Front Page Stories: December, 2014   
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Full December Issue * Past Issues * Salem Weather * About Us * Contact Us

Cross Walk of Salem

Left to Right:
Jean Wheat-Palm, President & CEO,
Valley Credit Union.
Mary Lucas,
Cross Walk Salem Founder.
Rich Kansky, President,
of Green Acres Landscaping.
    On New Year’s Day 2011, Salem resident Mary Lucas decided to honor her resolution to walk more.

     She set off from the carousel at Riverfront Park, walking along the sidewalk bordering the Willamette River.

     Only ten minutes into her walk, Mary was grabbed from behind and dragged down the embankment by a man holding a knife.

     In a final plea, Mary cried out “Lord, help me please!” Mary’s words were heard/answered as three men rushed down the bank to rescue her from her attackers.

     Since 2012, Valley Credit Union, Green Acres Landscaping, and Paramount Reality have partnered to present “Cross Walk” of Salem. On January 1st, hundreds of community members gather at the Salem Riverfront Park to help raise funds to support victims of violent crime in Marion County.

     Join Valley Credit Union, Green Acres Landscaping, and Paramount Reality at this years’ Cross Walk event. Registration and details are available at

Nordstrom Is Local & Helpful For The Holidays

Nordstrom at Salem Center,
dressed up for the Holidays

    Nordstrom Personal Stylists are available to shop the entire store for customers. This is a free service and we can work with the whole family on finding the right gift on everyone’s list. We just ask the customer to share their list with us and we’ll take it from there.

    Customers can call 1.877.310.8537 or go to nordstrom. com/stylists.

    Our social media team, also has some fun things going on this holiday.

    “You Pick the Deal”: We will be crowd sourcing Cyber Monday deals (1 handbag and 1 shoe) on Facebook the week before Cyber Monday. The winning handbag and shoe chosen by our customers will be discounted on Cyber Monday.
    “Show this Post”: We will be giving the first 50 customers who follow @Nordstrom or their local store account and “show this post” at our E-Bars 12/6 & 12/7 a free Merriment Mocha. All they have to do is show the applicable post (to be posted on 12/6) at the counter to redeem their drink.

    One way we will work to help customers find the perfect gift is through our customers’ most popular choices on Pinterest. Each week, we will feature about 100 of the most popular and re-pinned items from our Great Gifts board on Pinterest. For customers who want to shop online or do their research first online, we offer Buy Online/Pick Up in Store and Free shipping/Free returns year ‘round at A lot of customers have told us this saves them time during the holidays.

    We also encourage customers to join us in helping give a child a new pair of shoes this holiday season. Since 2010, we’ve given 43,700 pairs and this year, and in partnership with our customers and New Balance, we’re looking to give 15,000 more this year.

    • Beginning November 1 through December 24, customers in the US can visit any shoe department in Nordstrom stores or the checkout areas in Nordstrom Rack stores to find $10 giving cards that include the names and ages of children in need of new shoes.

    • Every $10 tag purchased goes towards giving that child a new pair of shoes.

Dino Venti, Rebrander

Dino Venti is proud of his
cutting edge South Salem location,
Venti’s Cafe + Taphouse
2840 Commercial St SE,
    I first wrote a column on Dino Venti and his restaurants for the March 2013 edition of the SBJ. With some updates, I believe it’s worthy of another run.

    According to Wikipedia, “Brand” is the name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or service as distinct from those of other sellers. Wikipedia further states that “Brand trust” is the intrinsic “believability” that any entity evokes. In the commercial world, the intangible aspect of Brand trust impacts the behavior and performance of its stakeholders in many intriguing ways. It creates the foundation of a strong brand connect with all stakeholders, converting simple awareness to strong commitment.

    This, in turn, metamorphoses normal people who have an indirect or direct stake in the organization into devoted ambassadors.

    “Rebranding” then would be the process of, hopefully, improving on everything I quoted in the first 2 paragraphs. Dino Venti is a “Rebrander”. And I’ll tell you why.

    Dino Venti was born in1967, one of eleven kids (3 brothers and 7 sisters), raised in San Gabriel, a suburb of Los Angeles. He graduated from Alhambra High School in 1985.

    From high school, Dino took his football skills to junior college. Academics and football didn’t work out at that level too well, however, so tying Christmas trees to cars for money and various other jobs soon followed.

    Venti’s parents (now deceased), wanting a slower lifestyle, moved to Salem in the late 80s and Dino, tired of spinning his wheels in California, followed them to Oregon in 1992.

    Dino had been working at a Lexus dealership in California and landed an equivalent position in the parts department for Lexus in Portland. After 8 total years with Lexus, Venti decided to try something different with his brother, Mike who had also moved to Portland (he has another brother living in Tillamook).

    According to Dino, Mike, and his entrepreneurial spirit, has always been a mentor to him. About 1995, they were working together in a property flipping venture when, after losing out on a bid, decided to have lunch on a sidewalk in Portland. There was a bento pushcart there right on the sidewalk with a guy making chicken teriyaki and rice for his customers. They watched as the owner banged out one chicken and rice dish after another. That’s when their lives would begin to change forever.

    Dino noted that there was no business with such a simple menu like this in Salem.

    After some discussion of the possibilities, they decided then and there on the sidewalk of Portland to replicate it in Salem. But there was a big problem to overcome right out of the gate.

    Salem’s fire marshal code did not allow pushcarts like they needed to use to cook the chicken and rice. They’d need to find something else. And that’s when Dino found the Ice Cream Café on Court Street in the middle of town right next to the sidewalk.

    It would be perfect, he thought, if he could just get them to sell. He did.

    After many hours of cooking practice and a few burnt chickens, Venti’s Bento opened for business in the old Ice Cream Café spot in 1996 with his brother and partner, Mike.

    Mike took care of all the administrative issues while Dino cooked. Dino would eventually buy Mike out in 2003 with Mike settling into early retirement.

    Business was real good but Dino also began to recognize some important intangibles about his relationship with his employees, customers and the city of Salem.

    He started paying more attention to “quality of life” issues in the community. It redefined his priorities. More about that later.

    After 12 years in his first location and his year long, frustrating attempts to grow elsewhere downtown, Venti’s moved across the street to 325 Court St NE, in the old “Sip” bubble tea place and renamed it Venti’s Café and Basement Bar (

    It was a much larger space and for the past 6 years, Dino has used his passion and creativity to make it quite a thriving success complete with that beautiful basement bar and nights with live music.

    It’s an energetic establishment in the heart of downtown where they pride themselves on good, clean food, an inviting yet edgy atmosphere, and a commitment to unique flavor, attitude and culture. Beer flows all day and the basement bar opens at 4pm Monday thru Friday, and at noon on Saturday and Sunday. My friend, Maury Johnson, and I ate lunch there every Friday until about 1 ½ years ago when we switched to his South Salem location. We love being pampered by managers, Nicole and Sean (ask Sean to do his unbelievable Donald Duck voice. Best I’ve ever heard), and sitting at the window table watching the sidewalk activity as we enjoy their outstanding food.

    Three years ago, Dino saw that big opportunity to expand his product to South Salem. He named it Venti’s Cafe + Taphouse ( and set up in the old Busters Barbeque spot at 2840 Commercial St SE (PH: 503.391.5100). And it’s doing so well that Dino has pulled his brother, Mike, out of retirement to help with the administrative side of the business.

    Venti’s Cafe + Taphouse features a cosmopolitan, cozy, modern, one-level restaurant with outdoor patio seating (there’s a possibility for expansion of the patio next summer). They also have tons of bike parking! And for you beer snobs out there, they have up to 24 rotating taps, including two nitro + two cask engines. They also have exciting nights with fantastic live music such as the outstanding blues band, Still Water Vibes.

    Their product, originally, was largely the same as the downtown location, but last year they rolled out a brand new menu. In fact, in mid February, Dino and Leslie hosted a fantastic, classy and seldom-ifever- seen-in-Salem menu release dinner for about 12 members of the local media (me and the indispensable Freddy Ruiz from the SBJ) and each with a guest. The food, craft beer and service were nothing short of amazing! Venti’s “Beer Czar”, Matt Killikelly, entertained and informed with some very interesting information about their craft beers.

    The honorable Rooster is Venti’s logo, so named since teriyaki chicken is the core of their business and Dino estimates over 50 tons prepped in his first 10 years of business! It’s a nod to the glorious cock, an animal loved for its power, boldness and beauty. The concept and design were the brilliant idea of Dino’s wife, Leslie who, happily, lends her passion, skills and training as a graphic designer to the benefit of both restaurants.

    Dino and Leslie met through mutual friends in 2002 and married in 2004. He considers her his “flashpoint” in life. She grew up living back and forth in London and Colorado while her dad worked for Lockheed as a rocket scientist. She’s also a retired Cherry City Derby Girls roller derby star having been voted MVP for her team 2 years in a row! More importantly, she’s also a devoted practitioner of Yoga and appears to me to apply its peaceful philosophy to her every day life.

    For fun, Dino’s an avid, passionate mountain biker. He belongs to the Salem Area Trail Alliance (SATA, and organization committed to building sustainable trails in Salem, and the Black Rock Mountain Bike Association ( which is dedicated to building, riding and respecting mountain biking trails and their environment. He’s determined to spread the good word of mountain biking far and wide.

    To Dino, mountain biking is a life style that he’s promoting as part of a Salem recreational balance which contributes to a re-branding of Salem. One that connects the Salem areas “greenways” with bike and walking trails that everyone can enjoy year round.

    Dino Venti is also re-branding the dining/ entertainment experience in Salem. His restaurants are more like the classy but yet “family” places you’d find in a larger city like the Pearl District of Portland. He’s looking to continue to grow his business while doing everything in his power to take care of his 80+ employees in a responsible and considerate way. And, as a Viet Nam Veteran myself, I certainly appreciate how he does his very best to find and hire qualified military veterans who, he completely believes, should never have to want for opportunities to succeed when they return to civilian life.

    Boy do I support that! Dino Venti’s “environments” have such a warm, lively, friendly, and fabulous atmosphere. If you’ve never been to a Venti’s, or if you’ve been but not lately, you must check them out. It is/they are, indeed, the place(s) to be.

    And finally, Dino Venti desires to “Rebrand” for the better his restaurants and Salem. He loves this place and wants to create a foundation of a strong new brand connect with all stakeholders, converting simple awareness to a strong commitment to Salem and its overall quality of life. This, in turn, will “morph” normal people who have an indirect or direct stake in Salem into devoted ambassadors in a holistic way. And who among us would not want that?

Bill Isabell is chief meteorologist for KBZY Radio, 1490am

No One Travels Further
Than Dave Wilson,
So You Can Buy Local

Dave Wilson
Hand Selects
Gems In Antwerp

    This last October Dave Wilson, of Dave Wilson Designer-Goldsmith, boarded a plane in Portland to fly to Belgium. He does this around the same time every year to buy diamonds directly from the diamond cutters, and save the mark up from U.S. suppliers.

    The flight was smooth and before he knew it, he was picking up luggage and catching a bus from Brussels into Antwerp.

    At the hotel, he met up with some other Retail Jewelers Organization members. RJO is a group of independent jewelry stores, who together, have enough buying power to gain access to the best prices on diamonds.

    After dinner with the RJO members and some of the diamond cutters, the first evening was soon over.

    Early the next morning, Dave walked the short distance from the hotel to the Diamond District. The Diamond District is a small area in which the diamond cutters’ offices are located, occupying a few blocks.

    Once past the rigid security screening, Dave and other RJO members meet with individual diamond cutters. It’s a chance for new members to learn about the company policies, specialized products, and see new things. Dave says, “I was glad to learn more about the social and environmental responsibility built into the cutters’ business policies and practices.” Some of the exciting new things Dave saw were large black diamond bead strands twinkling like a million stars, huge rough diamond crystals marked and ready to be cut, a tray of red carpet-worthy faceted diamonds ranging from just over three carats to a little over ten carats, and Champagne Diamonds from the Argyle mine in Western Australia.

    Before leaving for Antwerp, Dave planned new designs for the case, made a list of popular sizes and price ranges for his inventory, and took orders from clients ready to purchase and wanting the best deal on a premium diamonds. With his shopping list, tweezers, loupe, and 30 years of experience grading diamonds, it was time to get down to business.

    Asking to see specific sizes, grades, and price ranges was just the beginning. For each stone on his list, Dave has to sort through hundreds of similar stones, finding the highest quality in the right price range. There were eight offices to visit, and he may have found diamonds fitting orders at one office, but the next diamond cutter might have a finer stone for a better price.     He had the cutters hold his selection so he would have the chance to grade similar stones in other offices. Under magnification, he judged the cut and clarity of each stone, on a white tray the color grade was determined, on a scale the stone is weighed, Dave asks for any certifications a stone may have and the price per carat, and using his tweezers compared the brilliance.

    Sometimes, the price, cut, clarity, carat and color of two stones were the same, but the decision was made based on one stone just having more brilliance. After three eight hour days sorting through thousands of stones, it was time to finalize orders, and decide on any extras for inventory. “This year, I was thrilled to find some Champagne Diamonds ranging from Dark Champagne, a medium brown color sparkling with every color of the rainbow, to Fancy Cognac, a deep coffee color with intense red flashes!”

    No one travels further so Salem can shop for world class diamonds locally. Once he reached Salem again, Dave will have traveled over 10,000 miles to bring home significant savings for clients in Salem with quite a variety of budgets. Diamonds for inventory were tucked away, and the clients’ custom designs got under way.

    One set of stones were for a client wanting earrings like one’s she saw on the red carpet, some were used to create a new engagement ring and a few were upgrades for existing wedding rings. One diamond was gift wrapped, and the client proposed with the diamond, and brought his new fiancé in to meet Dave and create her very own ring. Getting the design process started seemed complicated, but it is as easy as knowing your budget, having an idea of what you want or dream of, and a visit to Dave!