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

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5 Minutes, 5 Broken Rules

For decades, the Mendocino Coast Parks and Recreation District struggled to raise money to build a community center to replace their 100-year old pool and rec center in Fort Bragg. As time went by, the donations continuously proved inadequate to the rising cost of construction.

About 10 years ago, a local resident had a brilliant idea. A man by the name of Cornelius Vander Starr had grown up in Fort Bragg during the early 1900’s and went on to form an insurance company that grew into AIG.

That’s right—AI-freakin’-G!DSC02709

When Cornelius died in 1968, his estate created a foundation now worth bazillions of dollars. The aforementioned brilliant local, phoned the Starr Foundation and asked if they would be interested in helping fund community center in Cornelius’s hometown.DSC02708

They did. And so did a few others—like local Harry Spath who lived like he didn’t have two nickels to rub together, yet left a million dollars to MCPRD when he died.DSC02711

The CV Starr Community Center opened in 2009. It is so beautiful, so unlike much of the beloved funky construction in Fort Bragg that some residents complain that it’s too nice for our little town.DSC02716

I attended the opening ceremonies with some young friends and, yes, dared to put on my 20-year old sagging swim suit to join them in the pool on opening day. (Fortunately, no photo available.)

A few months later, I bought a new swim suit and took a water aerobics class. Most of the participants were at least 20 years older than me and bitched continuously about the coldness of the water and difficulty of the moves.

Despite the entertainment of listening to prickly, grousing elders and the thrill of feeling comparatively youthful, I determined water aerobics classes were not for me.

One afternoon, I headed for the pool to do my own workout. Little did I know I was about to break a number of rules.

The locker rooms of the aquatic center exit directly in front of the Olympic size lap pool. I was delighted to find it empty—in contrast to the large number of people in the play pool. Only three swimming lanes were designated, which left a huge empty space that looked perfect for the workout I had planned.

I entered the lap pool via the gently sloping stairs and had submerged to my waist when a lifeguard appeared.DSC02706

“Excuse me, you can only be in this pool if you’re going to use the lap lanes.”

I smiled into the face of a teenager who is a lifeguard only because his unreasonable parents insisted he get a job for the summer. “I thought I’d exercise here because it’s so crowded in the other pool.”

“You can’t.” (Broken Rule #1.)

“Ok.”DSC02693

“Did you shower before you got into the pool?”

“Do what?”

“You have to shower over there before you get into the pool.” (Broken Rule #2.)

“Thank you, I’ll do that.”

As I showered, I noticed the “lazy river” was running. I had heard that walking against the current is great exercise. I slipped into the river. Trying to dodge kids who slammed into me added to the adventure. I had traversed about half way when I heard, “Excuse me.”

I looked into the pimply face of another bitter teen. “If you want to be in here, you can’t go against the current.”DSC02696

I smiled. “But I want to get a workout.”

“You can’t do that now.”

“When can I?”

“Noon to 1:00 and 5:30 to 6:30.” (Broken Rule #3.)

I floated to the narrow bridge that separates the river from the play pool. This bridge is partially submerged in water and allows the lifeguards to pace back and forth, prison guard style. I flopped like a harbor seal onto the bridge.

“Excuse me.”

Stomach suspended on the tile, I looked up at the lifeguard.

“You’re not supposed to be on this.” (Broken Rule #4.)

I quickly slipped into the play pool. “Sorry.”

DSC02699I spotted the foam rubber “weights” that I’d used during water aerobics class on the deck area on the far side of the pool.

I swam to the side, climbed the ladder to exit the pool (legally, I presume since no said, “Excuse me”), took  two weights, and jumped back into the water.

“Excuse me.”

“Yes?”

“I don’t think you’re supposed to use those unless you’re taking a class.” (Broken Rule #5.)

By saying, “I don’t think…” instead of the more powerful “You’re not supposed to…” this new lifeguard created a loophole. I explained that I only wanted to use the equipment for 15 minutes and I would put them right back.

I promised.

She hesitated.

“Would you mind asking someone if it’s okay?”

She agreed and left the area.

Two boys—about ten years old—swam towards me. “Where’d you get those?”

I held the weights to my chest. “They’re for adults only.” I had a vested interest in making up my own rule. I didn’t want to jeopardize my ability to use the weights if the child population started raiding the bins.

A male lifeguard replaced the female who had moved to supervise the empty lap pool. I turned my back on her replacement and kept the weights submerged while I completed my workout.

Like shopping at The Purity, swimming at the CV Starr Community Center is a must do. However, unlike The Purity, there are rules of conduct that need to be obeyed. Before you take your first aquatic voyage, I encourage you to review my five broken rules in order to save yourself from teenage lifeguard angst.