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Celebrating the Woman-Owned Businesses of Sierra County


Part I of a series of articles that highlight female entrepreneurs of the beautiful and historic Sierra County, California, in recognition of Women’s History Month. Different organizations and individuals all across the nation are honoring the generations of trailblazing women and girls who have built our nation, shaped our progress, and strengthened our character as a people--and this includes the trailblazers and leaders of Sierra County. To celebrate the movers and shakers of the local community, the Sierra County Visitors Bureau is featuring participating woman-owned businesses of Sierra County on our website and all social media sites during the month of March.


Golden West Hotel, circa 1905, Sierra County Historical Society

The women of Sierra County have long been part of the economic leadership of the region--pioneers, matriarchs of ranches and dairies, inventors, entrepreneurs, and business owners. If you are interested in learning more about the historical figures who paved the way for entrepreneurial leadership in Sierra County, we recommend the Sierra County Historical Society archives for their bi-annual publication,The Sierran. For instance, the first edition (April 25, 1969) highlights "The History of the Golden West Hotel", written by Edna Westall Gottardi, which includes a fascinating section about how two ladies, Leona Jones and Lucy Wear, were able to take over the Golden West Hotel in 1915, during times of economic hardship in Loyalton as it experienced a declining timber industry. Leona and Lucy were able to turn the Golden West into a thriving, successful business in a matter of 2-3 years. The pair of entrepreneurs made a strong impact on their local community. Once excerpt states:


Mrs. Jones and Miss Wear are remembered fondly by many as Aunt None and Aunt

Lucy. They were honest, upright people, and many are the people of Loyalton who

remember their kindness to all, particularly to people who were down and out. Their

slogan was "Good Meals and Good Beds" and many a salesman stated that he

attempted to organize his trip so he could stay overnight at the Golden West.


Edna Westall Gottardi, the author of this article, is a descendant of the Westall pioneer family that settled in Sierra County in 1858. Leona Jones and Lucy Wear were her aunts. We are honored to celebrate the many women of Sierra County and their contributions to our society, To read more from this edition of The Sierran click here or for the re-published version in 2006 click here.


Each of the participants in the following interviews were asked to respond to a series of questions about their businesses and the culture around the way they conduct business in Sierra County. If you would like to be one of the awesome entrepreneurs featured in the SCVB's "Highlighting Female Entrepreneurs" campaign for Women's History month, please fill out the following form: https://forms.gle/SPMqbfcAgoJGXyh39 or if you would like to recommend someone, email niecea@visitsierracounty.com with your request.

 

Loyalton, CA


The Top Story - Wendy Church-Bergstrom



Wendy Church-Bergstrom (Owner)

Wendy Church-Bergstrom is a 7th generation Sierra Nevadan from the Church Family, founders of Sattley, CA (1860) and the Church ranch and dairy farm. Nowadays, many of the Church descendants have moved away from agriculture as an industry and have spent time building careers as teachers, state workers--and of course, entrepreneurs! Hospitality has always been a calling of Wendy's, who opened her business, The Top Story (Bed & Breakfast), just recently this past year in 2021. "I’ve always wanted to own a bed-and-breakfast, ranch style. When I lost my job due to COVID after 25 years with the same company, and with both of my kids having moved, living their lives as successful young adults, I decided I could take this opportunity and the top floor of my home and make my dreams come true by having a mini bed-and-breakfast."


Wendy prides herself in her business' customer service, highlighting that "communication,

accommodation, and interactions based on mirroring what the customer would like or need for their stay" have added to the charm and aesthetic of her rustic homestay. "As the sole business owner of The Top Story, the culture I have created to succeed is based on serving others and their unique needs as they visit Sierra County". Wendy is motivated not just by the success of her business venture, but in connecting with and learning about her guests (i.e. "loving on people").


In its first year of business, The Top Story benefited greatly from the welcoming community of entrepreneurs in Sierra County, joining the Sierra County Visitors Bureau team and socializing with the East Chamber of Commerce and collaborating with local businesses in Loyalton. "I have a ton of ideas of where I want my business to go in the future and how it will progress and develop over time. I also network with people in the same industry and learn from them, as well as the Internet--a great place to find new ideas for growing businesses."



The Top Story B&B, Loyalton, CA

"The most satisfying moment in business that I have had so far, was actually a bit of an epic fail for me. One day I had five guests coming from the Bay Area during the winter season and the pipes for the unit were frozen solid. My husband and I did everything we could to accommodate the guests: communicating with them in advance, supplying them water and opening up our home downstairs so they could use the restroom freely. I honestly thought they wouldn’t leave me a review, or if they did take the time to write one that it would be fairly negative. However, I was pleasantly surprised that their review was positive and they in fact complimented me on my quick problem-solving and care. The reviews that people leave, their kind words, are fuel for my soul and make all of the most difficult days in managing my Bed & Breakfast completely worth it."


In your opinion, what makes Sierra County a great place to operate a business and/or raise a family?

"Sierra County is unique. We’re surrounded by smaller cities, a farming community which offers varied experiences for kids like 4-H, Boy & Girl Scouts; these programs are different than in the city culture, and our children get to experience both. The beauty that surrounds our county is continuous, every direction you turn point to an area you can hike to a mountain and swim in a lake or a river. The small towns in our county there’s a deep sense of camaraderie and support. Businesses work together with their hours and days of operation to support other businesses. The businesses pool and help each other gather supplies etc. There’s a sense of everyone’s in it together."


What makes Sierra County unique from the rest of California?

"The location! Neighbors to Reno, The Biggest Little City, that offers arts, theater, shopping malls, all the hustle 'n' bustle, then in less than an hour you are back home to the quiet and peaceful Valley. Same for Truckee and Lake Tahoe, great areas to visit with a totally different culture and vibe, and all still just a short drive to Sierra Valley. I really love where we live!"


The Top Story is located at 413 Beckwith St., Loyalton, CA







Erika's Wax - Erika Siqueido McGarr



Erika Siqueido McGarr (Owner)

Erika Siqueido McGarr, owner of Erika's Wax, is another entrepreneur based out of Loyalton, as well as Portola, California with a strong connection to Sierra Valley. A Loyalton High School graduate and mother of two, Erika is an independent entrepreneur and a Lead Consultant for Scentsy in Sierra County and Plumas County.


Scentsy products are all the rage right now, elevating commercial and residential spaces with products like wickless candles and scented fragrance wax for electric candle warmers, as well as scented natural oils and diffusers. With a variety of specialized and high end products--all that can fit within your budget-- its likely that you have seen or heard of this brand before. In fact, that's what got Erika involved in the business in the first place. A lover of the product herself, and motivated by the idea of extra income for travel prospects and to support her daughter living out of state, Erika's Wax was created.



When thinking about generating new ideas for her business, Erika makes it a priority to think about the customer experience and what drew her into the brand and company in the

first place. "[I like that] I can try things first so I can give you an honest opinion." And the success of her business is founded on her mantra: "Be constant and be available!" Erika also remarked, when asked her most satisfying moments in business is "when I have a returning customers!"


In your opinion, what makes Sierra County a great place to operate a business and/or raise a family?

"I was born and raised in Sierra County. You have the support of so many people!"


What makes Sierra County unique from the rest of California?

"It’s small and safe where you have friends looking out for you. You can let you kids walk home without much worry."





 

Downieville, CA


Sierra Hardware - Cindy McCreary


Cindy McCreary (Owner) and her daughter, Randi

Cindy McCreary is the second generation of her family to own and operate Sierra Hardware in Downieville, California. "My parents started the business in 1947" and now Sierra Hardware is celebrating its 75th year this July! "My parents set the bar very high when they established this business. It was a different time then and they filled a necessary niche in our community and were always there to help the community as a whole. Times are different now and my parents have been gone for some time, but I always want to honor their legacy and what they built. That is what motivates me, certainly not monetary aspect since there isn't much of that!"

Cindy was born into the business and into the legacy of Sierra County residency and has been a cornerstone of the community in Downieville for many years, supporting school events and fundraisers and the many non-profits organizations that keep Downieville afloat throughout all its economic and social changes. A graduate from Downieville High, "I left the area after college, but came back to raise our children in this beautiful environment rejoining my parents in the business in 1988. I have continued it as manager since 2000 and owner since 2016."


As the needs of Sierra County and Downeiville have fluctuated over the years, Sierra

Sierra Hardware, Downieville, CA

Hardware has found its success by adapting to change and listening carefully to the needs of locals and visitors that make up its customer base. "I listen to the customers and some of their ideas and suggestions and attempt to follow through on that. I learn something new from my customers every day!" Cindy's three tenants for stellar service and establishing a positive culture in her business are: (1) "Trying to help the customer with their problem or needs via one on one assistance (2) "humor", and (3) "getting advice from outside sources when we don't have the answers." Resourceful, passionate, and resilient, Cindy McCreary and her family have been caring for the residents of Downieville for decades.


"It may sound silly at 63 years old but when customers tell me that my folks would have been proud of me for continuing on with the business so well" is the most satisfying moment in owning Sierra Hardware. "Also when I'm told that most often I have what they need and have helped them out of a bind. The other satisfying moments included having my daughter work with me for about 7 summers and working with my own parents in the early days-a true family business." Some other perks of owning and operating my own business also include "setting my own hours and pace, and of course, being able to bring my dogs to work!" Cindy's pugs are famous among locals and especially the school children.


In your opinion, what makes Sierra County a great place to operate a business and/or raise a family?

"My kids and I had so much freedom growing up here and so many opportunities attending our small but mighty school. Our schools have been excellent for many years and both my kids went on to be professionals. They have wonderful memories growing up here."


What makes Sierra County unique from the rest of California?

"The slower pace, the beauty, the quiet and the kindness of the residents. People tell me all the time that they never knew a place like this existed in California. I think it is important that we don't try to change it but build on what is already here because that is what makes us unique."


Sierra Hardware is located at 305 Main St, Downieville, CA






Butter Me Up Bakery - Autumn Long-McGie


Autumn Long-McGie (Owner)

Butter Me Up Bakery is a dream fulfilled for Autumn Long-McGie, something she has thought about starting ever since she was a child. "Baking and cooking is in my blood. I can remember being in my grandmother’s kitchen watching her make food from scratch. I learned to can and preserve food from my mom and her mom. Feeding others fills my soul." Autumn's mission as an entrepreneur is to provide those around her with food made from scratch and to share the recipes she has developed along the way, often incorporating specialty items or seasonal and organic fruits--such as the Meyers lemons she received from a friend in Southern California that inspired her to create a decadent triple layer lemon cake with lemon butter cream and a layer of homemade lemon curd, topped with candied Meyer lemon slices (one of many gourmet items you can order through her Facebook Business page for special events or even just for Sunday brunch). Autumn's menu is constantly evolving. "I look at a lot of recipes and am always willing to try new things."


When asked how she came up with the name for her business, Autumn replied, "Who

doesn’t love butter? I knew I had to use the word butter in my name!" Butter Me Up Bakery is Downieville, California's only bakery and confectionery. Established in 2022, Autumn operates her business out of her beautiful historical home along HWY 49 (Commercial Street) and through social media and word of mouth has already grown a faithful, and hungry, customer base. "Local people I have known for years have been my best supporters."


Downieville High graduate, daughter of Sandra Villarreal, and mother of three, Autumn is inspired by her love for her children and is motivated as an entrepreneur by watching herself, her family, and her community members grow and thrive, becoming the best versions of themselves.


In your opinion, what makes Sierra County a great place to operate a business and/or raise a family? The vast opportunities of giving back and enriching our community.


What makes Sierra County unique from the rest of California? There is no place like Sierra County. In times of need we pull together and support each other. The sense of community is strong, the ability to rise above adversity and overcome hard times is something that flows through our veins.


Other than ordering online, you can also purchase many of Autumn's treats at Sabrina's at the Forks on the weekends with a gourmet coffee and various breakfast options--308 Main St, Downieville, CA.







Carriage House Inn & Riverside Mountain Lodge - Sonya Ziegler Meline


Sonya Meline (Owner, center) and with her husband, Mike, and son, Greg

Sonya Ziegler Meline (Owner) Sonya Zielger Meline is the owner of two of Downieville's historic hotels along the banks of the picturesque Downie River: the Carriage House Inn and Riverside Mountain Lodge. A Sierra County resident for three years and parent of a recent Downieville High graduate, Sonya and her husband Mike moved to Downieville from San Diego with their son in 2019 to get away from the city and to find a permanent home for their family. "We wanted to live somewhere in the Western part of the United States that offered close access to a beautiful river and hiking, fishing and more. We knew it was important to find somewhere that we could open a business and a business that would be a benefit to the community and to ourselves."


Enamored by the charm of the gold rush era buildings and residents' pride in local history,

Carriage House Inn, Downieville, CA

Sonya updated the facilities of both of her businesses to provide modern convenience and comfort for her guests, but decided to preserve the frontier spirit of the original hotels, especially when it came to the names. "[The Carriage House Inn] has been around for 86 years, and we didn't want to change it!" However, Sonya did feel the need to alter the branding "for the Riverside Mountain Lodge, [previously named Riverside Inn]. We wanted a nod to the past, but we also wanted to make sure that it didn't get confused with all the other inns in town."


Because the Carriage House Inn and the Riverside Mountain Lodge have been such long-standing and important establishments in the Downieville community, Sonya's businesses inherited a loyal customer base of mountain bikers, Clampers, fly fishers, and all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts that she and her team are incredibly grateful for. "They come to us and we do everything we can to keep the bond!"

Riverside Mountain Lodge, Downieville, CA

Sonya strives to cultivate a positive climate for her employees and her guests. When asked how she would describe the culture of her organization she stated that is was: "Friendly and inclusive. We care about each other. We listen to everyone's ideas, and we encourage everyone to share their thoughts and ideas with us. We tend to hire upwardly mobile people, so we work hard to make sure that they are happy, and getting what they want." She is always generating new ideas for her businesses through connection and collaboration with her community members, fellow businesses, employees, and guests and is motivated by one key principal: helping people.

This guiding principal is evident in everything that Sonya commits to in Sierra County, serving on the Downieville School Parent Teacher Association, supporting our firefighters and EMS/EMT services, founding and chairing the Sierra County Visitors Bureau. Sonya says that her most satisfying moments in business "all revolve around helping people and being accepted and being friends with the locals who've lived here their whole lives and newbies, like we are!" Overall, Sonya says that her favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur is "watching people develop and grow & supporting ideas and caring for the future generations."

In your opinion, what makes Sierra County a great place to operate a business and/or raise a family? "This place soaks up every ounce of talent, passion, energy, and heart that you can give. That means you feel needed. There's so much room here to contribute, and so much support for those that do."


What makes Sierra County unique from the rest of California? "We didn't know it before we moved here. We figured it was the pristine natural beauty, and that's a big part of it... But it's also the community. They care about each other. Deeply and fully."

The Carriage House Inn is located at 110 Commercial St, Downieville, CA & the Riverside Mountain Lodge is located at 206 Commercial St, Downieville, CA






 

Sierra City, CA


Remax Gold - Rebecca Mooers



Rebecca Mooers is your friendly neighborhood Remax Gold real-estate agent, parent-helper at Downieville School, and Social Media Chair on the Sierra County Chamber of Commerce! After relocating to the tiny mountain town of Sierra City with her family in search of quality, in-person education opportunities for her daughter two years ago, Rebecca decided to join the welcoming community of entrepreneurs and business owners in Sierra County by opening a Remax Gold office at the Sierra City Mercantile in July of 2021.


Family and community are a priority for Rebecca, who outlined why she joined the real-estate profession in the first place: "I wanted to be able to set my own schedule and be able to participate as much as possible in my children's lives as they grew up. I also knew I wanted a profession that I could be my own boss and work directly with clients." In addition, when asked about what motivates her on a day-to-day basis, Rebecca responded, "My family, meeting new people, building relationships...and giving back to the community!"


And with around 3,000 residents sprawled across variegated landscapes and townships, Sierra County is a tight-knit community rich with history and traditions. Therefore, to be successful in very business in the county, many entrepreneurs take great care to cultivate meaningful connections and deep understanding for the local history and culture. For example, when it comes to building a successful customer base for her business, Rebecca emphasizes the importance of "relationships, customer service and compassion, [those] are my biggest goals!" says Rebecca. "I treat all my clients as if they were friends and give them the best service possible. I try and meet their needs where they are at and based on what they need. Understanding and kindness always...and listen to the communities needs and wants."


What has been your most satisfying moment in business? Handing over keys to first time homebuyers!

In your opinion, what makes Sierra County a great place to operate a business and/or raise a family? The old fashioned way of life. A community that knows and cares for each other. Sierra County offers a slower pace and unique recreational opportunities right out our doorstep!


What makes Sierra County unique from the rest of California? The location is unmatched! Our location and proximity to outdoor recreation and nature is so unique. There are no crowds!


Rebecca Mooer's Remax Gold Office in Sierra County is located at 221 Main Street Sierra City, CA 96125






Thank you to all the participants in our interviews!

If you would like to be one of the awesome entrepreneurs featured in the SCVB's "Highlighting Female Entrepreneurs" campaign for Women's History month, please fill out the following form: https://forms.gle/SPMqbfcAgoJGXyh39 or if you would like to recommend someone, email niecea@visitsierracounty.com with your request.

 

ABOUT VISIT SIERRA COUNTY


Visit Sierra County (known as the Sierra County Visitors Bureau) coordinates and partners

with the various organizations of Sierra County, California to promote the county’s meetings, events, and travel destinations. Their marketing efforts are focused on driving additional funding to our community to directly benefit local residents' quality of life. Visit Sierra County believes in putting residents first, and continually strives to grow resident pride and enhance the image of Sierra County and its communities: Alleghany, Calpine, Downieville, Goodyear’s Bar, Loyalton, Sattley, Sierra City, Sierraville, and many other vibrant and historical townships.


Visit Sierra County is applying for a 501(c) 3 non-profit charitable organization for economic and community development funded by various grassroots initiatives.


Check out Sierra County's upcoming events here!


Comments, questions, idea? Reach out to our marketing and events director at Niecea@VisitSierraCounty.com


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