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  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. / Bee file, 2010

    Michael Kyalwazi, owner of Café Le Monde, is losing his lease after a decade in McClellan Park. But he and his wife, Winnie, plan to reopen at an Auburn Boulevard location.

  • Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Eatery saga ends at McClellan Park

Published: Saturday, Mar. 30, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Apr. 2, 2013 - 10:14 am

My former colleague Bob Sylva told you Michael Kyalwazi's story back in 2005 – how this Ugandan immigrant fled from ruthless dictator Idi Amin, how he found a home in Sacramento and put in 20 years of work at La Bou, and how he rose to district manager at the chain before he struck out on his own.

Kyalwazi and his wife, Winnie, converted an old bunker at McClellan Park, once home to a dry cleaner, into their Café Le Monde restaurant. They opened in September 2003, when the business park was mostly a ghost town.

"We invested close to $250,000 in this building," Winnie Kyalwazi told me. "… We cut out the walls for windows. We did all the flooring and all the walls. That was just shrubs out front. We put in a patio, and I don't think we even had a bathroom in here, so we put in two bathrooms. … Other than the Burger King across the street, there was nothing food-wise in here."

Yet when the couple approached McClellan Park's leasing agent last May about renewing a lease set to expire in April, they learned that McClellan officials had other plans.

Michael Kyalwazi said he knew he might not always have this site, but he expected to be offered an option nearby. That didn't happen. The Kyalwazis acknowledge that they were occasionally late on lease payments after the economy tanked, but they always made good on their commitment. They stayed afloat during the downturn, Winnie Kyalwazi said, even after the nearby Lions Gate Hotel opened a cafe serving similar lunch items.

McClellan officials did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

The Kyalwazis will close their McClellan Park location on April 5. They told me that, while they can't make anywhere close to a $250,000 investment, they are moving Café Le Monde to 5110 Auburn Blvd.

Such situations are fairly common among commercial tenants, said attorney Shane Singh of Kring & Chung in midtown Sacramento. Sometimes, the landlord cites deficiencies such as late lease payments, but at other times, a landlord sees greater potential for a site that a tenant has spruced up.

"I always tell clients," Singh said. "… Go to a lawyer or even your own broker, and sometimes, there's little things you can put in a contract that will make all the difference in the world."

Right size, right fit

David Flanagan calls himself a misfit these days, but one thing continues to fit him to a T: success.

Flanagan's old public relations and advertising firm, Crocker Flanagan, exploded in growth and was acquired by Fresno-based Astone. When that happened, Flanagan found his duties moving farther and farther from the creative work he loved.

He left the agency, worked on solo projects for a while and then teamed up with a couple other advertising people, Matt Kolbert and Carol Gleeson, who shared his goal of not growing so big that they couldn't do the stuff they like. It was the genesis for their Misfit advertising agency in downtown Sacramento.

They opened their doors a little more than a year ago. Just last week, they collected two prestigious awards from the Sacramento Ad Club. Flanagan won Best of Show for a website he and his team developed for Drexel University Sacramento, and Gleeson was named Media Person of the Year.

"We had this larger campaign going, and we were faced with the problem that people, by and large, in Sacramento didn't really know what to make of Drexel, who they were."

Flanagan and team asked Drexel's Sandy Kirschenmann to color outside the lines and eschew the hard sell. She embraced the idea.

"The website … became a tool to really introduce the Drexel philosophy, but moreover, it would touch you in a place where you'd want to share it with your friends," Flanagan said. "It's a combination of motivational photography and comments."

After using the microsite and Misfit's overall campaign, Drexel took a look at Web traffic. Between November 2011 and November 2012, it rose by 58 percent.

"Our clients trust us, and they allow us to push them a little bit, and in turn, that inspires us," said Gleeson, who advises clients on where to spend ad budgets.

Call The Bee's Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193.

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