Forging a Path through the Pandemic: Young Pioneers of the Mendocino Coast

Over the past few years, I’ve interviewed more than two dozen people who grew up along the Mendocino Coast and couldn’t wait to move away, believing they’d never return. But return they did, to establish businesses or professional careers. Some also chose this place to raise children, to nurture them in the small town values that shaped their own childhoods.
These are a new wave of pioneers who, like their forebearers, use intelligence and  imagination to forge a vibrant path. In exchange for the privilege of being able to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, they work long, hard hours.
The shelter in place orders due to Covid-19 have knocked many down, but they are devising ways to get back up and resume their vision of what it means to live here.
They have open minds and are digging deep to find solutions.
They have entrepreneurial spirits that will spawn innovations to move them forward.
We are so fortunate to have them here—especially during this trying time. 


Sarena Breed – Frame Mill Art Works

SarenaCovid1I met Sarena in 2017 when I interviewed her for my blog. She had recently purchased the Frame Mill Art Works. As a first-time business owner, she worried about her ability to succeed. Despite the challenges of learning to run a shop, she’s seen her business grow and is happy she made the decision.

She was surprised in March 2020 when nonessential businesses in Mendocino County were forced to close under the shelter in place orders. “A week before the shutdown, I had celebrated my third year in business,” she says. “I noticed things had gotten slower, but expected to continue to operate with some mandated adjustments.”

The Sunday before the order took effect, she spent the day cleaning her store and making changes to keep employees and customers safe. “I separated tools and work areas so everyone in the back room could maintain social distancing. I drafted a sign for the front door asking customers to social distance. I didn’t imagine I would have to close the shop.”

With her routine suddenly disrupted, Sarena says, “I felt I was going through the stages of grief. This was the death of something.”

In addition to the temporary closure of her shop, her eighth grade daughter’s middle school was closed. “Sadly, her class had to settle for a virtual promotion ceremony this year.” Despite these losses, she’s grateful that her husband’s job as an utility arborist is considered essential and he has continued to work.

She began attending webinars on how small businesses can adapt during this time.

The core of Sarena’s business is meeting with clients face-to-face to discuss ways in which a project can be framed. “I love picture framing and don’t like spending much time on the computer. With the doors shut, I realized I had no direct way of communicating with clients. I felt cut off from the folks who came into the store. I wanted to reach out and say a simple hello and give updates, but didn’t have that capability.”

During the shutdown period, the feeling of isolation from her clients caused her to innovate. “I put in a point of sale system to collect email addresses. I’m started work on a website and Facebook and Instagram accounts. Going forward, I’ll continue to expand my online presence.”

Sarena was able to open her store on a limited basis the last week of May. “I looked outside that morning and thought we’ve all been like Sleeping Beauty and are starting to wake up. It feels great to see people again. Some come in just to make sure I was okay. Others pop their heads in to let me know they’re glad I’m open. I feel a great deal of support.” Her shop is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11:00-4:00.

Sarena is determined to move forward. She’s ordered inventory to stock the store for the Christmas season even though there may be shelter in place orders issued in the fall. If she’s forced to shut down again, she’ll be in a better position to communicate with customers and offer framing services by private appointment.

“This experience has given us time to contemplate the things that matter and to reevaluate. People seem to have an understanding that we’re all in this together and are being more patient. I feel a greater commitment to shopping locally and supporting our community.”


Since she re-opened, Sarena  is looking for a framer to join her team. Anyone interested can call her shop at 964-6464.


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