Cathie Anderson: Cancer survivor fighting for Sacramento's Panama Pottery to turn 100

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012 - 8:24 am

Maria Vargas was bald at this time last year. Fighting breast cancer for a third time, she wanted just one more birthday.

Before her diagnosis, Vargas had sold artfully arranged pots of succulents, Talavera pottery and grunge art for two years from La Casita de Plantas at Panama Pottery, 4421 24th St., in Sacramento.

When she made it back to her casita last summer, she learned that the retail store at Panama Pottery was closing.

"All I had wanted was one more birthday," said Vargas, now 63, "but if this place has one more birthday, it would be 100 years old."

That milestone kept rattling around in the cancer survivor's head as she worked in her garden, as she talked with family, as she watched the going-out-of-business sale.

Finally, she approached Panama Pottery's owner, Dave DeCamilla, and told him she'd like to take over the retail business.

"I decided … I'm going to struggle through so this place can have 100 candles on a birthday cake," said Vargas, who got her third diagnosis after retiring from her job as an investigator with the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Vargas is starting from scratch online with because she was unable to acquire the previous manager's website and client list. She is already stocking up on inventory. On a recent trip to Mexico, she opted to leave clothes behind with her hostess and instead brought back Talavera mirrors and the biggest rosaries she'd ever seen.

Housewife laughs it up

Roseville's Stephanie Garcia had the time of her life Monday, yukking it up with Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Whoopi Goldberg on ABC's "The View."

Garcia was one of four women chosen to compete this week for the title of America's most hilarious housewife. Thousands of women sent tapes to the show's producers.

"They flew me out yesterday, and I'm flying back today," Garcia told me. "I got up this morning and went to the studio. I sat in a room with Newt Gingrich, his wife and Lisa Ling."

Garcia performed her routine and won praise from judges Joy Behar, Mario Cantone and Sherri Shepherd. To see Garcia, watch the Nov. 12 episode at Her competition will appear today through Thursday, and a winner will be announced on air Monday.

The Roseville mother of two left her job as a copywriter for The Golden 1 Credit Union in March to stay home during the day with her year-old son Ryan. She performs stand-up and does freelance writing, earning enough to cover the family's mortgage.

"Three years ago, a group of us girls created 'The Real Housewives of Rio Linda,' " she said, adding that they've been selling out shows in the greater Sacramento area.

They'll be at Sauce'd at 879 Embarcadero Drive in El Dorado HIlls on Dec. 1.

Retailer is still game

Reader Joseph Ryan and others have asked whether the Sports Basement has abandoned its plans to open a store in the former Bank of America building at Eighth and I streets.

The answer is no.

David Rumberg, a partner in the Bay Area sporting-goods retailer, said he's optimistic that the store will open in the middle of 2013, but a lot rides on holiday and snow-season sales.

"We're buckling down to make sure we do everything we can to have a good fourth quarter. … We're bullish about this store and Sacramento in general," Rumberg said.

Sports Basement recently agreed to pay Sacramento County for a second extension on its purchase agreement. That extension runs through February.

Sporting-goods retailers in Northern California had to sell expensive winter inventory at bargain prices last year because so little snow fell. Nonetheless, Rumberg said, Sports Basement has seen positive growth every year since 2008, the only year its sales were flat.

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