Improving Neighborhoods One Business, One Block, One Street at a Time


By Jeannie Howard

With projects such as the Dia de Los Muertos Festival, which has been inducted into the Congress Hall of Fame and has become a fixture event for the Fruitvale community since its inception more than twenty years ago, and the Temescal District in Oakland, urban revitalization has been an endless career passion for Darlene Rios Drapkin, founder of Urban Transformations and an Ambassador for the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. “I am very intrigued by economic redevelopment strategies,” she said, “and I love the flare and the creativity that is present in commercial districts. It is fun to be a part of a community and to have a nearby shopping area to walk.”

Starting her consulting business, Urban Transformations, more than a decade ago, Drapkin has searched for opportunities to not simply consult on ways to improve urban business districts throughout the Bay Area, but has also been a hands-on advocate for merchants. “All I really do is help neighborhoods live up to their full potential,” Drapkin expressed.

Even though Drapkin has been a Richmond resident for more than twenty years, her redevelopment projects had consistently kept her focus outside of her own community—up until the last few years that is. “I had been working the last twenty years in Oakland and other neighborhoods and then I thought, ‘wait, Richmond needs my help,’” she said. With the assistance of some small grants, Drapkin has been able to shift her focus to helping revitalize Richmond. Because of the city’s immense potential, Drapkin admits that she is always very positive about Richmond and strongly believes that through community and city cooperation there can be greater representation for small businesses, which will “create more walkable and liveable neighborhoods in Richmond.”

Garnering more attention and representation does not just happen, as Drapkin states, but that it takes a consorted effort from the business owners themselves. “The city is an important element, but you can’t just rely on the city,” she explains. “Merchants have to become an extension of the city in helping resolve issues and becoming part of the solution.” This involvement, she strongly believes, is what creates community stakeholders that have vested interests in the success of neighborhoods. “Part of my role is to get those merchants involved,” she said, “which is why I am so active with the chamber.”

Through Drapkin’s efforts, the Richmond Chamber of Commerce has experienced an uptick in new membership. “I have brought in like nine new members within the last month,” she said. In addition to her work with the chamber, Drapkin is also a counselor with the Contra Costa Small Business Development Center, SBDC. “This is an underutilized resource,” she stated. “I work with merchants to help them access information on lending options, marketing, and even help with bookkeeping.”

The Richmond end of 23rd Street is Drapkin’s current project, Calle 23. “As a Latina, I take a special interest in Latin neighborhoods,” she expressed. “23rd Street is predominately a Latino neighborhood and I have been doing work to steer the available resources the city has to 23rd Street to create vitality for this commercial corridor.” Through a comprehensive, multipronged approach of bringing business owners, police, and the city together, Drapkin has been able to make strides in improving 23rd Street.

“Through our efforts, the city has installed what are called treasure box trash cans and we’re now going to be getting an update on the streetscape plan,” she explained. “The corridor will start looking a lot nicer, which means we are closer.” While the beautification of 23rd Street through the future additions of new street lights, pedestrian-friendly lighting, and new greenery will be appealing to potential shoppers and residence, Drapkin wants to be clear that there is still a ways to go. “I wish I could tell you things happen overnight, but it is very small incremental steps,” she admitted. “You celebrate every incremental step though and I am in it for the long haul.” Drapkin has extended an open invitation to residents and other community members who would like to become a part of this ongoing neighborhood project,

She continues to work with the approximately 160 merchants on 23rd Street in the improvement of their individual storefronts and to increase their involvement not just with the Richmond Chamber of Commerce but also with the police department through merchant watch meetings that address safety issues. “We have had a tremendous response this year at the merchant watch meetings,” she said. “So the merchants are listening to how we make our community better.”

Through her decades of experience in urban revitalization, Drapkin stated that this type of work becomes a chain reaction. “Once you start improving one building—one block—other merchants start doing it too. It is a domino effect.”

Through urban redevelopment not only do shoppers and business owners benefit, according to Drapkin, but so too do cities. “This is what I love about the work I am doing,” she said. “Once it takes off, it generates revenue for the city of Richmond. When small businesses succeed they generate sales tax revenue.” This tax revenue, as Drapkin sees it, helps the city to fulfill the service needs of communities. “I will know I am successful when small businesses want to come to this area.”


CASA Volunteer Advocate for Foster Youth One Child at a Time


By Jeannie Howard

With the various actors involved in the foster care system all tirelessly working to ensure foster children are being cared for, often times the voice of the child can become muted. However, Court Appointed Special Advocates, CASA, across the nation have the unique duty of being the personal advocate for foster youth. “That is first and foremost the role of a CASA volunteer; being an advocate for the youth,” said Allison Tabor, CASA of Contra Costa volunteer. “Managing all of the different opinions you hear, all wanting different things, you have to make the youth’s voice louder and those other voices softer.”

After seeing a neighbor post about being a CASA volunteer, Tabor said she was intrigued and asked for more information. “The idea of helping foster youth without taking on the responsibility of actually being a foster parent just sounded very appealing,” she said. “I have a young man who is twenty now, he’ll be in the system until he is 21, and I have been with him since he was 15.” During her five years as a CASA volunteer, Tabor has been an advocate for the same youth. CASA of Contra Costa prefers volunteers to work with one youth at a time which allows them to be focused on the needs of that one child.

During their years together, Tabor has been able to offer her youth experiences he may have never had if not for CASA. “I have been able to introduce him to a lot of things, such as cultural events and even just going to the Warf in San Francisco—so many things that we take for granted,” she described. She has also played a key role in advising him on his higher education choice after he graduated from high school. For Tabor though, her reward is just seeing him succeed in his progress into adulthood. “I know he’s going to get this leg up with his life with my involvement,” she said.

According to Tabor, a typical CASA volunteer will spend time with their youth at least once a week and stay in touch as often as they like. Volunteers do need to be flexible though because “you sign up to help the kid in whatever way that means,” she said. “If the youth needs something special that is what you are there for.” For Tabor, she saw her role as not just an advocate but also a mentor—in many ways like an aunt. “I consider my CASA youth to be like my nephew,” she described. “So, what would I do with my nephew? How would I treat him?” To be an effective advocate, according to Tabor, a CASA volunteer cannot just see their youth once a month or once a year. “It is all about consistency,” she said. “If there is one thing I provide for him it is consistently showing up for him. He knows that he can count on me.” This consistency is critically important for foster youth who often have never had such dependable consistency in their lives.

The inception of CASA has had a tremendously positive effect on the lives of so many foster youths, according to Tabor. “The success rates for these kids are seen on so many levels.” Tabor points to the testimonies of many judges involved in these cases talking about how foster youth who have had the advocacy of a CASA volunteer not only have higher rates of high school graduation but also are far less likely to become juvenile delinquents. “There is a huge impact that CASA makes on so many levels and foster kids that don’t have a CASA volunteer really are not afforded the same opportunities as the ones that do,” she described.

With nearly 1,000 kids coming through the Contra Cost foster system annually and only 133 CASA volunteers, the program is in need of community members to step up to help be advocates for the foster kids not currently being served. “CASA’s mission is that every foster youth in the system has a CASA volunteer,” said Tabor. The program is actively working to increase the number of volunteers to 400 volunteers by 2021. Through increased outreach on social media and in-person through community organization such as religious groups, CASA of Contra Costa believes they will be able to achieve their goals.

“It’s not about waiting until all the stars align and for everything to be perfect. I have a very busy career but I think we can all do something at whatever stage we are in,” Tabor said to anyone thinking about becoming a CASA volunteer.

Even if someone is not ready for the minimum two-year commitment, Tabor said that there are so many other ways people can help foster youth. “For example, some of the youth don’t even have anyone to celebrate their birthday with them; they have never had that level of stability in their lives,” explained Tabor. “So, there are bakers who volunteer to make birthday cakes for the CASA youth.” The door at CASA of Contra Costa is open to the support from community members, in whatever capacity they can offer, so, “don’t shy away from reaching out,” urged Tabor. “Just do it!”

Visit for more information.

Once upon a time Pinole had a band

Pinole Municipal Band 1926

By George R. Vincent

John “Johnny” Catrino passed away on August 15, 2015. He was 90. John was the last known surviving member of the old “Pinole Municipal Band.” John and his twin brother, Orland, were both long-time band members. John played the clarinet and Orland played the saxophone.

The “Pinole Band” was the pride of the city, leading town parades for the Fourth of July, the Portuguese Holy Ghost celebrations as well as many other social events.

The origin of the Pinole Band goes back to the early 1900s. Young eighth-grader Willie “Bill” Lewis, of Portuguese descent, was a notable figure in early Pinole because he had founded the “Pinole Boys’ Original Brass Band.”

In 1909, the town newspaper reported Willie Lewis had “bought a new horn and was blowing it down town.”

Lewis had been an honor student of the old Plaza School in downtown Pinole, where the post office is today. In 1906, his band held its practices at the one-room Plaza School.

By 1914, the band was playing at the local Rink’s movie theatre as well as at Sunday baseball games. Pinole was an avid baseball town. Lewis, on trombone, was the talented bandleader and teacher of brass instruments to other band members.

His brother, Frank Lewis, played solo cornet. Other early members were Victor Pedro and Elmer Christian. George Vincent, my father, was on baritone and Manuel Santos played snare drums.

By 1938, the band had grown to 20 pieces. It was still led by bandmaster Willie Lewis, who was now a local grocery store merchant on San Pablo Avenue and Pinole Valley Road.

In 1937, the band held its practices in the quiet Pinole Valley at the Adobe Ranch, where there was a wooden dance floor. In 1938, the band held a community picnic there with Harold Silvas playing accordion and “providing excellent dance music,” according to the newspaper. The Pinole Boys’ Band entertained Pinoleans in town social affairs as well.

In 1914, there was a “Candidates’ Ball,” a big dance given by the Boys’ Band in the Pinole Opera House on Tennent Avenue. Willie Lewis was the bandleader. In 1917, Willie was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War I.

In May 1925, Willie and his brother, Joseph Lewis, and their band played for a social night of dancing for the “Imperial order of Red Men, Shenandoah Tribe #121,” and its Pocahontas ladies’ auxiliary.

By the 1920s and 1930s, the band was leading the annual summer Holy Ghost parade and celebration. All the communities in the Bay Area and Central Valley with large Portuguese populations held this Pentecost Sunday festival.

The 20-member Pinole Band had become popular and became mobile, attending parades in surrounding towns and in Central Valley towns such as Newman.

The bands’ first uniforms were dark blue. But by the 1930s, they had changed to cooler, white cotton outfits with snappy black booties. At that time, the band identified with the city of its origin, calling itself the “Pinole Municipal Band.”

The band was largely made up of local talent. Many of the members were Pinole men from the Oleum Oil Refinery in Rodeo. They played all over, even going to Yountville to entertain the vets. The members were Frank Lewis, Joe Villa, Harold Foster, John Catrino, Orland Catrino, George Vincent, Beno Marcos, and Bob Beach.

At one time, the Pinole Band played an active part in the social life of the town and was respected by and popular with townsfolk and adoring young ladies. Some band wives complained about their husbands being away so much playing in out-of-town celebrations. But the band had a well-deserved and far-flung reputation for good music and marching.

The Pinole Band gave the city of Pinole recognition and status before disbanding and slipping sadly into the town’s history. In 1959, the last Holy Ghost “Festa” was held in Pinole. Diane DeSilva reigned as the last queen. It was about this time that the band marched down Tennent Avenue for the last time.

Today, John Catrino’s well-worn clarinet, Frank Lewis’ tarnished coronet, and George Vincent’s blue band cap are vintage artifacts reminding us of Pinole’s musical past, as well as the current need for a local museum to house these treasures.

It’s Alive! This Richmond-based probiotic kefir water tea company is on the rise

The Living Apothecary_Cold Pressed Almond Milk67880.jpg

By Matt Larson

When you go to a health food store and pick up a beverage, chances are that you’re not used to reading “crafted and bottled in Richmond, California” right there on the front of the label. Well, get used to it! As that’s what happened to us after purchasing a bottle of The Living Apothecary’s Hibiscus Apricot probiotic kefir water tea, on a whim. After taking it home to enjoy, that’s when we noticed the label, and we contacted them immediately!

In September of 2012, The Living Apothecary began at Kitchener Oakland, a fully operational commercial kitchen for startup food businesses to get off their feet. They moved to their current Richmond facility in 2015, and it seems they’re here to stay.

“Looking for space we quickly realized that Richmond was the best place,” said Co-Founder Shari Stein Curry. “My business partner [Co-Founder Traci Hunt] said it’s a really cool community, it’s up and coming, and a lot of cool businesses are going to move there. And she was right!” Curry adds, “I couldn’t be more grateful. The community that we have around us has embraced us. It was the best move for our business, for sure.”

Curry is a Bay Area transplant, like many of us, and originally hails from just outside of Philadelphia. She grew up with a lot of city pride, and now feels that same pride here in the East Bay. They want to be loud and proud about where they’re producing this wonderful product, and putting Richmond in big bold letters on the front of the label is a great way to do that. “We’re all about community; shopping local, supporting local,” she said. “The support that we’ve had from the local community from the Bay Area, with the customers that have stuck by our side through thick and thin for years—it’s the only reason we are where we are.”

For the first few years The Living Apothecary only existed here in the Bay Area. You can find their products in a variety of health food stores all around the Bay, including Whole Foods. The closest location to us would probably be the El Cerrito Natural Grocery, as their facility in Richmond is only used for production. They opted against going the brick-and-mortar route from the beginning, but you can still find them at the Urban Village Temescal Farmers’ Market on Sundays in Oakland.

After years of dedicated work, The Living Apothecary has finally expanding into Southern California as of March this year. They’re also pushing into Arizona, Las Vegas, Oregon and Washington, with potential to move into New York City’s five borough marketplace, as well as Colorado, Texas, you know … the world! And it’s all based right here in West County.

For those unfamiliar with kefir water, it’s one of the world’s oldest naturally fermented beverages. The Living Apothecary blends it with loose leaf artisan teas resulting in a drink that is naturally dairy and gluten free, low in sugar and calories, non- or gently carbonated, delicious, and great for your immune system. Plus, it is a living liquid! Containing probiotic strains that are constantly evolving and “keeping your gut guessing” as each batch they make may have a different beneficial probiotic strain taking a more dominant role than the others. “In general, with kefir water, there’s usually around 45 beneficial bacteria strains in the bottle,” Curry explained. “It changes all the time, and that’s what’s amazing about it.”

Probiotics have certainly been on the rise with the cultural takeover of kombucha these past few years, but kombucha has a very distinct taste that can be difficult for some to get used to. The Living Apothecary’s kefir water tea has very similar health benefits, yet it’s much more mellow to drink and they’re mostly caffeine free. With flavors like Hibiscus Apricot, Passionflower Lemongrass, and Red Raspberry Leaf Ginger, you’re sure to find something you like.

To learn more, read their blog, and find local retailers to purchase a bottle, head to And take Curry’s advice: “A healthy gut, is a happy body.” Bottom’s up.

Striving to Build Lifelong Health Through Community Partnerships


carson_resizedBy Jeannie Howard

Through a series of partnerships and mergers with other smaller healthcare centers and private practice providers, LifeLong Medical Care has grown from its original location, Over 60 in Berkeley, to fourteen locations throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Expanding from the original goal of offering elderly and aging care to individuals over 55 years old to provide care for all ages, patients are now able to receive healthcare for everything from prenatal, pediatrics, and primary care, to senior care and day services, metal and behavioral health as well as dental and urgent care.

Throughout the consistent expansion over the past 41 years, LifeLong Medical Care has never faltered in their mission of helping to ensure everyone in need of healthcare, regardless of their ability to pay, is able to receive the care and services they seek. “The services are available to everyone regardless of their immigrant status or ability to pay,” says Lucinda Bazile, deputy director, who has been with the organization for more than twenty years.

A growing perspective in healthcare is that of whole patient care, meaning the healthcare of an individual is addressed along with other social factors at play in their lives; this is a perspective that LifeLong Medical Care has been practicing for more than two decades. A core element of whole patient care, especially when treating individuals who are a part of underserved or low-income communities, is housing and how that relates to successful medical care. The housing first idea “means that in order to begin to have someone feel safe and healthy they need to be housed,” says Bazile. Through its Supportive Housing Program (SHP), LifeLong Medical Care is able to partner with subsidized affordable housing facilities and programs to help individuals with histories of homelessness receive medical care. “We are taking healthcare services into supportive housing programs where those individuals are probably recovering addicts, or have some addictions, and who are probably not getting the healthcare that they need,” she explains.

According to Bazile, the goal of the SHP is to have their patients be able to transition into permanent housing and, since housing and health go hand-in-hand, LifeLong Medical works not only in a medical capacity but also through outreach efforts to create the most effect outcomes. “With our healthcare providers in the housing units, we work to build a bridge and connect with the patients to meet them where they are,” she says. “We are providing case management and other service for them as well as helping them with clinical needs.” Servicing nearly 600 individuals throughout Oakland and Berkeley, the SHP has been a rather successful program with close to 95% of participants retaining housing and most of them are receiving medical care as well.

In an effort to keep an ongoing pipeline of individuals passionate about working in public health, LifeLong Medical Care has been a long-time participant in AmeriCorps. Through the 10-month-long AmeriCorps Health Fellows Program, “participants help with a lot of our innovative program outreach supporting our mission,” explains Bazile. “So it’s an opportunity for individuals interested in healthcare to serve and to learn about primary care.” Because the competitive grant funding provided by the program does not allow LifeLong Medical Care to replace an employee with an AmeriCorps member, program participants have become an integral component in the organization’s creative new programs for improved patient care. “It was an AmeriCorps member that started our pharmacy program which has become an interregnal part of our drug assistance program,” says Bazile. “This year we are working with program members on focusing on how to help patients with transportation.”

LifeLong Medical Care strives to foster the same environment of partnership and collaboration with their patients as they do with the counties and other medical facilities. Through the Patient Voice Collaborative, championed by Bazile nearly 10 years ago, patients and executive level staff are able to come together through feedback and the exchange of ideas. “It’s a group of patients, usually on from each of our locations, who meet every month to talk about their experience with the organization as a patient,” Bazile details. “The patients love doing this; they feel that they are a part of advising and guiding the organization.” This monthly meeting is in addition to the quarterly patient survey the organization sends to all patients.

Often times when working with underserved communities the perception may be that those receiving the services should just be thankful for whatever help they receive, but this is not so with LifeLong Medical Carae. “People are proud, they don’t want to take handouts and they just want to be respected. They may not feel that they can or want to give a negative opinion because it’s already free or that they may be treated poorly,” she admits. “But we work to break down those perceptions and really ask for true feedback.” Bazile explains how the Patient Voice Collaborative is a give and take, allowing for patients and the organizational staff to better understand eachother’s goals and challenges, which leads to more effective healthcare.

Through continued outreach at a variety of community events people who may have never heard about the organization are able to learn about how it can help in their lives. “We also have community members come to tell us how much they love their doctor and how they are so glad they found us,” she says. “I am in the unique position of being an administrator but also able to be out in the community and hear about the impact our organization and services have made on members of the community.”

Girls Inc.®

imagegilrs inc

By Samantha Larrick

Girls Inc. supports girls from kindergarten through 12th grade, teaching them to be “strong, smart, and bold,” and allowing them to explore subjects that interest them. Operation Smart is one program that allows girls to express themselves. Operation Smart allows the girls in the program to explore interests in science, technology, and math, three fields where women are underrepresented, and teaches girls they can go on to whatever profession they desire.

Girls Inc. is a network of non-profit organizations that serves girls ages 6 to 18 across the United States. The nationally affiliate program was founded in 1864 to help girls through the aftermath of the Civil War. Since then, programs have changed to accommodate the changing needs of girls and the needs of girls in specific communities. In 1975, three women saw a need for Girls Inc. in Contra Costa County. Stefana Huran donated her beauty salon as a center, which is still in use today as the Girls Inc. headquarters. National provides the Girls Inc. name, training opportunities, and eight programs for each affiliated chapter to use. Besides the eight programs provided by National, Girls Inc. also creates programs based on the needs of their community.

College Bound Girls is one program the Contra Costa chapter created because they saw a need. The program shows girls in grades 8th through 12th the college options available to them. Representatives from Girls Inc. take the girls on college tours, give them volunteer opportunities in the community, mentor them through the college application process, and help them find scholarship opportunities. Girls Inc., with Richmond Young Scholars, takes up to 20 kids on college tours across the United States. They’ve gone to southern California, Washington D.C., and are looking at doing a southern U.S. tour. This program allows girls to see their options after high school and gives them resources to work towards their goals.

Another program Girls Inc. offers, Media Literacy. It focuses on teaching girls how to objectively look at the media and how it portrays women. This is a program for all girls kindergarten through 12th grade, but programs are broken up into age groups to focus on subjects appropriate for their age range. At De Anza high school, about 20 students signed up at a table for a Media Literacy class with a Girls Inc. representative. The class started with introductions, which included how each student’s day was going and any exciting plans the student may have had. Then they jumped into how media portrays women, how they want the media to portray women, how they can advocate for that change, and how students can use media to portray themselves. They spent time deconstructing magazine and TV advertisements based on message, audience, stereotypes, images, and more. The Girls Inc. representative created a space where the students were free to discuss any topic, no matter how sensitive, and gave them a fresh perspective on how to look at the media.

Right now, the representatives from Girls Inc. run their programs out of local schools during the school year and in the center during the summer. Tiffany, the executive director, says they’re trying to hold more programs at the center throughout the school year to create a pipeline where girls finish one program and move up to the next, rather than taking sporadic programs through their school.

Girls Inc. is focusing on making sure the programs are catered to the girls in this area, like College Bound Girls and their new pilot program Body Positive, which focuses on teaching middle school girls to love and appreciate themselves no matter what their size or how they look. Many of the women who work at Girls Inc. have lived in Richmond their whole lives and some, like Tiffany, have even gone through the program. Their focus is on empowerment, sisterhood, and making sure girls have the tools they need when they leave high school.

Energy Bars, Almond Marzipan Style

Energy Bars, Marzipan Style

by Jennifer Cote

Makes 12 servings or so.

What you’ll need:

1 c. oatmeal

1 1/2 c. raw almonds, soaked overnight*

1/4 c. coconut oil

1/3 c. honey

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. almond extract

1 TBS. bee pollen


1. Process the oatmeal into flour in a blender (or food processor). Use: 1 c. oatmeal.

2. In a hot, dry skillet, toast the oatmeal until golden and fragrant, stirring constantly.

3. After soaking the almonds overnight, drain off the water and pop the skins off them. Use: 1 1/2 c. raw almonds.

4. Add almonds to a Vitamix (or other blender); process into almond butter. Add: 1/4 c. coconut oil, melted, 1/3 c. honey, warmed, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. almond extract.

5. Turn mixture out of blender, into bowl. Add the following, kneading some with hands to mix, as the dough will be very stiff. Use: Toasted oat flour, 1 TBS. bee pollen, blend ingredients.

6. Press into loaf pan and chill until firm before cutting. Slice and wrap in wax paper; store in jar in fridge.

*Or use already-blanched almonds

Recipe provided by Jennifer Cote of the New Deli Café,  624 San Pablo Avenue, Ste A, Pinole. 510-724-5335.

The New Deli Café Pinole’s “Not-So-New” Fine Food Venue

French Onion Soup

By Vickie Lewis

As the title of the article implies, The New Deli Café is anything but “new!”  In fact, it has been established in its current location for 32 years, nestled inconspicuously on the north side of the Del Monte Plaza in Pinole, next to the 99 Cents Only store. It’s one of many well-established and popular venues in the local community that I’ve driven by for years but didn’t know of its existence. I was totally surprised when co-owner Jennifer (Jen) Cote told me that she and her husband, Tom, originally opened the café in 1985. And while The New Deli is no longer “new” to the community, it was certainly new to me, and it just may just be new to you too. Read on to learn a bit about the evolution of The New Deli Café and the many reasons you’ll want to add this venue to your favorite eateries in the New Year!

Jen learned the art of cooking at a very early age from her mother who made nearly everything from scratch. As a child, she helped with the cooking, and at the age of 10 compiled her first construction paper “cookbook” and gave it to her Mom for Mother’s Day. Cooking and baking became second nature to her, and she continued it into adulthood.  She married Tom at the age of 17, and the newlyweds aspired to someday open their own restaurant. The road to opening The New Deli began when Jen assumed ownership of a small, local vegetarian burrito business in 1982. She made hundreds of burritos, sandwiches, and salads out of their small home which were delivered daily to Bay Area health food stores. After three years, the business became too big to manage out of their “cottage,” so Tom quit his job and the couple sought out retail space, and The New Deli Café soon after became a reality.

Committed to offering a “new” style of delicatessen food, and building off of the burrito business, the menu initially boasted plenty of vegetarian fare, including homemade soups and salad dressings. Over the last 30+ years, The New Deli’s menu has undergone numerous changes based on trends and customer feedback but the menu still includes numerous vegan and vegetarian options, unlike many delicatessens. The current menu is primarily lunch fare, but when The New Deli Café first opened, they served breakfast and even dinners. In the early days, Jen and Tom offered various elaborate foods to continue to attract and retain customers.  They even had an espresso machine (well before Starbuck’s became popular), which was popular with customers, but understandably, this has long since been retired. Eventually breakfasts and dinners were discontinued because the business was not sufficient to sustain the long hours, Jen and some of her staff do most of the cooking at The New Deli, and Tom is the “brains” (and brawn!) behind the operation. Although his responsibilities are many, he often works as a cashier, and keeps the café stocked with inventory at all times.

Over two-thirds of The New Deli’s current menu–sandwiches numbered 1 through 27– have been offered since The New Deli Café first opened.  These include fourteen Vegetarian and thirteen traditional sandwich selections, many of which are not creations typically found at other delicatessens.  For example, the New Deli’s vegetarian menu includes a Mozzarella Roast, made with eggplant and peppers, served on wheat toast with lettuce and sprouts; and a Mideastern Burger, made with falafel, Tahini, cucumber, tomato, onion, and sprouts on a wheat bun. The traditional menu includes a fresh Meatloaf sandwich, served hot or cold, with house-made thousand island dressing and “the works” served on a sesame seed roll; and a Bacon/Mozzarella sandwich with roasted peppers, eggplant, and lettuce, served on wheat toast.  There are, of course, many traditional favorites, as well as their own separate menu of Specialty Sandwiches.  With so many choices, there is certainly something to tempt everyone’s palate. At The New Deli, nearly all of the foods offered are made from scratch using wholesome ingredients. All of the chickens used for sandwiches and salads are cooked on site, and they also roast their own beef daily. And although they used to make their own bread, they now source their breads fresh daily from the popular Richmond-based Maggiora Bakery.

The menu also includes nearly a dozen large green salads, as well as half-salads, which are served with your choice of fresh house-made dressing on the side (unless specified tossed) and buttered baguettes. All salads are freshly made to order, and the variety and uniqueness of choices is pretty impressive for small café. There is also a daily home-made pasta salad available, perfect for a sandwich accompaniment or simply to eat by itself!  Home-made soups are also a specialty at The New Deli. The standard menu includes French Onion Soup and Black Bean Chili (with or without cheddar cheese.) But there is also at least one featured Soup of the Day, and sometimes, there can be up to three or four featured specialty soups.  Most of the soups are gluten-free and vegetarian, and many are also non-dairy.  And what could be better on a cold winter’s day than a hot bowl of freshly made soup?  Customers are encouraged to call ahead to find out about the daily soup specials.  Jen creates a variety of appealing soups that you’ll surely want to try!

Rounding out The New Deli Café’s extensive menu are three popular hot pasta entrees:  Chicken Alfredo, Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Pasta Carbonara. All three are made fresh daily and feature Jen’s homemade sauces.  Although I did not have the opportunity to try any of these dishes, any one of these paired with a half-salad seems like it would be a very hearty and delicious meal.  Jen and staff also make several “grab and go” homemade desserts to satisfy one’s sweet tooth after partaking of one of their many healthy lunch selections.  The standard dessert offerings include the ever-popular Chocolate Chip cookies, Oatmeal Shortbread cookies, Brownies and Lemon Bars.  When I visited, the café offered Lime Bars instead of Lemon Bars, as one of the employees had shared a plentiful harvest of limes with Jen. I was lucky enough to partake of one of these luscious sweet treats, and it was scrumptious!  It was pretty sweet, yet had just a slight hint of tartness. I should also mention that the crust was melt-in-your-mouth luscious—a “must try” for those who enjoy something sweet after lunch.

I visited The New Deli Café one weekday afternoon as the lunch rush was winding down. From the outside, the deli looked rather small, so upon entry, I was surprised at how much space and seating was actually available inside. Eight glass-topped tables with tablecloths line the inside perimeter of the café, each of which seats two to four patrons each. On warm days, additional seating is available outside to accommodate patrons who choose to dine at the care. Just inside the door is the order counter, above which hangs four large menu boards suspended from the ceiling, highlighted with track lighting.  The kitchen/preparation area is visible behind the order counter, where staff busily work as a team to prepare customer orders. The workspace is cozy, but I observed at least 6 – 8 workers clad in The New Deli Café T-shirts and aprons, bustling busily in that small space. That same small space sometimes accommodates up to thirteen workers during extremely busy times!) There is a refrigerated unit next to the order counter which holds salads and other items. After ordering, patrons proceed around the corner of the order counter to the cashier, where they can select beverages, chips, or desserts to accompany their lunch, and pay for their selections.  The overall atmosphere of the café is casual and friendly. Picture frames on the walls feature past news articles about The New Deli Cafe, and miscellaneous pictures of the staff and their families.   

After introducing myself to Jen, she offered me the opportunity to try something from their menu. With so many options available, I asked Jen for a recommendation to expedite the process, or I may have spent the next 15 minutes reviewing the menu!  Jen mentioned that the Reuben sandwich had been very popular lately, and since I love Reuben sandwiches, I happily accepted her suggestion.  The sandwich was prepared within minutes and delivered to my table. It was served warm on marbled bread and was grilled to a crisp perfection. Between the slices of bread was a generous portion of tender sliced pastrami, accompanied by an equally generous amount of sauerkraut.  The thousand-island dressing used on the Reuben sandwiches is made in-house, and the natural sauerkraut used was mild and delicious.  Every bite was delightfully crisp, and there was no greasiness or dripping dressing.  It is one of the best Reuben sandwiches I’ve ever eaten!  The side order of pasta salad that I’d ordered to accompany my sandwich was made with corkscrew pasta and was topped with fresh Parmesan cheese.  Although the salad seemed not to have as much dressing as I would prefer, it was still very delicious. I found the salad to be a little dry, but it was still very flavorful.  Although I did not order a drink that day, I noticed that the drinks offered were mostly soft drinks, bottled water, and other bottled beverages.

The New Deli Café does a robust take out business. Orders may be phoned in to the deli ahead of time, or customers can e-mail their orders in advance to:, preferably 24 hours in advance. All e-mail orders should receive a response confirming receipt of the order; however, if no confirmation is received, customers are encouraged to call the deli during business hours to confirm receipt of their orders. The e-mail ordering works especially well for large orders, which the deli staff is happy to accommodate. While they no longer cater large, formal events, such as weddings, The New Deli Café is the “go to” provider for quality, freshly prepared foods for many local school events and business luncheons.  Although the café does not open until 9:00 AM, staff members arrive as early as 6:30 AM to prep the day’s ingredients and prepare special orders.  Their website provides a list of available catering options and pricing.

The New Deli Café’s business hours are currently Monday through Fridays from 9 AM to 3 PM. Until recently, the café was also open on Saturdays; however, in September 2017, a decision was made to close on weekends. The business hours have understandably changed over the years as the deli has responded to customer demands as well as the needs of family and staff members. Jen and Tom have two adult sons, Miles and Tyler, who essentially grew up at the café. As the boys grew older, Jen and Tom once before had closed the deli on Saturdays to allow them time to keep up with school and extra-curricular activities. The deli later reopened on Saturdays; but now, the owners have once again opted to close on weekends to spend more quality time with family and friends.

With the New Year upon us, most of us naturally resolve to making a fresh start, including shifting to healthier eating habits and getting into shape. This is an especially wonderful time to try The New Deli Café to help you stay on track. Choose one of their fresh salads or homemade soups, or indulge in one of their healthy vegetarian sandwiches. Jen and Tom and their entire staff are dedicated to preparing and serving high quality and delicious meals to local patrons. The New Deli Café is recognized as an excellent food establishment and a pillar in the community by those who have patronized them for many years. In addition to owning and operating the café, Jen regularly shares recipes and publishes a newsletter on The Grateful Table website at She is also the author of published cookbooks. The most recent, From the Land of Milk and Honey, is available for sale at The New Deli Café, and is chock full of wonderful recipes and information about food and cooking.  Jen has also contributed many wonderful recipes to the Contra Costa Marketplace Magazine in the past. Look for her latest contribution in this month’s issue! Happy New Year to all of our readers!

Surrounded by Secrets – Here are the nationally recognized historic places in West County

rosies a bunch

By Matt Larson

We thought this would be something interesting to compile and share with the readership of the Contra Costa Marketplace Magazine. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.


Chung Mei Home Historic District – 1760 Elm St.

National Register #13000792 Built in 1935, the Chung Mei Home District (roughly translating to Chinese-American home district) provided institutional care for neglected or abandoned Chinese-American boys. Complete with a classroom, an art studio, a gymnasium, and a library, the District provided residential care, guidance, and structure for the boys.



Hercules Village – Kings, Railroad, Santa Fe, and Hercules Avenues. Talley Way, Bay and Pinole Streets.

National Register #80000799 Before it was incorporated in 1900, Hercules was a company town owned by Hercules Powder Works. From 1881 until 1901 it was the largest producer of dynamite in the world, supplying explosives to both sides of WW1 until America entered the war.


Bank of Pinole – 2361 San Pablo Ave.

National Register #96001175  Constructed in 1915, the Bank of Pinole is an example of the classical temple-form architecture which was a common small-town bank design in America during the 20th century.


Alvarado Park – Junction of Marin and Park avenues

National Register #92000313

Located in the mouth of Wildcat Canyon, Alvarado Park was originally a private park that was owned and operated by local residents from 1909-1923. It was then donated to the City of Richmond and later admitted into the East Bay Regional Park District.

Atchison Village Defense Housing Project – Roughly bounded by MacDonald Ave., Ohio St., First St., & Garrard Blvd.

National Register #03000473

Built in 1941 by the Richmond Housing Authority for housing defense workers from the Kaiser Shipyards, this is Richmond’s first of 20 public housing projects built before and during WW2. The village was sold by the government to its residents in 1957 and is now known as the Atchison Village Mutual Homes Corporation consisting of 450 apartments.

East Brother Island Light Station – On East Brother Island west of Point San Pablo

National Register #71000138

First lit in 1874, East Brother is the oldest wood-frame lighthouse on the West Coast that is still fully operational. Perched atop an island in the strait that separates San Francisco and San Pablo bays, it is now a very unique bed & breakfast inn (

Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant – 1414-1422 Harbour Way, S.

National Register #88000919

At the time the Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant was created in 1930 it was the largest of its kind on the west coast. It contributed to the U.S. war effort of WW2, and now currently houses the National Park Service visitor center, some private businesses, and the Craneway Pavilion.

New Hotel Carquinez – 410 Harbour Way

National Register #92000466

For decades after it was built in 1926, the New Hotel Carquinez (later deemed Hotel Don) was the only conference center in Richmond and thus was the center of decision making for the City of Richmond.

Point Richmond Historic District – Off CA 17

National Register #79000472

Of the 300+ buildings in the Point Richmond Historic District built between 1900 and 1920, you’ll find homes constructed in the most popular architectural styles in the Bay Area at that time, which includes Queen Anne, San Francisco stick, neoclassic, eastern shingle, brown shingle, craftsman, bungalow, and California bungalow—however, few were constructed professionally, as carpenters who had learned the trade would utilize prefabricated elements from the local mill.

Richmond Shipyard Number Three – Point Potrero

National Register #00000364

One of four of the shipyards built by Henry J. Kaiser during the WW2 effort, Richmond Shipyard Number Three is the one that still remains. Richmond produced 747 ships during the war, attracting shipbuilders from all over the country that led to an increase in Richmond’s population from 23,462 in 1940 to 123,000 by 1944.

Rosie the Riveter – WWII Home Front National Historical Park – Shipyards of Richmond

National Register #01000287

The Richmond shipyards attracted such a diverse group of individuals that regardless of race or gender, everyone had to work together and thus the workplace was transformed from that point on. If you go here today you’ll find the SS Red Oak Victory cargo ship, a Rosie the Riveter Memorial, trained docents to guide you on a tour, a 38-seat theater with historic films to watch, and more (

SS Red Oak Victory (victory ship) – 1500 Dornan Dr., Terminal One, Port of Richmond

National Register #00001674

Launched on November 9, 1944, the SS Red Oak Victory is the only remaining Victory ship that was built in Richmond’s Kaiser Shipyard. This ship was active during WW2, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

Winehaven – Point Molate

National Register #78000658

Once owning the title of “world’s largest winery” when it opened in 1907, it’s run was short-lived due to Prohibition and was shut down just over a decade later. After about 20 years of neglect the Navy took possession and it became the Point Molate Naval Fuel Depot; today it’s still under restoration, often referred to as “that ‘castle’ that can be seen from the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge”.

How one park has enriched the bones and raised the spirit of a Richmond community


By Jeannie Howard

From a walk-bike path to installing mass-produced play structures, throughout countless years many organizations and the city have attempted to improve Richmond’s most infamous neighborhood. Unfortunately, improvements either fell into disrepair or were vandalized; nothing seemed to take hold. That is, until Pogo Park adopted two forgotten small play-lots in Richmond’s Iron Triangle neighborhood, a community once ranked the 7th most violent neighborhood in America, according to Toody Maher, founder and executive director of Pogo Park. With the revitalization of the once notorious plots into what have become known as Elm Playlot and Harbor 8, the non-profit has created more than enriching playgrounds for children and families, but thriving centers for the whole community.

“Our parks are like a green oasis in the middle of chaos; a real watering hole for the whole community,” says Maher. “We staff the parks all day, they are lit up at night, and we are packed cause they are in the most densely populated neighborhood in Richmond and this is a place where everybody can go that is safe and clean.”

In addition to an enriching and dynamic play environment for children, Elm Playlot offers daily classes that are free and open to anyone in the community—all they have to do is show up. “Another thing that has been huge is the free haircuts for kids on Fridays,” she says. “Every Friday afternoon someone from the community sets up and all the kids come to get their haircut.” And, in a community that is revenged by poverty, the park also serves as a distribution point for the school district free meals program. “Right now we serve after school snack and supper,” Maher says. “Last year we were able to serve 12,000 meals to hungry children.” Many times Maher has been told that Pogo Park’s Elm Playlot is truly the heartbeat of the community.

Pogo Park has been going strong for more than a decade, but what is this organization doing differently than what so many others have attempted to do and failed in the past? Maher states that deep community engagement is the hallmark to the Pogo Park success. “Money has always just been put into fixing the bones—a new community center, a new house, or a new park,” she describes. “But there hasn’t been investment in the spirit, which is the people. You have to do both—spirit and bones.”

In 2007 Maher began her community outreach by asking the people in the neighborhood what it was that they wanted and why the park was not working. The Pogo team treated those in the neighborhood as the experts of their own community and brought them into the team as employees and advisors from the start. “What we have tried to do from day one is to listen to the community,” she says.

A root problem as to why the Elm Playlot, the first Pogo Park project, had continued to fail, even after the City of Richmond invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in new play structures only to have them destroyed within weeks, was because the problems in the neighborhood just outside the park’s boundaries were never addressed. “When we started, every house around the park was boarded up except for one, the drug house. The park was completely covered in glass and needles, it was just awful,” she recalls. Maher continues to describe how the park was also, “a big place to bring dogs to train them to fight.”

With a $3 million grant from HUD and with the help of the city, Pogo Park was able to purchase all of the homes around the Elm Playlot. After three years of work clearing out the drug house and restoring the homes around the park, the neighborhood is full of families living in each of the homes.

Once clearing the neighborhood around Elm of illicit activity, the Pogo community member team to set to work on bringing the park back to life. Through a partnership with Scientific Art Studio, a world renowned fabrication studio in the Iron Triangle neighborhood that is famous for “pushing the limits of that is possible at a park and play space,” says Maher, Pogo has been able to create a play space for children that is unique. “This partnership has been phenomenal. They have adopted us and we have our community resident team in their studio,” she says. “We actually have a shop in their shop where anything we want to build for the parks we build there.”

So, the community has done the outreach, the planning, the building, and “the community is actually managing the parks,” as Maher explains. “The community has learned so many skills along the way that many of them have found jobs working full time.” It is this active investment in the people of the community—the spirit—that has made Pogo Park a model for urban renewal throughout the state and even the nation, according to Maher.

Elm Playlot has served, and continues to do so, as a “model of what is possible to do in a city park,” says Maher. The organization is continuing the development of the Harbor 8 park as well as the planning and design of the Yellow Brick Road project. In partnering with the Conservation Fund, the largest land conservation nonprofit in the country, Pogo Park has been able to purchase the land adjacent to the Harbor 8 lot to be developed with the community as was the Elm Playlot.  “Harbor 8 is really going to be like a public square. There will be a café, laundry mat, bike shop, and housing surrounding this incredible park,” she describes. “And the two parks will be connected by our Yellow Brick Road projects, which will be a 1.7 mile connection so kids and families can walk from one park to the next.”

As anyone can imagine, this has been a long and difficult 10-year journey for Maher, Pogo Park, and the whole community. “It has been tough and we have worked though some complicated things, but the city has just been wonderful,” she says. “You can’t just build stuff in isolation; it has to be integrated into the community, which takes a lot of leg work and that is what we continue to do.”