While Downtown has a unique character all its own, its story is always evolving, and sharing our accomplishments, objectives and challenges is always part of our responsibility as a community-based organization. One highlight for the evening’s program will be the presentation of the “Spirit of Downtown” awards to commend honorees for their contribution to the vitality of our Downtown.
The “Spirit of Downtown” awards were established in 2012 to posthumously recognize Long Beach community leaders Mark Bixby, Shaun Lumachi, Larry Allison and Bill Baker, all whom embodied passion, dedication and inspirational leadership. This year’s program will continue in that tradition by recognizing the following recipients: Al Williams, of Rainbow Promotions and producer of Long Beach Jazz Festival; Isa Rached and Josie Quiroz, The B Room Barber Shop and It’s A Drag To Give; Richard Shimizu, a Downtown enthusiast; Laurie Gray, The Pie Bar; and Phil Appleby and Pat Paris-Appleby, East Village.
“The award recipients have and continue to significantly influence and help shape the positive trajectory of our Downtown community,” said Tony Shooshani, DLBA Chairperson. “The recognition of their ongoing accomplishments speaks volumes to the collaborative spirit that is strong within our neighborhoods and organizations. The ‘Spirit of Downtown’ award is a public way to honor their contributions. ”
Scroll down and read more about each of the honorees!
Laurie Gray, The Pie Bar
When Laurie Gray was a little girl growing up in Tacoma, Washington, her mother taught her how to bake pies. Fast-forward to 2019: Laurie is sharing the fruits of her learning here in Downtown Long Beach as owner and CEO of The Pie Bar on Pine Avenue.
The popular shop, part of the northward revitalization of Pine Avenue, serves a variety of fruit pies, cream pies and savory pies in the full size and also in the hand pie size. All are created using fresh dough, hand made on the premises daily for the perfect flaky, flavorful crust. The Pie Bar also serves beer and wine.
“Our most popular pie is the Key Lime,” said Laurie. “The perfect balance of tart and sweet.” Laurie always wanted to live in a California beach town, and in 2010 she got the opportunity to move here and continue her work as a National Director for the non-profit Lupus Foundation of America.
In 2014, during her transition out of that job, Laurie began baking pies at home for extra holiday cash. She began doing pop-ups every Saturday at MADE by Millworks on Pine Avenue, and her pies were such a hit, it inspired her to go full speed and open up a shop.
Laurie opened The Pie Bar in 2016, and has been consistently active in the community since then, donating to such local non-profits as Children Today, which offers assistance to kids affected by homelessness. “I fell in love with Long Beach when I moved here,” said Laurie. “I love being involved in the community and having a business here. I am excited to be part of the future growth in Downtown Long Beach.”
Isa Rached and Josie Quiroz, The B Room Barber Shop and It’s A Drag To Give
The family who owns and operates the B-Room barbershop/salon in Downtown Long Beach came to California from Guadalajara, Mexico and found their spirit spot. “Coming to Long Beach was coming home,” said Josie Quiroz, who, along with her brother Isa Rached and their mother Rocio Rached, own and operate the vintage-looking shop. Its location on Long Beach Boulevard, its 100-year-old barber chairs and antique furnishings help provide a throwback vibe. “We got a blank canvas,” said Isa, “and we created it mostly by ourselves to give it that old barbershop feel.”
The shop caters to mostly men, but everyone is welcome. “Our clientele is pretty diverse. We’re proud of that,” Isa said. The fifth edition of the annual “It’s A Drag To Give,” benefit event created by Isa, Josie and Rocio, will happen in Downtown Long Beach late this year. It started as an idea Isa had for the first-anniversary celebration of the B-Room. “We were super blessed that year,” said Isa, “and we wanted to give back to our community.”
Ten local businesses stepped up to donate to the benefit, and by showtime in the Breakers Hotel Ballroom the event had attracted a generous audience of 200. By the end of the night, the family knew the event could be an annual success. Beneficiaries from “It’s A Drag To Give” include The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, The Women’s Shelter of Long Beach, The Beacon For Him Homeless Shelter, and the Long Beach Immigrants Rights Coalition.
“Long Beach taught me a lot about community,” said Isa. “I would say that Downtown Long Beach has a giving spirit. I’ve never lived in a city where people just want to help out.”
Richard Shimizu, a Downtown enthusiast
If there’s an event happening in Downtown Long Beach, there’s a good chance that Long Beach native and man-about-town Richard Shimizu will be there. And, thanks to Richard’s popular social media presence, there’s a good chance you’ll know all about it as well.
Richard seems to be everywhere, popping into art openings, concerts, street festivals and other city events with his smartphone camera at the ready. His good-humored enthusiasm puts people at ease, adding their good vibes to his frequent Instagram and Facebook posts. “As far as covering events,” said Richard, “I consider it to be play as opposed to work. I like to think of Long Beach as having possibilities. It seems there are always more adventures around the corner.”
A Poly High School grad, Richard worked on the docks of Long Beach Harbor for many years, then began a career in telephone communications, from which he recently retired. Several years ago, he was asked by a cousin to document the Long Beach arts scene. “I was pointed to the Hellada Gallery in the East Village, and that pretty much lead to what you see today,” Richard said.
Richard is a very spontaneous photographer who likes to stay in motion, getting candid shots. It’s a perfect approach for capturing the energy that fuels the spirit of Downtown Long Beach. “I had no clue what to do when I started,” said Richard, “but once I overcame my shyness, I became a paparazzi. Things snowballed.”
Phil Appleby and Pat Paris-Appleby, East Village
Phil Appleby and Pat Paris-Appleby have written themselves into the history of Downtown Long Beach as a formidable team, combining their talents and visions.
Phil, owner and broker of Appleby Real Estate Brokers and Property Management, and Pat, an accomplished artist, are instrumental in the founding, development and success of the East Village Arts District of Downtown Long Beach. This vibrant neighborhood is bordered by Ocean Boulevard, Seventh Street, Long Beach Boulevard and Alamitos Avenue.
Phil, originally from New York City, came out to California in the ’60s to work for the Bank of America after getting his MBA from Columbia University. He went on to serve as president of two small, local oil companies before entering the real estate business.
It was around this time that Phil met Pat through the Kiwanis of Long Beach service organization. Pat, a successful artist originally from Kansas who had begun working for Hallmark at age 18, set up her graphic arts studio in the East Village and became one of the anchor artists in the history of the neighborhood.
Phil founded the East Village Neighborhood Association in the mid-’90s, and Pat became its president. Programs they helped create, such as the Second Saturday Art Walk and Sunday Afternoon in the East Village, laid the groundwork for the success of the East Village and for the presence of the many artists who add their distinct colors to the spirit of Downtown Long Beach.
“Businesses that have located in the East Village are creative and unique,” said Pat. “The vibe is special there. Each year it gets better and better.”
Al Williams, of Rainbow Promotions and producer of Long Beach Jazz Festival
Jazz drummer Al Williams spent years on the road, backing up such jazz luminaries as Eddie Harris and Hampton Hawes. He then did Long Beach a great service by bringing some of the world’s best jazz back home.
Al Williams is one of Long Beach’s great musical movers and shakers, owning and operating two successful jazz clubs in Long Beach and founding the Long Beach Jazz Festival.
“I’ve been very blessed,” said Al. “I’ve either worked or dealt with all of the finest jazz artists.” Al, originally from Pasadena, was playing jazz five nights a week at Captain Jack’s in Sunset Beach in the late ’60s when he met Sandy Chipman from Long Beach. Sandy took Al to The Sandance, a jazz club on Second Street in Belmont Shore, Al got a gig there, and things worked out well: Al and Sandy got married, they made Long Beach their home, and Al began to make his musical influence felt.
Al, along with singer Bev Kelly, opened the Jazz Safari, next to the Queen Mary, in 1978. The club became known nationwide for its good sound system and comfortable atmosphere. Sax player Willie Bobo and vibraphone legend Cal Tjader were among the many popular headliners during the Jazz Safari’s nine-year existence.
Al went on to have a seven-year run with his jazz club Birdland West in a beautiful art deco building at the corner of Broadway and Pine in Downtown Long Beach. In 1987, Al founded the Long Beach Jazz Festival, which has featured such jazz greats as Wynton Marsalis, Art Blakey, Tito Puente, Freddie Hubbard and Stan Getz. Al’s daughter, Kimberly Benoit, now runs the festival, which is still going strong. Al Williams’ contribution to the spirit of Downtown Long Beach is a musical gift that keeps on giving. He remains passionate about his art form, and about his adopted hometown.