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Culture Report: New Food Vendors Get Their Feet Wet in City Heights

Our new podcast introduces a banjo powerhouse in Spring Valley, the Con is a wrap, new series explores theater and autism and more in our weekly digest of the region’s arts and culture news.

New business is popping up on an empty lot in City Heights.

The Fair@44 pop-up food market on the corner of El Cajon Boulevard and 44th Street launched last year. Part of the plan was to have the outdoor market serve as a launchpad for new food vendors.

It took some time, but the international market, which happens every Wednesday and some Saturday evenings, is now home to a handful of first-time food vendors.

Jardel Silva is the owner of Gaucho Grilling and Bonfim Seafood, a tent at Fair@44 that sells street-style Brazilian food and is known for its fish stew and grilled meat, like skewers of charred chicken hearts. Silva said he’s thinking about launching a catering business, but he wanted to test the waters first.

“When we decided to start it, we wanted something at a scale that was good for us to get our feet wet, get a feel for it and see if there are possibilities,” he said.

Arturo González, who took a break from his job in pest control to start a new fruit stand called Fruit Paradise in March, said business has been good so far. Now he said he’s thinking about opening a brick-and-mortar Mexican deli, possibly in City Heights.

Arturo González, owner of Fruit Paradise.

Photo by Kinsee Morlan

González said the fair’s organizers handed him a detailed to-do list and walked him through the steps for becoming a legal food vendor – getting permits, insurance, a business license and passing health inspections.

A project started by the City Heights Community Development Corporation, El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association and other local nonprofits, Fair@44 also hosts movie nights, dance lessons and other community events. It’s located on a vacant lot owned by Price Philanthropies, which means it’s temporary and probably won’t last longer than a few more years. But El Cajon Boulevard BIA’s Beryl Forman said the project will have a lasting impact, and could influence the new mixed-used project that eventually gets built there.

She said the architect of the future mixed-used building, Rob Quigley, is incorporating elements in the project because of the programming that’s been successful at Fair@44.

“He left event space in the back of the lot,” Forman said. “He’s already recognizing what the community wants here.”

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On Building Banjos

VOSD’s latest podcast focuses on the stories behind our region’s businesses, big and small.

Our new podcast is called “I Made it in San Diego,” and the first episode launched last week. It features the story of Greg and Janet Deering, the couple behind Deering Banjo Company, a Spring Valley business that’s now the biggest manufacturer of banjos in the United States.

Greg and Janet Deering

Photo by Kinsee Morlan

The Deerings said they owe their success to a commitment they made to each other early on.

“We had a pact with each other that whatever happened, we were not going to quit,” Janet Deering said. “So what makes it successful is that determination of not giving up.”

Y’all can subscribe to the new podcast via iTunes or Stitcher.

Comic-Con Wraps, and Other Arts and Culture News

• KPBS’s Beth Accomando is always one of my go-to sources for Comic-Con news and coverage, and so are Dave Maass and Arturo Garcia, who rounded up the 25 best things they saw at Comic-Con this year.

Photo by Dustin Michelson

Photo by Dustin Michelson

The Old Globe has tapped its new managing director. (Union-Tribune)

 Theater critic Pat Launer says the Moonlight Stage production of  “The Little Mermaid” is “colorful, energetic, lively, and very well sung.” (Times of San Diego)

• This art event sounds mysterious and exciting.

 There’s a new artsy desert music festival happening in Jamul.

 Sparks Gallery, Alexander Salazar Fine Art, Art Produce and The Studio Door are collaborating on events and programs through August meant to demystify the gallery scene for local artists.

• Here’s the first piece in a new Union-Tribune series on the progress of InnerMission Productions’ “Falling,” a play about a young man with autism. The series, by theater critic James Hebert, who has a child with autism, will also look at the broader topic of autism and theater.

 A group called Art Unites is launching a new event series this week meant to shine a spotlight on some of the region’s best artists.

 Catch a series of free concerts by top high school and college-age musicians from around the world. The first one is Tuesday night in Balboa Park. (Union-Tribune)

 Open Show San Diego is an ongoing series that brings “visual storytellers together with audiences to share inspiring and exciting photography, film-making, and multimedia projects.” The next Open Show is happening Thursday at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.

 The San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture is inviting folks to the Skyline Hills Library for a community conversation to “help shape arts and culture in your neighborhood.”

 The pop-up Wonderspaces art exhibition in Mission Valley was supposed to close at the end of the month, but it’s been extended through Aug. 27.

 On Thursday, San Diego State University’s Downtown Gallery is hosting a reception for its show focused on photography as a medium for social change at the U.S.-Mexico border.

 Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” are just two of the hits by divas that the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus will tackle in its show this week.

Beer, Booze and Food News

 Coronado Brewing Company bought a majority share of Monkey Paw Brewing Company. (Reader)

 This new coffee shop in Ocean Beach is as Ocean Beachy as it gets. (10News)

 The annual HESSFEST beer and music festival is happening.

 I did not know “natural wine” is a thing, but there’s a three-day festival celebrating it this week.

 I told you about photographer Jaime Fritsch’s food events a few Culture Reports back. This week, Fritsch is back with another interesting event with Tijuana chef Javier Plascencia

 Here’s a roundup of places to get carne asada fries in San Diego. (There San Diego)

 There’s another craft beer option in Normal Heights. (Reader)

Kinsee Morlan is engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at kinsee@vosd.org. Want to recommend this culture newsletter to someone? Share this sign-up link. 

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