Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Sacramento’s Stage Nine makes a name for itself nationally with fair exhibits

Cathie Anderson
Cathie Anderson

When Troy Carlson agreed to create a “Star Wars” exhibit for the 2005 California State Fair, he figured it would be just a one-time thing.

Nine years later, Carlson’s exhibits on such subjects as candy, toys and animation tour state and large county fairs all around the nation, and his company, Stage Nine Design, brings in 40 percent of his overall business revenue. Carlson also owns the Stage Nine movie memorabilia shop and G. Willikers! toy store, both in Old Sacramento. He’s poured every dollar that Stage Nine Design has earned into expanding the number of exhibits.

“I’ve gotten to a place where we have four really great exhibits that we own and that are able to tour,” he said. “We also do projects for independent museums that they purchase outright. We’ve done projects for the Sacramento Children’s Museum. We’ve also built things for the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.”

Recently, Carlson remodeled a warehouse in West Sacramento to allow wedding and event planners to view and lease his collection of props and showpieces. It’s now open at 751 Northport Drive.

“We’ve got a whole collection of ’80s video games from our toy exhibit,” he said. “So maybe someone’s doing an ’80s party, and they need like a classic Pac-Man or Donkey Kong. Or, we’ve got a (1966) Batmobile that we’ve built in conjunction with Warner Brothers. We’ve got all kinds of crazy things.”

Carlson’s exhibits typically are booked from May through October. His team is booking the 2014 season now, and fair organizers up in Vancouver, British Columbia, are already talking to him about getting the animation exhibit he created for this year’s L.A. County Fair. That display took up 30,000 square feet, 10 times the space he needed for his first show.

Unlike the animation exhibit, early shows weren’t built to last or to travel, Carlson said. Fair organizers from several states have asked for his exhibit on the history of candy making, for instance, but he had scrapped much of Candy Nation.

“We’re going to bring it back this year for the California State Fair for our 10th anniversary,” said Carlson, who’s looking forward to the challenge. “It’s almost like making a sequel to a movie. Everything that you liked, you can do again, and the things that needed to improve, you get a second chance.”

Solve taxing questions

If you’re in charge of the finances for a nonprofit, chances are that you will have questions about sales taxes, income taxes and property taxes.

On Friday, experts from the Board of Equalization, the Franchise Tax Board and the California Association of Nonprofits will come together to provide answers during a free seminar in the council chambers at Sacramento City Hall, 915 I St.

“I always think it’s a very good idea for people to know the rules,” said Jan Masaoka, chief executive of the California Association of Nonprofits. “There’s always new people in charge of things.”

Jacob Roper, a spokesperson for the state Controller’s Office, explained that an organization may qualify as exempt for one type of tax but not another, or its officials may not realize that an exemption doesn’t mean they don’t have to fill out other forms or file paperwork.

“For sales taxes, for example, if you are a nonprofit that sells food or you have a gift shop the sales may or may not be taxable, but what is likely is that you may need a seller’s permit, just like any other retailer in the state, meaning that after you register with the secretary of state you also need to go to the Board of Equalization,” Roper said. “I can tell you that my mother is one who calls with questions like that all the time because she is the president of the Old Town Auburn Historic Soroptimist Club.”

Participants must register for the seminar by calling (213) 833-6010 or onsite at 8:30 a.m. Friday. The event runs from 9 a.m. to noon.

Easy as pie

Rick Spaans contacted me earlier this week to let me know that, for the first time, regional customers will be able to order their Thanksgiving pies and rolls online from Spaans Cookie Co. in Galt starting on Nov. 1.

Regular readers of this column will recall that Spaans jumped into the world of online sales in January, starting with its cookies, and the company had hoped to set up an online tab where customers could order their holiday goodies. It’s ready to go, but Spaans will not ship the treats. Rather, customers will have to choose a date from Nov. 25-27 to pick them up.

“Normally when people would order our pies and rolls, they would have to call (or visit) our store during our business hours and place their order,” Spaans said. “We would take down their telephone numbers. We would run their credit cards, and then they would come pick it up, and my thought was, ‘Why not make it easier for the customer? Why not let them order whenever they want to, whether it’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon or 2 o’clock in the morning?’”

Once Thanksgiving is over, Spaans said, will begin taking Christmas orders for pies and rolls under the “Purchase Products” tab. Last year, Spaans sold 800 pies and 19,200 dinner rolls over the Thanksgiving period.