Business & Real Estate

Duo turn promotional skills toward community events

Maritza Davis helps a customer while her husband, Roshaun Davis, left, takes video at their pop-up shop in early April in Sacramento.
Maritza Davis helps a customer while her husband, Roshaun Davis, left, takes video at their pop-up shop in early April in Sacramento.

Roshaun and Maritza Davis specialize in creating something out of nothing for their clients.

They are the people behind Gather, the frolicking monthly street dinner party in Oak Park that draws hundreds of people out on summer evenings. In North Sacramento, their GOOD street food + design market, which resumes in June, fills an empty warehouse with vendors selling locally made food and crafts.

The couple’s third major venture is Display, a retail store on Broadway in Oak Park that reinvents itself every six to eight weeks. It reopened April 7 as a kids store. It was previously a holiday store and a wedding chapel.

“They have a great blend of knowing what is going on in the community and knowing what brands they are looking for,” said Andrea Lepore, creative director of midtown’s Hot Italian restaurant, who has hired the couple’s Unseen Heroes marketing and events planning firm for a variety of jobs.

“They really fill a niche here that no one else is filling,” Lepore said.

In 2008, when they were just starting out, Roshaun Davis’ knack for invention even extended to creating an entire person.

Then a Sacramento State student, Davis was struggling to promote his hip-hip group Righteous Movement. It was growing in popularity, but without record label support or a manager it was having a hard time breaking free of low-paying friends and family deals. So he invented a manager. For a time, even the band members didn’t know the manager didn’t exist.

“They would be like: ‘Yo, where is this guy at? We never get to see him,’” Davis said. “People would call me all the time and be like: ‘Yo, who is doing that for you guys? You guys have really taken a jump forward.’ And I was like: ‘We have a manager now.’”

Using the manager persona Shawn Williams and communicating by email, Roshaun booked bigger gigs, handled media and created an air of success. Soon, then-girlfriend Maritza Villegas took over the job and applied her “flea market hustle” to keep the momentum going.

“I just negotiated until I got what I wanted,” Maritza Davis, 31, explained from the pair’s Oak Park office. That included asking venues to cover travel expenses and make other concessions that are standard for label bands but hard to come by for local artists.

The couple eventually took on other artists, so when the band’s run ended, they transitioned into throwing events for business clients and eventually into block party events for business associations under the Unseen Heroes name.

Lepore helped set them on their path when she hired them to help create, market and execute events associated with the pizza, gelato and apparel business, including the Bicycle Film Festival and eventually GOOD, which fills an empty warehouse with vendors selling food and crafts.

Architect and developer Ron Vrilakas said they were the obvious choice once the Oak Park Business Association decided to bring in outside help to create an event aimed at bringing new life and energy to north Oak Park.

Vrilakas said the couple’s creativity and entrepreneurial spirit has helped the events exceed expectations.

“A lot of people have great ideas, but not of lot of people are good at executing them,” Vrilakas said.

Tamika L’Ecluse, president of the Oak Park Neighborhood Association, said the events are helping bring the community together.

“It’s a great reason to get out of your home and out in the community engaging with other people,” L’Ecluse said. “It’s been a very positive influence. I can’t wait for it to start.”

This year’s Gather kicks off on May 14.

The Davises are also tenants of Vrilakas’ Broadway Triangle project. Connected spaces house the Unseen Heroes operations team and the ever-evolving Display pop-up store.

Redecorating and restocking Display is a lot of work, but Maritza Davis said they’re up for it. It grew out of a desire to do more with the local designers slogging it out with weekend events.

“We look at a lot of the designers as family. This is our way of giving people an opportunity to test it out and see where their passion can lead to,” said Roshaun Davis, 33.

At least one designer, Ana Manzano, was able to parlay her weekend success into a brick-and-mortar business, ana apple, in Old Sacramento selling her baby clothing and hosting classes.

“The majority of Sacramento is big-box stores. There are some boutiques that will carry some local designs, but there is not a ton out there,” Maritza Davis said.

Call The Bee’s Ed Fletcher, (916) 321-1269. Follow him on Twitter @NewsFletch.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee