Little changes can make a big difference sometimes. I thought this when I walked into 55 South, a restaurant and bar that opened late last year on South First and Post streets in downtown San Jose.
You might recall that being the location of A Perfect Finish, a wine and dessert bar that never found the customer base it deserved but soldiered on nonetheless for a few years. 55 South is a reinvention of A Perfect Finish, and while it is very similar physically, some of the details and the smooth, stylish vibe is entirely different.
Andre Chenoweth is the remaining holdover owner from A Perfect Finish, and he's joined in the new ownership team of Paul Chun, Eric Nielsen and Michael Nguyen. In addition to changing the name, which is derived from the address at 55 S. First St., the new owners wanted to change the identity
"We shifted the focus," said Chun, who worked as a bartender there for six months before becoming part owner in September. "It had been more geared toward wine than spirits. We wanted to be Cocktail Culture 2.0."
The old furniture, which conveyed a sense of Old World comfort, has been replaced by contemporary couches and cocktail tables. The wine offerings are still solid, but craft spirits are center stage, with Nielsen reconstructing vintage cocktails such as the Moscow Mule and the Old Fashioned. In the coming weeks, the food menu will get a makeover with the help of a consultant with serious cred, chef Louis Silva from Naglee Park Garage.
It's another sign that stretch of South First Street, which had started looking a little barren, is coming back in a big way.
HARD-WORKING HOLIDAY: Employees at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara and San Jose hospitals will team up to enhance Thomas P. Ryan School on McGinness Avenue in San Jose as their "Day On, Not Off" volunteer community project Monday.
Dr. Susan Smarr and Dr. Raj Bhandari, the medical chiefs at Santa Clara and San Jose, will probably be painting murals at the Ryan School, a topic that may not have been covered in medical school. Other docs, nurses and staff members will paint white stripes on the schoolyard to create a walking track for the students. You know those Kaiser folks and their health kick.
About 200 volunteers from both medical centers and "Hands On Bay Area" will be working on the school and furnishing the teachers' break room with tables, a couch and a microwave and more.
BULLDOG BIRTHDAY: About 200 San Jose High alumni and other supporters kicked off the school's 150th anniversary year with a luncheon Jan. 13 at the San Jose Country Club. I'm told the oldest alum in attendance was Anna Ritchison from the class of 1930, back when the school was a mere 67 years old. Check out future events at gttp://sites.google.com/site/sanjosehighbulldogfoundation.
BOOK REPORT: John Mackey, co-founder of Whole Foods Market, will be in Silicon Valley on Wednesday with his book, "Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business." He'll stop by the Whole Foods on Stevens Creek Boulevard in Cupertino for a 3:30 p.m. book-signing.
At 7 p.m., he'll speak at a Commonwealth Club event at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto. For details, go to www.commonwealthclub.org.
FLOWER POWER: Kathleen Eagan is a big fan of a certain decade in American history, and as the new president of the Rainbow Women's Chorus, she decided to use a little influence in setting the theme of the group's concert this coming weekend: "Peace and Love: A Celebration of the Sixties."
The Saturday and Sunday shows will include selections by Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and others at Christ the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Meridian Avenue in San Jose. Get tickets and details at www.rainbowwomen.org. For more information, call 408-603-9357.