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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 mom