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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Cash Flow

In the summer of 2008, after numerous citizen complaints, the Fort Bragg city council passed an ordinance against panhandling. I was relieved.

PanhandlingFlyerIn lieu of giving strangers money, I prefer to donate to organizations that help the homeless and those in need. But as the town’s panhandling situation escalated, I felt pressured. It got to the point where I couldn’t go grocery shopping or walk downtown without being asked for spare change. When I finally mustered the nerve to deny one guy, he told me to “Have a nice day, bitch!” Well there he went, ruining it for everybody. With few exceptions, spare change has stayed in my wallet from that moment on.

Some years ago, I drove around Spokane, Washington, with our son Harrison collecting what he needed to move into a dorm at Gonzaga University. On our one hundredth trip to the Valley Mall, I pulled onto the freeway off ramp and stopped at a light. A short, stout woman with hair the consistency of a bird’s nest stood in the dry weeds next to the street holding a sign that stated, “I need money to get out of here.” Perhaps it was her extreme twitchiness that prompted me to roll down my window and ask, “Where are you going?”

“Idaho.”

She was only twelve miles from the Washington-Idaho border. Her chances of success were quite high.

“And then I’m going to the state after that and then the state after that and the state after that….”

I reached into my wallet and pulled out the first bill I touched. It was a five.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you.” She shouted as she took the money.

The light turned green and I proceeded to the mall.

“You know she’s going to buy drugs with that money, don’t you?” Harrison said.

“I suppose.” I didn’t tell him I had experienced times in my life when I wanted to make a run for the border and keep going to the state after that and the state after that.

mycarThis past spring, about a month before a van tried to run me over in The Purity parking lot, I found a dollar on the sidewalk. I put it in a cup holder in my car. I would give it to the first street person who asked for money, preferably someone encountered in the parking lot at The Purity.

I was surprised how long it took to pass along that dollar. Seven months after finding it, I was downtown on Laurel, walking along the north side of the street. As I approached Pippi’s Longstockings, a young man and woman crossed the street from the alley.

Both were tall and lean, the kind of lean that borders on emaciated. Despite the warm weather, they wore sweatshirts, the hoods pulled over their heads and down to their eyebrows. His was gray, hers a faded red. There was a dark desperation about them, the kind of look I get when I’m denied my mid-morning sugar fix. I gave them a nod of acknowledgement, a smile of understanding. I’ve been caught without cookies in the house when I dearly need them.

As if I’d tossed a lasso and pulled her in, the woman approached. “Do you have a dollar?” she asked.

I do.” It’s difficult to describe the joy that came over me. Someone had finally answered my call and I was able to relinquish the responsibility of being a good steward of found cash.

The original Purity dollar was in my car, but I had a substitute in my wallet. I pulled it out and handed it to her along with a big smile. She snatched it from my hand. “Thank God,” she said, with a deep sigh of relief. It was the same relief I feel when, hopeless, I remember a stash of mini-muffins in the freezer.

Her man friend had continued north through the alley. She quickened her stride to catch up.

Perhaps she’d use that dollar to feed her addiction. Maybe it would help her buy some food. Possibly it would help get her to the next state, and the state after that, and the state after that.