Co-owners of The Modernist, Carmen Serrato and Po Tsai, were honored in Sacramento on Wednesday. File photo

published on August 18, 2021 - 1:34 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

A Downtown Fresno watering hole has received some love from a statewide elected official.

Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) has chosen the Modernist as the Small Business of the Year for the 31st Assembly District. Today, the Modernist is among those being honored in Sacramento for 2021 California Small Business Day.

Modernist is a craft cocktail bar that opened its doors on New Year’s Eve 2019 and shortly after had to navigate the steep challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, through the innovative leadership of its owners – wife and husband Carmen Serrato and Po Tsai – Modernist has established itself as a popular destination that is helping revitalization efforts in Downtown Fresno.

“The Modernist launched right before the pandemic,” Assemblymember Arambula said. “Throughout these difficult months, Carmen and Po not only found creative ways to keep their business going, but they made sure they took proper measures to keep their staff safe from the virus. I also have been impressed by their personal commitment to downtown Fresno. Carmen was born and raised in Fresno and has spent time in other metropolitan cities – but Fresno always remained home. Their determination and passion to be part of the city’s economic growth has been inspiring.”

Serrato, whose family still lives in Fresno, said the “Modernist is the dovetail of my roots and the countless opportunities and experiences” of growing up in Fresno. She said these opportunities and experiences stirred a “personal passion and vision brought to life in an area that holds tremendous sentimental value” and that “to be able to help bring people together and build community in downtown Fresno – especially in times of and after COVID – one couldn’t ask for more.”

She also commented on what this honor means not just for her small business but for all that have fought to survive through the pandemic.

“This recognition is not only a symbol of initial validation of this vision but, more importantly, a momentary pause to acknowledge and appreciate the endless changing circumstances that all small businesses have had to adapt to, and to gratuitously recognize all the blood, sweat and tears of the teams that have powered businesses through the past almost two years, especially for our Modernist team,” Serrato said. “Without the words to properly express the extent, we remain ever thankful for everyone who has supported us and continues to support us on this journey – we wouldn’t and couldn’t do this without you.”

Serrato and Tsai will be accompanied by Assemblymember Arambula at today’s salute to small businesses, which is being sponsored by 25 small business organizations and chambers of commerce and held at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento. All COVID-19 protocols will be followed at the event.

The annual celebration stems from the California Assembly passing a resolution in 2000 to honor small businesses because these businesses are the backbone of the state’s economy. Each year, each Assemblymember can recognize a small business. At today’s event, Modernist is one of approximately 60 small businesses in California being commended for their drive and success.

Assemblymember Arambula also wanted to take this opportunity to recognize and honor Cho’s Kitchen of Selma, his selection for Small Business of the Year in 2020 for the 31st Assembly District. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual event was not held last year.

Cho’s Kitchen, an integral part of Selma since 1963, is a third-generation, family-owned business that has contributed to the economy and good will of its community, through its food and welcoming atmosphere for generations of Central Valley families.


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