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Helen Jones with her two dogs Jules Verne and Sophie, who join her at work at the Helen Jones Gallery. Putting the Heart in Art

Helen Jones Gallery shows the eclectic passions of its owner

By Duffy Kelly 


Longtime Sierra Oaks resident Helen Jones knows there’s a good reason the word art is a big part of the word heart. For seven decades and counting, she’s all about putting art in the hearts of Sacramentans.

Portrait of Helen Jones.Take a stroll through her bright and airy gallery in the Arden Town Center at Fair Oaks Boulevard and Watt Avenue and you can almost feel yourself slow down while art, color and whimsy sink in.

Her eclectic blend of paintings, watercolors, sculpture, ceramics and even hand-painted furniture have a way of delighting the senses and making you re-think your gift-giving plans for years to come. Her selections come from her worldwide travels and myriad experiences as the chief of staff for Sen. Wadie Deddeh and the wife of a professional baseball pitcher.

“I have to like it or I can’t sell it,” she says. “My tastes are very eclectic, hence the gallery is very eclectic.”

Jones, a native Sacramentan and now 81 years old, opened her gallery in Town & Country Village in 1988 and has been going strong ever since. She’s represented some of the finest local, regional, national and international artists, allowing her to offer collectors a wide variety of media. She moved to Arden Town a year ago and still offers in-home trials, in-house custom framing by David Markle, as well as the terrific bonus of having interior designer and art decor consultant Cary Perrotte visit homes or offices to help collectors visualize where and how new art will complement their environment.

With Perrotte’s touch, people see how just tweaking pictures on a wall, or making room for that one special bronze, can transform the flow of a room, Jones says. It’s that kind of personal service that’s been a hallmark of her gallery for 25 years. The next trick up her long sleeve of creative tricks is to host special art shows featuring local children’s artwork. 

“We pride ourselves on our framing,” Jones says. “All artwork stays here and is framed on the premises. Our attention to detail and careful handling of artwork make a big difference to the community.”

She married her high school sweetheart, Gordon Jones, whose career as a pitcher took them around the country, to Cuba and to Venezuela. (He pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals in the mid-1950s, for the New York Giants in the late ’50s, the Baltimore Orioles in 1960 and 1961, Kansas City in 1962 and Houston in the mid-1960s. As Gordon threw pitches, Helen watched artists throw pots and fell in love with all types of artwork from all over the globe.

In October 2012 she fell in love with the work of James Lu, a phenomenally talented Chinese painter whose originals sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars and are on permanent display at galleries from Japan to China to New York to San Francisco. Jones then introduced Lu to the Crocker Art Museum and with the help of her matchmaking skills, Lu donated one of his originals to the Crocker’s permanent collection. Another one of his originals will be auctioned at the museum’s June 1 auction.

Other works at her gallery include those by Gregory Kondos, Sergey Gristak, Sergei Yatsenko, Stella Steves, Robert Wee, Valerie Kagounkin, Pino, Donald Roller Wilson, Yuroz, Guy Buffet, Theo Tobiasse and Tamara Magdalina.

Despite the success of her gallery, Jones says her greatest success in life is raising three children: Gary Jones, owner of a video production company in Sacramento; Greg Jones, a publishing consultant; and Janet Berry, the first woman chief judge of the 2nd Judicial District Court of Reno.

And then there are Sophie and Jules Verne, Jones’ two trusty and perfectly coiffed dogs who work by her side every day at the gallery, greeting guests and helping keep the oriental area rugs firmly in place. “I give the dogs the day off on Sundays,” she says.

Helen Jones Gallery is at 588 La Sierra Drive in the Arden Town Center. She can be reached at 481-1118.


Katia Davies-Kemmler helps her customers look their best for every occasion.She’s French But Sells Clothing Made
in the USA

By Jessica Laskey

If you’ve ever stood in front of a closet of clothes and sighed, “I don’t know what to wear,” then Katia Davies-Kemmler, owner of Katia’s Collections on H Street, is here to save the day—and your wardrobe. She even has a term for what you’re experiencing: closet paralysis.

Kemmler has been the chic proprietress of her beautiful boutique since 1999—a year after “retiring” from her 15-year catering business, Katia Davies Catering. Retirement clearly didn’t last long.

“I wanted to go back to fashion,” Kemmler says, “which is what I did when I first came to Sacramento in 1978. I modeled and worked as a sales associate at the best specialty shop in Sacramento, Canfields & Co.”
It wasn’t just Canfields that gave Kemmler her taste for the sartorial—she was born and raised in Paris, France.

“I grew up surrounded by designers, seamstresses, beautiful textiles and a sense of being well-dressed every day, not just on special occasions,” Kemmler says. “French women have fashion in their blood. We are born with it and we love it.”

You would think that someone with such a wide worldview would seek out clothes from far-flung countries, but not Kemmler. In fact, a key component of her thriving boutique business—and one of which she’s very proud—is that almost all of the clothes she buys are made right here in the United States.

“My business is unique,” Kemmler says, “because unlike department stores or other specialty stores, I search for and buy from small design houses, mostly clothing which is ‘Proudly Made in the USA’ by American designers. My collections all reflect my French heritage, the excellence of American design labels and the current trends in fashion.”

This blend of couture cultures means that just about any woman can wander into Kemmler’s well-appointed space—a cozy storefront she’s occupied since 2008, right next door to friend Steve Benson’s store S. Benson & Co., with whom she shared space on 57th Street when she first started out—and find something she adores.

“I have always said that the key to my business is to understand my clients,” Kemmler says proudly. “Real women want real clothes that flatter their figure, that are age-appropriate and ‘in style.’ They also want clothes that are useful, beautiful, comfortable, practical and affordable.”

Kemmler achieves this balance of fit and flattery with a few basic rules that govern all her purchases, whether she’s at New York Fashion Week—which she attends twice a year—or visiting small, specialized companies in California.

“When I go on buying trips, I look at hundreds of labels, but I always have the same criteria,” she says. “One: the garment must have a great ‘hand,’ (meaning, it must) feel good to the touch. Two: it must be of the highest quality, and it must be comfortable to wear. Three: the fit has to be right—that’s why I choose some designer labels [that] specialize in petite figures, others who cater to a fuller figure, some to a taller woman, etc. We cannot count anymore on standard sizes. My knowledge on how a garment is constructed is very important when I choose what I will offer each season to my clients. In addition, I take into consideration the trends in colors, styles, hem lengths, fabrics and prints.”

With such an eagle-eye for good-looking garments, it’s no wonder Kemmler has such a devoted and diverse following. The elegant entrepreneur regularly holds workshops and mini fashion shows in-store, with proceeds benefitting the American Cancer Society, Sacramento Camellia Symphony Orchestra, Soil Born Farms, the Alliance Française and Soroptimist International.

The store’s success is due not only to these events and the diligent behind-the-scenes help of her husband, Richard Kemmler, who handles the administrative side—“Insurances, computer programs, taxes and other things that are essential, but not that glamorous,” Kemmler says—but also to the owner’s attention to customer satisfaction.

“My success comes from the infinite care and honest service I provide to each and every one of my clients,” Kemmler says. “I engage and create a dialogue with my clients. I listen to their needs and their issues. I guide them to make the right decision based on their style, their needs and their budget.”

In addition to Kemmler’s garment guidance, the boutique offers in-house seamstress services for all alterations as well as wardrobe management and stylist advice. All in all, Kemmler is poised to make Sacramento’s women the best dressed in the West—and beyond.

“I show them the way to be happy with their choices of clothes,” she says, “while guiding them to the place where they never have to say, ‘I don’t know what to wear.’ ”

Find your new fashion favorites at Katia’s Collections at 5619 H St. Need advice over the phone? Call 451-8966.


Kate Chomko and Gregg Lamer of Downtown & Vine.Grape Expectations

Do you have those days when you just need a glass of wine—or two, or three—and you don’t feel like driving all the way up to wine country? Gregg Lamer and Kate Chomko, co-owners of the multi-winery tasting room Downtown & Vine, know the feeling.

“We want to bring wine country to the city,” Lamer says, surrounded by glistening bottles of various varietals from the 12 regional wineries represented at Downtown & Vine. “We want to represent the grape the way it should be and tell the stories of the 12 wineries we work with so people intimately know each wine—sharing knowledge is what it’s all about.”

Lamer is a certified sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers (no, he doesn’t get to wear a crown) and has been called a “walking encyclopedia” of wines for most of his career, so it’s no surprise that he has plenty of oenological—wine-related—information to share. But it’s the way in which he does so that makes such a difference.

“People are often intimidated by wine,” Lamer says. “There’s so much to know, it can be overwhelming, so how do you start the conversation?”

First of all, use terms that the average consumer might know.

“When people taste pinot noir and we ask them to identify a flavor, they can’t pin it down right away,” Lamer says. “But as soon as we say ‘cola’ ”—as in Coca Cola—it hits ’em. The key is to figure out how to talk about it.”

Lamer has had years to hone his talking points. The Georgia native started working in restaurants at 16 years old and has since worked all over the country—it was at a restaurant in Texas that he first learned about wine through a weekend training program the company offered its staff. He’s held management positions in restaurants and luxury resorts such as the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz. (he directed its wine program for seven years), and now he’s finally landed in California, working with wineries in Napa, Sonoma and Amador.

Likewise, his business partner Chomko isn’t new to the world of wine. Trained at Le Cordon Bleu in London and the CIA Wine Education Program in Napa, Chomko has worked all over the golden state—as a winery chef in the Santa Cruz mountains, as a culinary instructor in San Francisco, and, most recently, as the sales director for Calistoga’s Larkmead Vineyards—until she and Lamer decided to open Downtown & Vine in December 2012.

“Kate lives in Napa and I live in Amador, so we decided on Sacramento as a halfway point,” Lamer says. “I’m a serial entrepreneur”—Lamer has at least two other wine businesses in Amador at the moment— “and we wanted one place where people could come to try lots of different wines without having to go to each individual winery. Our original idea was to call it 49 & Vine to highlight the foothill regions, but we’ve managed to do that from the heart of the city.”

Sleek and sophisticated and nestled on the K Street corridor across the street from the Crest Theatre, Downtown & Vine is part tasting room, part restaurant (read: grilled cheese bar), lounge, wine store and—no joke—travel agency.

“We have a concierge desk where we help you book wine tours,” Lamer says, “and we have a shipping concierge that can ship wine you’ve bought—here or elsewhere—to 42 states.”

The menu is categorized by winery—there are 12 represented in all, including Iron Horse Vineyards, De Loach Vineyards, Michael Mondavi Family, Neyers Vineyards, Round Pond Estate, Vino Noceto, Dillian Wines, Fiddletown Cellars, Shadow Ranch, Clarksburg Wine Company and slots that rotate monthly—with three selections per maker. It’s up to Lamer to make sure the wines represented are the best for the season.
“We meet all the winemakers and taste everything to select our menu,” Lamer says. (Tough job, right?) “We teach people what grows well where—there’s no point in having someone try a barbera that’s not a good barbera.”

Lamer and his staff hold classes, both private and in a monthly series, for those who are interested in furthering their grasp of grapes. The education area is also wired for Skype, so students can talk directly to wine makers in far-flung locales. But no matter how much they learn to swill and sip and sniff, Lamer hopes the glass stays always half-full.

“You can lose the romance of wine if you know every iota about it,” he says. “When you know so much that you can’t relate to normal people, it defeats the purpose. My goal is to share the knowledge, but also the love of wine.”

We’ll raise a glass to that.

Thirsty? Check out Downtown & Vine at 1200 K St., No. 8. Interested in a class? Call 228-4518 or go to downtownandvine.com