Business Buzz – August 2020

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(Contributed Photo)
Casa Orinda Head Chef Lino Rios cleans up the kitchen where food to go is prepared.

Casa Orinda Curbside
    Casa Orinda opened for curbside take-out, including drinks, July 16. “We’re meeting every requirement for PPE equipment (masks, face shields) and distancing. Also, we have cleaned the restaurant top to bottom and are ready for curbside orders,” said General Manager Claudia Tata.
    To place an order, call 925-254-2981 
4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wed. – Sun. Their beginning menu is limited and can be found online. You may order fried chicken (served with mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables and biscuit); French dip prime rib sandwich; chicken wings; broiled hamburger; or a weekly Mexican special from Chef Lino Rios.
    Orders for beer, wine and/or cocktails (ages 21 and older) can only be made when included with an order for food. Drinks are provided in closed-top cups. Curbside pickup is set up in the parking lot adjacent to the restaurant.
    Tata said they are ready to reopen whenever COVID-19 restrictions allow. Management is very concerned for their 42 employees who are doing well, all things considered. Many volunteered to help with the clean-up to ensure safety measures are in full force both for employees and eventually, patrons.
    Casa Orinda is at 20 Bryant Way. Visit www.casaorinda.net for more information.

(Elana O’Loskey, Photographer)
Alison Stout, president of Aspire PR Company.

Aspire PR Company
    Alison Stout, who lives in Orinda, is the founder and owner of Aspire PR Company, a lifestyle and hospitality communications firm. She has worked in public relations and branding for more than 20 years. Early on she worked in PR for two years in the New York City fashion industry.
    “Working in a showroom on Fifth Avenue across from the Empire State Building as well as at a retail showroom in Soho helped me learn how to manage the cutthroat industry of PR; it really jump-started my career,” said Stout.
    She was fortunate to work with a large PR firm in San Francisco for many years specializing in travel and hospitality. They worked with luxury hospitality brands, destinations, consumer household products, boutique hotels and both world-renowned and small, family-run wineries.
    Traveling the world with global clients, she said she built relationships with local, national and international media. The firm always focused on offering more than traditional PR and often became an extension of their clients’ teams.
    When Stout opened Aspire in 2011 she said she used similar strategies along with always offering results-driven, measurable outcomes. She attributes much of her success to long-term relationships with former clients and strong relationships with both editorial teams and freelance writers. “These relationships are invaluable when a client is looking for a last-minute strategic partnership for an event or promotion,” said Stout.
    Working often with clients in the wine country, she realized they shared a certain simpatico about the lifestyle and hospitality industry. She believes many people living and working there quite simply love what they do and the part of the world they live in. That attitude is what creates and sustains the unique quality of wine country hospitality which comes in many guises. Stout enjoys working with them for the same reasons.
    When asked how she handled travel and hospitality during COVID-19, she replied, “It’s been quite a challenge; we quickly pivoted to begin working with clients in education and consumer products – I’ve been wanting to explore both areas further.”
    Another strength she said Aspire had already developed is crisis communication. Aspire had to develop these skills because Stout said their wine country clients were affected by wildfires; clients throughout California had to deal with power outages; more recently they’ve had clients taking action against racial injustice and using resources to concretely move forward toward equality for all.
    Stout grew up in Orinda and said she loved her childhood years here. Now living in Orinda with her husband and two daughters, she said she can’t imagine a better community with which to share experiences. Outside of work she loves anything outdoors, traveling, cooking and has started the process of becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer.
    Contact Stout at 415-307-1682, email alison@aspireprco.com or visit www.aspireprco.com.

(Michelle Houston, Photographer)
Students at Jeanne Dowell’s garden yoga twilight class stretch on the lawn overlooking the view.

Garden Yoga
    Orinda’s very own nonagenarian, Jeanne Dowell, taught her first yoga class in her backyard in 1977. Guess what? Since COVID-19 restrictions on indoor classrooms, Dowell has returned to the backyard to teach garden yoga.
    After checking with Contra Costa County COVID-19 regulators, she observes their best practices to hold outdoor yoga classes while maintaining physical distancing. She provides separate exits and entrances and students wear masks. A wireless PA system allows everyone to hear her without difficulty.
    Garden yoga involves using mats, blocks, belts and chairs outside on the grass while doing a variety of gentle stretching poses. Dowell always ends with a reading of some kind designed to help slow down her students.
    Michelle Houston, who takes the twilight yoga class Monday evenings said, she never wants to take indoor yoga again. “Jeanne’s expert explanations of the postures and quiet words of wisdom allow us to meditate and focus while the birds chirp in the background as the sun sets. There’s nothing like it,” she said.
    Classes are 6:30 – 7:45 p.m. Monday and 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Thursday and Friday. Call Dowell at 925-408-5940 or email her at jeannedowell@yahoo.com.

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