President’s Message – November 2019

November is considered by many to be Gratitude Month, a time to reflect with appreciation that which we have experienced and received during the past year.  That’s part of the origin of the many Harvest Festivals, Fall Fairs and holidays expressing thanks for the harvest. The changing seasons and more dot the calendar.  November gets our traditional holiday schedules into gear and we prepare to spend time with friends and family celebrating our relationships and gratitude for each other.

John F. Kennedy said “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”  Hosting or participating in parties and events is one way to express gratitude for what we have.  President Kennedy’s words go beyond simply expressing gratitude by suggesting we should strive to live in gratitude.  That can prove to be a difficult practice in the present….if we allow it to be difficult.

Sure, we live in a period of certain uncertainty, to a point.  Wildfires, power outages, earthquakes and more make our environment literally unstable.  We are transfixed to our smart phones, checking to see if our locations are under threat of blackout.  We download the newest earthquake alert app so we can be notified seconds before an earthquake occurs – anywhere in the world.  We watch with nervous anticipation as the latest wildfire consumes vegetation and homes and wonder if we might be next in line.  It’s easy to live in anxiety.

It’s also possible to train our thinking to live in gratitude.  Years ago I began a daily practice of literally writing down five things I am grateful for.  Early lists were obvious, my wife, my daughters and grandchildren, my dogs, my job and co-workers, etc.  Sometimes in a calmer, maybe even romantic mood I could find appreciation in nature or work at the hands of others creating art.  Recently I’ve even added to my gratitude list such things as the creation of new technologies, and the generosity of others.  I also am grateful to those with open-minded willingness to try to live in gratitude themselves.  I have witnessed the transformation over time of those who have also begun to write a gratitude list and watched their own lives become transformed.  Those who have been successful in adopting this practice have become happier themselves, and make those around them happier as well.  Wouldn’t it be great to see this become contagious?  Try it for 30 days. Happy Gratitude Month.


President’s Message – October 2019


We had a great time at this year’s El Sobrante Stroll!  I must admit it was a bit surreal and humbling to be the Grand Marshal of the parade.  Mark Croda was an excellent host to both the Stroll Car Show and to me riding in his Excalibur car in the parade. What a thrill!

It was great to see so many friends and neighbors that day, and the weather was perfect.  Thanks to every one of the many volunteers who helped plan the Stroll, direct traffic, put up signs, barriers, tables and chairs; to the bands that created a festive environment with music coming from all sides; to Jeff Jerge and the Peddler Bike shop for the excellent Bike show – another very important part of the Stroll for many years; to all the food vendors and restaurants for providing the fantastic variety of snacks and meals to the attendees; to the crafters and merchants for bringing their wares for purchase; to the community organizations for supplying information about their services and plans for the community; to the Sheriff  Deputies, fire fighters, EMTs and other first responders who worked that day to help keep everyone safe and healthy; and to John Gioia and his staff, especially James Lyons, for their assistance in getting the repaving project done in time for the stroll, getting the approval to close the road for the day, attending the event (special thanks also to James for judging the parade) and representing our community at the county.  Finally, thank you to all who attended – it’s worth the many hours of planning and laboring to put on this event when we get the great turn out we had and the GREAT support of the community.  Thank you everyone.

In the course of writing this month’s message, I received word of the passing of Maurice Abraham, a member of the Chamber Board of Directors as well as a dear friend and neighbor to us all.  Maurice has been an inspiration to me regarding service to this community we both love, and I will miss his views on improving our little corner of the world.  I along with my wife Jenny express our sincerest condolences to Maurice’s wife Jean and the rest of the family.


President’s Message – September 2019

“A Valley for All” is the theme for this year’s Stroll, the 26th annual event that brings literally thousands of our families, friends and neighbors together for a day of music, food, entertainment and fun.  Crafters and merchants, non-profits and civic groups will all have booths for you see, buy or hear about the many wonderful things that are taking place in our little corner of the world.  Hope to see you all Sunday, September 15th, sometime between 11 to 4.

September also is the start of a new school year, so traffic patterns are changing once again. Watch out for children as they go to and from school, especially away from campus. Everyone slows down for the crossing guards and flashing bus lights, but don’t forget the streets a few blocks away from school where these students live.

Windermere Rowland Realty once again held a school supply drive, and owners Mike and Renee Rowland were grateful to all who donated notebooks and pencils, protractors and backpacks and more, all of which will be presented to the Contra Costa Boys & Girls club to help students in need of the supplies.  The club operates three locations locally as well as in Martinez.

The Chamber has been planning the next fundraiser event for the Scholarship Fund.  Last year we gave out three $500 scholarships to graduating De Anza seniors and hope to increase the awards this year.  On Saturday, October 19, the Chamber will host a SPAGHETTI WESTERN Dinner and Dance at the El Sobrante Banquet Hall located in the Elks Lodge on San Pablo Dam Road.  For a fistful of dollars ($25 to be exact) one can have a spaghetti dinner of pasta, salad, dessert and coffee or tea as well as dancing and a ticket for a door prize (exact prize to be announced soon), and for a few dollars more there will be specialty cocktails, an old western jail fundraiser, an additional raffle, and more.  Get your boots and western gear on, but leave your pistols at home. Look for the flyer about the event inside this newsletter or on the website.

Fall is also the time to select the leadership for the Chamber in the coming year.  The nominating committee is seeking nominees for Board members, if you would like to serve or like to nominate someone you know would like to serve, contact the Chamber office at 510-223-0757 with your nominee.

We also select a Business of the Year and Citizen of the Year and are seeking nominees for those awards as well.  Jim Hammack and all the Nerds at Nerd Crossing are this year’s Business of the Year, and your humble president was voted Citizen of the Year this past December.  Our tenure in the positions culminates with a ride in this year’s Stroll Parade,  so I will see you then.


President’s Message – August 2019

We need your help. The Chamber of Commerce has been trying to erect new “Welcome to El Sobrante” signs for a couple of years now. The project started out as an Eagle Scout project that the young man had to give up on because it took so long to wade through the process of property owners and county approvals, and the Scouts have a rule that Scout Masters aren’t eligible for Eagle Scout badges!  OK, it didn’t take quite that long… I think… fact is he had to move on and we still don’t have signs. We have a design, we have a budget, we even have almost all the money and volunteers to build!

What do we need? You. We need one of you to step up and see this project through to the end zone. And we need the rest of you to support the project in any way you can. Got time to volunteer? Do it! There are plenty of tasks, small and big, that need doing to get this done.

Are you good with bureaucrats? We need an advocate to get the permits from the property owners, the easement from the county, and the building permits too. Construction your bag? Let us know. Once we get a green light, we’ll have form building, concrete pouring, masonry work, and other projects needing skilled hands.

Maybe your volunteer skills are best exemplified by the checks you write. If you would like to contribute to help defer costs of materials, permits, etc., your donation will be gratefully accepted.

What’s the timeline? NOW! While it is impossible to have it built by the Stroll, is it possible to get it done by the new year? Dedication ceremony and New Year’s Eve Party all in one? I don’t know, but we can move this forward if we start now. Send your information, ideas, or donations to the Chamber office, or email me direct at I will read and respond to every email I receive about this.

Together, we can have new signs in the new year.


Setting the Good Table

By leaps, bounds, and occasionally inches, Mira Vista United Church of Christ continues on our path toward creating our new church home, community café, and organic plant nursery with our partner Planting Justice at the site of the former Adachi nursery in El Sobrante.

Through the amazing work of our project manager Colleen Rodger and architect Darrel DeBoer, we submitted our first round of materials to the planning department for Contra Costa County on May 13th.  We also had a meeting with the chief planner and Supervisor John Gioia on Tuesday, May 28th to discuss the land use permit process that we must undergo. Sadly, this process will likely take three to four months at best, so we have to assume that we will not be able to move to our new property at 5166 Sobrante Avenue before March of next year.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, June 1 we had our second community event and around 200 folks showed up for a day of upcycling, recycling, cleaning out, and cleaning up the property. The Greater Richmond Garden Club showed up in force to weed, prune, and sheet mulch the landscape, plus they even hosted our first small crop swap! As local gardens begin to produce over the summer, we look forward to this part of our work growing exponentially.

We also received terrific help from Marvin Gardens Real Estate and from UCC friends from Arlington, Sycamore, and First Church, Berkeley plus a lot of Planting Justice and Mira Vista members and friends. And, of course, we had so many new friends and neighbors from the El Sobrante community come to see what is happening and as Colleen observed, “this time they didn’t just show up, they came to work.” It was truly moving to feel the support of the community for this project.

While the weed whacking continued, we opened up the building so that folks could “upcycle” the display cases, shelves, and other things left in the building for use in their own projects. This event was a living demonstration of how to avoid unnecessary waste in our landfills. We still have some large safes and other items such as desks, filing cabinets, and large display cases that need homes, but we’re on our way!

We also provided fun, food, and community in the parking lot by having a jump house for kids and a taco truck. Now that we know the process of permitting and then construction is going to take a long time, we will be hosting Work + Fun Community Days on the last Saturday of each month from 10a-3p so we can keep living into our vision, and continue to make progress in preparing the property. For more information, check out:,, or like our Facebook page for The Good Table.

President’s Message, June 2019

On Thursday, May 23, 2019, Membership Chair Marie Carayanis and I had the pleasure of attending the De Anza High School Senior Awards Night.  We were there representing the Chamber’s Scholarship Committee and were happy to be able to award three scholarships to graduating seniors who plan to attend one of the local Community Colleges as one of their next steps on life’s journey.

The Scholarship Committee also includes Chair Susan McCloskey and Bob Davis, the Chamber’s treasurer.  We reinstated the scholarship program at the end of 2017 and began raising funds with the intent of awarding a $500 scholarship this spring.  We were so impressed with the applications that we received from the students and recognized we had raised enough funds that we decided on awarding three scholarships this year.  Congratulations to the 2019 Scholarship winners Jalaal Dirbas, John Dizon and Luis Elequin.

Plans are starting to be put together for another fund raiser for the Scholarship Fund this fall, and we need your input.  Send an email to with your ideas on what would be fun [and profitable] to do to get more money into the scholarship fund so we can help even more students next year.  If you would like to help with the committee in selecting award winners, or help plan fundraisers and other social events, let us know that too.  One of the other events the Chamber is working to put together is a Restaurant Week where local eateries will entice visitors with special menus, maybe a fixed price for the week, and other “perks”.   Watch for more about that event on the website

Looking forward to seeing you out and about in the community.


President’s Message, May 2019

I have been rather busy these last couple months! Have you?  Seems like the moment the rain stopped (and while we need the water in the state we really didn’t need it all at once, right?), I have been busy at work, busy with the chamber and busy in my personal life.  In fact, so busy I not only missed writing you all last month, I nearly missed the deadline for this month too!  Thanks to our editor Martha Booz, I managed to sneak in just under the deadline – whew!

What have I been up to?  Well, as a Realtor®, I have had the pleasure of assisting some families with the sale of their properties.  The market slowed during the wet weather, but with low mortgage rates and low inventory, prices did not drop a lot. I also took over as the office manager in our Pinole office at Windermere Rowland Realty in January, and have been adjusting to my new role there.

My activities with the chamber have been focused on more behind the scenes activities rather than in the public eye recently, although I was able to attend the ribbon cutting last month for one of our newest members, Yogurt Now on Appian Way, and began talks with another business owner about doing a grand re-opening for their business soon.  We have re-established the scholarship committee for the chamber, and developed the application for De Anza graduates who wish to apply.  Those applications are due now, and will be reviewed by the committee in the coming days.

I also remind you all that the stroll committee is hard at work preparing this year’s September 15 event.  I have handed over the reins of the parade direction to new stroll leader Tom Lang, who has a great committee set up for this 26th annual event.  Get ready for that.

May is the unofficial start of the summer season in my mind; as the weather turns warmer and school lets out, many will take vacations with family, get outdoors, and visit our wonderful areas.  I hope to take a couple of trips this summer, and in coming newsletters I will share some of those experiences with you as I plan to visit the local chamber of commerce offices at some of the places I will visit over the next couple months.  If you travel out of the area, stop in to the local chamber office, tell them about us and bring back some information about them, drop it at our office or bring to a mixer.  We will begin a library of chamber information for future travelers to learn about their destinations, and let the folks you visit learn about us.

Happy travels.


President’s Message, March 2019

MARCH MADNESS – Who’s your team? Time once again for spring and all the promises that entails.  NCAA basketball Championship tournament games will get underway soon, PGA tours have started, high school and college sports begin the final push for the semester; the national sporting events truly embody the spirit , excitement and at times fervor of March Madness.

March Madness also occurs in business.  Retailers capitalize on the frenzy with March Madness sales; the real estate industry refers to the time period as well, as it is the busiest season of the home-buying-and-selling year.  Some offices allow pools to bet on sporting events in an effort to create a team atmosphere or at least a break from the routine.  Even the business of politics gets in on the energy as candidates for office start throwing their figurative hats in the ring for the pending election cycle.  Everywhere you look, people are cheering on their “team”, wearing the colors, attending the events, gathering together for a cause.

Our community is made up of several teams, all working collectively to make our patch on this Earth a little better.  The Green Team, one of El Sobrante’s “un-sung heroes” is one such team.  These volunteers go out and eagerly pick up the trash that finds its way onto our streets and parks.  Usually un-noticed, this team deserves championship recognition for the hours they put in every month just to make our town a little better.  We don’t have trophies or medals to give out to the team, so next time you see them as you are driving down San Pablo Dam Rd. or one of our other streets honk your horn as a way of saying “Thanks – we appreciate it”.

Speaking of San Pablo Dam Rd., the merchants conducting business in that area are another team, of sorts.  Small business owners make up a large section of property owners in the community.  The collective of retailers, restaurants, service-providers, and business professionals assemble together and actually create our downtown. Their team is the Chamber of Commerce, and each member has a vital role on the team.  Whether you participate at the member level, volunteer to assist with one or more of our many community events, serve on the Board of Directors, or simply patronize the local businesses, you’re part of Team El Sobrante.  Together, we are the Champions of the community.  Go Team.


President’s Message, February 2019

Scott Tuffnell has been named the El Sobrante Chamber of Commerce 2018 Citizen of the Year.  Here is his acceptance address: I am humbled at being named Citizen of the Year.  Past Honorees have been people who were in charge of a special project, or those who had a lifetime of service to the community. Occasionally they were someone who participated for several years in one of our community service groups, and I suppose I fall into that last category.

What I know is that I did not earn this distinction on my efforts alone.  I was very happy to have my family join me at the Awards dinner last month.  The award belongs in part to them, as they have supported my activities within the chamber.  My wife Jenny, daughter Laura and her husband Spenser and my dad, Robert Tuffnell have all helped me have the time to spend on community projects.  Thank you, guys.

I also have been supported by my peers and colleagues at work, and I’m grateful to have Mike and Renee Rowland, and Diane Cockrell there as well.  They have all supported the Chamber of Commerce for many years, and as you heard earlier, they were an early inspiration to my community service to both the Chamber and the Boys and Girls Club.

I had the support of a great Board of Directors this past year. Together we completed a few projects and began work on others.  We finally revamped our website and newsletter, thanks especially to our Editor, Martha Booz, with the assistance of new board member, Lauren Hanley, and the input of the other members of the board.  I recently discovered the remarks I prepared in 2005 when I was first elected President, and I had proposed redoing our website back then.  Thank you all for your patience in getting that project completed!

We produced another great stroll this past year.  Many thanks to Stroll Boss Bob Davis who directed the Stroll Committee for the last how many years, Bob?  Bob is also our treasurer, so he has shouldered two heavy duty positions on the board for quite a while.  Thank you so much, Bob, for your leadership with the Stroll, arguably El Sobrante’s premiere event.

New Stroll Director Tom Lang has stepped up to take on the Stroll for the next 25 years, thank you, Tom.

We began the process of installing new Welcome to El Sobrante signs.  Originally an idea brought to the board by Maurice, the project developed into an Eagle Scout project.  Unfortunately, the scout had to move on because of the time it took to maneuver through bureaucracy of securing permission to locate and build more permanent pillars welcoming visitors and returning residents to our town.  We will pick this project up this year and my hope is to have them built and maybe even completed by our 26th Annual Stroll. Thank you, Maurice, I look forward to your input as we move forward with your proposal.

We continue to publish our Business Directory, and distribute it to residents, businesses and new members.  Thank you, Marie and Judy, for continuing this publication.  We also have an online version; check it out at

We accomplished these and other projects and events because of the incredible energy and enthusiasm of the members of the Chamber and leadership of the Board.  We are one of the few remaining “smaller” Chambers in the region.  Other Chambers have either dissolved or joined forces to accomplish what we do every day, serve our community.  We do it as volunteers, all of us giving our time, talent and energy to make El Sobrante a great place to live, work or run a business.  I cannot thank enough the members of the 2018 board for the time you have given to our community.

I am excited to welcome three new members to the board for 2019.   Karla, Lauren and Tom, we all welcome you, and thank you in advance for the time you are prepared to give this community in the coming year.

Thank you to every one of you who donates time, talent or treasure or supports a loved one who does; that makes El Sobrante the best kept secret in the Bay Area.

Scott Tuffnell

President’s Message, January 2019

2019 promises to be an exciting year for El Sobrante.  We have an energetic, dynamic Board of Directors lined up for the coming year, and we are already making plans for completing projects and starting new ones that will enhance El Sobrante’s downtown.

We will kick off the new year with the annual Awards Dinner, honoring our Business of the Year and Citizen of the Year, and Installation of Officers and members of the Board on Saturday, January 12, 2019.  Details are within the body of this newsletter, and on the Chamber website at

We will continue to work on the installation of new ‘Welcome to El Sobrante’ signs at the El Portal/San Pablo Dam Rd and Castro Ranch/San Pablo Dam Rd locations.  The Eagle Scout candidate had to drop the project due to his time constraints, so the Chamber is either looking for a new scout to pick up the project if interested, or we will move forward on our own.

In March, the History Channel documentary series “American Pickers” will be filming in Northern California, and they are actively looking now for treasures and stories to put on the air.  If you or someone you know has a large, private collection or accumulation of antiques that the pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, the show’s stars, can spend the better part of the day looking through, send your name, phone number, location and description of the collection with photos to or call 855-OLD-RUST.  Who knows, El Sobrante may make it back again on a national television broadcast.  This past year, a home was chosen by Jonathan of Property Brothers fame to be on his Brother vs. Brother show, and the Santa Rita Rd. property in El Sobrante beat out brother Drew’s Pinole home to win the competition.  El Sobrante is the place to be in 2019!

Opportunities are also coming this year with some commercial properties on San Pablo Dam Rd and also on Appian Way.  Local community groups are trying to create community spaces at the former Adachi Nursery and also the long boarded up Arco station site on San Pablo Dam Rd. The Chamber stands ready to support local community groups who can demonstrate a willingness and ability to develop these projects.  We have communicated about these projects in past newsletters, and will support these projects as possible.

We are also beginning a campaign to bring back a resident Sheriff’s Deputy to the community.  As plans develop we will communicate how you can participate in having a more consistent law enforcement presence on our streets.

May we all enjoy a healthy and prosperous new year!
Scott Tuffnell