Cathie Anderson

Spanish-language school gets new casa in Sacramento

After nearly a year of anticipation, Maria Harrington and Johnny Walker finally have moved Casa de Español into much roomier digs at 1101 R St. in Sacramento.

The Spanish-language school opened nearly four years ago with only 25 students in a 700-square-foot spot near Tapa the World on J Street. This week, roughly 350 adults and children started taking classes in a 3,900-square-foot space.

Harrington and Walker are inviting everyone to their school’s grand-opening festivities this weekend. With nearly three times the space, Harrington said, the school now has room to become the cultural center that she and Walker envisioned from the beginning.

They already have been offering travel opportunities, Harrington said, and classes in bachata and salsa dancing are coming soon. She plans to expand into selling art reproductions, mementos and educational materials.

“We’ve done a Guatemala trip twice already,” she said. “Johnny and I have been working on putting together a nonprofit called HelpChiapas.org. When I was at Berkeley, I went to a community in Chiapas, and I was able to interview a variety of community officials and families and I asked them what I could bring back. They wanted English teachers.”

Chiapas is at the southernmost tip of Mexico, and it’s one of that nation’s poorest states. For the past seven years, Harrington has enlisted teachers and other professionals to visit and share their knowledge. But this year will different.

“This will be the first year we get to take Casa students to the community,” she said. “Our fundraising will be starting soon to build a bathroom for the community.”

The school’s growth wouldn’t have been possible without mentoring or cross-promotion from established businesses and organizations such as Tapa the World, La Raza, the U.S. Small Business Administration, SCORE and Zocalo, Harrington said.

Win-win for Devine Gelateria

The staff behind the “got milk?” campaign went searching around California for the best milk recipes they could find – and decided to select one of the gelatos from Sacramento’s Devine Gelateria & Cafe.

Gelato chef Elizabeth McCleary’s strawberries and cream recipe made the list along with the Gilroy garlic mac at Oakland’s Homeroom restaurant and the iced cafe con leche at Café Córazon in Fresno. The “got milk?” list features seven different businesses from up and down the Golden State. The publicity helped them score interviews with local television stations and publications.

“The local businesses have been seeing a bump in their business in the days after the interview,” said spokeswoman Susana Nuñez, who handles the “got milk?” campaign with RL Public Relations in Los Angeles. “The owners of the coffee shop told us that they typically see their sales go down in the summer, but after the owner did an interview and shared his recipe with viewers on a local TV station, when he got back to his shop, it was packed and everyone was congratulating him and were excited to try it.”

Summer is a busy time already at Devine, but McCleary said she’s definitely seen similar bumps from the media promotion she’s been doing. The California Milk Processor Board, creator of the “got milk?” campaign, also asked McCleary and the other business owners to create recipes to inspire consumers to try and reproduce their products at home.

The “got milk?” advertising and promotional campaigns have been fun, memorable and creative, said Scot Crocker, co-owner of Sacramento’s Crocker & Crocker public relations firm. They’re the people who put milk mustaches on celebrities and got America laughing over a quiz show contestant who missed his big shot at a fortune because he didn’t have any milk to clear the peanut butter out of his mouth.

The campaigns have been parodied quite often, Crocker said, but they haven’t moved the dial when it comes to getting Americans to consume more milk. This latest promotion incorporates America’s love for the little guy and for contests in an effort to motivate consumers to also buy and use milk at home.

“The Lay’s (potato chip) folks have done a similar thing,” Crocker said. “They went out and solicited recipes for different flavors, and recently there was a Sacramento woman whose idea made it to the final three nationally for the different Lay’s potato chip. They got lots of media attention over it.”

This type of campaign allows the Milk Processor Board to showcase some wonderful things created with milk, many of which are not only healthy but also taste good, Crocker said. They’re getting their core brand message out while also helping the little guy, he concluded, and that’s a win-win.

Call The Bee’s Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Follow her on Twitter @CathieA_SacBee.

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