Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Sacramento event planner Sharon Gerber calls it quits

Published: Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013 - 8:04 am

Adrian Ruiz of the Youth Development Network has felt the Gerber effect. So have Derrell and Tina Roberts of the Roberts Family Development Center and Nilda Guanzon Valmores of My Sister's House.

They all lead nonprofits that hired Sharon Gerber to create outside-the-box fundraisers, and they all got much more than events. They report seeing increased visibility in the community and new relationships with affluent, influential Sacramentans.

Those names came from a contact list Gerber established over several years as community development manager for Wells Fargo. For her causes, she persuaded the Who's Who of Sacramento to tuck in napkins and compete in cereal- or pie-eating contests. She got them to take the stage in Elvis or Neil Diamond costumes. And when she asked them to model for a cause, some went on strict diets to lose 20 pounds before they took to the runway.

Well, those days are over, Sacramento. Gerber is ending her days as an event planner.

"When I started this company nine years ago, it was the right time," she told me. "I started on time. People weren't doing outside-the-box events. They were doing the same old, same old, and so there was a real need for what I did. … Now, when people see an innovative event, they all think it must be Sharon Gerber. And seeing that, I realized it's now time to close the curtain on what I'm doing. I knew instinctively nine years ago that it was time to start, and I know instinctively nine years later that it's time to close the show."

Gerber said she isn't quite certain what the next stage holds – and she's open to ideas.

Her swan song will be the May 20 My Sister's House gala at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento.

Cooking up Ambrosia

Pat Murakami realized around five years ago that she couldn't continue to give Sacramento her best if she continued to do it all.

Murakami owns two eateries, Ambrosia Café on K and Ambrosia at 621, plus her catering business, Ambrosia Fine Food.

Many locals discovered Murakami and her Asian fusion desserts back when she was trotting the globe with Chef David SooHoo of Chinois East/West. When SooHoo shuttered the restaurant, restaurants, caterers and event planners started calling Murakami at home. She quickly outgrew the home kitchen.

"I ended up where I am now with 4,000 square feet and a big kitchen, and I rented out half of it because I didn't have that much business," she said. "We're busting at the seams now."

With three businesses to run, Murakami's administrative work was piling up – insurance, accounting and more – and she knew she could no longer lead the baking and the stirring.

So, who exactly is feeding the roughly 1,000 people a day who feast on Ambrosia?

That would be the shy executive chef Michael Herman, who has worked at Bella Bru and other local eateries, and detail-oriented executive pastry chef Nicole Becker, who came to Ambrosia from Sam's Club.

"I'm always ripping articles out of magazines or pictures or whatever, and I'll leave them on the chef's desk," Murakami said, "so I can put my two cents in, but I'm not as actively involved as I used to be."

Going for green with Kats

Gregory Kats can talk all day about how green technology and sustainability lead to prosperity, but he'll have less than an hour today to make his case at the Green California Summit and Exposition at the Sacramento Convention Center.

Judging from a 15-minute talk with Kats, he'll leave his audience wanting more. He makes points that are easy to understand, like this one: "A lot of the green transition is about cutting waste, which drops to the bottom line whether I'm a household spending a couple hundred dollars less on utility bills, or whether I'm a business spending less on energy output, or whether I'm an exporter whose cost of manufacturing goes down and therefore I'm able to get more market share."

He has ideas on what to consider when buying stock: "Companies that invest in green buildings … tend to outperform their peers in stock market surveys."

Kats invests in early state green firms through his D.C.-based company, Capital-E, and he was the first recipient of the U.S. Green Building Council's lifetime achievement award.

Even if you can't make his talk, the summit will offer intriguing seminars and a chance to test-drive electric vehicles today and Friday.

"I knew instinctively nine years ago that it was time to start, and I know instinctively nine years later that it's time to close the show." – SHARON GERBER, events planner

Call The Bee's Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Follow him on Twitter @cathiea_sacbee.

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