There's something profoundly positive happening where South Blvd. meets B street in San Mateo.
Call it a peace movement, a non-violent revolution or information center, there's definitely the feel of a shift in the way business gets done these days.
Under the umbrella of the Dove and Olive Works building, there are two for-profit businesses and a non-profit organization (Rebuilding Alliance) peacefully sharing space in this quiet neighborhood a few blocks north of Highway 92.
Reach And Teach co-founders Craig Wiesner and Derrick Kikuchi envisioned a peace and social justice learning company dedicated to transforming the world through teachable moments.
The physical store, located at 178 South Blvd., on the southern end of the Hayward Park neighborhood, has an unusual assortment of books, jewelry, games, music, puzzles, toys and film all dedicated to the pursuit of social justice.
There's also a spatial aspect to the store, a kind of non-linear form of thought. When you're inside, you could also be anywhere. The only limits on the imagination are those arbitrarily placed.
The uniqueness of Reach and Teach, certified green, lies in its mobility and adaptability. The physical plane of the store can be transformed from a Woody Guthrie sing-a-long (he would have been 100 on July 14) to a meeting of the Green Party.
Green11 keeps a refill station for sustainable soaps in one area of the store, the California Writers Club, which had its origins in the Bay Area and included members such as Jack London and John Muir, hosts an open mike night.
Wiesner and Kikuchi support any non-profit organization and open space for them for free. There are author events and they donate funds raised by selling a particular book for a certain time to a local organization with a global reach.
The store raised $200 for Kids Can Make a Difference with a recent book sale.
These guys are the definition of think globally, act locally. They have agreements with 24 non-profit groups.
Their story began on 9/11 and the resulting Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Until then, the pair ran a successful Silicon Valley consulting business. Kikuchi, a firmware and software engineer, worked for Hewlett Packard for two decades. Wiesner served in the United States Air Force before turning to computer programming.
"We were part of a peace coalition who help bring relief funds to unattended victims," said Kikuchi, who attended Stanford for grad school after earning a diploma at UC Santa Barbara. "We worked to bring the families of 9/11 victims and Afghanistan victims."
The next year they gave talks at various functions to help generate support for the unintended victims. One of their stops was Palo Alto High School.
"That was the day before the Iraq war started," Kikuchi said. "We were invited to speak to a pair of classrooms. After the second session a student approached us and said 'I don't know what you do for a living but this is what you should be doing.' That was kind of the day of reckoning. We realized our hearts and minds weren't lined up with our values."
The pair now belong to Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice and Collaborate for Africa
One of the first projects they created was an Economics curriculum designed for adult workshops and entitled, "Teaching Economics as if People Mattered." It has since been adopted by high schools.
Kikuchi designed 'Civio,' a civil rights strategy card game. It became the first item in the Reach and Teach inventory.
The company began online and evolved into a physical presence, something Kikuchi and Wiesner envisioned all along.
"We wanted this to be a place where people could come for one-stop shopping," Kikuchi said. "We'd love for this to become a gathering place."
They've made connections with people such as Jeff Chow, who formed the group "Collaborate for Africa," which holds meetings once a month with everything else communicated through e-mail.
Len Traubman, a San Mateo pediatric dentist turned peacemaker, hosts the Jewish Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group, going strong after 20 years. The Traubman's started the group in their San Mateo home and it's gone nationwide.
Kikuchi credits Traubman for the mantra "the shortest distance between two people is a story."
Visit their website for upcoming events and a list of products. Recommended reading is "Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco," by Summer Brenner.
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