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Celebrating People, Places & the Good Life in SW Washington State
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Posts from — August 2012

Wine, Jazz, Art: An Idyllic, Musical Sunday in the Park

For 15 years, the Vancouver Wine and Jazz Festival has provided wine, art and world class jazz. This year’s festival, which is always the 4th weekend in August in Esther Short Park, offered great wine, Grammy-winning musicians and an all-round good time. The festival is produced by Bravo! Vancouver, which produces the Bravo! Vancouver Concert series. (You can buy 2012-13 tickets here.) Kudos to Michael Kissinger, Maria Manzo and their staff and volunteers for another incredible event.

Here is a photo taste of the third day of the festival:

Happy volunteers pour wine by the taste or glass

21 kinds of wine at this booth!

Pouring the Festival Wine Competition Winner - Maryhill Zinfandel 2008

Go By Train entertains the Sunday afternoon crowd

Go By Train's Dan Balmer

The future of jazz - Echo plays the Jazz Education Stage

The John Nastos Quartet

Ice Cream from Deb's Double Dip Delight

Blues musician Marcia Ball rocks the park

Marcia Ball's band members riff

Marcia Ball

Patrick's Hawaiian Cafe

Dennise Larson, Snagridge Jewelry Designer from Washougal

Dennise Larson jewelry

Kate Larsson of Gig Harbor

Navidi's Olive Oils from Camas

Five Guys Playing Jazz perform on the Jazz Education Stage

The Sunday crowd

Jazz virtuoso Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur and one very long Steinway

Diane Schuur and bassist, Roberto Vally

Festival Director Michael Kissinger, Roberto Vally and Diane Schuur jam together

Jose Feliciano and band take the stage

Jose Feliciano and his amazing guitar playing

Schuur and Feliciano close the evening with "Light My Fire"

Thank you organizers for yet another fantastic Vancouver Wine and Jazz Festival! See you next year!

August 29, 2012   2 Comments

880 Keys to the City!

How can a city have 880 keys? Take 10 pianos with 88 keys each, commission volunteer artists to turn them into works of art and scatter them in downtown locations. And there you go!

The  “Keys to the City” exhibit features 10 beautifully decorated pianos located here through Sunday, August 26. A fundraiser for the School of Piano Technology for the Blind, the pianos are sponsored by various local businesses and will be donated to non-profit organizations. The pianos were donated to the school and tuned and repaired by its students. (Read more about the school in this 2010 ZEST blog post)

Which one is your favorite? You can comment below and vote (and see more photos)  here through August 31, 2012.

Piano by Chris Weiss at Grand Central Courtyard

Chris Weiss piano

Piano by Julia Rosenstein on the Waterfront walk

Piano by Julia Rosenstein

Piano by Julia Rosenstein

Piano by Jadia Ward at City Hall

Piano by Jadia Ward

Piano by Jadia Ward

Piano by Natalie Andrzejeski at Riverview Bank Tower Lobby

Piano by Open House Family Shelter at Torque Coffee

Piano by Open House Family Shelter

Piano by Natalie Andrzejeski at Vancouver Marketplace

Piano by Natalie Andrzejeski

Piano by Olinka Broadfoot at the Vancouver Hilton

Piano by Olinka Broadfoot

Piano by Sam Mackenzie and Kelly Keigwin at Turtle Place

Piano by Sam Mackenzie and Kelly Keigwin at the Kiggins Theater

Piano by Sam Mackenzie and Kelly Keigwin

Piano by Toni Partington and Michele Venclik in memory of Dollie Lynch at the Vancouver Community Library

August 25, 2012   No Comments

Shops to Love: Sweet Spot Skirts

Stephanie Carroll, Owner of Sweet Spot Skirts in Downtown Vancouver

Stephanie Carroll is an evangelist. She’s a vocal advocate for sporty, comfortable skirts and women are following her lead, converting their wardrobes to include her designs, which are worn over tights and other sportswear.

As a Vancouver real estate agent, Stephanie zipped around town by bike to visit her listings. “I used to wear a little disco skirt when I ran around checking my flyer boxes and taking photos.” When she received compliments about her short skirt, which covered her biking clothes, from two male acquaintances, the proverbial light bulb went off. “I think I can do better” with a skirt design, she thought.

Birth of a business
In February 2010 she took 45 skirts, all made by local seamstresses, to a bike swap in Seattle. She sold out and immediately filed for business incorporation of her Vancouver, WA-based Sweet Spot™ Skirts®.

At the beginning “it was a bookkeeper, myself and a seamer,” she says.” I was working out of my 9’ x 9’ bedroom in Vancouver. I lived frugally. The bedroom I was working in, I just stacked fabric and it was crazy.”

Fabric on display.

Stephanie continued to hire local seamstresses. In 2011 she hired a marketing director and they hit the road, selling skirts at events. “As a designer and creator of these items that these women love – I have tried my skirts on 2,000 plus women over just the last few months.”

Whether selling products from her downtown Vancouver shop, on her Web site at or from her 16’ Airstream trailer at events, Stephanie is attracting major attention with her designs.

Taking the skirts on the road, marketing with social media
Selling on the road is hard work, she says, but worth it. She spent July in the Midwest, selling her skirts at events like RAGBRAI, a 10,000-rider bicycle trip across Iowa.

While events have been a marketing mainstay , social media, particularly Facebook, has been the #1 sales tool for Sweet Spot Skirts, Stephanie says.  And hiring a marketing director was a turning point. “The marketing director has almost doubled or tripled our online sales and our exposure and she has been key to growing the revenue.”

Stephanie’s goals for  Sweet Spot Skirts are simple:

  1. Have fun.
  2. When goal #1 is done… Have a little bit more fun!
  3. Stay out of debt.

Skirts sewn on-site

Quality design, up close and personal

They hope to saturate the biking community with the bright, reversible skirts and outfit women for other sports including golf, yoga, running and tennis, among others. Future plans for growth include a big November 2012 release of a children’s line, new “flirty” skirts and kilts. She would like to eventually have a manufacturing site in Vancouver. “We are not going to go to China,” Stephanie says. “If we can’t grow this thing in the United States, we have to make it happen, we have to figure out a way.”

Sweet Spot Skirts Shop

Creating a headquarters in Vancouver
The downtown Vancouver store is a hub for the business. Located in the former Sixth Street Gallery at 105 W. 6th, the shop features wood floors, stacks of the colorful skirts and bolts of fabric where “you can go to the wall and pick out your fabric and have your skirt made,” Stephanie says.  There is no extra charge for the custom skirts. An operations director and store manager spend their days creating skirts and prototypes as well as assisting customers.

“We are working when people walk in. This is more of a manufacturing site. We call it our destination retail. You can come in and have a cup of coffee, you can have your skirt made, you can rent a bike.” Skirts that are sold wholesale are manufactured in Wilsonville.

Skirts on display

More skirts!

Proskins, jerseys and hats

Flipside Hats from Portland

Displays of the skirts, which sell for $69, are featured in the front along with hats by Flipside Hats, Proskins and Moxie Cycling Jerseys. The store offers bike rentals by the hour. The shop, which has the open feel of the former gallery including rotating art exhibits, is available for special events like bachelorette and birthday parties. They partner with local businesses like Top Shelf, which provides food and drink across the street from the shop.

Bikes for rent

Bike helmets

When asked what would surprise people about Stephanie, who is a whirlwind of ideas, her staff is unanimous: “She doesn’t sew a stitch!”

“I don’t know anything about sewing,” Stephanie admits. “I just know what I want it to look like.”

Shops (and Skirts) to Love: Sweet Spot Skirts

Stephanie may not sew but she knows how to envision and sell her popular skirts. Check out Stephanie’s designs, the work of her seamstresses and other products at Sweet Spot Skirts in Vancouver at 105 W. 6th Street, at www.SweetSpotSkirts.comSweet Spot Skirts on Facebook or the company blog.



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August 15, 2012   2 Comments