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Eclectic shop focuses on Sacramento flavor: ‘It’s really about lifting each other up’

See what ‘Sacramento has to offer’ at Tomato Alley Collective

"We started our place as an avenue for other small businesses like ourselves to showcase what they do," explains Rashell Choo, a co-owner of Tomato Alley Collective on Friday, July 5, 2019. A sign in their window encourages people to shop local.
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"We started our place as an avenue for other small businesses like ourselves to showcase what they do," explains Rashell Choo, a co-owner of Tomato Alley Collective on Friday, July 5, 2019. A sign in their window encourages people to shop local.

When customers first discover Tomato Alley Collective on 28th Street, they will find an intimate spot with quaint furnishings stocked with dozens of eclectic offerings from local businesses.

As co-founder Mario Lopez greets customers, he likes to share what the new space, which opened its doors in March, is all about. He’s quick to point out that there’s more to the store than people might anticipate. Tomato Alley Collective includes the shop as well as an art gallery, and hosts classes, community and charitable events and a podcast.

“We are doing so much in that little space,” Lopez said.

The venture was spearheaded by Lopez, Rashell Choo and Miles Jolly, three entrepreneurs who are laser-focused on supporting their community and local businesses through their work with the collective.

The store almost exclusively sells local products from the Sacramento region and the North State. The shop’s offerings include goods from The Bee Box, Seasons Coffee, Midtown Jerky Co., Burly Beverages, The Good Stuff preserves and Rescate Coffee. There’s also AmbroseBoards, a crafter of kitchen serving trays, cutting and charcuterie boards, as well as Jolly’s business, Jolly Trading Co., and journals, T-shirts and other products from Choo, a graphic designer.

Because of Jolly’s background, the shop also has plenty of barbecue-related products, including Jolly Trading Co. dry rubs and flavorful sauces. Tomato Alley Collective also is a certified Traeger grill dealer, carrying pellets, utensils, grills, sauces and rubs.

Jolly handles the shop’s offerings, and said he chooses small companies and family-owned businesses that use quality ingredients, purchasing directly from each to help them earn the highest profit from selling their wares. He knows how hard it can be to get “discovered in your own backyard.”

“[Jolly Trading Co.] was a big jump for me. I was very scared to take that risk,” he said.

Tomato Alley Collective is his way of continuing to pursue his passion while also encouraging others to take that risk with their own business ventures.

“If you’re passionate about it and really think you have a good product, don’t be afraid to take a chance with it,” he said.

The collective also hosts a rotating art exhibit. Lopez, a professional photographer, chooses Sacramento-based artists of all mediums. He’ll also host the collective’s first class.

In addition to supporting local business and providing exposure to new artists and craftspeople, Choo said the collective’s goal has been to create opportunities to bring the community together. The team hosts pop up events in its back parking lot every second Saturday of the month, mini crafts fairs where local vendors can feature their wares and food trucks can offer sliders, desserts and more with no charge for the space (though the back lot also is available for private bookings). They’ve hosted a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention as well.

“We’re all about coming together and helping each other,” Choo said. “We just want an avenue for everybody to shine.”

The co-founders also host the podcast We Are Sacramento, along with Mari Padilla, of Boss Ass Women of Sacramento. Episodes highlight local movers and shakers and bringing awareness of social issues impacting the city. Lopez, who spearheaded the project, said his goal is to represent and remind folks of Sacramento’s character, the people who live there and what they are doing for their city.

Adding to the charm of the store are the “Tomato Alley kids,” who make periodic appearances on Tomato Alley Collective’s Facebook page to mercilessly test out new products and, amid bouts of giggles, offer a thumbs up or thumbs down.

The young critics are Lopez’s children, Brooklyn and Mario Jr. He said they love spending time at the store, and getting paid in desserts and extra allowance money to be taste testers. For Lopez, the store also offers an opportunity for him to encourage his children to work hard, to understand what it can feel like to take ownership of something and be proud of it.

For him, “Tomato Alley Collective is a safe place for Sacramento to be itself.”

“It’s really about lifting each other up,” Choo added. “That’s the idea behind Tomato Alley Collective – collectively we’re coming together for the greater good.”

If you go

Where: Tomato Alley Collective, 2014 28th St., Ste. F

When: Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Online: facebook.com/tomatoalleycollective

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