Nicole Ix was accustomed to being a giver, but a diagnosis of Stage 4 colon cancer forced her into the role of recipient.
It was a challenging part to play for Ix, who, with her husband, Jorge, owned Café Soleil in Sacramento's Cesar Chavez Plaza. She wept last May as she told me about signing up for Medi-Cal because she had no health insurance, something she and her husband had dropped as they tried to weather the recession.
"I'm uncomfortable with my situation," she told me, "but I have to accept help. How are we supposed to live?"
Weeks after I wrote about her illness, longtime customers from State Street Financial approached with an offer of help.
"Our espresso machine broke in December," Ix told me. "We can't afford a new one. It's embarrassing, but they are fundraising for a new one for us. My husband and I are just blown away."
When I called Ix last month to talk, she struggled to speak and I ended the call after discussing her health. Nicole Ix died Saturday night in the home she shared with her husband, their children Yesenia and Niall, her brother-in-law Manuel and his son Isaak. She was 46.
Her demise is not the only setback for her family. A week before Ix's death, a thief smashed six windows and broke into Café Soleil at 917 Ninth St. Stolen items included the first dollar earned at the cafe.
Despite this loss and their grief, the Ix family continue working and pay tribute to Nicole with a note on the door. It reads, in part: "She had such a cheerful upbeat spirit and filled everyone with happiness."
Building up students
Henry Meier works as a project executive at Swinerton Builders, but he's not crowing about a big contract win. No, Meier is bragging about construction management students at California State University, Sacramento.
Meier and other building industry workers coached eight student teams to compete in the Associated Schools of Construction Competition earlier this month in Reno, and the teams placed in six divisions. All told, they received two first places, three seconds and one third.
"Students are given real construction projects that have been built in the last two to three years typically," Meier said. " The projects involve putting a proposal together, putting a logistics plan together, a project management plan, a cost estimate and a schedule."
Teams get their assignments at 6 a.m. and must have everything submitted by midnight. They can't use outside help, including the Internet. And, if they're even one second late, it's too late.
The next day, they deliver their presentation. In 10 years of coaching, Meier has seen sophomores so nervous they can hardly talk grow into seniors who deliver presentations without notes.
Senior Mark Campbell competed in the heavy civil division. His team placed second, and Campbell's experience helped him snag the ultimate prize for any senior. As soon as he graduates in May, he's heading to New York City for a job with Granite Construction.
PennySaver laying off 150
You've probably been hearing a lot more JCPenney ads on television and radio, and that's not good news for the PennySaver.
JCPenney's decision to pull money out of direct mail and put it into broadcast cost the PennySaver's parent, Harte-Hanks, millions in revenue.
Harte-Hanks has made management changes and is tightening its belt across all divisions as it attempts to improve its results by the second half of this year. The effort is creating ripples in Rancho Cordova.
"The PennySaver has decided to close its Rancho Cordova printing and inserting facility as part of a plan to achieve more efficient operations," according to a Harte-Hanks news release. "The operations of this facility will be moved to the PennySaver's three other printing and inserting facilities in Southern California. As an unfortunate result, most employees of the Rancho Cordova facility will be laid off." This means that 150 people will lose work.
Plus, Sacramento's Tower Development Corp., the building's landlord, is looking for tenants to fill the warehouse with 132,810 square feet of space at 11311 White Rock Road. David J. Kassis, a broker with Tower Development, told me the facility likely will be divided into spaces of 20,000 square feet or more.