Bows and Arrows readies new space

Words by Adam Saake – Photos by Nicholas Wray

Sacramento is home to a large community of artists that continue to thrive with the help of each other as well as the trailblazing efforts of people like Trisha Rhomberg and Olivia Coelho. The 30-something, young business owners partnered in November 2007 to open Bows and Arrows, a vintage fashion store that over the years evolved into a multi-use space. The 17th and L street location was home to many Second Saturday art openings, some of the most amazing yet quietly talked about music shows, Pearl Records vinyl shop, Thunderhorse Vintage, a moped shop, the Junkee shop and most importantly a meeting place for young creatives who had a place to congregate and share ideas. And as much as Rhomberg and Coelho loved their space that they had poured so much of themselves into over the years, these two entrepreneurs were still hungry to expand and do even more. So, on June 4, Rhomberg and Coelho will open an even more ambitious version of Bows and Arrows at a new location at 1815 19th Street in Sacramento.

“We had been enjoying our Second Saturdays, our arts shows and our music shows a lot at our old location. We thought that it would be nice to focus more on the art, have a different building, a nice focused area for an art gallery and be able to serve beer and wine,” says Coelho.

The two began what would be become a tedious, yet invaluable learning experience as they searched for the perfect space to carry out their new and improved vision. Coelho had experience finding buildings, but on a smaller scale, when she opened her first vintage boutique Olipom. She sought out a second building for Olipom after the first building suffered fire damage in 2006. But the amount of blood, sweat and paperwork that was required to get their new space, a charming ivy-covered building located in the R Street corridor, up and off the ground was eye-opening.

“What the problem is, is that there are all of these rules. If a building looks really cool, but it’s in an area where you need to provide parking to the public and there’s no parking then you can’t do it,” explains Coelho.

ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements along with city codes are very strict when it comes to opening a business like Rhomberg and Coelho’s. It’s not just parking but, for example, how many bathrooms are required and what size they need to be. Even something minute like a .5 percent shift in the grade of their concrete leading into an entrance was a huge expense to correct.

“We thought that people had been using that door for a long time. What’s the big deal? We had to tear out the whole front and re-pour that sidewalk,” says a frustrated Coelho.

It’s not that Rhomberg and Coelho are annoyed that they need to make their new business handicapped accessible, it’s that there are so many requirements; so many road blocks in the way and each one adds more and more money to their tight and dwindling budget.

“You just start burning through your money. You think 80 grand is a lot of money and it’s just not. It’s shit,” says Coelho.

The City of Sacramento has employees that Coelho says are “really sweet people,” it’s just the “rules that are devastating.” The new Bows and Arrows plans to have live shows as well, something they’d be continuing from their previous space. This time around, though, things will be a lot more legitimate and more in tune with how an actual live music venue operates. That means that Bows has applied for an entertainment permit since their occupancy is over 49. These permits aren’t easy to come by, if they are even able to acquire one at all, and they’re expensive: $1,400 a piece and non-refundable. On top of that, the permit requires that two security guards, approved by the Sacramento Police Department, be on duty for all the shows. Again, having security at shows isn’t the issue, it’s the cost associated with those requirements.

“If we have 30 people come, they each pay $3 and we make $90 off the door and we pay $250 out to security…we’re at a loss every time we try and have a show,” says Coelho.

But Rhomberg and Coelho aren’t here to bitch and moan and not do anything about what they don’t agree with. Both owners have made their presence known at Midtown Business Association mixers, Midtown Merchants meetings where Coelho is a board member, and they even sat down and had a beer with Councilman Steve Cohn. After an MBA mixer, Rhomberg and Coelho, along with a group of local movers and shakers all sat down with Cohn at Midtown’s Streets of London.

“He had no idea how hard of a time we’re having trying to showcase local musicians. We’re not busting windows out of places. We’re not these wild and crazy people, but there’s nowhere to have it,” says Rhomberg.

They’re both extremely passionate about not only making some real changes themselves, but also about empowering and inspiring the young artists and small business owners to do the same.

“There are sympathetic ears, but they can’t hear you screaming when you’re at a house party with all of your friends. How is anyone in power supposed to know that there are all these disgruntled young people in town who aren’t up to no good?” says Coelho.

Rhomberg says that things like being able to talk with Cohn, attending the MBA mixers and having their voices be heard are all great opportunities to take some steps forward in the right direction. She fears that if more spaces, like the new Bows and Arrows, which will have a gallery to feature local and emerging artists, don’t begin opening and flourishing more often, then our artists community will find homes elsewhere.

“How are we ever going to have our own creative class if everybody feels they need to leave and go to San Francisco or Portland or Los Angeles to make a living in an arts industry? We have to keep our creative class here. We have to provide them jobs and we have to provide them venues to showcase their talents so people know about them,” says Rhomberg who along with Coelho is also a working visual artist.

June 4 will also be the first gallery opening with a stunner of a show from San Francisco-based artist Hilary Pecis. Pecis recently had a spread in Juxtapoz Magazine, and she’s represented by the exciting Guerrero Gallery located in the San Francisco’s Mission District. Her work is collage constructed from found Internet images, piled and manipulated to form impossible landscapes and designs. Her work will fit in perfectly with everything going on in the new space that Coelho says will be based off of their taste and aesthetic.

“When it really comes down to it, it has to be something that we’re drawn to and inspired by,” says Coelho.

Part of that draw and inspiration is behind the partnership with Jaymes Luu of Fat Face, who will be taking over the café space to do her signature sandwiches and gourmet popsicles. Friend Becky Grunewald, local writer and foodie, took the Bows duo to Davis where Luu was operating inside a very small space. Grunewald wanted to show them what could be done without a hood inside a smaller kitchen, the one similar to the Bows and Arrows kitchen. It turned out to be a serendipitous meeting where the three hit it off immediately.

“We liked her right off the bat and it just seemed like such a nice cohesion. It was like love at first sight,” says Coelho.

In no time Luu was on board and the vision for the new space was complete. The collaboration of Bows and Fat Face will be fruitful no doubt. Rhomberg and Coelho have been working, along with some trusted palates like sommelier Michele Hebert, on assembling a wine and beer list for the café. Delerium Tremens, West Coast IPA and others are among the beers being considered for the list along with four draft beers. With Luu’s food that is packed with unique flavors, you might see some interesting parings taking place.

“I want to do that, and I know Olivia and Trisha want that. I’m definitely going to work toward that,” says Luu.

It all seems like a lot going on: the café, the music venue, the gallery and of course the thing that started it all, the vintage fashion. If local fashionistas are concerned that Rhomberg and Coelho have lost their focus when it comes to the clothes, fear not, because they will be merely focusing their inventory so more shoppers can feel comfortable while browsing the racks.

“There’s a very specific breed of people that…want to see everything they can see. But the majority of people get very overwhelmed…and I feel like in order to make the shopping experience more enjoyable and more intimate, we had to edit the selection,” says Rhomberg.

Whether you’re a hardcore shopper or casual, a beer drinker or prefer wine, a lover of art and music or you’re creative juices flow from food, the new Bows and Arrows has something for you. And when it all boils down, it started with two young creative minds with a passion for all the things they love and a loyalty to the city they live in.

“I want everything. I want to literally, physically surround myself with amazing beer, good music. I want to be sewing and making handmade clothes, I want to look at vintage clothes for inspiration. And I want to show my art and show my friends’ art. I want it all and I want to share it all,” says Rhomberg.

The new Bows and Arrows, located at 1815 19th Street opened June 4, 2011 with an exhibit by Bay Area artist Hilary Pecis.