Writers’ picks: Shopping & Services

SN&R writers reveal their places to browse, shop and learn

School’s always in session at Sol Collective.

School’s always in session at Sol Collective.


Best activist school

Sac Activist School at Sol Collective

For 12 years, the Sac Activist School at Sol Collective has been bringing members of the community together to get educated on becoming active for social justice. Every Wednesday evening, the school hosts events like film screenings, book discussions, or self-care and healthy cooking classes. Andru Defeye, the organization's creative placemaker, says it's Sol Collective's first and central program, and all ages show up to learn and participate. “A lot of people want to get active,” he says. “That's the beautiful thing.” And Sol Collective continues to provide an avenue to start. 2574 21st Street, (916) 585-3136, www.solcollective.org. S.

Best reprieve

Sacramento Safe Space for Unhomed Youth

Sacramento City College faculty member Kimberly Church began this humble microventure last fall as a way to combat the dearth of drop-in services for unaccompanied minors and young homeless adults around the grid. St. Paul's Episcopal Church on J and 14th streets offered its Parish Hall to host the homeless youth and their pets, while Church has gotten volunteer and fundraising support from both expected and unexpected corners. Open four hours every Tuesday, Safe Space averages more than 30 guests and is totally volunteer-run. Church says St. Paul congregants have chipped in thousands of dollars, all of which goes back into keeping Safe Space open. No one takes a cut, which is important to Church—one of the loudest critics of poverty pimping you've ever encountered. 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesdays, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 1430 J Street, safespaceyouth@gmail.com. RFH

Best marquee swoon

Mercury Cleaners' sign

Relocated out of the path of a planned demolition a couple of years ago, Mercury Cleaners brought with it a 70-year artifact that gives Midtown a taste of Blade ––Runner's seedy, neo-noir cool. Illuminating an otherwise anonymous commercial drag between O and N streets, the neon marquee transfixes at night with its cotton-candy lettering, electric blue accents and an arrow that inexplicably curls around what looks like a red poker chip with wings on it. As Comstock's reported at the time, the Capitol Area Development Authority helped Mercury's owners refurbish the 1947 sign with pro bono electrical and engineering work when the dry cleaner moved to the Legado de Ravel building across the street. A janky beacon in a rapidly gentrifying town, it's the stuff that electric sheep dreams are made of. 1420 16th Street, (916) 443-3569. RFH

Best place to watch the sunset on palm trees and neon

Tower Theatre

Sometimes you just need to see twilight fading against shaggy palm tassels and the glowing rails of an old marquee. Every evening, the Tower Theatre brings a neon mirage in Sacramento, hinting at a place where the shades of old Hollywood silently mingle with the Capitol's hard-boiled memories. It's a kind of poetry at dusk—a taste of nightly noir. To watch it, you can order a drink on the garden patio of the landmark's adjacent namesake restaurant, or stroll from the Tower's art deco fountain to the tube lights of Joe Marty's Bar, or just open a bottle of something stiff from the liquor store parking lot across Broadway. 2508 Land Park Drive, (916) 442-0985, www.facebook.com/TowerTheatreCA. STA

Best unnecessary business

Shenanigans Inflatable Pubs

Do you like Irish pubs but hate authenticity? Oh, Danny boy, do we have a business for you. The El Dorado Hills startup rents out exactly what its name promises—air-filled tents that can hold up to 50 people and kind of look like the house in Up, but less structurally sound. Rendered with fake brickwork and masonry and old-timey signage, these plump party tents also come furnished with fake fireplaces and fake whiskey barrels. Rentals start at $495 a day and don't include booze. Co-founder Kathy McDonald says she and her sister were looking for unique business ideas when she stumbled on a promotion from the Irish manufacturer. So this is what the Irish think of us. (888) 219-6856, www.shenanigansinflatablepubs.com/home.html. RFH

Best grocery shopping staycation

Aisles of edible treasures at International Market.


KP International Market

If the list of exotic destinations you'll never have time to visit is getting you down, an accessible international escape is awaiting you in—wait for it—Rancho Cordova. The aisles of the massive KP International Market at the Koreana Plaza are a veritable world tour, offering everything from fresh-made tortillas and Korean soju to aromatic, tropical fruits and unidentifiably flavored Japanese candies. Add to this a massive food court, a Russian bakery, a Korean barbecue restaurant and a boba café, and you'll start to see how Sacramento earned its reputation as one of the most diverse cities in America. 10971 Olson Drive in Rancho Cordova, (916) 853-8000, www.kpinternationalmarket.com. J.B.

Best dude duds

Timeless Thrills Flagship Store

Those looking for basic men's fashion that's maybe not too basic would be wise to check out this East Sacramento shop. Stocked with tanks, tees, hoodies and jackets as well as keychains, belts, totes and more, it's a one-stop for affordable streetwear—all priced at under $100. And that's not so basic. 3714 J Street, (916) 228-4597, www.timelessthrills.com. R.L.

Best place to buy used cassettes

Mix (and match) tapes at at Phono Select Records.


Phono Select Records

Forget vinyl, you guys, the kids are into old-school cassettes these days. You could scour dusty thrift stores for the best metal, yacht rock and new wave options, or you could swing over to the new Phono Select Records. Now in his third location, a spacious storefront in South Sacramento, owner Dal Basi stocks a generous range of genres, as well as a wealth of local band tapes, all at cheap prices. Snap 'em up and then head to that thrift store to buy an old boom box. 2475 Fruitridge Road, (916) 400-3164, www.phonoselect.com. R.L.

Best place to buy a guitar older than your dad

Stone Vintage Music Boutique

Look, I don't know anything about guitars beyond that you can poke at them to make real cool noises. What I do know is that people who do know stuff about guitars love this place because it sells a lot of really neat old guitars, amplifiers and other gear that you can't really find anywhere else. Definitely not at Guitar Center, that's for sure. It also serves as a boutique effect pedal shop, so if that Danelectro reverb you got in high school's not cutting it anymore, here's where you go to get legitimate. Plus, it's operated by Brendan Stone, of local band Blue Oaks, and if you've heard that outfit, you know you're in good hands here. 1409 R Street, Suite 103, www.stonevmb.com. A.S.

Best place to get lost browsing

Time Tested Books

For book lovers, there's no greater joy than wandering through a bookstore with no eye on the clock and a pocketful of money. Time Tested Books, a Midtown mainstay, is worth the, er, time and disposable income. With stacks upon stacks and shelves upon shelves of used books and thoughtfully curated employee pick displays, it makes for a perfect afternoon of browsing. The shop also regularly hosts readings, a local literary service that makes it even more of a treasure. 1114 21st Street, (916) 447-5696, www.timetestedbooks.net. R.L.