6 Inspiring Power Couples in Sacramento
This Valentine’s Day, we are taking a moment to acknowledge the many inspiring “power couples” working and living in our city. In their own unique ways, these couples work tirelessly to make Sacramento a better place to live, whether that means cultivating community around the table or with words in a magazine.
Their leadership is inspiring, their work is empowering, and their love stories are captivating. While one individual can certainly make a difference, these couples are proof that two is often better than one. Get to know these unstoppable duos taking over the city hand in hand.
After all, as ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu once said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
Christine + Michael Ault
CHRISTINE is a communications advisor with Valley Vision.
MICHAEL is the executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership.
THE AULTS have witnessed (and helped!) downtown Sacramento experience a dramatic transformation over the past 20+ years.
Christine and Michael Ault have worked tirelessly over their lengthy careers to transform the identity, look and feel of downtown Sacramento. The Sacramento they knew upon graduation from Sacramento State in 1992 is almost unrecognizable from the thriving city we see today.
The Aults met in a Small Group Communications class during their last semester at Sac State. They ended up moving in together in a rental house in Curtis Park as roommates and landed internships together after graduation at what was then called the Downtown District. That turned into permanent employment and the organization evolved into what is now the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, a non-profit organization dedicated to the improvement of the central business district. Michael and Christine were part of the staff team responsible for forming the Partnership, which required writing and passing new state legislation and winning more than 50 percent approval by property owners to assess themselves. They were engaged during the campaign and got married six months after the formation of the Partnership.
Today, Michael serves as the executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership and Christine works as an independent communications advisor with Valley Vision. While their jobs may be separate, their work has actually overlapped throughout the entirety of their careers. That means less explaining or catching each other up on day-to-day developments, as their work is intertwined in many ways. They even find themselves asking each other for advice on a regular basis.
“My work in communications is a useful skill to his work and his understanding of the political landscape is useful to me,” Christine said. “So we’re a good match that way.”
When asked what they admire most about each other, Christine pointed to Michael’s sense of humor and unmatched wit.
“Michael has the sharpest and most rapid sense of humor of anyone I’ve met,” she said. “Sometimes I poke fun at him that his jokes are recycled and I’ve heard them hundreds of times (which is true), but still he’s somehow able to bring an incredible wit to almost any situation. And at 23 years of married, he still makes me laugh — a lot.”
And Christine gives Michael room and freedom for his adventurous endeavors.
“He’s often concocting some plan for a spontaneous trip and activity and sometimes that includes me and sometimes not,” she explained. “Like the time he called home about 10 at night and asked if I was okay if he and a buddy fly to St. Louis to catch a World Series game. They flew out the next morning at 4am.”
As the Ault’s relationship has grown and flourished over the years, so has the culture and livelihood of Sacramento. When they first encountered the district, property was left to deteriorate and few people would come downtown. Rather than complain about its state or leave town entirely, the two were determined to do something about it. And they did.
“We’ve seen the city grow up around us, become energized and full of vibrancy,” Christine said. “We love sitting in one of the many coffee shops, public spaces or restaurants that exist today — something barely imaginable 20 years ago — and overhearing others talk about what a wonderful community Sacramento has become. It’s hard not to smile and be proud of the role we’ve been able to play in the city’s changeover.”
N’Gina + Ian Kavookjian
N’GINA + IAN own and operate South, a contemporary Southern restaurant in the heart of Sacramento.
Photo Courtesy of Rachel Valley
You could describe Ian as “The Mayor” of South and N’Gina as the restaurant’s businesswoman. However you see it, this restaurateur couple makes an unbeatable team.
Since the Kavookjian’s everyday life is consumed with all things culinary, it only makes sense that their relationship began in the restaurant world. The two met while they were both servers at Il Forno Classico, an Italian restaurant in Gold River. Ian and N’Gina began their own food-based business in 2009 with the opening of their catering and full-service wedding company, Private Events by Eight. Three years later, they opened their first brick-and-mortar restaurant called Eight American Bistro in Granite Bay.
In late 2014, the couple opened South, a contemporary Southern eatery, in a former Chinese grocery store in the Southside Park neighborhood. The menu includes traditional family food that is heavy on seasonal vegetables and driven by historical inspiration. They don’t claim to reinvent the wheel when it comes to good, old-fashioned comfort food; they simply aim to express 200 years of family history on a 12-inch plate.
With over 30 years of combined experience in the service industry from restaurants to hotels, the Kavookjians are well-versed on the practice of hospitality. The two create a powerful and dynamic team — and without question, an excellent restaurant.
Ian and N’Gina explained that they are not afraid to disagree with each other, and in doing so, they find a middle ground that benefits them both. And at other times, they are each other’s vital support system.
“There are so many ways we support each other, from just being there for the other person to vent, taking tasks off the other person’s plate to having a big glass of wine poured for you when you walk through the door after a trying day,” N’Gina said.
When asked what they most admired about one another, Ian simply said, “Her ambition.” N’Gina appreciates Ian’s brutal honesty, his accountability, and his ability to make her laugh.
It’s clear that the Kavookjians deeply love each other and the city they have the opportunity to serve.
“It’s a big little town,” they said. “It has a small town feel, but the amenities of a big city.”
Not only do Ian and N’Gina love the city they live in, but they are actively working to make it even better — and not just by providing the best fried chicken around. The couple is working on a project that will grant seed money to future business owners in demographics that typically get looked over. They don’t want what happened to them when they started out to become the standard.
Some final marriage advice from Ian and N’Gina:
“Remember that your partner will evolve and grow just like you will in a long-term relationship,” N’Gina said. “People fall out of love because they become blind to the fact that their partner is not the same person that they married years ago and they failed to grow with them.”
“Pick your battles,” Ian said. “Not everything has to be a war that someone has to fall on their sword for.”
Pat + Eileen Shea
PAT is the president of Lyon Real Estate.
EILEEN is a successful agent in Lyon’s Elk Grove office.
THE SHEAS make a lasting difference in the real estate space — and in the community.
Beyond their roles as real estate professionals, Pat and Eileen Shea make a wonderful couple. They met through family, friends and fate, as their families hail from an old neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio, where some of their parents and grandparents knew one another.
“Eileen and I have a unique, circuitous path and are eternally grateful that love found a way,” Pat said. “We go back a long way and will be together forever.”
It’s easy to see why this pair works so well together. Eileen understands, appreciates and readily supports all of the responsibilities Pat has in his executive role for such a large local company. And Pat cheers on Eileen as she exercises the utmost of care and competence in helping her clients reach their real estate goals and dreams.
While the two may stay occupied with their various responsibilities within the company, they spend a lot of time together.
“Eileen and I exercise together, enjoy similar books, movies, music and travel destinations,” Pat said. “She sets the bar for our highest priorities: to provide a great start in life for our children, save for retirement, and help our clients, agents, employees and friends achieve their personal goals.”
Pat mentioned he loves being in sync with Eileen in regards to family, friends, finances, faith and community. The two share a deep love for the community they have built in Sacramento.
“Sacramento reminds us so much of the Midwest,” Pat said. “The people are kind, caring, and very engaged in community activities and philanthropy. It is a pleasure to experience the youthful spirit and high growth mode the region currently enjoys.”
Pat and Eileen worked with Lyon agents, employees and shareholders to launch the Lyon Cares Foundation a few years ago. The foundation will provide nearly $200,000 in time, talent and treasure to local nonprofits in 2018. The Sheas also volunteer at Loaves and Fishes, participate in annual Komen walks, and work to support several other charities year-round.
“You will be surprised at the positive impact you can make on someone’s life even with small contributions of kindness,” Pat said. “Give it out often in slices and it will come back in loaves.”
Some final marriage advice from Pat and Eileen:
Everyone has the “power” to craft a happy, productive and meaningful life regardless of their careers, income or notoriety. It takes a shared vision, commitment and a large dose of personal responsibility for couples to fully leverage their true potential. Sometimes it requires very difficult life decisions; don’t be afraid to make them. Lead by example with the love and care you share with each other.
Elyssa Lee + Rob Turner
ELYSSA + ROB founded Sactown Magazine.
Sacramento is in the midst of a renaissance and Sactown Magazine is documenting it all. Husband and wife duo, Elyssa Lee and Rob Turner, founded the magazine in 2006. In the past 10+ years, Sactown Magazine has become the region’s largest and most respected city magazine with an average circulation of 40,000. Plus, the publication has received over 30 national awards for publishing excellence in the areas of editorial, design and photography — more than any magazine in Sacramento’s history.
Much of the magazine’s success can be attributed to the strong leadership of Rob and Elyssa, who work well both individually and as a team. As coworkers and spouses, they find themselves spending a lot of time together! In fact, while we were coordinating an interview with them, they joked that their marriage advice was “Don’t leave each other’s side for one second” as they were in a meeting together at that very moment.
Rob and Elyssa met in New York as young reporters working at Money magazine. They had been friends and colleagues for over a year when they were assigned to work on a story together. The rest, as they say, is history! After one breakup, three career moves and five years had passed, the two were married.
Between the two of them, Rob and Elyssa have written for an array of diverse publications, including New York, InStyle, Money, Fortune, SmartMoney, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Metropolis, and U.S. News & World Report.
They started Sactown Magazine in an effort to bring a national quality magazine to California’s capital city. Rob was born and raised in Sacramento and attended UC Davis, so he has a long history with his beloved hometown. Together, this unstoppable duo reports on the exciting developments happening in Sactown.
“We love that Sacramento is a dynamic, fast-growing city in which one person can truly make a difference,” Elyssa said. “We feel so lucky that through our magazine, we are able to give our readers front-row seats to its evolution and also help shape its future.”
They often joke that together, they are “one.” Functioning successfully as both a couple and business partners means they must complement the other in a variety of ways.
“…We have different sets of strengths and weaknesses, and together we make one fully functioning person,” Elyssa said.
In April, Rob and Elyssa will be celebrating their 14th wedding anniversary. But given the amount of time they spend together — both at work and away from the office — they said it feels like they should be celebrating their 44th.
To that, they point to the quote from Indiana Jones, who said, “It’s not the years. It’s the mileage.”
Patrick + Bobbin Mulvaney
PATRICK + BOBBIN are the owners of Mulvaney’s B+L.
Patrick and Bobbin Mulvaney are not simply the masterminds behind Mulvaney’s B&L. They have crafted a community around food and stepped outside their restaurant doors to make a difference in the lives of those around them — from mentoring fellow restaurateurs to providing meals for the needy.
The Mulvaneys met while Bobbin was working at Classique Catering, a large catering firm based out of the Convention Center. Patrick walked into Bobbin’s office one day to invite her to what he called his “namesake” pig roast for St. Patrick’s Day.
“I was a single mother and had not had a day off in three weeks, so the very last thing I wanted to do is hang around a bunch of chefs on my day off so I declined the offer,” Bobbin recalls. “A few months later, our paths crossed again and I found myself genuinely enjoying our conversation about business, which turned quickly into a conversation on food — really talking about the terra, the culture of food. I then began to realize that he had passion and was smart.”
Patrick recalls that second encounter very vividly. He says he combed his hair and wore a suit, and that Bobbin left her glasses on her desk. We asked for his advice for a successful marriage, and Patrick alluded to this event with, “To look your best get your sweetie to leave their glasses behind.”
Situated in the heart of Midtown, Mulvaney’s B&L is a New American restaurant celebrating the efforts of local growers, ranchers, brewers and winemakers. Not only has the restaurant been at the helm of the farm-to-fork movement in the city, but it has also acted as a “town square” of sorts for locals and wanderers alike to gather, connect and ultimately, find community.
While both are proprietors, Patrick is the chef and Bobbin is the marketing director of Mulvaney’s B&L. The two work closely together to run the restaurant, but also find time to invest in the community they serve.
Bobbin sees the beauty in their unique backgrounds, describing Patrick as a “Right Coast City College Boy” and herself as a “Left Coast Central Valley Farm Girl.”
“I find the strength in our differences,” she said. “That’s where the magic happens.”
After ten years of marriage, all of which have been spent in business together, the two have fostered a deep love for one another and the city of Sacramento.
“I love his big, loud heart,” Bobbin said. “His strength and compassion. I love that he is a big force that also cries when he speaks on behalf of people he loves.”
“[I love] that there is so much care and compassion in one being,” Patrick said. “And that she puts up with me. In our tenth year of marriage I still wake up everyday and consider myself the luckiest man in the world.”
When asked what they loved most about Sacramento, they both agreed: “That we call it home.”
Maritza + Roshaun Davis
MARITZA + ROSHAUN founded Unseen Heroes.
Photo Courtesy of Doug Cupid
Not all heroes take center stage. Some, like Maritza and Roshaun of Unseen Heroes, make the show a success from behind the scenes. Their marketing, event and public relations company has been shaping and bettering the community of Sacramento for a decade.
Husband-and-wife duo Roshaun and Maritza Davis met in a public relations class at Sac State. The two tell the story of their first encounter a bit differently, but the major events are consistent. Maritza recalls Roshaun, a “skateboard guy,” walking in a bit late to class on the first day. After some time, they began to sit near each other, grew closer as friends, and eventually began studying and hanging out outside of class. And they officially started dating on Valentine’s Day!
Roshaun recalls their first encounter a bit more vividly.
“She always leaves out the part where she knows exactly what I was wearing,” Roshaun said. “When the door opened, this bright light shined upon me and I walked in the room in slow motion. At the time I had baby dreadlocks and they were flowing in the wind for her. And it was in that moment that she knew I was the one for her.”
Regardless of whether or not it was love at first sight, the two are happily married today with three children. Plus, they run a successful business together.
You may have encountered one of their events without even realizing it. Unseen Heroes is responsible for planning, promoting and running some of the city’s best and most memorable events, including Gather: Oak Park, Midtown Farmers’ Market, and GOOD: street food and design market.
Maritza and Roshaun are able to balance each other out in a “yin and yang” dynamic, as two separate parts that together make a whole. Roshaun often says, “She’s the hare and I’m the tortoise.” He describes her as more fast-paced, while he would rather take his time. But instead, they both win the race together.
“What I love most about Roshaun is that he is a sense of calm and reason because I go from zero to 100 really quickly, whether I’m super passionate about something or really upset about something,” Maritza said. “He’s always able to be a calming spirit and always has reason and questions when I want to go head on and not even question anything.”
Roshaun admires Maritza’s zest for life and vibrant spirit. He says she has the power to command whatever she wants from a room, whether that means full attention and all eyes on her, or to simply bring life into a space and make everyone laugh.
Together, the Davises are making a significant impact in the city with the many events Unseen Heroes orchestrates. The underlying mission of Unseen Heroes is to create unforgettable experiences — and they have done just that.
As a busy family who loves to travel, the Davises also appreciate the family-friendly vibe and central location of Sacramento. Through their work at Unseen Heroes, Maritza and Roshaun are very much connected to the culture and heartbeat of the city, and they admire the city’s constant evolution.
“The thing I love most about Sacramento is the fact that the city is developing and we’re kind of growing into our identity,” Roshaun said. “And it’s very much a place where you can come in and help shape that identity. I always like to say that Sacramento is one of those places where there’s a lot of blank canvas still. And you can make your mark here.”
Follow along with Maritza and Roshaun as they make their mark on our ever-changing city. They just started their own YouTube channel that provides insight into the dynamics of running a business, being husband and wife, and raising a family.
Love is in the air!
What powerhouse couples in Sacramento inspire you? Let us know in the comments below!