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In the 1920s, prohibition-era tunnels mapped a hidden bootleg network underneath downtown Santa Cruz. A bar we now know as The Asti was a speakeasy at the time, with two tunnels leading to its basement. They still have that basement today, although the doors are now gone and the secret tunnels have collapsed.
Our Woman of the Week, Tara Guglielmo Muccilli, has owned The Asti for about 20 years. She grew up in Willow Glen but her parents had a boat in the harbor, so Santa Cruz was always her second home. She left the area to get an art degree at Cal State Long Beach, and was offered a full-time teaching job when her father made her a different kind of offer. He’d owned The Asti for about 10 years. Now he wanted to teach his daughter the business, and have her take over if she decided she liked it.
So Tara turned down the teaching job and packed herself up to Santa Cruz, where she learned the ins and outs of running a bar while substitute teaching. She wanted to give back to her parents for putting her through school, and felt like it was the right thing to do. Well, it just so happens that she actually really enjoyed it. She fell in love with the social and community aspect of the business and still runs The Asti today.
“It’s a fun place—there’s no changing it,” she says, “There’s no pretentiousness in it.”
Tara is a real people person. She was a sales rep for Silpada jewelry for five years, and reached top ten in the country during her last four years there. When asked what her secret is, she says that it’s all about being social and getting out into the community. “Don’t be afraid to do new things and meet people… It’s fun to meet people in your community that you wouldn’t have known otherwise.”
And it’s the same way with her bar. She says, “I just like seeing the people.” The local community is her business. Although many people live in Santa Cruz, from all walks of life, it really does have that small-town vibe. People here have plenty of similar interests, and they’re always out and about.
She makes a point of not judging people. Tara grew up in a bar, and her godfather was one of her father’s regulars. He seemed down one day and her father told him, “Hey, don’t worry. I’m going to make you my daughter’s godfather.” Turns out, he’s a great guy. And she mentions late-nighters shouldn’t look askance at the older people who visit the bar early: it’s their community hall. They’re there to socialize.
Tara has a daughter who’s 13 and a son who’s 11, so she’s also busy volunteering at their school. She felt it was her duty, and when she stopped selling Silpada she started getting really involved. Now she’s co-president of the HSC.
I think Tara’s life philosophy can safely be summed up in one quote: “It all connects around; it’s a small world.” Truth. Thanks, Tara!
Our Woman of the Week this week, aerial artist and writer Jeanette Bent, grew up right here in Santa Cruz. She graduated from Harbor High and moved to LA for college, beginning a ten-year journey that would eventually bring her full circle. After receiving her BA in Journalism with a minor in Dance, Jeanette moved to New York to write for Dance Magazine. But while she was rubbing elbows and interviewing the big industry names, she realized that what she really wanted was to be dancing herself.
“I’ve been a dancer all my life,” Jeanette says.
Her new adventure began when she found resort work in Cancun and the Bahamas as a choreographer for Circus Studios. Shortly after she was hired, the circus girl quit and she was “punked” into taking on the aerial performance. Talk about learning on the job! It seems she was a natural though, because she continued doing the performances.
Meanwhile, she met her future husband, who was working as a chef for the same company. Sounds like a steamy romance novel—choreographer/chef duo working circus performances in the Turks and Caicos. But work in the tourism industry gets old, and Jeanette moved back to New York, where she was able to pick up almost right where she left off.
While in New York, Jeanette trained formally in aerial dance, as well as pole. She continued her relationship long distance, and luckily her Canadian-born, resort-cooking romantic partner was ready to get out of the tourism industry as well. He left the company after working there for ten years, and they eloped in New York.
Then came a baby—which brings us full circle back to Santa Cruz, via LA, where Jeanette started teaching pole and aerial. When she arrived in Santa Cruz, she saw that there was nothing around town in the way of aerial arts. “I was really nervous to be back here.”
But she found a co-op of women using space in the old Wrigley building, Aerial Playground, with only two classes on the schedule. She attended a beginning silks class and was practically hired on the spot. Eventually she took over and founded Aerial Arts Santa Cruz. Around the same time, she also founded Stellaria Entertainment and Production, where she curates aerial musical performances. “That’s the combination of writing, dance, and movement that has worth for me… That’s the marriage that feeds my soul.”
Last December, when she was pregnant with her second baby boy, she sold Aerial Arts and devoted herself to her true passion. In 2018, Stellaria will be launching an aerial theater program, culminating in an extravagant performance, which is then packaged for resorts.
But what does Jeanette do in her free time (if she has any)? “I love just going to the park with my boys… And reading.” A life-long learner, she’s always studying something new.
We can’t wait to see what comes next!
Copywriter and content strategist Raquel Cool is represented by New York literary agency Writers House and has written for the likes of Desmond Tutu… but she also worked in social services for about twelve years. One of her first jobs was answering crisis calls for a suicide hotline when she was nineteen. Working with people from all walks of life, from incarcerated men, to adults with disabilities, to feminist advocacy groups, gave her a perspective often lost in the marketing arena.
“A lot of marketing copy preys on—or manufactures—an inner sense that something is missing, that people need x-service or y-product to feel a certain way. I think we’re all fatigued by that type of writing. I like writing from a place of fullness and gratitude.”
Her superpower is helping clients who know they have something inside of themselves that they want to say, but aren’t sure exactly what it is yet. She’s developed a process to cut through the confusion and tap into the core of what that message is. WOW, no wonder she’s Woman of the Week!
Raquel was born in a military hospital in the rainforest of Panama. With a father who was a Naval Intelligence Officer and a mother who’s Chinese, she grew up in a trilingual household that moved every couple of years, then settled in Miami for about ten. She says, “I still miss waking up to Cuban coffee, empanadas, and nonstop humidity!”
Traveling across the states in her twenties included such adventures as living in an Oklahoma mortuary and WWOOFing in New Mexico. Then Raquel found her way to Santa Cruz in 2008 and is still here nine years later, and counting… She still loves adventures—she just got back from a family hiking trip to Utah—but with a nine-year-old stepson and a chapstick-eating toddler, most days consist of work, errands, grocery shopping, and family time (and sometimes living vicariously by browsing Michelin tasting menus on Instagram while eating cold pizza).
The Santa Cruz community has been an unbelievable supportive place for Raquel. She and her husband share a commercial studio space in the Sentinel Printers office in downtown Santa Cruz. She’s fully behind celebrating other women in business, and she’s passionate about collaborating with changemakers who have big ideas.
“I love this work, and I feel honored to help others bring life to an idea or message that they feel called to share with the world.”
Raquel also helps people who are very clear on their message, but don’t have the time to create or organize their own content. Right now, she’s in the process of rebranding a naturopathic doctor’s website—hopefully she’ll share it with us when she’s done! Check out her creative direction projects at hitherco.com, and see for yourself why this fabulous Woman of the Week is booked solid through August!
Decontextualizing Motherhood Artist talk by Raquel Cool in UCSC News 2/14
Not everyone is lucky enough to know what they’re meant to do early on in their career, but Allison Smith did. Originally from Boulder Creek, she moved to San Diego for college and then worked for a company providing wedding print services. Back then, wedding planning was a luxury service that most people didn’t utilize. She noticed when making day of event deliveries that there was a lack of management and a need for a point person to check in with—someone who knew what was going on. So when she moved back to Santa Cruz, she started her own wedding consulting business in 1994.
“I don’t know what happened. Something just clicked in me and I knew I was supposed to be doing this.”
Wedding planning wasn’t a common career at the time. In fact, Martha Stewart was just coming up and Pinterest certainly wasn’t a thing yet. “People thought I was crazy,” says Allison. Well I guess she gets the last laugh, because she’s still going strong over 20 years later.
Allison grew up working in the Santa Cruz service industry. When she started her business, she was bartending at Palookaville, a nightclub and special event venue that boasted the likes of B.B. King. So she got support and encouragement from people in the area who saw what she was doing. One of those people was our own Monica Karst, whose wedding was planned by Allison. A huge wedding, I might add, at 500 guests—quite the learning experience I’m sure!
Since then, she’s watched Monica found the Socialites and is fully supportive of celebrating the work of other women in her community. She also donates a portion of her profits to charities, including Women for Women International. “I’m a strong supporter of women who are struggling to feed their families.”
When she’s not busy running between weddings, Allison likes to spend time with her kids (four between her and her husband), run and do yoga, “…things that allow me to clear my head from the noise of life.” And she manages to squeeze some traveling in, even if that means leaving at 5 a.m. for Maui after finishing a wedding at 10 p.m. the previous night.
She also teaches wedding planning, a need which she noticed due to the lack of education and support when she was starting out. She joined the Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants, of which she was Vice Chair and then Chair for a time, and is a Certified Wedding Consultant. Allison believes strongly in face-to-face education and hands on experience in this industry, so although there are so many online classes these days, she continues to do hers in person.
It might come as a surprise to learn that Allison is planning to write a book. She’s been through her ups and downs and wants to share her life experiences. And she still learns something new at every wedding. She just finished her first two this season and is already booking for next year. So check her out at allisonweddings.com, and while you’re at it, say congratulations to our Woman of the Week!