions in Loomis.
Sheldon Road at Grant Line Road, Elk Grove. Call (916) 689-7767 for more information or to pre-order pies. Weekdays 6 a.m.–7 p.m., weekends 6 a.m.–6 p.m.
Vic Maris began making his own telescopes as a teenager, when department-store models failed to live up to his “astronomical” expectations. Now Maris, a retired state parks manager, and his crew design and fabricate high-quality, affordable scopes in Stellarvue’s Auburn facility.
Stellarvue proprietary lenses are ground to exacting specifications; bodies are constructed from sturdy aluminum tubing. After they are assembled, every scope undergoes rigorous testing.
“We do three optical testing sequences to make sure that the optics are absolutely bang-on,” Maris says, “and what makes us unique is that I personally star-test every telescope when it’s finished under the night sky on a real star. And that’s the most critical test of an optical system.”
Stellarvue’s most popular model, the Nighthawk, sells for $399.
“The Nighthawk is the best beginner’s telescope there is,” Maris says, “because it can be used as a daytime spotting scope; it’s small enough to carry on the trail and yet it’s very short, and it offers such a wide field of view.”
Higher end scopes and a full line of accessories also are available.
11808 Kemper Road, Auburn; (530) 823-7796; stellarvue.com. Customers are welcome at Stellarvue’s Auburn facility, but should phone ahead before visiting.