The Man from Freshwater Farms

I met Rick Storre on two occasions. The first was when I visited Freshwater Farms to find a native-plant solution for my planter boxes that always looked like hell, stuffed with geraniums that never seemed to thrive. I entered the building and eventually a friendly man showed up. From the way he settled into his seat, I could tell this was going to be a long chat. It was. It was the kind of chat that takes place when one oldtime Humboldter encounters another.

We reviewed his parents and grandparents, and mine, and gossiped for an hour or so. It felt like being in Ireland, where purchases are never hurried. He suggested a certain type of huckleberry for my planters and I left with six of them.  Three died immediately  and I called him for advice. I went back to FF and he replaced them cheerily. Eventually I managed to kill all of them and went back to geraniums.

I must have passed by FF a thousand times since then, secure in the knowledge that there was a friendly and intelligent person within. Today I feel very empty inside. The house where the bodies were found is a few blocks from me and I feel violated. I lost an acqaintance. I can only imagine how his friends and family feel.

And I feel that I’m losing my town. I don’t recognize a Eureka where St Bernard’s Church is considered in a “bad neighborhood” or where people are murdered a short walk from my home. The people who are running for County or City offices had better have some ideas for change. Mental illness is perhaps the toughest issue facing our society and balancing the rights of the mentally ill with the rights of people like me who are supposedly sane is a conundrum for which all the answers are expensive. Necessary, but expensive.

All I know is that I feel empty. “And the sky is crying.”

Exceed Three Minutes? Go To Jail, or how to get through the GPU

I’ve been watching or attending the General Plan Update (GPU) meetings for what seems like a century and I’ve noticed that our citizens are pretty darn obedient when the bell tells them their time is up. Well, it ain’t that way everywhere, folks.

The other day in Saginaw, Michigan, where you can buy houses for $50K, they were having a township board meeting. (Actually a woman from Chicago bought a house there on Craig’s List for $5, paid $1K in back taxes and there you go- a house and lot for $1005. Not a livable house, but still…) A gentleman by the name of Mark Adams had several grievances he wished to discuss and three minutes just wasn’t long enough. Mr Adams had a friend taking video and here it is.

Mr Adams, who I suspect has had a number of issues with Township governance, complained as he was being removed that it was his birthday, was nonetheless arraigned later on on a felony charge of resisting and obstructing a police officer and misdemeanor disturbing the peace. Seems a little harsh but then he hasn’t had his day in court yet. Bet that’ll be fun.

So let us be grateful that our citizens are reasonably cooperative with authority. If we have to use stronger measures  like a gong, or a hook like the old Amateur Hour, or perhaps replace that abstract sculpture with a giant egg timer, we have options.  But give a guy a break on his birthday, don’t you think?


“Plan for the Best, Prepare for the Worst”- Lessons from Loleta

The apparent closure of the Loleta Bakery raises questions that a lot of us may not have thought about since we took our first business classes. Whether we were schooled at Stanford or by the SBDC, the one principle that applies to all businesses is that you need to have a successorship plan. It doesn’t have to be a long document but it should make clear what happens  if one of the partners or family members becomes incapacitated or has to leave the business. It’s a standard part of any business plan. and no lender will release funds without one.  One or even two illnesses shouldn’t shut down a business.

The chaos and confusion around the bakery’s closing leads me to conclude that there WAS no business plan.  Since it’s impossible to get financing without a business plan I have to conclude further that the owners were wealthy enough to open the business without third-party financing, and without a plan. Now 20 people are out of work and facing an uncertain future.

Loleta is not the only town to be invaded by outlanders with more money than sense. When they start businesses that thrive, it’s called investment. When they screw up, they cause a lot of grief to a lot of people. Here’s wishing the very best for the employees and the people of Loleta .

The other local closure, Big Louie’s in Eureka, has been free of the drama seen in Loleta. Harold Lawrence has been an exemplary corporate citizen, supportive of community causes and youth sports. I wish him the best, and really hope the franchise will reopen. Meanwhile, when you open your business, think ahead to the time when you may be incapacitated or worse. Your family and your employees deserve better than to be left drifting.  A lot better.


Ripping Off A Farmers’ Market? Jail Is Too Good For This Guy

Like most of us, I don’t like crooks. Especially crooks who rip off the deserving. Rip off Larry Ellison? I don’t like it but I’m not going to lose sleep over it. But ripping off a farmers’ market? How low can you get? Really.

Well, it took an elected official to demonstrate how low. A Glendale city councilman is headed to jail for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the local farmers’ market over a number of years. Thank God they caught him but this is one of those cases that makes you start wondering if our justice system hasn’t overly restricted itself.  In the words of Gilbert and Sullivan-actually Gilbert-

“My object all sublime I shall achieve in time: to make the punishment fit the crime..”

I don’t know what punishment would fit this crime (a diet of rotten vegetables? ) but your submssions are welcome. We read about scumbags all the time but I know folks who sell at our farmers’ markets and I know how hard they work. Sorry for bending your ear, but this one really got to me.


February Economic Index-Good News, Bad News

Dr. Erick Escher and his talented crew at HSU have published the Humboldt Economic Index for February and the indicators are certainly mixed, although that’s not unusual in a small market like ours. Homes sales declined by 40% since last month (and are 35% lower than last year at this time) yet the median price of homes sold rose from $247K to $280K. This would apparently mean that higher-end homes are moving faster. Also, look for gas prices to rise further in March.  Anyway, enjoy the Index. It’s always fascinating.

Let’s send a shout out also to the sponsors of the Index: the California  State Employees Credit Union,  Coast Central Credit Union, Umpqua Bank, RREDC and Redwood Capital Bank.


The Billionaire Next Door-Red Emmerson on the Forbes List

Well, not literally next door but only a couple of counties over, Archie “Red”  Emmerson of Redding was recently reported by as back on their list. His Sierra Pacific Industries, based in Anderson,  owns 1.9 million acres or forest in Northern California  and Western Washington  and his current wealth is estimated at $3.1 billion.  At that level it’s hard to keep track of rankings but Forbes placed him at #520 of the 1,645 billionaires on this year’s list of the world’s richest people.

The Emmerson’s have strong ties to Eureka.  Emmerson’s late wife, Ida, was a Eureka native and legend has it that they met at the Ingomar Club. He has donated $500K in her memory  to Hospice of Humboldt to build a 12-bed facility for end-of-life care, to be located off Timber Falls Court, south of Harris Street. The entire cost of the facility is unclear to me but Hospice’s capital campaign goal is $2.5M and groundbreaking is scheduled for “Spring 2014”, whenever that is.  I just drove by the site and it is definitely beautiful and peaceful.

The Emmersons (he has two adult sons)  have a pretty spiffy place (click on the thumbnail photo to enlarge) but I don’t have the address and I wouldn’t give it to you if I did. I’m always grateful for any philanthropy in our needy community.  Who knows? I may be a customer for that hospice myself, one day. The family has a foundation and I’m sure they give to many worthy causes but if you were trying to figure  out what percentage of Mr. Emmerson’s wealth is being given to Hospice, on the back of an envelope,  I already did it for you. My calculator won’t accept the right number of zeroes but the way I figure it,  $550K equals .0000001 of $3.1B, or .00001%.  Please feel free to correct my math- it’s not my strong point.

Obviously, our favorite billionaires are those who, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, are leaving their fortunes to worthy causes.  Despite the talk about income inequality, the ranks of the super-rich are growing. Forbes counted 1,645 billionaires on its new list of the world’s richest people, up from 1,426 on last year’s list. This concentration of wealth can do a lot of good, or a lot of evil. What do you think?


Dunkin’ Donuts Wants You

In its relentless march toward world domination, Dunkin Donuts has announced the franchises are available in Eureka, Crescent City and 40 other locales in NoCal.  Follow this link  for more info,  and good luck!



I went into The Works yesterday to get the new Pharrell CD and to see if they could order me an old Fred Neil album that I must have lent to someone and found that they’re not taking new orders! Darren (who works with Bandon , the owner who bought the business from Larry Glass) said that business has been so bad lately that The Works is definitely in jeopardy. The move to “C” Street gave them a bigger space for performances and readings but they lost a lot of the foot traffic they had over on “F” Street.

You know the story.  A dollar you spend at Target or another chain or ITunes or Amazon leaves the county; a dollar you spend in a local business is recirculated locally. Plus I don’t know another place in Eureka that will take special orders;  if anything happens to The Works, where will I go when I want to replace my CD of Donald Fagan’s New York Rock and Soul Review (Mike McDonald, Phoebe Snow, Boz Scaggs etc) that is wearing out I’ve played it so much? Or some wonderful old vinyl records? Clearly this is a quality of life issue, and anyone who is familiar with (for example) Amazon and their practices knows that’s not the answer. No, the answer is to support our local businesses much as we support our local farmers. So whenever there’s a break in the rain, go down and do some shopping at The Works, 210 “C” Street in Old Town or order over their phone which is 442-8121. 

I’ll see you down there. Oh, and they’ll have the Pharrell CD next week.