Energy: That’s the word that gets repeated often around the Warehouse Artist Lofts on R Street between 11th and 12th streets, and for good reason: The mixed-use loft project is teeming with artists, creative retailers and enterprising restaurants whose diversity is matched only by the eclectic mix of business owners who have bought into developer Ali Youssefi’s plan for the building.
In addition to the 116 residences in the building’s upper tiers, the first floor is home to eight enterprises operated by established regional business-owners and first-timers alike. And while each operation varies wildly from one to another, they are all a part of the same shared vision for an area that is quickly becoming midtown Sacramento’s hottest destination.
Meet some of the R Street Corridor’s newest neighbors:
Benjamin’s Shoes: Stepping into Benjamin Schwartz’ loafer shop feels like taking a step back into a more elegant, simpler time. The former state worker and self-taught cobbler makes all of his shoes to order and by hand.
Schwartz darts from table to table, mingling with customers as he cuts soles and shapes patterned fabrics into his trademark swanky and undeniably unique design: one style, many looks. He taught himself the craft from a textbook he found online, and in five years honed both his skills and brand.
“I went through a lot of different stages from cutting soles by hand, whether from leather or rubber sheets, then I got into pattern making,” Schwartz says. “At first I was making lace-ups, so I was punching all the eyelets. And then after, it became more about finding a new style that fits with our market and then figuring out something was easier for me to reproduce so it would be consistently high quality.”
For the largely niche idea and unique approach, WAL was a perfect fit for Schwartz. “There’s a lot of opportunity there, which gives us more ways that we can work with or collaborate with other people locally,” he says.
Bottle & Barlow: Anthony’s Barbershop is one of the most heralded and popular venues in the city to get a trim, and while patrons have been known to put back a brew or two while waiting for a shave, co-owner Anthony Giannotti is taking the idea of a barber shop to the next level with Bottle & Barlow.
Situated at WAL’s northeast corner of 12th and R streets, the space is a dual-purpose venture where customers can get a fade, a drink or both. Giannotti says that most barbers have thought about the idea, but he knew he needed to expand and take advantage of the opportunity to be a part of something a bit different.
“It’s just such an exciting neighborhood to be in,” Giannotti says. “We all really wanted to contribute to that … It was important to us to keep it local and be somewhere that locals can thrive.”
Craft cocktails flow from an adjoining bar as the sound of clippers buzz in the air. For a shop’s whose motto is “Get Loose, Stay Sharp,” there are fewer better places at which to do so than WAL.
Fish Face Poke Bar: For a region with about as many sushi bars as 100-degree days, Sacramento had a notable lack of poke, the popular Hawaiian raw fish dish.
That deficiency prompted Kru chef Billy Ngo to team up with longtime friends and colleagues Peter Kwong, Peter Chiu and Phuong Tram to create Fish Face, a fresh poke bar that dabbles in sushi but specializes in marinated raw fish adorned with onions, seaweed and custom sauces. Customers fill out an order form to choose fish, toppings, sauces and drinks, and everything is made to order.
Tram says that, for a restaurant concept new to Sacramento, WAL Public Market’s diverse, creative community was a clear fit.
“It has just become this very energetic, creative community of really supportive people,” Tram says. “They support the local businesses here, everybody knows everybody by name. It’s been just a big family. That was definitely something that appealed to all of us when we decided to take the space here.”
Kechmara: Ali Setayeshhas been dealing handmade Moroccan rugs for more than six years, visiting Morocco annually and handpicking each piece for his personal collection and online marketplace (available only in Europe). The Iranian transplant never thought he would be able to open a storefront in Sacramento. He says that a decade or so ago the city would not have supported such a niche marketplace.
But the explosion of small businesses and creative development in the last five years changed his mind, and when the space in the WAL public market opened up, Setayesh jumped at the chance.
“When [the WAL business owners] all signed leases in this building, we all had to look forward to the future, because it kind of was a dead alley,” Setayesh says. “And we all believed in it, and now we’re seeing it grow.”
Kechmara resembles an old-world art gallery, the walls adorned with large, colorful Beni Ourain rugs surrounding stacks of bright fabrics, each one handmade in Morocco with prices ranging from $100 to well into the thousands.
For Setayesh, the storefront is the realization of a lifelong passion and love for his wares.
“They’re like paintings: There’s a story behind every rug,” he says. “And I kept buying, and I kept looking, and it wasn’t anymore about just buying rugs; I was looking for the ones that had stories.”
Kicksville Vinyl & Vintage and Medium Rare Records: In an era that has seen the rise and fall what were once community institutions like The Beat and Tower Records, duelling vintage record stores Kicksville Vinyl & Vintage and Medium Rare Records are bringing back vinyl with a vengeance.
The two share a common space in the middle of WAL Public Market, offering a wide selection of old and new records spanning the vast continuum of musical genres in addition to other vintage products.
Metro Juice Kitchen + Drinkery: Balance is at the heart of everything Lisa Johnson believes and does, and it is reflected her restaurant Metro Juice Kitchen + Drinkery. The business offers fresh-pressed juice made almost exclusively from local produce from farms around the region — beets, kale, carrots — that cleanse, refresh and, when mixed in the kitchen’s custom “crafty” cocktails, provide a nice buzz as well.
Johnson and husband Keith have been operating the Metro Juice brand at local farmers markets since 2014. Now situated at the very front of the house in the WAL Public Market adjacent to Fish Face, the restaurant offers a range of healthy salads and sandwiches in addition to wine, beer and kombucha.
Johnson’s approach is to appeal to all individuals who value healthy eating, including those who prefer to indulge in an adult beverage from time to time.
“People have many different kinds of lifestyles, and the interest for making sound food choices spans a really broad demographic,” Johnson says. “It’s not just a health nut or a yoga person or an athlete; it’s you, it’s me and it’s so many more people. Our intention is to offer a range of choices of food and beverages that you can eat everyday and start to feel better everyday.”
Old Gold: A mixed-use artist’s’ loft project wouldn’t be complete without somewhere to buy the clothes to look the part, and Old Gold offers features that in spades. Old Gold features items and clothing handmade by local artists and designers in addition to a wide selection of vintage T-shirts and bohemian apparel.
Little by little throughout June and July, the WAL tenants opened their doors, and now, the lofts are in full swing. All except Bottle & Barlow on the corner have sacrificed some street visibility for space inside the building, but that really doesn’t seem to matter, as hundreds of visitors flock to WAL each day.
The vision that is shared by all who are a part of WAL — the business-owners, residents, entrepreneurs, artists and Youssefi, the mastermind behind it all — is at last coming to life as the neighborhood aggressively shakes off age-old rust. In a time of unprecedented change in the region, WAL serves as a sampling of the kind of people and energy that is driving downtown and midtown Sacramento into a new era.