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DN’s parade of ideas still rolling

New business ventures pop up

Read the fine print — everyone has a right to pursue happiness.  Everyone also has bills to pay. Starting a small business can bring these imperatives together, or push them scarily far apart.

Every business begins with an idea, explained Amber Wier, an advisor through the Del Norte Small Business Development Center for the last nine years.

“Most people have a dream of doing their own business someday. We’ve all thought, ‘I should do that. I should make that product. I should sell that.’” said Wier.

People bring dreams into her office, she introduces reality.  

Plenty of intrepid Del Norters are reconciling the two, with or without resources like the SBDC, which offers free workshops and advice. Recently the Triplicate took stock of just a few start-ups at every stage of development – from tenuous pre-beginnings to the throes of making it stick; hard-won expansions to a couple of reincarnations.

What do they all have in common? Call it a dream.

Old growth, fresh face

Jesse Pearcey talks readily about most anything, except his work. Even when pressed on the subject, the otherwise ebullient 20-year-old plays down his skills as a craftsman.

“You get the wood. You stare at it for a couple months, then one day you do it,” was how he first summarized the furniture-making process.

But seriously, there are “technicalities,” he explains. Turns out, making an old growth redwood board into a simple bench is a nine-step, 30-hour process for Pearcey. The results are satisfying and sturdy: clean lines expertly dovetailed and sanded, waxed velvety smooth.

He learned to work wood while still a student at Del Norte High School, then apprenticed in Eureka. Now he spends his days in the wood shop in Crescent City, making a collection.

He doesn’t have a business plan to speak of. He’s not nearly as engaged by Internet marketing as he is by a hunk of madrone and a hand saw. For now, one store in Crescent City carries his Backwood Studio furniture: Millsong Mercantile.

Turning a new leaf

9th Street’s Millsong Mercantile is partly a reincarnation of the Bookcomber, formerly on I Street. The new store is right across from Crescent Elk Middle School, still owned by Patti Pearcey, Jesse’s mom and a carpenter in her own right.

The book inventory is scaled back, while the hand-made furniture, pottery by Willie Blakely, guitars and music accessories take up the bulk of the space.  

Last week Patti helped a young customer choose a pick guard, something he’ll use while taking guitar lessons next door at Dale Morgan’s adjoining music studio.

The address might be new, but Morgan has been teaching local players to pick for decades. He’s quick to strum something nuanced and professional sounding; even quicker to wax poetic about the simplest music.

Now he’s looking to start group classes geared towards grown-ups: a time and place to “reach people that can play, that maybe didn’t quite break through and say, learn that one Beatles song, which you know, really is tricky,” he explained.

Coming together

The Fab Four plays themselves for one uninterrupted hour every week on KFUG radio, 270 I St.

The nascent radio and television station has taken shape over the last several months in the Photique’s old space, broadcasting 24 hours a day, online at www.kfugradio.com, or in urban Crescent City on 1570 AM.

Two dozen people contribute to create KFUG’s wildly diverse programming. The home-spun deejay booth is a cluster of production equipment nestled against the storefront glass. When a deejay is on air, listeners anywhere in the world can hear traffic rattling down I Street. KFUG’s owner, Paul Critz, likes it that way.

“I want it to sound open, to sound like part of the town,” he said recently, “I’m not looking to create perfection. I’m looking for something a little more dynamic.”

A few blocks over, another new enterprise hopes to become more than a business. Humboldt Motorsports rolled out a new Del Norte location about a month ago. The shop offers parts and service for “almost any motorbike made,” said owner Roger Kirkpatrick, a lifelong motorsports lover and trained mechanic, who opened his first business in Eureka four years ago.

An initial priority for the Del Norte location was getting a basketball hoop on the premises, an old service station on Highway 101 S at 3rd Street.

“I want to make it a hangout,” Kirkpatrick said, “I’m trying to get everybody in the biking community up here together.”

Up and out

Harvest Natural Foods, 265 L St., will soon move to a much bigger, renovated location, said Eureka-based owner Rick Littlefield. The small, independent grocery has been selling organic and natural foods for 25 years now. The details of the expansion are still under wraps, but not for much longer. The new storefront  right across from Safeway could be ready as soon as October, Littlefield said.

Down the road, another long-standing business just got 280 square feet bigger, more than doubling in physical size. Java Hut customers now have the option of enjoying tasty treats or caffeine fixes inside a light-filled, covered deck, fitted with a new stereo system.

A close call last Saturday almost changed this storyline. Just a day before the grand re-opening of the the coffee place in the Del Norte County Fairgrounds parking lot, a passing car blew a tire and careened off the highway, “just missing” the new addition, leveling an outdoor picnic table and two chairs instead, said owner Adrienne Anthony.

More and more and ...

Like an out-of-control car hurtling towards the Java Hut, the best business plans can be obliterated, or spared, in an instant. People who visit the Small Business Development Center often become discouraged when they learn about the planning (and financing) it takes to start a new business, Amber Wier said.

Many take their idea home and think it over. Some return to start the process, or learn the ropes.

The entrepreneurs mentioned in this article are just the tip of an idea iceberg: a tiny cross-section rather than a comprehensive listing of everyone out there laboring for love, trying to make a little money in the process.

Take Jeff Russell’s new bookstore in a familiar I Street storefront. Or Daniel Hungerford’s spiffed up tattoo parlor that opened on Northcrest Drive last month. What about that thrift store coming soon to 9th Street? And the scores of people who set up (and take down) one-of-a-kind businesses every week at the farmers’ markets. There’s a farm-to-table Italian restaurant coming soon to a harbor near you. It’s all over the place: artists, bakers, growers, gardeners, foragers, crafters, makers and doers quietly proving that hard times or not, the economy of ideas keeps right on booming.

Reach Emily Jo Cureton at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it


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