Emily Head, L.Ac. MAOM

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I rushed across the parking lot behind Taka’s Grill on Main Street, through the brisk autumn chill, into Pacific Healing Acupuncture. The warm, softly lit interior wrapped me in a cocoon of serenity so intoxicating that I was nearly too relaxed to get out of my chair after my 90-minute chat with owner Emily Head.

***

As a teenager, Emily had few aspirations outside of staying and working in Fort Bragg. Her parents, Marie and Lewey, had other ideas. They’d moved here from the Bay Area in 1977 and felt it important for their daughter to experience life outside this small community.

After graduating from high school in 1998, Emily agreed to go to Sonoma State but moved home after a year to figure out what path she wanted to take in life. For the next few years, she worked as a waitress and took classes at College of the Redwoods. She also got her esthetician and massage licenses. She worked briefly as a massage therapist, but found she didn’t enjoy it. “I was having wrist problems, and didn’t want to make that worse.”

A few years later, Emily realized she didn’t want to be a career waitress. She applied to her dream school—UC Santa Cruz—and got accepted in 2000.  She majored in sociology with a minor in psychology. “I thought I’d become a child counselor.”

emily bunnyAfter graduating in 2002, she entered an 11-month AmeriCorps program. “I wanted to start paying off my loans, and AmeriCorps offered money towards that. I also thought it would be a fun break from life—which it was. It gave me time to decide what I really wanted to do.” She became part of a team of ten people in Denver. “We traveled to a number of states where we did jobs like state park trail maintenance and renovating a playroom for a summer program that offered homeless children a place to learn, play and socialize.”

During her AmeriCorps experience, her mother suggested she chose a career in the healing arts, perhaps as an acupuncturist. “I’ve always been intrigued by natural healthcare and figured it was a great career for me to pursue. Growing up in a household that didn’t depend on doctors taught me what was available that didn’t include synthetic cures. I always looked to Mother Nature for healthcare and acupuncture seemed the follow that concept of staying healthy.

“I came back to Fort Bragg and took anatomy and other science classes at College of the Redwoods and Mendocino College, which helped get me into the Masters Program at Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in Portland.” She entered the school in 2006 where she attended daylong classes and practicum sessions five days a week. She loved living in Portland and studying traditional acupuncture. During the last two years, she also worked as an intern in various clinics.

She graduated in September 2009 with a Masters in Oriental Medicine and stayed for a couple of months to take three exams to earn her national acupuncture practitioner certificate before moving back to Fort Bragg. “I always knew I wanted to live and raise my future family here. My parents are here and I love the area.”

emilystudioShe once again worked as a waitress while studying for her California boards, which she passed in March 2010. Shortly afterward, she opened her business in the office complex behind Taka’s Grill. For the first few years, she supplemented her income by working three to four days a week at Lee’s Chinese. “Word of mouth has been a big factor in my growth. When I started accepting health insurance and Medi-Cal, my clientele also grew tremendously. I still work one day a week at Piaci’s. I love my profession, but like getting out and socializing. Waitressing does that for me.”

In addition to private sessions, Emily provides reduced priced drop in sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 4:00-6:00 pm. Her fees for all sessions are based on a sliding scale given a patient’s ability to pay. Most treatments are covered by insurance. “Stress is a major component of illness,” she said. “I don’t want people to stress out over the cost of trying to get well.”

Emily is glad her parents encouraged her to leave her hometown and get a different perspective on life. “I learned I don’t want to live in a big city. I’m not a commuter. I don’t even like to drive to Mendocino.” She laughed.

emilygarrettShe lives on the same property as her parents and shares a home with her partner Garrett Barker and his two children. “Garrett was born in Southern California, but lived in Fort Bragg off and on while he was growing up. He came back in his twenties and has been here ever since. He’s an amazing artist and also works for a machine shop in Comptche.”

“I grew up on the land where we still have a large garden. We raise rabbits, chickens, turkeys, and ducks. I raise a pig each year. I don’t do the killing of the larger animals, but I can butcher the meat. We also have beehives.”

Emily finds great satisfaction in helping people. “It sometimes amazes me that I can stick needles in people and it makes them better,” she said. “The body wants to heal and by using acupuncture, one can balance out the blockages caused by everyday life, including stress, injury, emotional upsets and illness.”

emilyhensShe’s sad that Fort Bragg doesn’t offer the same sense of community as when she was growing up. “I don’t see a lot kids riding bikes. I no longer know nearly everyone. I used to know the names of our homeless people. I don’t anymore. It’s especially hard for single people to live here—there aren’t many places to mingle.” However, she does admit that the Golden West Saloon—purchased a few years ago by a couple in her age group—has helped provide a social outlet for the younger crowd.

Emily laments the loss of the traditional workers who were once employed by the logging and fishing industries. “We’re more of a tourist community now.” She hopes more people who have left our community will return. “Many in my age group have already come back. It’s fun to hang out with people I went to high school with.”

Emily is pleased with the growth of Pacific Healing Acupuncture. Her ultimate goal is to establish a wellness center which would include a Naturopath, midwife, body workers and anyone devoted to alternative healthcare who is willing to help people regardless of their income.

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Jason Malsom

jasonheadshotAs I approached the massive hull made more ominous by being back-lit by the sun, the sounds of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” echo from the dark recesses of the ship. I got the chills. A young man—Jason Malsom—moved forward, framed by the colossus behind him, and greeted me with a warm smile. Despite his height, sculpted face and a sleeve of tattoos on each arm, he looked much like the round faced five-year old I met 25 years ago when I worked with his mother Michelle.

jasonhullIn January 2017, Jason bought Van Peer Boatworks and changed the name to Noyo Boatworks. He began building a 60- by 28-foot fishing vessel that will fish for black cod and halibut in waters along the west coast and Alaska.

As we walked around the boat’s impressive hull, we were serenaded by a symphony of classic rock mixed with the crackling of blow torches welding steel. I asked Jason how he became the owner of a highly respected 44-year old business.

“I went to work for Chris [Van Peer] in late 2012. I started out as a tacker—someone who fits the pieces of a boat so the welder can follow along and fuse them together. I was a quick learner and Chris trained me to do welding. Towards the end of 2016, he was ready to retire, but had this boat to build for Nick Jardstrom, a commercial fisherman. He asked if I’d build it.”

To me, this seems a tremendous undertaking. Jason shrugged and said in his humble way, “I needed to keep my job so I bought the business.” He smiled.

Jason graduated from Fort Bragg High School in 2005. He stayed in the area and worked a number of jobs—from a laborer for Rantala Heating to building logging roads for Stan Stornetta and part-time tattooing. “Before I went to work for Chris, I’d get up at 5:00, work until 3:00, then tattoo from 4:00 until 8:00. After a few years, I got tired of the long hours. A friend of mine worked for Chris and was planning to move to Ukiah. I always wanted to learn how to weld, so I contacted Chris. He signed me on and I liked the work immediately.” Between the end of 2012 and 2016, Jason helped build three commercial fishing boats.

jasoninteriorI wondered how one builds a boat this enormous. “An architect in Seattle did the design,” Jason said. “After it was approved by the owner, it went to an engineering company in Oregon who cut the steel and sent to us. I’ll build the basic structure, do the plumbing and mount the engine. The wiring and finishing work will be done by someone else.”

Throughout the construction yard, thick pieces of steel are arranged by size. Jason takes the plans, much like a blue print to a house, starts with the keel (which runs the entire length of the bottom of the boat) and moves upwards. Each piece is welded into place.

Side pieces have to be cinched in to fit the curve of the deck. This is done by welding a metal “eye” to the inside of the piece and cranking it inward. I marveled at how hard it must be to bend such a massive amount of steel. Jason laughed. “It really doesn’t take much strength.”

For years, Van Peer Boatworks was located on the north side of Highway 20, under a huge canopy that still marks the spot. Whenever a boat was launched, crowds gathered to watch it painstakingly hauled down the steep slope of South Harbor Drive. In recent years, insurance liability issues caused Chris to move the boatyard to the base of the drive, which provides level ground for boat launches.

When I asked Jason why the canopy remains in the old yard on the highway, he said, “If we move it, we’ll violate the manufacturer’s warranty and we’d have to pay for any repairs. If the manufacturer moves it for us, it’ll cost several thousand dollars.” For now, the canopy stays put.

jasondeck2Although he loves what he’s doing, he feels some frustration over not having the time to take on side jobs. “Fishermen constantly ask if I can help with a boat repair and I hate turning them down. If someone wanted to start a mobile welding business, he could make a good living in this harbor.”

Jason has found a way to establish a career in the town of his birth by working hard and being a dedicated employee. By taking over this iconic business, he’s safeguarding the tradition of large boat building in a community that is anchored in the fishing industry. The sight of the gigantic steel structure being erected is enticing. Jason is amused that nearly every day people stop to watch and take pictures.

He hopes to finish this boat in August 2018, but thinks it’s more likely to be completed in October. “I could use another welder, but can’t find one.” He laments what a number of local employers express—how difficult it is to find people willing to work. “Chris taught me everything I know about welding and boat building. I could do the same for someone else.” He’s grateful to have one experienced welder in Daniel who was hired by Chris in 2015 and another whom he’s training.

jasonyardI asked Jason how he handles the responsibility of this a multi-million dollar project. In his humble way, he said, “It requires patience.” He smiled before adding, “I take it a piece at a time.” He’s grateful that Chris remains available to him whenever he needs advice.

There isn’t another boat project waiting in the wings, but Jason’s not concerned. “There are only a handful of boat works on the West Coast and I’m one of them. I hope to be doing this for some time to come.

“The best thing about building this boat is watching it all come together. I can’t imagine what it’s going to feel like when I see it tied up in the harbor and from there going to the wild waters of Alaska.”

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Jason’s rough sketch of what will become his permanent sign.

Update: I visited Noyo Boatworks about a month ago. Jason sent a photo of what the boat looks like now: jasonfinal

Megan Caron

meganheadshotIf you’re walking east along the 200 block of Redwood Avenue, you’ll notice a difference in the Larry Spring Museum. The storefront, once a bizarre display of things like rocks that resemble food—ham, peas, and yes, even cauliflower—has become more polished, evolving to reflect the unique man who created it.

meganstorePart of this renaissance is due to the opening of the vintage shop Lost Coast Found, housed in the same location and owned by Megan Caron—a homegrown girl who returned after living in Petaluma for 16 years. “When Larry died [in 2009], he left the building to Heather Brown, a well-known Canadian artist,” said Megan. “In exchange for reasonable rent, I help out with the museum.

“I’ve always loved rocks and all things wood and was in awe of this secret little museum full of rocks, wood, creativity and character. I was excited not only about finding a storefront, but also the prospect of helping the world meet Larry Spring. He was a proponent of solar energy back when the technology barely existed. My husband’s career has been in the solar industry.”

megan6When Megan speaks of something she’s passionate about—her store, the museum, kids spending too much time on screens, or the lack of housing on the coast—her hazel eyes blaze. She’s articulate and quick to laugh, flashing a sly look whenever she makes fun of something or herself. As I listen, I understand why Fort Bragg once had a hard time holding onto her intense energy.

On her father’s side, Megan hails from the Caron family. “My grandmother grew up in Finland and immigrated to Canada. Winnipeg was too cold for her. Like many Finns at the time, she ended up in Fort Bragg. In the late fifties, she started the first licensed beauty salon on the coast—Kirsty’s Kut and Kurl. She hoped I’d take over the business. I worked as a receptionist for a while, but I’m not good at making people look beautiful.” She laughed.

By 1993, Megan felt stifled by Fort Bragg and was eager to leave. “Imagine feeling stifled by beautiful redwood forests and the ocean.” She laughs. “I moved to Eureka and enrolled in classes at College of the Redwoods, but didn’t always attend. While working as a route driver for Figureidos, I spent most days driving around and admiring the old architecture.”

She returned briefly to Fort Bragg in 1994. “I worked as a front desk person at Vista Manor. I’d been cleaning rooms there during the summers since I was 14 years old. I had some friends who were moving to Chico and needed a roommate, so I moved and enrolled in Butte Community College. I took classes in interior design because it meant I could tour other people’s homes. I’ve always been interested in how people create their space. I spent a good portion of my childhood rearranging my room. My walls were giant collages of pictures and posters.”

In Chico, she worked as a caregiver. “One of my favorite clients was an elderly Texas Belle. Her bedroom was like a Hollywood set. Everything was red and gold—red velvet walls, gold furniture, gold bedspread, everything. She wanted to get rid of some ‘evidence’ before she died—massive amounts of lingerie she’d acquired over the years. She gave me garbage bags full to take to a thrift store.”

Megan was a kid, intimidated by the contents of the bags and the thought of delivering them. “I drove around for weeks with elderly contraband in the trunk of my car, hoping no one would find it.”

When she finally mustered the courage to enter a store with the donations, she spotted a jacket. “I thought it looked cool and bought it. That started my interest in vintage and collecting. From then on, I stopped going to new clothing stores. I don’t want to support industries that make inferior products overseas. Except for technology and a few other things, I rarely buy anything new.”

By 1997, Megan decided college wasn’t for her, moved back to the coast and the hospitality industry. Through friends, she met Ben Tuke who would eventually become her husband. “He grew up in Mendocino. Like me, he couldn’t wait to ‘get out of Dodge.’”

In 2000, tired of small town living and looking for adventure, 24-year old Megan and Ben tossed everything they owned into the back of Ben’s pickup and headed south. “As we approached Petaluma, Ben asked if I’d ever been there. I only knew it had an outlet mall. My requirement for where we lived was that the downtown have a bakery, record store, and bookstore. Petaluma had it all, including great architecture. We signed a lease on an apartment that day.”

Ben went to work for Sun Power Geothermal, a startup solar company. “We knew solar was the wave of the future. He started as an installer and worked his way up to quality manager.”

Megan got a job in the magazine department of Copperfield’s Books. “Growing up, my grandmother Julia Tidwell and my parents supplied me with books. My dad is a book collector and indulged me at bookstores. When I saw the help wanted ad for Copperfield’s, I ran down there with my non-impressive resume and got the job.” She later found out she was hired because they were impressed by her answer to the question of who are her favorite authors—Richard Brautigan and Tom Robbins.

meganfamilyOver the next 16 years, Megan and Ben settled into life in Petaluma. They bought a house and had two sons—Addison (9) and Arias (5). “As the boys grew older, I became uneasy about raising them in a suburban environment where there’s a disconnect with nature. I drove 15 minutes just to go to the park. I regularly took them to Fort Bragg where they could play in the forest and we could be at the beach within five minutes. They seemed happiest in the wild.

“In Petaluma, everything is neat and tidy. The downtown slowly became gentrified, pushing out the interesting eccentric folk and funky taquerias. It was harder for me to engage with people. How many nail salons and upscale restaurants can you have in one place? I yearned for the funky places where there are things that need to get done. In Fort Bragg, we have blemishes and unconventional people. I wanted to raise our boys here amongst the salt.”

Megan’s years of working in a bookstore gave her a good understanding of the many facets of retail—ordering merchandise, arranging floor space and in-store displays. “All six window displays had to be changed regularly. I was always thinking of themes and digging through basements, dumpsters and estate sales for props.” Copperfield’s customers often asked to buy items in the windows.

“For two years, Ben and I talked about moving back to Fort Bragg. I thought the town needed a vintage shop that sold useful as well as decorative items. After years of my picking and hunting, our garage was full and retail space became a must.”

megan5During that time, Megan looked for a storefront in Fort Bragg. In November 2016, she was walking by the Larry Spring Museum and saw a slip of paper with Heather Brown’s phone number written on it. “I called and within twenty minutes, I had the keys.”

Ben went to work for Nextracker, a solar tracking manufacturer, which enables him to work remotely. They sold their house in the spring of this year and bought a house in Fort Bragg. In June, Megan opened her store.

“I’ve met countless young people, some with young families and existing businesses who want to live here and invest in our community, but they can’t find a place to live. We need people to move here. There’s so much to be done and I feel we’re running out of people to do it. Without a push for housing projects, we will never have a sustainable economy.”

I’m grateful to Megan for returning with her family. She will use the energy that once drove her away to improve our community while preserving its charm.

***

Here’s a little preview of the Larry Spring Museum. Give it a visit. You’ll be glad you did.

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Amberly Reynolds Caccamo

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Reynolds’ Men’s Wear on Franklin Street has been a fixture in this town since Amberly’s grandparents opened it in 1966. Before that, it had been a menswear store for nearly forty years, outfitting the workmen of our community. Her parents James and Ilah bought the store in 1971.

When her father decided to retire in 2007, Amberly, then 28, convinced him to sell her half interest, and let her run it. “It’s the only exclusively men’s store on the coast. In fact, men’s only clothing stores are rare throughout the world.” He tried to dissuade her. “He knew how hard it is to run a business. He wanted me to get a government job with a regular paycheck and pension,” she said with a laugh. “But the store had been in our family for 41 years. I’d worked with him since 2003. It was my love and I wanted to keep it going.”

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The timing of her takeover wasn’t ideal. In 2008, the economic crash began and accelerated in 2009. The Franklin Street renovation project happened in the summer of 2009, virtually closing down the street. “I was able to hang on because my dad owned the building and charged cheap rent.”

I suspect it was more than just cheap rent that allowed Amberly to hang on and thrive. Her quiet, soft-spoken demeanor belies an inner strength that is awe-inspiring.

***

Amberly graduated from Fort Bragg High School in 1997 and went to Sacramento Community College. She thought she might become a teacher. “I also worked at a Christian elementary school as an office lady. It was there I learned that I didn’t want to become a teacher.” She laughed. “It’s a really hard job.”

In 2001, she moved to Mount Tremper, New York. “My sister Karen lived there with her baby daughter. I took care of the baby during the day while she worked. I also worked the overnight shift at a 24-hour K-Mart. That was the coolest job I ever had. Not many people shop in the middle of the night, so I got a chance to visit with my co-workers and make lasting friendships.”

amberly&vinceA year later, she returned to her previous job in Sacramento. “In January 2003, I moved back to Fort Bragg. For a boy,” she added with a laugh. This boy was Vince Caccamo who she’d known from kindergarten, but lost touch with after high school. He’d graduated from UC Berkeley and returned to work in his dad’s construction business. “I was home for a visit in 2002 and ran into him at the Caspar Inn. I remember I was wearing jeans sprinkled with pink glitter.” She smiled at the memory.

amberlyreynoldsinteriorAfter she moved to Fort Bragg, she worked with her dad and found she really liked it. “My favorite time of year is prom when guys get fitted for tuxedos. There are so few chances for them to get dressed up, which makes this time of year so special.” While dating Vince, she took classes at the local College of the Redwoods campus. In 2005, she enrolled in Humboldt State. “I went to school during the week and came home on weekends to work. I finished my BA in Cultural Anthropology in three semesters.”

Amberly and Vince were married in June 2007. They had their first son Matteo in 2009. Two years later, George was born.

Her dad passed away in June 2009. “The building needed a foundation and the store needed freshening up. It hadn’t changed in years.” In November, she leased a building a few doors down, moved the store, and added women’s clothing. “I took out a three-year lease. The plan was to renovate the old building and move back. Instead, I started having babies and that plan was delayed four more years.”

amberlywrensIn February 2015, she decided to take Reynolds’ Men’s Wear back to its roots and spin off the women’s section into its own store across the street—Wren’s (a play on Women’s Reynolds). Then came the shock of her life—a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The new store opened in April. A week later, she discovered she was pregnant.

“I’d always wanted a girl and thought this could be our chance. But I had cancer and didn’t know what that meant for the pregnancy.” Chemotherapy treatments began during her second trimester. When asked how she coped with the rigors of cancer treatment combined with being pregnant, having two small children and running two businesses, she said, “I just got up each day and did the best I could.” It helped that both of her sisters work for her—Karen at Reynolds’ and Michelle at Wren’s.

Admitting she had cancer is not easy for Amberly who describes herself as an introvert and private person. “But it’s part of who I am, part of my story.” Baby Raphael was born on Thanksgiving Day 2016. “Even though we’re not very religious, we gave him a name that means ‘God’s Healer.’”

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Raphael

Eighteen months later, Amberly has recovered from cancer and learned how to live again. “I have a new outlook on work—why I do what I do. I do it for my family—they mean everything to me.”

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Matteo

Amberly notes many changes in Fort Bragg, mostly surrounding the economic shift from logging and fishing to tourism. “We carried the Ben Davis line of work clothes forever, but I recently closed my account with them. My customers no longer need those types of clothes. There are new people moving here with different ideas mixing with the good ol’ boys. As a fifth generation native, I understand and respect the good ol’ boys—those who never left the area. But I think it’s important to go away, gather new information and ideas, and bring them back home.”

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George

As with all change, she notes the good and the bad. “I like seeing downtown stores filling up. I’m part of the Downtown Watch group of business owners who meet once a month to talk about our businesses and promotion. Tourism is great, but hospitality and retail jobs don’t pay much. A lot of our future hinges on what happens to the G-P property. I’d like to see some type of industry that capitalizes on the ocean—like a research facility, aquarium, and marine life rescue center.”

The future is something she thinks about each day. “I plan on running these stores forever and making enough money to support my employees. I’m also working on a blog, the theme of which will be a play on the words Mom and Entrepreneur—Mom-preneur. It will focus on lifestyle or clothing.”

There’s no doubt that whatever challenges Amberly faces, she will conquer them and thrive.

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Gus Saldana

gus2At the age of 27, Gus is like a man from another era. He is extraordinarily polite, respectful, quietly self-confident, and a hard worker. In high school, he entertained the idea of going to college and majoring in marine biology. By his senior year, he realized this wasn’t his passion, and he didn’t want to waste money on an education he might never use. At the age of 18, he went to work for a building contractor. After two months, he was recruited by Williams Electric in Mendocino where he remained for nine years. “I learned to wire anything from a small shed to a smart home that can be controlled with a cell phone.” Through this experience, he discovered his true passion—electricity.

Late last year, his boss Rick Williams encouraged Gus to get his electrical contractor’s license. Rick was scaling back his business and wanted to refer his overflow to someone he could trust. Gus got his license and opened Saldana Power in January 2017.

gus3Gus’s work ethic is inherited from his parents. When he was a year old, they moved to Fort Bragg from Mexico to work in the fish processing industry. “This was in 1990 when fishing was booming,” he said. “My parents made minimum wage, but sometimes worked 40 to 50 hours of overtime a week. For a number of years, we lived in an apartment with another family while my parents saved enough money to buy a house.”

His father also spent weekends painting houses. “When I was in seventh grade, he hired me to help. I earned $400 that summer, and spent half of it on a drum set. My mom was furious with me.”

As I mother, I don’t blame her—a kid banging on drums is not a pleasant sound.

“It wasn’t that,” he laughed. “I played in the garage so it wouldn’t bother her. She was mad because she felt it was a waste of money.” He added with a grin, “I still have that drum set.”

Gus loves the freedom of owning a business. “Each day is different. I engage with clients, find out what they want, and give it to them. Some need a simple electrical repair, others need their entire house wired. I strive to do the best job I can. My reputation is all I have. From 2008, I’ve seen guys move here from cities and start businesses. One painting contractor managed to stay a couple of years before his poor reputation caught up with him and he had to leave. Word of shoddy work gets around in a small town and eventually nobody will hire you.”

Gus doesn’t regret not going to college. He’s managed to make a good living and buy a house. In addition, he’s been exposed to a wide variety of people that he would never otherwise have met.

“I’ve wired multi-million dollar homes. Some of them are peoples’ second or third homes. Over the last couple of years, one couple has invited my wife and me to dinner in San Francisco. Whenever they’re in Fort Bragg, they take us out to dinner. I’m grateful to be able to know these kinds of people.”

gusGus’s wife Sierra works for Harvest Market. They’ve been married five years. “I met her in 2011 when our local Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall needed a major renovation. Three hundred volunteers from throughout the state showed up and over the course of two weekends, we gutted the place and rebuilt it.” Sierra, who lived in Chico at the time, was one of those volunteers.

Gus was immediately attracted to her, but courting her presented a logistical problem—Chico is nearly four hours from Fort Bragg. “Shortly after we finished the Kingdom Hall, a couple of friends asked if I wanted to visit the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico. I called Sierra and asked her to lunch.” They started meeting once a month in Chico. “A couple months later, I told my dad I was going to marry this girl.” Almost exactly a year after meeting her—on September 15, 2012—they were married.

In 2015, they bought a house. Two years after that, he started his business. “I had to quickly learn of the financial aspects about owning a business.” He’s also trying to figure out how to hire employees. He’s considering his 20-year-old brother. “Before I do that, I have to learn how to treat him as an employee, not a sibling.”

Gus laments, “I’m looking for good employees and can’t find them. We’re living in an age where nobody wants to work.” While it may seem that Gus has a pretty sweet deal—owning a successful electrical contracting business at such a young age—he’s paid his dues over the past nine years. “I’ve crawled through mud under many houses. I used to be afraid of spiders, but I’ve had so many on my face that they don’t bother me anymore. I’ve run into skunks and raccoons, even found dead animals.” He was often the one called upon to go out in the middle of the night to fix a problem.

Helping customers design lighting for their homes is Gus’s favorite part of his job. “Lighting can affect someone’s mood. Sometimes an architect will design a house, but the lighting plans are vague. I love when that happens because I can sit down with a client and ask about their habits, what styles they like. When I shop for fixtures, I try to find the best deals.”

Gus notes both negative and positive changes in Fort Bragg over the years. “It used to be safer—more people lock their doors now. It’s also louder—there are more tourists. I don’t drive on Main Street during the summer. I try to shop local as much as possible, but there are fewer shops now.” On the positive side, “There are people moving here who want to build or remodel a home. I have clients who work for large companies that allow them to work remotely. They can live anywhere in the world and choose to live here.”

Gus is grateful to have found a career he enjoys. Given his work ethic and passion for what he does, there is no doubt his business will continue to grow and prosper. He is a true asset to our local community.

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Sarena Breed

sarena8When Sarena unlocked the doors to the Frame Mill Artworks on the morning of March 22, 2017, she excited and nervous. The previous owner Robyn Koski had helped make the transition as smooth as possible, but there was so much Sarena didn’t know, like the flow of the business or the nuances of her employees. Her nerves were further rattled when a supply truck pulled up to make a big delivery.

Up to now, Sarena had shied away from taking risks. For 10 years she worked nights at the Stanford Inn while her husband Sean Barrett worked days at Family Tree Service. This schedule made one of them available to care for their daughter Holiday. A few years ago, Sarena began to yearn for more. “I needed to create a different idea for how to do life, to find a career that feeds my soul. A friend asked what kind of role model I wanted to be for my daughter. I realized I want her to see me as a business owner.”

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Patricia Breed

Sarena channeled the courage of her foremothers to fulfill this vision. Her great-grandmother divorced her husband when such a thing was unthinkable and supported her family by running boardinghouses. Her paternal grandmother emigrated from the Philippines, worked at the post office, lived frugally, and put her money into San Francisco rental properties. Her maternal grandmother was a professional photographer and actress who also invested in real estate. Sarena’s mother Patricia Breed managed to become an artist and poet while raising six children over a span of 42 years.

***

In 1985, Sarena’s family moved to Fort Bragg where she entered her senior year of high school. “It was uncommon for new families to come to the area, and I felt like an outsider. Before me, the newest kid in my class arrived in sixth grade. All the other kids had long established friendships. I couldn’t wait to finish high school and get out of here.” She left for college in 1986, and never dreamed she’d move back.

Sarena majored in studio art with a specialty in metal casting. After graduation, she stayed in Chico and spent 10 years working for a custom picture framing business and making her own art.

In 2002, she met future husband Sean at a party in Chico and reconnected with him a few weeks later. “He had no idea I was from Fort Bragg and out of the blue started talking about hosarena3w much he loved the area. I liked him, but wasn’t interested in a serious relationship. I was considering an MFA program at Mills College. Instead, I moved back to Fort Bragg in 2003 to live with my parents. I needed time to think about what I wanted to do with my life. Within six months, Sean also moved here and was hired by Western ACI as an arborist.”

One thing led to another—they got married and had daughter Holiday in 2006. “We lived in a cabin on my parents’ property. Holiday was able to run back and forth between the two houses. It was a very special time for her.” They eventually moved into their own home, but her parents remain a tremendous help with caring for their daughter.

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sarena4The Frame Mill had been on the market for a few years. Sarena’s background in framing allowed her to imagine buying it. She spoke to friends who own businesses and they assured her becoming a business owner was one of the best things they’d ever done. She looks back on this now and chuckles. “It’s like talking to parents when you’re considering having a child. They tell you how wonderful it is, but leave out the part about sleepless nights.”

In September 2016, she contacted the realtor. Six months later, she was the owner. “I’ve realized it’s not as easy as it looks from the outside. There’s the bookkeeping, ordering, making employee schedules, banking—I’d underestimated how much time all of this takes. I’m working seven days a week and thinking about it all the time, but slowly finding my rhythm.”

SarenaSarena is pleased to discover her business is part of a little neighborhood hub. “People bring in family photos and art projects. It’s fun to help design a way to display them. I’ve been warmly welcomed by the downtown business community.” She plans to evolve the Frame Mill Artworks into a maker’s space. “So few places make what they sell. I want to eventually create affordable art that people can buy to furnish their walls.” In the meantime, she’s learning how to merchandise the store with items that appeal to locals and tourists. “It’s hard because people have a variety of tastes, some very different from mine.”

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sarena10Returning to the town where she once felt like an outsider has been a positive experience for Sarena. “It used to be ‘What family are you from?’ Now many people live here who don’t have roots going back generations. New people are moving in and young ones are moving back, some bringing families with them. The more our town can do to be a place people are attracted to—like the opening of the coastline via the coastal trails—the more it will encourage young people to move here.”

Sarena is grateful to be able to use her creative energy to make a living. “In so many ways, this feels like a gift. Robyn spent decades building a great business that I could buy to fulfill the next logical step in my life.

”I’ve been evaluating what kind of business owner I want to be. The word that continues to come up is kindness. There’s a whole ripple effect to the smallest act of kindness. I strive to be the person who starts that ripple.”

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Aspen & Jeremy Logan

aspen4Aspen Logan did not grow up in Fort Bragg. Neither did her husband Jeremy. But she has roots here that extend back to the 1920s when her maternal great grandparents built a house on Perkins Way. In addition to having traveled the world, the couple has lived in Los Angeles, Scotland, and Canada. Self-proclaimed risk takers, with backgrounds in the video gaming industry, they never imagined one day they would buy Beckman Printing and Black Bear Press in Fort Bragg.

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By 2006, when their son Elliot was born, Aspen and Jeremy had become weary Los Angeles urbanites who did not want their child growing up in day care. Jeremy cobbled together freelance animation work for companies like Sony and Google, which enabled them to move to the family’s ancestral home in Fort Bragg. Life was good.

In 2009, son Julian was born. That same year, Jeremy was offered a job in Dundee, Scotland as an animation director for a video game company. “It was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up,” he said. “We loved living in Scotland. The people are good and friendly. Aspen was able to stay home with the boys. After a year, the company went out of business. With no work, we couldn’t get our visas renewed and had to leave the country.”

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They went to British Columbia, where Aspen had been raised. “My parents met in Berkeley and were part of the ‘back to the land’ movement in the seventies. They bought 120 acres in Clearwater, British Columbia, and lived in a cabin with no electricity or running water. My dad worked for the forest service, so we moved around a bit before settling in Victoria when I was sixteen years old.”

In Victoria, Aspen worked as a producer for a small video game company and Jeremy became a stay-at-home dad. In 2012, she was hired by Leap Frog, an education entertainment and electronics company. Jeremy took on freelance animation and illustration work. Their abilities to work remotely allowed them to choose where they wanted to live. They chose Fort Bragg.

In late 2014, Leap Frog was acquired by another company, which laid Aspen off. It turned out to be a good thing. “By then we’d been in Fort Bragg two years and wanted to stay,” she said. “I didn’t want to return to freelance work. It wasn’t stable and isolated us from being part of the community. We wanted to make a greater connection with the town and decided to buy a local business.”

aspen“Beckman Printing fit our skill set—mine as an animator and illustrator and Aspen’s as a project manager,” Jeremy said. “My mom has been in printing for 30 years. When I walked through Beckman’s doors the first time and smelled the ink, it felt familiar, I felt at home. It appealed to us to run a business that did work for other businesses. It would give us the chance to learn what was going on.”

Even though Jeremy grew up around printing, he and Aspen didn’t know anything about running a print shop, but were confident they could be successful and were willing to take the risk.

Buying Beckman in January 2015 has been a positive experience. “We’ve met a broad section of people and have a greater understanding of the community,” Jeremy said. “For example, our engineering printer is used by architects and builders. It seems there’s a surge in construction projects right now.”

aspenTheir business has grown, especially in the areas of design and branding. To reflect the broad spectrum of all they do—graphic design, web design and printing—they’ve changed the name to The Color Mill.

As a business owner in a small town, Aspen believes there’s a lot of opportunity to have an impact. “When you work for a corporation, your hands are tied. Running our own shop, we can make it what we want. We can be a positive force. Our actions make a difference.”

The Color Mill has recently been certified as a Benefit Corporation. “The goals of a B Corp are sustainability, worker rights and community service,” Jeremy said. “It sets a legal framework for evaluating a business based upon good works instead of only profits.” One example of this is their use of paper stock made from sugar cane. They also recycle nearly everything they use.

In addition to Aspen and Jeremy, the company employs four people. Aspen is active in Soroptimist and Jeremy in Rotary. Jeremy is also on the board the County’s Economic Development Financing Corporation. “We help people find financing for small businesses. It’s an amazing group of effective, smart people doing great things.” Aspen recently joined the KZYX Board.

They strive to create a climate where their success lifts the success of other businesses. They aim to strengthen and build relationships with people throughout and beyond the County. “We want to keep our shop local while creating a large design studio to attract talented designers who are paid a competitive wage. We want to position ourselves as a catalyst for growth in the local economy.”

What began for the Logans as a quest to escape big city life has transformed into a discovery of forging community connections, laying down roots, and using their talents to plan for future growth. “We can make a living and help others at the same time,” Jeremy said.

Like many young business people I’ve interviewed, the couple finds this an exciting time to live and work in Fort Bragg. “People are retiring and selling their businesses, younger people are buying those businesses or starting new ones,” Aspen said. During their relatively short time here, they have developed a deep connection to our town. They will continue to work towards creating more prosperity for the area, while preserving the quirkiness and charm, and increasing the feeling of pride in where we live.

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