Cathie Anderson: Former Limn transforms today into an arts center

Published: Saturday, Sep. 8, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2012 - 9:35 am

Two discount retailers wanted to lease the space in North Sacramento where Dan Friedlander once housed his Limn furnishings store.

One suggested – "if you can imagine" – tearing down the solar panels shading the parking area, Friedlander said, and both suggested using dropped ceilings.

When Gayliene O'mary came to him with her plan to create the nonprofit Fusion International Arts Center, a multicultural center where art will be used to educate children and adults, Friedlander knew the idea would complement the grace and artfulness of the building.

Friedlander acknowledged that he won't earn as much rent, but he recalled how two landlords first gave Limn a shot decades ago in San Francisco.

To start, O'mary plans classes in choir and acting at fees of $40 or $60 a month. Learn more online at, or attend the opening event from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. today at 501 Arden Way.

"It's a premiere of the facility and the programs that we are going to offer as well as the artists ... and artisans," O'mary said.

Cha-ching plays softly

Background music sounds like a pretty sleepy business, but the 14 staffers over at Retail Radio tell a different story.

The Citrus Heights startup landed at No. 572 on Inc. magazine's list of the 5,000 fastest-growing small companies, and you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Retail Radio will introduce video technology next year that will add revenue, said company President Bill Louie. Today, the company pipes background music into more than 12,000 stores.

"At some point," Louie said, "we may look at an investment (venture capital) to go out and acquire other music providers to grow our footprint."

Retail Radio's proprietary technology allows individual stores to customize playlists, commercials and other messages. The company serves many mom-and-pops that want systems that sound as inviting as their larger rivals' but at an affordable rate, Louie said.

Retail Radio's value and flexibility also have lured some huge fish – a discount retailer, an electronics chain and a franchiser with stores worldwide, Louie said, adding that he can't divulge names without permission.

"You're able to delete songs out of your playlist," he said. "You're ... also able to ... type out what you want for a commercial. You hit submit to select whether you want a male voice, a female voice, what tempo you want it read, and then we produce that for you."

The company's revenue in 2011 was $2.3 million, seven times higher than when it was founded in 2008.

It's karaoke, times 15

Bay Area restaurateur Joe Zheng plans to open in October the combination restaurant-karaoke bar that he described last year to my predecessor Bob Shallit.

Oishii – Japanese for "delicious" – will have a dining room and 15 private karaoke parlors above the Cosmo Cabaret at 1000 K St.

The 29-year-old Zheng has the construction know-how to bring his ideas to fruition. For Oishii, he imported booths from Italy, ordered a ceiling to handle acoustic challenges, and muffled the sound between karaoke rooms.

He got the idea for Oishii in Asia, where private karaoke rooms accommodate parties and business events. He debuted the concept in New York – and was scouting for another spot when retail real estate broker Fred Springer of TRI Commercial called.

"I was thinking about bringing the New York concept to Cali," Zheng said. "I thought it would work, that it would be great. There's no competitors, so ... one day Fred called me up and said, 'You've got to come visit Sacramento.'"

Springer knew Zheng from when his parents owned an eatery in Citrus Heights. He watched for over 10 years as Zheng opened restaurants in Stockton, the Bay Area and New York. Springer introduced Zheng to developer David Taylor who was seeking a complement to Dive Bar, Pizza Rock and District 30.

Oishii's menu promises sushi, Mongolian barbecue and other Asian delights, and the karaoke computer boasts hundreds of thousands of selections.

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