Monthly Archives: February 2010

Workshop Gives Small Businesses “Inside Info” on Government Contracts

Nearly 200 small business representatives showed up at Santee City Hall on Friday, February 19, to attend a Government Small Business Procurement Outreach Workshop, organized by the San Diego Contracting Opportunities Center (SDCOC) (also known as the Procurement Technical Assistance Center [PTAC]), hosted by the City of Santee and the Santee Chamber of Commerce, and sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority.  The goal of the workshop was to provide small business owners with the information they need in order to compete successfully for contracts with all levels of government.  From the people I spoke with, the event was very successful, with useful information and good networking opportunities.

Congressman Duncan D. Hunter (CA-52) and Santee Mayor Randy Voepel kicked off the day by welcoming attendees and speakers, before the presentation of the first annual Donald G. Preis Small Business Recognition Award.  This award, given to a company that successfully puts into practice the techniques taught at previous workshops, honors the SDCOC’s long-time organizer of the event, Don Preis, who passed away last year.  (For more on Don and his contribution to Santee and small businesses, click here.)  His wife, Joan, was in attendance as the award was given to Advertising Edge, an East County company that specializes in branding and promotional items.

The speakers’ list read like a who’s-who of San Diego area government agencies.  In addition to the San Diego County Water Authority, SPAWAR, SANDAG, the Metropolitan Water District, the County of San Diego, and several more agencies provided representatives to speak to the attendees.  The day also included networking time and information tables to allow business owners to share ideas with each other or to speak face-to-face with agency representatives.  Among the business owners, two I managed to speak with during break times were Chris Eader of No More Geysers (a water conservation device) and Richard Cloonan, DDS, who has developed The Answer (a patented oral care product being used at Edgemoor Hospital and similar facilities).

If you have a small business in Santee, the SDCOC has a satellite office at the Santee Chamber of Commerce exclusively to help you.  The office is open on Thursdays from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm.  Thanks to the City of Santee for helping to fund the office through its economic growth outreach efforts.  Thanks also go out to Tim Warren, Sr. Procurement Specialist at SDCOC, Pam White, Assistant to the Executive Director at the City of Santee, and Warren Savage, Executive Director of the Santee Chamber of Commerce.

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FedEx Office Grand Opening and Customer Appreciation

If you are a small business owner, or a NASCAR fan, the place to be on Wednesday, February 10, was at Marketplace at Santee (better known as the Henry’s Center) for the “Grand Opening” and Customer Appreciation celebration at the FedEx Office Store.  The location has actually been open for a year, so this was as much an anniversary celebration as an opening.  Part of the reason for the delay was waiting for the schedule to open up for the NASCAR FedEx #11 to be there.

Now, if you are like most people – and I also consider myself “most people” – when you hear FedEx you probably just think of package delivery.  What most of us don’t realize, or at least forgot about, is that FedEx Office used to be FedEx/Kinko’s, and before that just Kinko’s.  That’s right, the one-time copy center, later copy and office center.  Today FedEx Office is still a good place to go for copies, special printing, and other business services.  In fact, as Center Manager Jennifer Tomasulo put it, the goal of FedEx Office is to be “the small business’ back office.”

One of the big draws for the day was the green #11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, normally driven by Denny Hamlin but on this day sitting quietly in the parking lot along with its information trailer.  Many people stopped to have their picture taken beside the car, including the members of the Santee Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors.

Inside the FedEx Office Center the staff had set up a customer appreciation celebration, including drawings for prizes and food provided by The Invisible Chef – who did put in an appearance in spite of her business name.  Jennifer and her team were available to answer questions and assist those who came in to do business as well as celebrate.  One thing they pointed out was that customers can take advantage of FedEx online services to do much of what they might normally come in for right from their office or home.  They can even have supplies delivered.  For information about specific services, you can call the Santee FedEx Office at 619-258-5608.

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

The FedEx Office Team

(L-R) Adda, Lupita, Shannon, Sanja, Jennifer, Jenny, Christine

Food by The Invisible Chef

Santee Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Warren Savage, and The Invisible Chef, Maggie Piñon

FedEx Office Customer Appreciation

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Small Business Events for February

The Santee Chamber of Commerce and City of Santee are hosting two small business events next week, on Thursday and Friday, February 18 and 19.  These are excellent opportunities to get information and assistance for your business.  Both events will be held at Santee City Hall, Building 8, 10601 N. Magnolia Ave.

The first event is the Business Partnerships for Progress Workshop: Sales in Recessionary Times on Thursday, February 18, from 7:30-9:30 am.  Rose Avila, PhD, of RMA Consulting will be the lead speaker.  The Workshop will focus on sales essentials and will include discussion time and mentoring with Chamber members.

The second event is the Government Small Business Procurement Outreach Workshop on Friday, February 19, from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm, with registration starting at 7:30 am.  Cost for the day is $35 if registered by February 18 or $45 at the door. and includes Continental breakfast, brown bag lunch, and a list of participants.  Speakers will include representatives from the U.S. Navy, SANDAG, MTS, and U.S. Representative Duncan D. Hunter.  The goal of this Workshop is to assist small businesses that are interested in bidding for government contracts.

Both workshops  are designed to help small business owners to succeed in these difficult times.  For more information contact the Santee Chamber of Commerce at 619-449-6572 or email

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Santee Kiwanis Mardi Gras Fundraiser

The Santee Kiwanis will hold its 11th annual Mardi Gras fundraiser on Sunday, February 28, at the Carlton Oaks Country Club at 9200 Inwood Drive in Santee.  This is one of the big events for the local Kiwanis group, and includes prime rib dinner, raffle, silent auction, and entertainment.  Money raised from the Mardi Gras goes toward the Kiwanis’ scholarship program and various local community service projects.  Tickets are $40 and the fun starts with a social hour at 5:00.  For tickets or more information, contact Joe Gersztyn at 619-987-1614 or

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Business Spotlight – Simply Spa


Welcome to the second in my occasional Spotlights on local businesses.  This time around the light is shining on Simply Spa, located next to Ross in the Town Center shopping district.

Simply Spa opened in January of 2008 with the goal of providing a “simple” no-pressure experience for clients.  Owners Thomas and Caroline Hootman spent time analyzing the market before opening their doors.  They decided to go with only organic or all-natural products (their only “non-organic” lotion has natural lanolin in it, so can’t qualify as organic), to avoid high-pressure tactics, and to differentiate between men and women clients.  This last decision was not “sexist” – rather it was realistic.  As Thomas explained, men and women have different needs because they carry stress in different parts of the body.  So all the therapists at Simply Spa go through special training to be able to identify a client’s particular massage needs.  Additionally, Hootman says, most men don’t want to come out of a spa “smelling like a woman.”

In order to provide a variety of experiences, Simply Spa has four differently themed treatment rooms: Asian, Mediterranean, New England, and Sedona.  Each room’s theme is carried through colors, scents, and music to give a client the feeling of that particular location.  Additionally, the Sedona and Mediterranean rooms are designed to allow for couple massages.  They also tailor each person’s treatment to their need.  Not everyone needs deep tissue massage, Thomas points out, and it’s up to clients to explain what they need and therapists to find out.  Good communication between client and therapist is important, and the Hootmans insist on that.

The Simply Spa way is to create an atmosphere that appeals to everyone.  As Thomas explains, they want clients to feel “like we’re inviting them to our own home.”  People have so much stress in their lives, and the Hootmans want clients to be able to “forget about their issues and focus only on their own health.”  As a part of this goal, Simply Spa takes many types of insurance (including Kaiser), and it is easy to set up with their program.  They also accept Spa Finder gift certificates and have their own Simply Spa Rewards program in the works.

I can personally recommend Simply Spa.  I went there for a massage after spending several weeks moving furniture, and the entire process could not have been more, well, simple.  I felt more relaxed after that than I had in a long time.  And in case you are wondering, no, I didn’t get a special deal for writing this review.  I had the massage first, then talked to Thomas later about the business later.

Simply Spa is located at 278 Town Center Drive, Suite 101, in Santee.  You can call them at 619-258-5810 for an appointment or you can now book online through their website.

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January Mixer at Liberty Tax Service

I realize this is a bit late, but the new year is starting off rather busy for me.  The January After-5 Mixer was held on Thursday, January 21, at Liberty Tax Service, located across Mission Gorge Rd. from the Post Office.  In spite of the blustery weather, a good crowd showed up to network and share ideas.  Among those in attendance were Chamber leaders, other local business owners, and members of both Kiwanis and Lions Club.

After networking time and introductions, the monthly raffle took place.  Items on the table included free tax preparation from Liberty Tax Service, SDSU baseball tickets, a $10 gift certificate at Filippi’s Pizza, and, of course, the 50/50 split.  Winners included Express Blinds, Instant Signs of Santee, and Pina Business Services.  The Membership Drawing business was Santee Orange Book, which was not in attendance.

The next After-5 Mixer will be February 18 at Hungry Howie’s Pizza, located at 9225 Carlton Hills Blvd., near the Santee Library.

Networking at the January Mixer

Liberty Tax Service Owners Sam Ward (L) and Mark Manis (R) with Office Manager Linda Hobson

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FedEx Grand Opening

Normally grand openings are celebrated close to when a business opens, but in this case FedEx has been open for a while.  But this is still going to be a celebration, complete with the #11 FedEx car from NASCAR.  The big day is Wednesday, February 10, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm with the ribbon cutting at 11:30 am.

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Smokin’ Joe’s Opens in Santee


Smokin’ Joe’s Barbecue had its Grand Opening celebration on Saturday, January 30, from 2:00-9:00 pm, and it was one busy day for everyone.  The restaurant is located in the Home Depot/Hometown Buffet section of the Town Center, in the same corner spot as two previous eateries.  From the looks of things, this one should be around for the long haul.  Smokin’ Joe Jones himself was on hand to cut the ribbon, greet people, and make sure everything was cooked just right.  I even found out what an “Old Fashion Pig Pick’n” is – but more on that later.

This is the third Smokin’ Joe’s Barbecue in the San Diego area (the others are in Poway and San Diego).  The restaurants have been around for a few years, but Smokin’ Joe’s barbecue style goes back some 60 years to his grandfather and grandmother in Mississippi, where he would help prepare the meats and baste them with the ‘secret’ sauce his grandfather made.  Joe proudly boasts that his special recipe won’t burn on the grill like many sauces, because he doesn’t use brown sugar.  Well, whatever it is he does or doesn’t use, it certainly seems like a winner.  During the two hours I was there taking photos of the goings-on, there was barely a moment for the crew to stop and breathe.  It bothered Joe that people had to wait, sometimes as long as 20 minutes, for their food because of the crowd – but no one seemed to mind.  I had the pulled pork plate with barbecued beans and a huge hunk of corn bread, and I can say the wait was definitely worth it.

Now, about that “Old Fashioned Pig Pick’n” mentioned earlier.  This is where a whole pig is cooked in the smoker for several hours until the outside is black and the inside is falling-apart tender.  Then the succulent sow is cut open and the meat is picked out and chopped up for serving.  It was hard to tell what was the bigger draw here, the process of pick’n or the delectable results – but my guess is the samples of pork Joe  handed out.

I had a chance to talk with Joe later in the day after the busiest time was over.  He has some big plans he hopes to be able to do here in Santee, and my guess is that he can pull them off.  I won’t spoil it for now, but let’s just say that Santee could eventually be the biggest name in barbecue west of the Rockies.

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

The Santee Smokin’ Joe’s Team: (L-R) Roy Landers, Smokin’ Joe Jones, Andy Lott, Joe Lott

Presentation of a Certificate from Assemblyman Joel Anderson’s Office

Smokin’ Joe Jones Stokes the Smoker with Oak

Santee Chamber of Commerce Members waiting for their orders

Welcome Bouquet from Cookies by Design

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