Chief Executive Member
Laura van Galen is one of the Bay Area’s top CEOs, a visionary and leader. Owner of one of the top 25 San Francisco Bay Area advertising and marketing agencies, Ms. van Galen has been invited to speak to audiences at MacWorld 2002, NCDMA, Women in Leadership at Santa Clara University, San Francisco State University MBA Marketing Department, San Jose State University Professional Development, Connect Direct, Apple Specialist Marketing Coop, and more. Ms. van Galen was a 2008 winner of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Rising Star Award, an American Marketing Association Finalist for the Change Master Award 2006, and the Women’s Initiative 2010 Women Entrepreneur of the Year. Her businesses are regularly recognized as the fastest growing companies and largest women owned by Inc. Magazine 2007, 2008, and 2009 as well as in the San Francisco Business Times in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
In 2008, Ms. van Galen was struck by the need to revive the Marin music scene. She is hoping to make a change…in our community, in our schools…to support the Talent Among Us tm and nurture the soul. As a mother of two accomplished musicians, her father a cellist, uncle a pianist, grandmother an organist, and her fiancé a saxophonist, Ms. van Galen knows how important music is in our daily lives. After a two-year journey to find the right building and location, Ms. van Galen opened the doors of Fenix Supper Club to our community in January 2013. This club will be more than a great place to eat, drink, and listen to great music – it will be the launch of Ms. van Galen’s vision of virtual entertainment.
Or more appropriately, Who doesn’t know Merl? If you don’t know him, you should. Music is a birthright for this San Francisco native. The namesake of legendary keyboardist Merl Saunders, Sr., he grew up at the heart of the vital Bay Area music scene with other well known “music families” like the Grateful Dead and Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Gospel Hawkins family. Performing with the San Francisco Youth Symphony in his teens was just the start of his lifetime career in the industry.
From his first tour with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band to subsequent gigs with Michael Jackson, Robert Cray, David Crosby and Frank Zappa, Merl has developed a unique spirit to excel in the business. As Director of Marketing and Artist Relations at Gibson Guitars, and as Senior Marketing Coordinator and Artist Relations with Dean Markley Strings, he has led creative teams to produce successful campaigns and endorsements for many top GRAMMY® winners.
In 1994, the calling for charitable work led him to produce Gibson’s 100th Anniversary Celebration at the historic Fillmore Auditorium as a benefit for San Francisco’s Glide Memorial Church. Pulling together talent that had created the soundtrack of his childhood, he brought to the stage emcee Wavy Gravy and a host of musical heavy hitters: Country Joe and the Fish, Little Feat, Greg Kihn, Gregg Allman, Narada Michael Walden, Elvin Bishop, Hot Tuna, Moby Grape, and Bob Weir, as well as Merl Sr.
Merl is a wizard (no pun intended) at bridging relationships. In July 2000, Merl was named Executive Director of the San Francisco Chapter of the Recording Academy. His high-profile friends in the industry help to increase awareness of his mission to promote public music and arts education. Under his leadership, the 30-year-old chapter realized a 10 percent increase in membership annually, and continued to reach a broader audience of music business.
Chef Glenn "Gator" Thompson
Welcome Gator to Fenix! Chef Gator has built a cult following in the Bay Area, learning under renowned Chef Paul Bertolli at Oliveto, and then making his own name as chef-owner at Alcatraces in Noe Valley, where he crafted a California-Cajun menu and festive Mardi Gras atmosphere infused with his Southern charm. After a series of stops south of the City—Gator’s Neo Soul Café, Dollie Marie’s, Gator’s Back Porch BBQ in San Mateo, Bayonne in San Jose, and then The Grill in San Mateo--Gator began slinging the best "seasonal BBQ” in town. Most recently, he moved into fine dining at Caprino's Italian restaurant in Belmont, establishing his Neo Soul (Southern food with a healthy Californian twist). If you have not met Chef Gator, he is approachable and available at Chef’s Table at the Fenix. Reserve a seat at the kitchen counter and indulge in a multi-coursed meal paired with wine hosted by the Chef.
Hal Russek has owned and operated restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. While proprietor of the landmark restaurant and jazz club Enrico’s in North Beach, he opened a second restaurant called Alcatraces in Noe Valley with Chef Glenn “Gator” Thompson. Building on the success of Alcatraces, he and Chef Gator built a small neo-soul empire with their restaurants Gator’s Neo-Soul Café and Dollie Marie’s in San Mateo, and later Bayonne in San Jose. Regardless of location or cuisine, Hal’s philosophy remains consistent: “We come to restaurants not because we're too lazy to cook, or because the food at a restaurant is better than what we could do at home, but to connect and participate in a shared experience.”
Consulting Chef Amey Shaw boasts a long history in the Bay Area food scene. She has been at the helm of such trendsetting San Francisco restaurants as The Alta Plaza, Maltese Grill, and Bentley's Seafood Grill. She is at the forefront of offering her patrons exciting multicultural foods that are grounded in authentic technique.
She interviewed, selected and trained 25 employees and her efforts generated $500,00 first year sales. Ms. Shaw catapulted The Alta Plaza in San Francisco, CA—125 seats, and full service operation with nightly live entertainment—to national recognition that had sales of $2.5 million. She gained numerous press and achievements with celebrities as her most loyal customers.
As the Executive Chef of The Maltese Grill in San Francisco, CA , she developed and executed menus which celebrated the foods from France, Spain and regional Italy. Ms. Shaw ran this 190 seat Mediterranean underground gem—which had more than $4.2 mill annual revenue. She supervised and trained staff of 40, and was responsible for food and labor costs as well as marketing.
The Fenix is excited to have one of country’s most respected chefs at the helm of its kitchen.
John Storyk is a registered architect, acoustician, and founding partner of WSDG in New York. He has provided design and construction supervision services for the professional audio and video recording community since the 1969 completion of Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland Studios in New York City.
John Storyk received his architectural training from Princeton and Columbia Universities. As an independent designer engineer and principal designer of WSDG, he has been responsible for over 2,500 world-class audio video production facilities, including studios, radio stations, video suites, entertainment clubs and theaters. His work includes private studios for Whitney Houston; Bob Marley; Ace Frehley; Russ Freeman; Taylor Dayne’s producer Rick Wake; Johnny Yuma Recording in L.A.; Greenway; C & C Music’s Robert Clavicles; Oven Studios (Alicia Keys); Roc the Mic (Jay-Z) and others. Professional audio video installations include Soundshop, Nashville; Crawford Post, Atlanta; Talking House (San Francisco); screening rooms for NYC’s Planet Hollywood and Technicolor; conference facilities for Mercury (Polygram), EMI, CEMEX, Sumitoma; large scale educational and performance facilities for Full Sail/Platinum Post (Orlando), Ex’Pression Center for New Media (San Francisco), and Jazz at Lincoln Center / XM Radio (New York City).
He is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Acoustical Society of America, Audio Engineering Society (AES) and a frequent contributor to AES convention papers and professional industry periodicals. John is a frequent lecturer at schools throughout the nation. He has established courses in acoustics at both Full Sail and Ex’pression Center for the Media Arts. He is an adjunct professor of Acoustics and Studio Design at Berklee College of Music, Boston.
Buildings: My first major studio was for Jimi Hendrix. Imagine how surprised I was when (as a kid of 22) I went to the New York City Building Department (a place I would never go to now) to get the drawings for that building (which was then and now the basement of the 8th Street Cinema) only to find that this was the same cinema that had been designed by Frederick Keisler in the 1920's. Keisler was and still is one of my favorite architect/sculptors. I was a fan of him throughout college. The world is a small world. Only two years later I studied with Bucky Fuller right down the street. Little did I know that while building Electric Ladyland Studios, Beth Walters was passing this construction site every day. It would take 20 years for us to meet, fall in love and become partners.
Erich Mele has a rich and successful career designing award winning projects for commercial, retail and hospitality clientele. Raised in the US by International parents and spending time between San Francisco and Toronto, he developed an early interest and aptitude in both design and travel. With a passion for technical precision and the desire for free exploration of art-form, he immersed himself in academic and internship pursuits within the engineering, industrial design and architectural fields.
While perfecting his craft and working in both San Francisco and New York, he developed a clean aesthetic and modern sensibility rooted in the contrast between formalism and experimentation. Relying on his love for travel and inspired by international culture, fashion, art and the urban construct in harmony with nature, Erich brings his many talents center stage to his work while allowing his formative influences to reverberate through his ongoing practice.
Every project reveals a unique and often evolutionary approach to smart solutions, refined materials, thoughtful details, sophisticated color palettes and a fusion of classic custom furnishings and acoustic sensitivity.
With an emphasis on scale, the interplay of light and shadow, materiality, texture and the imperative relationship between interior and exterior, the work strives to contribute meaning to the human experience. Each client and project represents an opportunity to envision and create a quantifiable result, one which establishes or reinforces a unique presence or identity through space and environment. His vision for the Fenix is one of clean, motivational design in the abstract of the phoenix rising.