Sherry Villanueva
Paul Wellman

It’s one thing to open a restaurant, but what about creating a new culture that’s instrumental in revitalizing an entire neighborhood?

That’s what Sherry Villanueva is doing down in the Funk Zone through her restaurant, The Lark, and the adjacent hotspots Lucky Penny, Les Marchands Wine Bar and Merchant, Santa Barbara Wine Collective, Bird Dog Mercantile, and Helena Avenue Bakery. (Phew!)

Before embarking on that adventure a couple years ago, she owned a successful marketing company called Twist Worldwide (with Target as a primary customer), but she risked it all to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams. All of her associated businesses blend in new ideas with old ones, integrating gourmet cuisine and 21st century service with industrial décor and a comfortable, laid-back feel. But most importantly, each space feels timeless and fun.

This miracle worker answers the first Proust Questionnaire of 2015.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

A historical figure I admire is Eleanor Roosevelt. She was a bold woman who stood up for what she believed in. One of my favorite quotes from her is, “A woman is like a tea bag: You can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” I can relate to that!

What is your motto?

I can do hard things. And so can you.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Unbridled enthusiasm for things I believe in.

What do you like most about your job?

I love being in service to others and creating memories for people who have entrusted their most special occasions to us. It’s a big responsibility and I take it very seriously. I also love the fact that 130 people have an awesome place to work where they are valued and respected and given the opportunity to be part of a tight knit family that cares about them. I love that I get to be creative and to turn ideas in to reality. This is the most fun I’ve ever had working.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Perfect happiness for me is having my whole family together at our house (including our close friends who are more like family than friends) and the spontaneous break out of a ‘70s funk family dance party after a home-cooked meal.

What is your greatest fear?

Letting people down who are counting on me and losing those I love.

Who do you most admire?

The person I most admire is Jim, my husband of 27 years. He works tirelessly every single day to improve the lives of thousands of people throughout the world who are struggling with the effects of extreme poverty. He leads with his generous heart and follows with his intelligent head and is making a huge impact through his work at the Eleos Foundation.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Foreign travel.

What is your current state of mind?

I am energized and open about the future of my company and this new chapter of my life. I am also wallowing in a deep sense of gratitude for my family, our collective good health, and for the numerous opportunities that have been given to me.

What is the quality you most like in people?

Generosity and authenticity.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?


What do you most value in friends?

Loyalty, kindness, and integrity.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“There are two kinds of problems: My problem and not my problem.”

Which talent would you most like to have?

I wish I could sing.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would be 10 minutes early for every meeting.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Raising two intelligent, confident, and generous daughters.

Where would you most like to live?

On a farm.

What is your most treasured possession?

Old family photos that span four generations and tell the story of where my family and I have come from.

Who makes you laugh the most?

My charming and very silly husband. A consummate practical joker, he’s also known to appear at family parties donning a rubber chicken head.

On what occasion do you lie?

I may fudge the truth a bit when I think it could prevent someone from getting hurt, but, by and large, I tell the truth. It’s the only way things really work.


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