top of page

Part II: Celebrating Woman-Owned Businesses of Sierra County

Part II 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.

In the last edition of the Sierra County Visitors Bureau’s Celebrating the Woman-Owned Businesses of Sierra County (published March 16th, 2022), we featured a figure from the Sierra County Historical Society archives, The Sierran (April 25, 1969): "The History of the Golden West Hotel", written by Edna Westall Gottardi. While perusing the rich analogues of The Sierran for our current publication, we decided to feature the fearless, Mary Pemberthy of Forest City, CA. Remembered by her daughter, Edith Permberthy McKenzie, who moved with her mother and father to Forest City in 1883 when she was only about 4 years old—we get a glimpse of what life was like on the frontier of California during the 19th century, as well as how dangerous gold mining as an industry was to many families who never acquired their fortune as they toiled day in and day out in remote regions of the state.

Forest City Dance Hall Museum - courtesy of Backcountry Explorers

Mary Pemberthy was born in 1857 in Wisconsin to a farming family, and after marrying her husband in 1876, Isaac Pemberty, at the age of 19—she found herself moving West with her young children—living in Eureka, Nevada during the 1880 census and then to Forest City in 1883—she, herself, was only 26 years old. Not long after moving to Forest City (now named, Forest as of 1895) Isaac was killed in a cave-in, leaving Mary as a young widow of three children. Yet despite this tragedy, Mary Pemberthy was able to secure a living for herself and her family:

Mrs. Pemberthy then opened a dressmaking shop, which later became a general

merchandising store. It was located between the tire house (likely where the bell stands

today) and the brewery. Behind the store was the jail. Mrs. McKenzie’s mother was a

truly remarkable woman—hewn in the pioneer tradition—for besides running a

business and raising her own children, she also raised the children of her daughter,

Effie Bradbury. Mrs. Bradbury had died of shock three days after she [witnessed] her

husband's nephew [being] crushed to death in a Forest Quartz mill.

“Forest City Revisited” (p.2), The Sierran (September 1969) by Moreland L. Stevens

Forest is largely abandoned today, touting 3 or so year-round residents, but is open to visitors for a self-guided tour starting at the Forest Dance Hall. Road access is mostly dirt,

Forest City Brewery - courtesy of the California State Library

from HWY 49 into Goodyear’s Bar. If you visit in late summer and early fall, also known as apple season, you might catch a glimpse of the grazing cattle meandering through the fog with their Swedish bells dangling and clanging between the quaint historic homes and across the dewy meadows.

We are honored to celebrate the many women of Sierra County and their contributions to our society, like Mary Pemberthy. To read more from this edition of The Sierran 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: or if you would like to recommend someone, email with your request.



Michele Milazzo - Massage Dream

Michele Milazzo - Owner of Massage Dream

Michele Milazzo of Loyalton, CA is living the dream—the Massage Dream!—owning and operating her own therapeutic massage business in Sierra County for almost ten years. Michele moved to the area in the mid-2000’s and has been a staple of Sierra Valley’s health and wellness services ever since, operating out of the tranquil spa facilities at the Campbell Hot Springs (Sierraville, CA) and expanding into services in Loyalton and Portola (Plumas County). Michele has strong ties to the community, with her son graduating as a Loyalton High School alumnus in 2011, Go Grizzlies!, and through coordinating events like the Community Garden Party for families and residents with live music, face painting, and all kinds of fun! It is apparent that Michele is passionate about serving others and passionate about her career. In fact, it was her care for others and their wellbeing that drove her into the massage profession in the first place—and into the tight-knit community in Sierra County.

“My best girlfriend, also named Michelle, talked us both into becoming massage therapists.

We worked in a medical office in Sacramento together [as medical coding specialists] and wanted to do something bigger and better to help our community,” says Michelle, “I wanted to get out from behind the desk and do something more hands-on to help others.” Therapeutic massage was just the right fit. Michele offers a wide variety of services through Massage Dream: adaptable yoga practices (yoga for all), injury rehabilitation, spa services, massage therapy and hot stone treatment. When asked how Michele came up with the name of her business, she stated that “[Massage Dream] was my dream and I wanted to share it with others. I find giving a massage and teaching yoga to be extremely rewarding. I love it all- the music, the smell of the essential oils, the conversations and seeing people smile. I love being creative in general. I enjoy creating specials, gift baskets; jewelry, promotional flyers and gift certificates.”

And Michele’s customers have taken notice! Relying on word-of-mouth advertising and community support to market her business, Michele has found that her number one secret for success is always “putting my heart into what I do.”

“The amazing love and gratefulness of my clients. [And] seeing people come out of pain and stress and feel better!” are what motivates Michele every day as owner of Massage Dream. Her networking and relationship are a top priority. Massage Dream is built on: Trust. “There is vulnerability in opening yourself up to massage and I appreciate that clients trust me to take care of them,” says Michele.

However, as every entrepreneur knows, running a business is not always a breeze! There are many challenges to operating your own organization that often deter business owners from reaching their fullest potential. But for Michele, “overcoming....obstacles, failures, setbacks, COVID and every challenge related to it, always learning and growing and pressing forward” are some of her most satisfying moments in business.

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

a family?

The warm caring connection people have in Sierra County makes it the most wonderful place to have a business and call home. It also doesn't hurt that it is absolutely beautiful and peaceful here.

What makes Sierra County unique from the rest of California?

The warmth of the people and the way we look out for each other here. There is a peaceful vibe here, a slower more intentional pace of doing things; being present for yourself and others. The natural beauty of the Sierra Valley is inspiring!

Janet McHenry - Looking Up!

Janet McHenry - Owner of LookingUp!

Author, speaker, life coach, and former Loyalton High School educator, Janet McHenry started her Looking Up! business in 1986. After 26 years of teaching English, journalism, and creative writing, Janet retired in 2016 to pursue her other businesses full time.

In addition to classroom instruction, Janet also served as academic advisor at LHS and as secretary of The Sierra Schools Foundation (a local educational non-profit), a position she left recently after nearly ten years.

“I have always wanted my life to matter--to make a difference to others,” said Janet. “While attending a women's retreat near Lake Tahoe in 1986, I sensed a calling to write. Within that first year I attended three weeklong writers' conferences and began writing magazine articles and then books a few years later.” Post-retirement, she now works full time as a writer, inspirational speaker, writing conference teacher, writing retreat host, life coach, and online course creator.

“Looking Up! has a double meaning,” she said. “I encourage others to stay positive and

hopeful, but I also write and speak a lot about prayer, so there's the aspect that we can look to God for his help as well.”

“Simply put, my faith motivates me. I follow the calling on my life not for the purpose of making a name for myself and certainly not for money but instead to fulfill God's purpose for me.”

And as a testament to her divine calling, Janet has found no shortage of inspiration. “Ideas simply come to me,” she shared. “I sent my agent yet another possible book idea yesterday. The underlying inspiration comes from two sources: reading the Bible on a daily basis and staying tuned in to my audience and its needs.

“I have an avatar reader--not only an image but also a profile that stays in my head. I watch social media and the news to stay in tune with current thought. And I constantly think: What is needed that's not out there already? I am currently under contract for two more book projects birthed from that sort of thinking.”