Cathie Anderson: Business rivals help Sacramento party planners after fire

Published: Tuesday, Sep. 25, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Sep. 25, 2012 - 7:39 am

If you believe that, in this capitalist nation, competitors couldn't care less if a rival's business goes down in flames, then you won't be able to fathom what's happened to Susan and Lawrence Crane.

Party Concierge, the Cranes' business near Richards Boulevard and Dos Rios Street, burned down Aug. 6 when a fire leapt to their building from a neighboring business.

It happened the same week that the Cranes had to fill one of their largest orders of the summer.

"Our competitors helped to make flower arrangements for us," Susan Crane said. "… I just feel like we're on the wings of this industry, and they are just supporting us 100 percent. … You don't realize how much compassion people have until you go through something like this, and it teaches you a whole other aspect of kindness."

Don't ask the Cranes to provide names. They want to name all – or none. Every contribution has helped them, they say.

"One woman walked in with cellophane because she knew we didn't have anything," Susan Crane said. "She brought us supplies that were in her garage. … We could never repay what people have done for us."

Repayment? That's just capitalist talk.

Faster than instant ramen

It takes more than 12 minutes to prepare a bowl of ramen noodles.

That wasn't instant enough for ramen lover Chris Johnson. He tried cooking them in the microwave, but there were no microwave instructions with the block of noodles.

He tested bowls, cooking times, water measurements as he tried to replicate the consistency and taste of stovetop noodles. He took his findings to Daren Otten, a plastics expert at Chico State who helped create a bowl with a specially designed reservoir, heat-resistant handles and a water-indicator line.

Then Johnson, who runs a local employment staffing firm when he's not inventing ramen bowls, did a market study with Gabriel Witkin and others.

Witkin has a 10-year-old son who eats a package of ramen a day. What did they think of the so-called Rapid Ramen bowl?

"It makes it really easy for our son to make it on his own without having to use the stove," said Gabriel Witkin. "… He loves it."

After getting this verdict time and again, Johnson took his bowl over to Franklin Jackson, manager of the Walmart in Natomas. Jackson moves about 1,000 or 2,000 units of ramen a week. People eat more than 95 billion servings of ramen annually worldwide.

"I thought of the amount of ramen noodles that I sell a week," Jackson said of the bowl, "It only fits that we would bring in something to complement the ramen noodles to get add-on sales."

Rapid Ramen bowls will arrive in Jackson's Walmart in late October, but impatient ramen lovers can buy them now for $5.99 each at

Getting a party started

Roseville's Town Square won't make its debut until May, but the city's Parks, Recreation and Libraries Department is starting to research events and programs for the venue.

"It's not just focused in on music," said recreation manager Kathy Barsotti. "The team is getting together to come up with a creative calendar for May through October-ish."

Barsotti has some ideas – art and wine festivals, children's events that allow parents to research health or education, and of course, music concerts – but this is all in the formative stages. It's a ground-floor opening for local promoters and event organizers. If you have ideas, contact Barsotti at

"I've lived in this town my whole life, and it's just now that I would think about coming downtown," said Barsotti, a graduate of Oakmont High School. "There's more stuff to do. If we bring more people, we'll get different retail down here, and then … we probably won't have to program the Town Square so much because people will start to use it as their own space."

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