Local Girl Makes Good

bryna“Why of course I know Bryna Turner,” I say to anyone who mentions her name, shamelessly basking in the cast off glow of her newfound celebrity. Her play, “A Bull in a China Shop,” recently completed a nine-week run at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Lincoln Center!

Gloria Steinem attended one of the performances.

Gloria Steinem!

“I wrote the play as part of a writer’s group with a very small and scrappy downtown theatre company called Clubbed Thumb,” Bryna said. “As a sort of graduation present from the year-long group, the theatre offered each of us a reading of one of our plays in their space—at two in the afternoon on a Thursday. The director of my reading, Ellie Sachs, had been an intern for the director Evan Cabnet at a summer theatre festival, and invited him to attend. He wasn’t able to, but asked her to send him the script.

“Three days later, he called, introduced himself as the artistic director of LCT3 [the new artists’ wing of Lincoln Center], and said he wanted to produce my play! ‘What do you think about that?’ he said. I said, ‘I think that’s crazy.’ It’s the sort of phone call you don’t dare dream of as a young playwright.”

***

I met Bryna in the spring of 1993 at a children’s fair on Franklin Street. She was three years old. Her brother Packie (five) and my daughter Laine (four) were preschool chums. I didn’t know Packie, but could tell Laine was smitten by the way her face lit up whenever she spoke of their interactions at school.

Shortly after arriving at the fair and before I could extricate her from the stroller, Laine kicked her feet and shouted, “Packie! Packie!”

Like a scene from a romance novel, the five-year-old equivalent of Fabio with a halo of wispy blonde curls strolled through the crowd. As he drew near, Laine’s smile widened, cheeks reddened, her eyes sparkled. Packie returned her smile. He reached out and patted her head.

Laine ripped the bonds of her seat belt and jumped out of the stroller. Packie gave her a hug. His mother Anne appeared, holding the hand of a little girl with piercing blue eyes and fierce red curls cascading down her back—Bryna Turner, future acclaimed playwright.

bryna2Regular play dates ensued, alternating between the Turner house and ours. It didn’t take Packie long to abandoned them for the rough and tumble company of boys.

The girls established fairly strict guidelines for playtime and generally got along swimmingly. Anne called them the “Little Biddies.” For the most part, each had an appealing, accommodating personality. As the youngest in their families, they’d learned to bury their desires for the greater good. Together, they were equals, and each could insist upon getting their own way—as long as it fit into the rules.

Occasionally, one of them violated a rule. The quarrel that followed was akin to alley cats fighting. No claws sank into flesh, but the yowling and screeching were disturbing. During these times, they were separated. No mediation from the mothers could manage a détente.

Despite sporadic battles, Bryna and Laine enjoyed each other. Their similar temperaments allowed for raucous good fun within the boundaries of civilized behavior, and created a friendship spanning 24 years. When we heard that one of Bryna’s plays was being produced at Lincoln Center, Laine and I couldn’t wait to fly across the country to see it.

***

bryna3In the fall of 2008, Bryna left Fort Bragg to attend Mount Holyoke in western Massachusetts where she earned a BA in Theater. She went on to obtain an MFA from Rutgers in New Jersey. At the tender age of (almost) 27, she’s written six plays. She lives in Brooklyn where Laine and I met her and their long-time friend Britt Calder for lunch. Afterward, we walked around the area, Bryna and Britt touring us through a neighborhood where mature trees break up the concrete landscape. Raised among the Northern California redwoods, they have a special appreciation for trees.

bryna4We parted with hugs, disappointed we wouldn’t see Bryna at the play that evening. In the first few weeks of the run, she’d hide in the back of the theater, near the light board, and spy on the audience. It was nerve-wracking to anticipate their reaction. Would they laugh at the right moments? Were they paying attention or were some reading their programs? Overall, the response was positive. Still, she found it stressful to watch her work being performed. She’d wait for the closing show to see it again.

“Bull in a China Shop” explores the relationship between Mary Woolley, President of Mount Holyoke College, and her lover, the writer Jeannette Marks which began in the early part of the twentieth century. The play covers 40 years amid the backdrop of women’s suffrage. It is nothing short of genius how Bryna captures the intensity of their coupling, much of it with humor, and all within 85 minutes.

bryna6At the end of the performance, Laine and I stayed in our seats for a few minutes, overcome by the brilliance we had witnessed. “My friend wrote this,” Laine said, her eyes filling with tears. “I’m so in awe of her.”

***

The precision with which Bryna partook in childhood games is evident in this play, which was described in a glowing review by the New York Times as “pugnacious, tender and gloriously funny….” We were thrilled to witness the success of a gifted artist who is also a highly intelligent and compassionate human being.

This is just the beginning of Bryna’s bright career. LCT3 is paying her a commission to write her next play. In June, there will be a reading of her play “Carlo at the Wedding” at the Abingdon Theatre in New York City.

I am honored to know Bryna Turner. I hope she forgives me for dropping her name from time to time.

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Chicken Soup for My Soul

A year ago, my daughter Jenn suggested I submit a few of my blog posts to Chicken Soup for the Soul. I went to their website and found that they accepted entries in various categories. Without much hope, I submitted three stories about my dog Lucy.

In January, I must have also submitted the post, “The Spirit of Giving,” but truly don’t remember. I blame my lack of memory on the fact that I have a lot going on in January. First of all, I loathe the month: it’s dark, cold, and responsible for the death of the holiday season, which starts with Halloween and ends on New Year’s Day. Second, I’m extremely busy with my day job. The energy it takes to not hate January while fighting melancholy and working long hours leaves me little spare brain power.

Months went by. Spring miraculously returned to the Northern Hemisphere and morphed into summer. Life eased up and my January bitterness disappeared. In late July, I started receiving unsolicited emails from Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Ah ha! So that’s the deal. You submit something to this outfit and they put you on their junk mail list. Well I have a delete button and know how to use it. I deleted the email without reading it. A day or so later, I receive another. Delete! I wasn’t about to fall for their devious ploy.

A week later, my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the caller ID number and didn’t answer it. An hour or so went by and I retrieved my messages.

“This is D’ette Corona from Chicken Soup for the Soul. I’ve been trying to reach you through email. A piece you submitted is a finalist for our Christmas edition.”

I now know what it feels like to be hit with a stun gun.

I called D’ette back and confessed my stupid assumptions. She was sweet and understanding. “When people don’t respond to emails, I always call.”

After I filled out the form, mailed it, and my blood pressure returned to normal, I re-read her email. I was considered a finalist, not a shoe-in. Oh well. I braced myself against disappointment.

A few weeks later, I received notice that “The Spirit of Giving” had been chosen for publication. I would receive $200 plus ten free copies. I had to review and approve their edited version where they took some liberties and changed the title, but hey this is Chicken Soup for the Soul! They sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Rewrite everything for all I care.chickensoup

I was given the chance to buy 20 more books at cost and of course I took it.

On the fourth of October, I opened the front door to let the cat in and found a large box on the porch. Inside were—yes, you know—copies of the book. I flipped through to find my piece listed as number four out of 101 entries. I read it aloud to my husband Gary who was nearly as thrilled as I was.

I now have 30 copies of a book I never thought I’d be published in, from an offer I dismissed as junk mail. I will give them away, then sit back and wait for the requests for movie rights to start pouring in, hopefully in that darkest of months—January.

Grey Whale Inn Haunted Tour

gwinnThis past Friday, my son Harrison, daughter-in-law Kasi and I went on the Grey Whale Inn Haunted Tour. The inn was built in 1915 as the town’s hospital, retains some of the old time hospital ambiance—wide doorways to accommodate gurneys and steep ramps where staircases might otherwise be—and is rumored to have ghostly visitors.

At the suggestion of daughter Jenn (who lives in the Seattle area), I downloaded an app called Ghost Radar on my phone.

gwinn2Our guide Marnie was delightful, dressed in Victorian garb with her hair pulled up in the fashion of the era. She had not heard of Ghost Radar but was happy to let me run it during the visit.

I’m not going to reveal any spoilers—you need to take the tour yourself and learn about the history of this remarkable building—but I will share a bit of our experience.

About a half hour in, while on the second floor, a young blonde boy appeared from around a corner. It was a scene straight out of “The Shining.” He looked about eight years old, and stood stick straight and mute. Marnie smiled, and asked, “Would you like to join us?”

He said, “Yes, but I need to ask my mom,” and disappeared behind the corner.

A few minutes later, the boy, his mother and slightly older sister caught up with us. Marnie cautioned that if anyone became scared and wanted to leave, they could. As we walked along the hallway, the boy stuck his index fingers in his ears and intermittently squeezed his eyes shut. His mother chuckled. His sister rolled her eyes. Marnie asked if he wanted to leave the tour. Fingers still in ears, he shook his head.

Ten minutes later, he’d had enough. His mom allowed her daughter to stay with us and escorted the boy away. Marnie asked the girl her name.

“Hazel,” she said.

“Hazel!” I said. “Whenever I’m asked my name at Starbucks, I say Hazel.” The girl humored me with a giggle.

The tour continued for several minutes before the boy and his mother reappeared. As frightened as he was, he couldn’t seem to help himself—stories of the inn drew him back. He remained until the end and smiled with relief. We congratulated him on being so brave.

Ghost Radar picked up a number of spirits sprinkled throughout the building, making the experience both satisfying and creepy.

Grey Whale Inn Haunted Tours are available through Halloween: Thursday-Saturday 12:00, 2:00, 4:00 and 6:00pm; Sundays 1:00 and 3:00 and 5:00pm. To reserve a spot, send an email to stay@greywhaleinn.com or call 707-964-0640.

I promise you’ll enjoy it.gwinn6

Stevie Drake-Scudder

stevie2Roundman’s Smoke House (motto: “We’ll Smoke Anything”) is the highlight of my weekly shopping routine. The aroma of wood smoke evokes the feel of autumn when fallen tree branches and leaves are raked into piles and reduced to ash before the winter rains. The store is packed with an array of smoked meats, cheeses, all-natural meats, and best of all, their fabulous bacon. (When my son left for college 12 years ago, he claimed the only thing he’d miss about Fort Bragg was Roundman’s bacon.) The employees are friendly, helpful and have great senses of humor. I always enter and leave the shop with a smile.

Roundman’s has been part of Stevie’s life since her father Steve Scudder became co-owner with Steve Rasmussen in 1995. It employed her during high school, college, and in lean times during her film production and massage therapy careers.

stevie4Stevie has lived in Portland, San Francisco, and Vermont. The bonds of family, friends, and the beauty of the Mendocino Coast (along with the family business) have brought her home time and time again.

She was raised on a “commune” in Albion—a collection of her dad and his friends who bought land in the seventies and built houses where they still live nearly forty years later. Throughout her childhood, her parents said, “You can do anything you want, you just gotta do it.”

She worked hard in school and earned a scholarship to Pacific University outside of Portland, Oregon. “It was just far enough away that my parents couldn’t pop in for a weekend visit.” She laughs.

Her dream to become a doctor was squelched when she struggled through organic chemistry and calculus. “In my senior year in high school, I was told I had dyslexia. It’s no wonder I had problems with those courses.” She discovered a love of photography and film. A professor convinced her to major in film production.

With her lovable three-legged dog Sailor.

“After graduation in 2001, I worked as a film editor in Portland for six months before moving to the Bay Area.” She worked for post-production houses in San Francisco before landing a job in the equipment department at the Academy of Arts College. “One of the perks of that job was free use of the film equipment. I worked with others to make short, silly pieces and low budget features. It was a great time, but eventually the combination of the job, film making and the go-go-go of city life stressed me out. I was raised to be more chill. After seven years, I knew it wasn’t for me in the long term, forever way of thinking.

“I did a one-eighty and enrolled in massage therapy school. When I was a kid, I don’t remember going to a doctor very often. Instead, my parents took me to Faith Graham, a gifted, spiritual massage therapist. She was my inspiration.”

Stevie returned to the Mendocino Coast in 2007, worked a bit with Faith and at Roundman’s while building her own massage practice.

stevie6A few years later, she met boyfriend James Todd. “He was born in Mendocino on July 4, 1979. Many people remember the date because it was the only year his parents weren’t at the parade.” When he was two, his family moved to Vermont.

“A friend from high school Josh Tsujimara moved to Vermont and happened to meet James. In 2009, James decided to explore his birthplace (he had not been back since he was a toddler). James wandered into the Tip Top and there was Josh working as a bartender.” A short time later, Josh introduced Stevie to James.

By 2011, James missed his hometown of Middlebury, Vermont, and Stevie agreed to move. “The small town feel is similar to here, but there’s no ocean and the weather can be harsh.” She worked as a massage therapist and an assistant manager at a natural food co-op. “The cost of living was high, but the wages were low. We both had to work two jobs to make ends meet. In August 2014, the family business called us home. After 20 years, Ma was retiring and it was time to come back.

“It was an adjustment. I wondered: What am I doing here? What’s my role? Everyone fully embraced us. I realized how much a part of me this business is—it’s truly my family.”

Her dad still works 12-hour days, James is a butcher, and two friends from Vermont were recently hired. “Roundman’s has an amazing crew, provides a livable wage, and treats everyone like family. We’ve grown from four employees to seventeen. We encourage everyone to create their own flavors—like Jasper’s Famous Bacon Sticks and Jessie’s Famous Corned Beef Bangers—and continue to learn about flavor profiles from our younger employees.”

stevie5What Stevie loves most about her job is working with her dad Steve. “He’s the best man I know. He and Steve Rasmussen found this little gem at the right time in their lives and at the right time for the coast. They’ve created an environment where everyone supports each other and plays on their strengths.”

What she likes least: “Meat is a male dominated business. I sometimes feel a lack of respect from customers who insist on getting their questions answered by one of the guys. I know as much as the guys about most things meat. When I don’t, I ask.”

As the Owner In Training (or OIT as Steve Rasmussen calls her), Stevie carries a lot of responsibility for running the business and has a hard time turning her brain off. A year after her return, she started dabbling in massage again, mostly with friends and family, on a very part-time basis. “I realized how much I missed it. Body work allows me to do something I love while helping people. I feel the same way about bacon.” She laughs.

Stevie imagines a bright future as co-owner of Roundman’s. “The coast has grown and there are a lot of people I don’t know, but nothing compares to waking up to the beauty of our surroundings. I hope the area doesn’t grow too big, that we stay rooted in the small town feel, to honor the way of life that brought a lot of us back.”

Stevie is happy to have returned to the loving arms of family, friends, coworkers, supportive customers, and fellow business owners. She envisions continuing to sign her Roundman’s emails for years to come: “Stevie and the Steves.”

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The Reluctant Spartan – Part II

spartan5It was a cool gray morning at Giants Stadium by the Bay. I shivered not from the cold, but from utter terror as I watched Spartan participants run up to the very top deck of seats. I’m terrified of heights to the point where I start to hyperventilate. I could not do this. What was I doing here?

My brain ping-ponged for a solution. I stood behind my teammates, hiding my anxiety. Yvette had the logo “Bald Hill Cattle Company” printed on the back of her shirt. I did something I rarely do—asked for help. She agreed to stay directly in front of me while we traversed the stairs. I would focus on that logo, not on the vast distance between the elevation, the playing field, and the endless stretch of water beyond.

In that moment, I surrendered. I accepted that it was okay to be the laggard of the pack. Others could take the lead. I was content to follow.

spartan2It was time for Team Mendo to queue up. Bethany (who had finished her competitive race in under 40 minutes) announced she would run the course again with us. She had been the key force behind getting us to this place. She was going to see us through to the end. We walked around a corner to encounter our first obstacle—a four-foot fence to scale before we got in line.

I chuckled. Here we go.

Participants were released every minute or so in sets of 20. As each set waited, an emcee got the group jacked up by yelling, “WHO ARE YOU?” to which the group responded, “WE ARE SPARTANS!” My mind whispered, “I’m a scared little wieny.”

We were off and running down the lower deck of stadium stairs, into the basement to the Giants’ locker room where we were to perform 20 pushups. Halfway through my set I noticed the room smelled like years of embedded sweat. I found it funny that this place belonging to a major league baseball team smelled like any high school boys’ locker room.

The obstacles blur in my memory, but a few stand out. The first wall we encountered was eight feet tall. As I contemplated failure, Bethany rushed up and hunkered down with her fingers laced. “Put your foot in here,” she commanded. She boosted me up and I lurched over. Some obstacles later, we repeated the same move. Near the end was a six-foot wall. I turned to Bethany, like a child to her mother, and said, “Help me.” She said, “You can do it.” And by God I did—with a running leap I was up and over.

It was thrilling to accomplish obstacles I didn’t think I could do—like pick up a 50-pound concrete cylinder, carry it 20 feet, put it down, do five burpees, pick it up, carry it back, and do five more burpees. A shot of adrenaline propelled me onward where I got another shot and another until I was halfway through the race, shouting, “This is fun!” and meaning it.

My fear of heights was put to the test early. I kept my focus on Yvette’s “Bald Hill Cattle Company” logo and used a hand as a blinder to block out the scenery far below. Up to the top deck of seats and over, down and over, up and over again, I refused to let my gaze waiver, concentrating only on taking the next step. I nearly cried with relief when it was over.

spartanraceAbout ten obstacles later, we were told to pick up a 20-pound beanbag and go out to the stands. I’ll be damned if on the other side of the stadium—the side I hadn’t seen earlier—we didn’t have to repeat a mirror trek to the upper deck. By then I was a full on adrenaline junkie. I’d done it before, I could do it again. This time I didn’t have to rely on “Bald Hill Cattle Company.” Instead, it was “Hell yeah, bitch—I got this!”

Spartan rules dictate that when you fail an obstacle you must do 30 burpees. I only missed two—the rope climb and the spear throw. I didn’t even attempt the rope climb—in training for it, I’d hurt my back. I missed the spear throw by an inch.

The last obstacle was the monkey bars. I’d tried it a couple of times in training, barely able to hold myself stationary for more than a few seconds before feeling my arms were going to rip from my shoulder sockets. I headed toward the burpee area when Yvette said, “I’ll help you.” I jumped up and grabbed the first bar. She clutched my legs and literally carried me across. Between her and Bethany, our other two team mates also got across.

spartan8When it was Yvette’s turn, Bethany tried to assist. A Spartan monitor appeared, yelling, “You can’t help her.” Bethany said we were a team and we’d been helping each other all the way. He barked, “You can’t help her on this one.” Bethany countered, “We just helped three of our teammates with this one.” He stood firm.

In retrospect, we should have jumped him and beat the crap out of him. Instead, we watched as poor Yvette struggled halfway through before dropping. Disappointed, she prepared to do her burpees. The team told her to stand aside—we’d each do eight for her.

spartan7I rose from my final burpee and looked into the stands to find my son Harrison, daughter Laine, and her boyfriend Jeff smiling at me. (My husband Gary and daughter-in-law Kasi couldn’t be there.) I raised my arms and jumped up and down. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.

Our team ran through a series of punching bags to the finish line. We linked arms and crossed together. On the other side, our necks were draped with a ribbon holding the heaviest medal we’d ever received. We laughed and hugged and posed for pictures.

We are now part of that crazy cult called Spartans.spartan3

Brittney Tuomala Harris

brittney4The first time I walked into A Sweet Affair, I clutched my chest and swooned. It’s like entering an art gallery, each pastry crafted by a master. You hesitate to destroy the creation, but after the first bite, you learn that the visual is only part of the divine feast. Hopefully, you’re sitting down because as you eat you will drift into semi-conscious nirvana.

***

In fourth grade at Dana Gray Elementary, Brittney’s research for a report on the human heart influenced her decision to become a cardiovascular surgeon. By fifth grade, she developed a chronic childhood illness that caused her to spend nearly a decade in and out of hospitals. “The thought of working in one for the rest of my life sickened me.”

By high school, she struggled with where to go to college. “I had a hard time justifying going to a standard four year school. What was I supposed to major in?”

Her decision to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, was prompted by years spent in the kitchen baking with her mother. “As kids, my sister and I had a business called ‘The Sisters Cookie Company’ where we would sit outside our house and sell homemade cookies.”

brittney8By December 2010, she had an Associate’s Degree in Baking and Pastry and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. Her future husband Beau also attended the school, but majored in Culinary. They met while working at the same restaurant.

Beau graduated in 2009 and took a chef’s job in New York City. On weekends, Brittney commuted from Hyde Park to work as a server at Brasserie 8 1/2. “In a few short months, I moved to the back of the house as a pastry cook. Immediately, the executive chef went on vacation. She left me in charge during New York Restaurant Week. I worked over 160 hours during the two weeks she was gone.”

brittney6In June, Brittney discovered she was pregnant. Her executive chef quit in July, and she ran the kitchen until two weeks before son Avery was born in January 2012. She left on maternity leave and never went back.

Life in New York City was exciting, but expensive. Beau worked long hours to support the family. Brittney longed to return to California where she’s a fifth generation Fort Bragg native. In the spring of 2012, Beau was hired by celebrity chef Michael Chiarello to work at Bottega in Yountville.

“I worked for Thomas Keller at Bouchon Bakery as a pastry commis [a fancy French term for cook].” But the prestige of the job was in name only. “I was like a robot, making the same stuff every day. When chefs work in a restaurant, they want to learn new techniques. I learned nothing there.”

Nine months later, they moved to San Francisco to help Chiarello open Coqueta. They were building remarkable resumes, but their lives were consumed by work. Each morning, Brittney took public transportation from Alameda to start her 7:00 shift. In the afternoon, Beau put Avery in the car and drove into the city for his evening shift. At 3:00, he’d get out of the car and Brittney would get in to drive home. “The restaurant is only a couple of blocks from the Bay Bridge but during Giants baseball season, it could take two hours to travel that distance.”

For eight months, they struggled through this schedule and the high cost of living in the Bay Area before deciding to move to Fort Bragg where they could be near her family. Beau was hired by the Heritage House in Little River and Brittney started a home business where—in between keeping up with a toddler—she baked and sold cakes, pastries, and handmade chocolates.

brittney7In July 2014, she opened A Sweet Affair. “I love being my own boss, making whatever my heart desires, and creating specialty orders.” By August, she was pregnant. In April 2015, she gave birth to another son, Addison.

Brittney works insane hours to balance family with running a business. She possesses the face of a Renaissance beauty, a surface serenity that belies her underlying stress.

Time is a precious commodity and Brittney has little to spare. The morning of our interview, she answered questions while putting together a batch of French macarons. I marveled at the confident way she folded Oreo crumbs with buttercream, scooped it into a pastry bag, squeezed a dollop onto several dozen cookie halves, and topped each with a matching half.

Her shop is open 10:00-4:00 Thursday through Sunday, but she spends the early morning hours—often starting at 4:00—either baking or doing paperwork. Monday is her only day off. Her husband has Tuesday and Wednesday off, which allows her to work from early morning until noon to stock the bakery. Those afternoons are spent together as a family. During holiday seasons, she works seven days a week, often 14 hours a day.

brittney5Her grandparents watch her boys two days a week. Mother Ronda staffs the counter at the bakery on the weekends and helps at charity functions. Brittney’s macarons are a favorite among food stations at Winesong, Mendocino Film Festival, Art in the Gardens, and other venues. She estimates she donates about $4,000 a year to these events.

Brittney is passionate about her craft. “I love making beautiful, edible art—to make people happy with dessert. A cake can be the center of someone’s celebration—birthday, wedding, or baby shower. Desserts can create a great memory. I want to be a part of that memory. When I see someone’s face light up at the sight or taste of something I made, it makes all my hard work, sleepless nights, blood, sweat and tears worth it.”

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Brittney created these cakes to help Chriss Zaida celebrate her store’s anniversary and relocation.

Brittney is encouraged by the network of small business owners who support one another. She hopes this support system will inspire others to open businesses. “There are a lot of empty storefronts downtown. This can discourage tourists from coming back. Understandably, a lot of locals can’t afford the high quality items we sell. We depend upon tourists to survive.”

Like many before her, Brittney couldn’t wait to graduate and get far away from this small town. She ventured into the world, gathered what it had to offer, and brought back the gems to a place the years away had taught her to love.

A Brittney creation made this guy happy to turn 30.

A Brittney creation made this guy happy to turn 30.

Katie Turner Carr

katie2I sit next to Katie and pepper her with questions, marveling at how the shy girl I met 23 years ago has blossomed into a self-assured wife, mother and businesswoman. When she left Fort Bragg in 1998 to attend UC Santa Cruz, she never imagined she’d return eight years later to become a sock maven.

It was probably inevitable that Katie became an entrepreneur. During her early years, her father Dave Turner owned a waterbed business in the Bay Area. When these beds waned in popularity and the internet became more consumer-friendly, he began selling waterbed accessories online. He also designed and began to manufacture a layered latex mattress system called a FloBed. Both enterprises allowed him to work anywhere. He fondly remembered growing up in Fort Bragg and wanted to give his four children the same opportunity. In 1992, he moved the family to the area.

Katie’s dream was to be an artist. After graduating from college in 2002, she stayed in Santa Cruz, sold her paintings through local crafts fairs, and made rent money by working at the Sock and Shoe Company. In 2004, her then boyfriend Marshall Carr got a job with Enterprise Rental Car. They moved to Morgan Hill. She worked briefly as a merchandizer for Lowes. “I was miserable. It’s the only job I ever quit.”

She was hired as a manager for Socks Galore in Gilroy. A few months later, the Sock and Shoe Company wooed her back and trained her as a buyer.

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Katie in her original tiny shop.

By 2006, Katie and Marshall decided their future was limited by the high cost of living in the Santa Cruz area. They hatched a brilliant idea—move to Fort Bragg and open a sock shop. She consulted her dad, who wasn’t convinced it could be successful. He asked her to write a detailed business plan that included statistics on the number of tourists visiting the area and how much merchandise she’d have to sell in order to make a living. After reviewing the plan, he rented her a 200 square-foot space at the front of his FloBeds store on Redwood Avenue.

Katie brainstormed names—Sockadeedoda, Sockadelic—before choosing to honor a favorite childhood storybook character—Pippi Longstockings. The tiny shop was off the beaten tourist path, but located across the street from the dance studio. While mothers waited for their children, they’d wander in to buy socks. “It was my busiest time of the day and helped me develop a local following.”

Katie also garnered attention among street people who were enamored with her tiny shop. She fondly remembers a man named Chris who’d stop by frequently, always beginning his visits with “Hey Pippi!” She hasn’t seen him in years, but this nickname is still used by some of her customers.

Katie6When a storefront on Laurel Street became available in June 2008, Katie moved Pippi’s, quadrupling her space and expanding her customer base. She was able to hire employees, which eased her workload and allowed her and now husband Marshall (a high school teacher) to start a family. They have two daughters—Rowan (seven) and Zoey (four).

“I’m so happy to be able to give my kids what I had—the freedom of a childhood in a small town. I want them to be able to play in the woods, on the beach or walk around downtown like I was able to, instead of hanging out in a mall.”

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Sweet Rachel & her great boss.

Katie has two employees. This author is especially fond of Rachel who is kind and patient. Whenever I’m in the shop babbling about something, she’ll smile and say in a soothing tone, “I understand.” She would make a great hostage negotiator or crazy person whisperer.

One of Katie’s favorite things about owning her business is the tourists who get excited to find a sock shop. “They literally squeal with delight.” Returning customers often show her the “Pippi’s socks” they’re wearing and ask to see the socks she has on.

Katie is grateful to live in a small town that has a big community feeling.  “I’m lucky to be a part of a place where one person can make a difference, where the opportunity to participate is just about everywhere. I love knowing my barista, the person who makes my lunch, and the people I support when I shop downtown. I also love that my customers know my family.”

When her dad Dave (the mayor) was the subject of a nasty recall effort last year, Katie wrote a heartfelt blog post defending him which sparked a movement in support of him.

Shortly after the demise of the recall, she joined forces with others to organize Go Fort Bragg, which encourages progressive involvement in the community. “Before this, I didn’t pay much attention to how the city was run. I voted for council members who shared my views and let them do their jobs. I’ve learned that these people aren’t mind readers. They need to hear the opinions of their constituents. I avoid anger and express my thoughts in positive ways. This gives them and others a chance to hear a point of view they may not have considered.”

Katie & her wonderful family.

Katie & her wonderful family.

Katie acknowledges that Fort Bragg has changed since her youth. There was the music store, the old recreation center pool where she was a lifeguard, a tree at Bainbridge Park that was fun to climb. The tree is gone and many businesses have closed. “I can still hang out at Headlands Coffee House, but don’t sit on the sidewalk as much anymore.” She says this with a wink. “The mill is gone, tourism is a more integral part of our economy, but we still have the beach, the woods, and a great community that watches out for one another. We have the CV Starr Center, the coastal trails, and the Noyo Center. A lot of positive changes have enriched our lives.”

Another positive change is Katie’s return. She’s brightened our town with her optimistic attitude and charming sock shop.Katie5