Benvenuti’s daughter and son-in-law plan Carmichael public market

Nancy Emerson Davis didn’t win her father’s approval of every real estate deal she made, and she endured her share of lengthy lectures from the multimillionaire developer who built Arco Arena, the Hyatt Regency Sacramento and the high-rise Renaissance Tower.

Joe Benvenuti did, however, heartily approve of the project that Davis and her husband, Allan Davis, are pursuing in Carmichael – a public market that the couple is calling Milagro Centre. Three days before Benvenuti died, just after Nancy Davis kissed him good night, he told her that he was certain the project would make a lot of money.

“He was 91, and I think he thought, ‘Wow, they’re finally doing something,’” Nancy Davis said. “So I just smiled and I said, ‘Well, I hope so.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it will.’ He could have said, ‘Why are you wasting your time?’ because that was his MO all the time. ‘Don’t waste your money’ and ‘I don’t know why you’re doing that.’ I walked out of there, and I thought, ‘OK, that’s good.’”

The Davises see Milagro (Spanish for “miracle”) as a culinary hub that will feature restaurants and brewpubs, specialty food and grocery vendors, and specialty items for the kitchen. They are working with architects Kenton C. Russell and Michael Martin to completely update and revamp an existing strip mall at 6241 Fair Oaks Blvd. Most interior walls are being removed to open up the space, and they’re adding skylights, an atrium with live bamboo and a fireplace, plus two rooms for private meetings.

If you pass by the property now, you might not see the building, which is set far back on the property. That’s why Martin is adding an arch and lush trees to pull shoppers through the property’s entrance.

The first phase for Milagro Centre is remodeling the strip mall, but the Davises also plan to add structures and open-air dining near the roadway. The final phase will be a two-story office building. If the project goes as planned, the Davises said, it will become a community gathering place for Carmichael and beyond.

The couple acquired the property out of foreclosure about 2 1/2 years ago for an undisclosed sum. “2008 was a bad situation for so many people,” Nancy Davis said. “For us, it was a good situation in a way. We were able to pick up several foreclosures and remodel them.”

Nancy Davis said it was the food aspect of the project that most intrigued her father, who grew up on a farm in Ontario and ran a wholesale grocery business in New Jersey before he moved to Sacramento. If he had lived, she said, he probably would have hung out there and told them what sort of vendors they needed.

Going public

If the city of Sacramento’s public market had survived, it would have been 90 years old Wednesday, and four businessmen used that fact to promote their campaign to bring a world-class public market back to the city.

Steve Carlin, Jeffrey K. Dorso, Richard Rich and Joe Rodota invited tenants, financiers, workers and others affiliated with the erstwhile market to return to their old stomping grounds, now home to the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel at 1230 J St.

Wally Clark told me the gathering allowed him to reconnect with people who had once been an everyday part of his life but whom he hadn’t seen for 25 or 30 years in some cases.

“My grandfather opened his business there in 1930, which was W.G. Clark Printing, and ... we were there until the market closed in 1976, so my grandfather and my Dad and then I ended up working ...there,” Clark said. “By the end of the thing, I also started a business of my own, which is Associated Sound, and we started there in the public market in 1968. We’re audio contractors.”

Clark said the public market was a fantastic playground for a kid, with so many independent merchants in one place: two butcher shops, a poultry market, a fish market, fresh produce, a vacuum cleaner salesman, a coffee bar, lunch stand, barbershop and grocery store.

“We never went to a supermarket,” Clark said. “My Mom or Dad, whatever they wanted for dinner that night, they’d pick it up when they left work.”

The place sounds pretty magical, so why did it ever close? Clark said the birth of K Street Mall, costly deferred maintenance on the market building and a moribund economy all played a role in its demise. He said he hoped that, if a public market comes together in future, it will have ample room for small, independent merchants inside and lots of low-cost parking outside.

Squeeze in, men

Macy’s Downtown Plaza converted more than 4,000 square feet of storage space into sales space as the retailer moved furniture and menswear into its main building at 414 K St. from the leased space at the other end of the mall that had housed those departments.

Store manager Heather Stallion said they also made better use of the showroom space they had. Menswear takes the spot once held by women’s intimate apparel on the first floor. That department moves to the second floor, which is now dedicated to women’s and girls’ clothing. Furniture is now on the third floor, along with housewares.

“We have the furniture assortment to fit everything from a 500-square-foot studio ... all the way up to a really large home,” Stallion said.

The store’s visual marketing team has been put to the test with the conversion, and they have responded with a couple of displays that emphasize place, including a cowhide cutout of the state of California with a star to identify the capital. Right next to it is the word ‘SAC’ in lights. Also coming is a mural of the Tower Bridge.

Stallion had the challenge of squeezing new departments into the building, along with new brands such as Maison Jules, Qmack and Farberware. The staff celebrated all the changes with a special event Wednesday, giving away free gift cards and bringing in Sacramento Kings players to sign autographs.

Editor’s note: This story was changed Nov. 8 to correct the spelling of Wally Clark.

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