Stoble is part cafe, part coffeehouse, and part shared workspace. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Little by little, Stoble Coffee and Workplace is evolving into the full-fledged coffeehouse, café, and workspace the owners envisioned.
While a Stoble coffee cart has been serving up hot liquid creations since June 2019, it was in March that the doors opened to the brick and mortar location.
That cart has found a home inside, with a sign explaining its significance.
Coffee continues to be an important part of the whole business concept, with the roaster located in a prominent spot near the front door. Details about the beans are on Stoble’s website. Those beans can be bought there or ordered through a subscription.
Breakfast and lunch are available now; pastries, soups, salads and sandwiches are the main items.
The building is an impressive transformation in downtown Chico. It has two main floors, a basement and rooftop. The latter is where views of the city and plaza are most prominent.
The site was last home to Mary’s Gone Crackers, which moved to Reno.
Coffee beans are roasted on site. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
The openness is inviting for those wanting to eat, drink and/or work. Those requiring a more private work environment away from the café have a variety of options. Just this month hourly co-working spaces opened. Conference rooms allow people to teleconference, they come with whiteboards, and seat up to 14 people. More options are coming this summer.
The website says, “What began as an idea to create a single story cafe with a few offices for rent has grown into a much larger endeavor. We now find ourselves with a light filled atrium surrounded by 17 offices, two conference rooms and tables galore. Our freshly renovated sublevel adds an additional space for a large classroom space, printer/coper facilities, phone booths, breakroom lounge and more.”
This creation was the brainchild of Matt and Lauren Theide with business partners Matt and Natalie Johnston.
“It’s turned from a $1 million project into a $5 million project,” Matt Theide told the Chico Enterprise-Record. This was because of easements and the original building’s structure, which had brick walls dating to the 1800s.
Stoble owners had hoped the business would be open every day from 7am-10pm. For now, the café is open five days a week for seven hours each day. Expect this to change.
Stoble has a variety of seating options for guests. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
It’s hard to know how many people have pedaled or walked under the large sprockets that designate the Steve G. Harrison Memorial Bikeway in Chico.
The avid cyclist died in summer 2007 at the age of 56. His body was recovered in the Sacramento River days after he went missing.
Harrison would have turned 70 on June 24.
It’s a testament to Harrison’s impact on the local cycling community that such an impressive memorial was erected in November 2010 to honor him. Both steel sprockets are 15 feet tall. They were created by Jeff Lindsay of Red Hot Metal Inc. at cost of $40,000.
While the city of Chico owns the bike path, the memorial art was a donation to the city by Harrison’s widow, Linda Zorn.
The sprockets at the Steve G. Harrison Memorial Bikeway in Chico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
At each end of the nearly 1-mile paved path is two half sprockets that make an arch; essentially straddling the asphalt.
A sprocket is what the bike chain travels over. Most bikes have a numeral on the sprocket which indicates the number of teeth on the sprocket. The memorial has this designation, too—53 and 42—the number of teeth in the steel.
The trail runs between East 20th Street and Skyway Road. It then leads to Honey Run Road, which is appropriate because cycling through Butte Creek Canyon was one of Harrison’s favorite rides.
Harrison’s obituary said, “Steve was an avid cyclist, regularly joining friends on weekend rides throughout the north valley, foothills, and mountains. He was a strong advocate for cycling in our community and a wonderful friend to his many cycling partners. He also enjoyed several foreign cycling trips with friends and family, most recently to Italy.”
But there was more to Harrison. The obituary also said, “He also loved to hike in Bidwell Park and the Sierra Nevada. He was intensely interested in politics and was committed to progressive causes related to social justice, environmental sustainability, smart growth, economic opportunity, and universal health care.”
At the time of his death, Harrison was a vice president of locally owned Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. He was the brewery’s first employee.
Wine, tote and other bags started out as banners for the Marin County Fair. (Image: Steffen Kuehr)
When Steffen Kuehr looks at discarded fire hoses, he envisions belts, dog leashes and drink coasters.
When he looks at vinyl event banners and all those billboards along highways, he sees totes, wine carriers and messenger bags.
Kuehr, through his Santa Rosa company TekTailor, takes other people’s garbage and repurposes it into functional items. It’s called upcycling—the transformation of waste into a product people want.
Among his most ambitious undertakings was to look at what might be done with thousands of pounds of fire hose from the 2019 Kincade Fire that burned in northern Sonoma County and the 2020 Glass Fire that ravaged parts of Napa and Sonoma counties. Once a hose has been damaged it cannot be used for another fire.
“The fire hose was not easy to work with because it’s thick and hard,” Kuehr, 46, said. “We have to create products around the characteristics of the material. With the fire hose we soak it in a tub with natural cleaning liquid, power wash it, and hang it to dry.”
Each TekTailor product has a tag explaining what the original product was. In this case the drink coasters were once hoses used to fight fires in Northern California. (Image: Steffen Kuehr)
The company had 4,700 pounds of hose from the Glass Fire and another 2,500 from the Kincade Fire. The width and pattern in the hose help determine what it will be in its next life. During the holidays the biggest seller for TekTailor was the coasters made from the fire hose. A set of six costs $20. They are still available; with more than 700 having been sold.
Recology Sonoma Marin was the waste company responsible for disposing of those fire hoses.
“Steffen opened my eyes to all the reuses instead of burying (the hoses). It has awesome markings. He has made it into floor mats, into belts, dog leashes and wallets,” General Manager Fred Stemmler said.
The primary reason Recology wanted to partner with TekTailor was to keep the hose out the landfill. A bonus was not having to pay $560 to get rid of the material.
“Our company’s focus is on zero waste even though we are a garbage company,” Stemmler added. “I wish more people were thinking like (Kuehr) and making goods with resources that we think of as trash today.”
Kuehr doesn’t pay for the material he receives from a company. He makes his money by reselling the new products via the retail store in Santa Rosa and on the company’s website, as well as selling product back to the companies which gave him the reusable goods.
He shies away from putting products in other stores because at some point they cannot be reordered. That’s the nature of a constantly changing supply chain. Is the business financially successful?
“With regards to company revenue, I’d rather leave that information out. Not big enough yet to brag about it unfortunately,” Kuehr said. Plus, he is also into philanthropy, with some of the proceeds from fire hose sales being given to a nonprofit that benefits firefighters.
Steffen Kuehr of TekTailor is alwasy looking for new material to upcycle. (Image: Joseph Kenney)
Kuehr admits what he needs to do is better tell his story and that of the products.
“Every project, every material, every banner has a cool story. That is what gets people’s attention,” he said.
To help tell that story most of the end products come with a tag showing what the original discarded item looked like and the company it came from.
For now, most of what TekTailor works on is from the North Bay. Kuehr would be willing to expand his territory if the business with the goods paid for the shipping. He also needs to know he can do something with the product and then sell it. He doesn’t want a lot of material hanging around either to be made into something or ready to be bought.
He is willing to experiment. Kuehr took a roll of artificial turf from Sonoma Raceway and didn’t ask for more. “It was so dirty there was not much we could do with it.”
TekTailor’s 12 employees have access to more than 60 industrial sewing machines in the 20,000-square-foot Sonoma County warehouse.
“We have a lot of different machines here,” Kuehr explained. “We have machines to set snaps and grommets on products. We have a heat stamping machine so we can do leather labels with embossed logos.”
Kuehr took over the company in 2010 from his in-laws.
Billboards, burlap sacks, vinyl banners, old linens and more are all products the seamstresses and tailors at TekTailor work with.
“Billboards tell part of the marketing story of a company,” Kuehr said. His background is in marketing so his creativity comes from that standpoint, not as someone who sews.
Clover has bought some of the mini-shopping bags made with its billboards as gifts for employees. The general public has access to the product via TekTailor’s website.
Burlap bags once full of coffee beans are now pillows. (Image: Steffen Kuehr)
“His stuff is a much higher quality and has unique design features to it. It is generally in line with what we paid before, but much higher quality and cooler options,” Kristel Corson, chief revenue officer with Clover Sonoma, said. “The larger billboard tote bags are incredible in durability. They are far stronger than the typical Trader Joe’s shopping bag.”
Kuehr approached the Petaluma-based dairy company a couple years ago about repurposing the vinyl material on its billboards; something Clover had not realized was a possibility. The company has eight billboards throughout the Bay Area that are changed out quarterly.
When it is held, those who attend the Marin County Fair are able to buy products made from the banners used at previous fairs.
“The messenger bags are always popular, as are the tote bags, and the wine carriers,” Libby Garrison with the fair said. “During the holiday boutique the single bottle and double bottle wine carriers were really popular. I like the clutch purse. It’s a makeup case with a zipper pocket.”
In three years the fair has kept 258 yards of vinyl fabric from going to a landfill. This is from the pole and street banners used in 2017, 2018 and 2019 fairs.
“The advantage to working with Steffen and TekTailor is he picks up banners, cleans them, and remakes them and sells them through his website. The organization gets a percentage of sales so it’s a win-win all around,” Garrison said.
Weaver’s Coffee & Tea in San Rafael has given TekTailor burlap sacks from around the world that originally had more than 100 pounds of coffee beans in them. Some bags are more colorful than others, and the burlap is not all the same.
Alvarado Street Bakery in Petaluma has provided bags from wheat berries. Bags are 4 square feet in size, as well as 4 feet high when full of product.
At the fine linen rental company La Tavola in Napa decommissioned table clothes and other linens have been upcycled by TekTailor. Once the material is stained it is taken out of circulation and then repurposed by Kuehr’s people. Mostly the linens become tote bags. Some of the tablecloths are sold as fabric in TekTailor’s store. Custom napkins were created for one customer.
“We have made one-off products. A little architecture firm had three little pull out banners that we turned into six or seven tote bags that they bought for their team,” Kuehr said.
Sonoma Raceway has been a partner with TekTailor since May 2016 when it comes to signs at the track. Vinyl banners, which are not biodegradable, are what get repurposed. The best seller from the raceway has been the 50th anniversary banner from 2019.
Steve Page, who retired last year as the raceway’s general manager and president, initiated the relationship with TekTailor.
“It dawned on me we were sending a lot of material to the landfill when we were changing out the corporate banners,” Page said. “We have huge walls that face the track; I would say dozens. Some are more than 100 feet long. They are designed for the TV viewer from a distance.
“It’s an ingenious initiative on Steffen’s part. It’s wonderful for us to know we are not dumping all of this into the landfill and there are cool products on the market.”
Page has as an iPad case and a couple wine carriers from those banners. The track has given out wine carriers filled with wine to drivers, team owners and others.
“Our goal is to work with more big businesses to turn them into more meaningful corporate gifts, to move away from the old random swag. We can turn their banners into unique products that let their story live on,” Kuehr said.
Award-winning Volo chocolate is based in Northern California, but has its roots in Baja. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
A sack of unfamiliar beans sitting in a Baja kitchen was a sweet discovery for Susan and Jeff Mall.
While the couple was well versed in the culinary world, chocolate making was not part of their repertoire when they took over the food and beverage operation at Rancho Pescadero. Today they are winning awards at international competitions for their bars of dark chocolate.
The couple started in 2010 as consultants for the Baja California Sur resort. At the time they owned the highly acclaimed Zin restaurant in Healdsburg in California’s Wine Country. In December 2014, they sold the restaurant and in February 2015 they were working full time just steps from the Pacific Ocean as executive chefs at Rancho Pescadero.
“We inherited the ingredients from the previous chef,” Susan Mall shared. “We had never seen cacao beans and we didn’t know how to make chocolate.”
A little research helped the Malls figure out what to do with the beans—roast, peel, and turn them into something edible. It took a few tries, and a realization the recipes they found online were subpar.
This is when they got creative. Because the Malls had honed the understanding of food profiles through their restaurant work they were able to create unique recipes and heighten the flavors of their chocolate bars.
“We had to learn how to tune our palates,” Susan Mall said of acquiring a refined taste for high-end chocolate. Today, they are close to being equivalent to wine sommeliers by being able to dissect what is in a piece of chocolate. While chocolate and wine is a natural, well-known pairing, the Malls have pairing sheets for their chocolate with cheese.
At Rancho Pescadero cacao beans were roasted in the pizza oven. (Image: Susan Mall)
In Baja it was a bit of a bootleg, MacGyver-type operation as the couple used trial and error to figure out the process and the tools needed to make it happen. The Indian wet stone grinder was not suitable for tortillas so it was put into the chocolate operation. The wood oven was perfect for roasting the beans.
Hotel guests got in on the action by becoming free labor when it came time to peeling the beans. They found it to be an interesting activity one often doesn’t experience on vacation. When the chocolate was done, those same guests got to nibble on what they helped create. Many would buy handfuls of bars to take home with them. Rancho Pescadero profited from all the sales, not the Malls.
The duo didn’t anticipate the Rancho Pescadero gig being permanent or long term; having made a commitment of 18 to 24 months. By the end of July 2016 they were headed north—for personal and professional reasons.
(Rancho Pescadero has been closed since 2018, with a reopening expected in 2022. Then it will come under the Hyatt Unbound Collection umbrella.)
The MexiCali bar starts subtle, before bursting with memorable flavor. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
What the Malls took from Baja was a desire to turn their prowess for chocolate making into a business. Thus, Volo chocolate of Windsor, California, was born. In Latin the word volo means to want or to desire.
It’s an appropriate name because after one bite you will desire another, and another, then a square from a different bar. This is high-end, artisanal chocolate that ranges between 62 percent and 73 percent darkness.
A nod to Mexico goes into each bar, as cinnamon is part of every recipe. Sea salt, often from Baja, is part of the mix as well. When they were in Baja the salt came from Guerrero Negro in Baja Sur.
In Baja, finished chocolate was wrapped in foil whose original purpose was to be a hamburger wrapper.
Family quilts are the inspiration for each wrapper of Volo chocolate. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Bars to this day are still hand wrapped, though automation is coming soon. A person can wrap one bar in a minute, while a machine can do 60 in the same amount of time.
The outer wrappers are a work of art. They are images of quilts with a color scheme of cream, orange and brown that have been created by Jeff Mall’s aunt, Cathy Shanahan.
The beans the Malls first worked with were from Chiapas, the southern-most state on the mainland of Mexico. The problem was the quality fluctuated. Today, Volo’s beans are sourced from Guatemala and Haiti.
“The quality level of the bean is ultra-premium,” Susan Mall said.
While the beans are foreign, other ingredients are more local, such as from Clover Dairy, Petaluma Hill Dairy, Merchant & Miller Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and Wolf Coffee.
Sonoma County businesses in turn support Volo by carrying the bars. It is the “turndown chocolate” at the Montage resort in Healdsburg.
In summer 2019 Volo introduced the MexiCali and Chocolate Orange bars. The MexiCali has chiles and dried cherries, while the other has candied orange peel.
Volo chocolate is gearing up to go to automation for wrapping. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Volo has eight chocolate bars, with No. 9 being talked about. The 73% Deep Dark Chocolate is the No. 1 seller, with the 70% Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Crunch close behind.
In 2019, Volo entered the Academy of Chocolate competition with its MexiCali and Chocolate Orange bars. Both earned bronzes; the former in the Milk Bean-to-Bar Flavored category and the latter in the Bean-to-Bar Flavored Category. There were 1,500 entrants representing 46 countries.
In 2020, Chocolate Mocha earned a bronze and the Dark Milk Chocolate with Sea Salt & Brown Butter a silver in the Milk Bean to Bar Flavored. The 73% Deep Dark Chocolate garnered a gold for Dark Bean to Bar Flavored. It was one of 43 golds in the whole competition.
“I call this chocolate reimagined. It explodes and lingers,” Mall said.
In 2020, Volo produced 37,000 bars of chocolate. Each year the company has grown. It was on target to grow 15 to 20 percent in 2020—then the pandemic hit. Wholesale orders dropped by 70 percent, while online sales took off. A federal loan helped keep the company going.
Some of the equipment at Volo that is required to make award-winning chocolate. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
An advantage to being in Sonoma County is the chocolate can be made year-round. Operations had to come to a halt in Baja in May because it got too hot and humid. Chocolate should not be refrigerated. Ideal storage temperature is between 62 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. In the right climate chocolate never goes bad.
With the growing popularity of Volo, the Malls know the 500-square-foot space where the chocolate is made is not going to be enough. Next door is the office and where inventory is kept. It too will need to be bigger to keep up with demand. They might also need more employees. They only have 2½ others working at Volo.
The back of each wrapper says, “While living & working as married chefs in Mexico we fell in love with traditional Mexican ingredients including cacao/cocoa beans grown in Mexico for 1,000s of years. We incorporated cacao into sweet & savory preparations which led us into the world of making Mexican-style chocolate. Now back home in Sonoma County we are continuing to make chocolate in the same tradition we learned in Mexico.”
While the Malls don’t have a professional reason to return to Baja Sur, the annual writers’ workshop in Todos Santos keeps them in touch with Mexico, where this chocolate craze all got started.
Susan and Jeff Mall continue to expand the line of Volo chocolate. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Even though I lived in Las Vegas while Kirk Kerkorian was still a presence in Las Vegas, I never knew much about him other than what I read in the newspapers. It was through the book The Gambler: How Penniless Dropout Kirk Kerkorian Became the Greatest Deal Maker in Capitalist History (HarperCollins Publishers, 2018) by William C. Rempel that I learned about him as a person, an entrepreneur, a risk taker, and the ultimate businessman.
Kerkorian (1917-2015) helped transform Las Vegas into what it is today. He is credited with developing the concept of the mega-resort. Three times he built the world’s largest hotel in the Southern Nevada desert.
The fascination with gaming started as a player and evolved into owner/developer. He was the ultimate gambler as a businessman.
But before Kerkorian began his gaming empire his first loves were boxing and then aviation. His heroics at the controls of various airplanes is well depicted in the book. It was through his flying pursuits that he was him to Las Vegas.
Kerkorian’s life is the quintessential rags to riches American dream. Rempel deftly tells the story through extensive research. His subject was private and seldom gave interviews. Part of Kerkorian’s life is public through court documents—business and personal.
This story is sure to be one to captivate most readers.
This once-beloved childhood outfit is so inappropriate today. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
How many containers does one need that say memorabilia or keepsakes?
I’m down to two and still whittling away at what goes and what stays. Yes, it would have been more prudent to have done this before I moved it, but that didn’t happen.
I did purge quite a bit when I sold my house in Lake Tahoe three-plus years ago and put everything in storage. Unpacking I realized I regretted the thoroughness of the process. I thought I had kept my Harry Potter books. Nope. They are replaceable. My childhood teddy bear—gone. That made me sad and mad. Bad decision.
A few important headlines in the last 40-plus years that are being kept. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Why would I keep my Brownie uniform and frayed jacket from my swim team—both from elementary school age—and not my panda bears? I had two. I have a thing for pandas, which dates back to living near Washington, D.C., when they were first brought to the United States from China.
Speaking of that era, what I still have is the invitation to the 1973 inauguration of President Richard Nixon. My parents had kept their residency in South Dakota and were able to secure tickets for the six of us. I was in second grade, but still remember parts of it.
President Richard Nixon’s 1973 inaugural invite. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
I also have the newspaper from when he resigned. I have several newspapers and other publications with significant headlines. I have other publications with my byline that I can’t find online. Like when the mayor of South Lake Tahoe was arrested.
I sent an unopened Disney publication to my friend Denise. A San Francisco Examiner sports section went to Karen. I thought they’d both appreciate them more than me.
I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day examining why people keep and toss certain items.
Diaries/journals still need to be read to decide what’s worth keeping. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
My goal is to not move “crap” again or have to have someone go through it when I’m gone. I know if I put it in a bin and toss it on a shelf it will sit there. That’s why they are in an inconvenient place for me in the garage—so I’ll do something about them. And I am, but it’s a slow process.
The Brownie dress and swim jacket are landfill-bound. So is this outfit that I absolutely adored. I think I practically lived in it. My mom made it for me. It was two pieces. Purple was the dominate color. The print, oh, my, so inappropriate today. It was a panda in a rickshaw being pushed by a caricature of a Chinese man. Yes, I loved, loved, loved that outfit.
I have a stack of diaries/journals on my desk. Some I’ve gone through and tossed. A couple from travels I’ll keep. The rest will make for what I expect to be uninteresting reading one day. I’d rather go through them than leave them behind for others to discover. Of course I don’t know what’s in them anymore. I’m sure they would make for good fire starter.
The jacket is history, but the award is still in a box until its fate is decided. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
A few things I don’t know what to do with. Keep or ditch the high school diploma? Keep or ditch some awards that meant something to me in the moment but are nothing I would put on a wall today? And those letters from family, friends and exes … do I read them all to decide what to keep? I haven’t kept every correspondence, but I have a lot.
Then there are all my baby teeth. So gross. I really thought I had ditched them in Tahoe and was disgusted to see I still had them. Trying to wrack my brain why I thought this was a good idea.
Pieces of the Berlin Wall that I actually hammered off—definite keepers.
Boiling Springs Lake, with a temp of more than 100 degrees, is too hot to enter. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
The pale aqua-colored water had the look of being a glacial wonder until the gurgling became pronounced.
This was no icy mountain lake. It was quite the opposite. Appropriately named Boiling Springs Lake, it’s hot to the touch and would be scalding where the bubbling occurs. This isn’t the only location in Lassen Volcanic National Park with geothermal activity.
Lake Almanor, while not inside the national park, can be seen from the trails at Lassen. (Image: Kathryn Reed(
On this last Saturday of May, 30 hikers from the Chico-Oroville Outdoor Adventurers group started from the Warner Valley trailhead on what turned out to be a 7.6-mile trek through this Northern California park.
While we climbed 1,188 feet, it was not in one ascent. (Minimum elevation was 5,683 feet and maximum was 6,337 feet.) It was never too steep to warrant poles in either direction for one with good knees and balance.
Before reaching the lake we crossed a small stream originating from that body of hot water. It was cool, warm at best, to the touch. This was much different than the lake. While the west end of the lake, the cooler side, was OK to touch by hand, it’s hard to imagine wading into it would have been a good idea.
Called Terminal Geyser, it isn’t actually one by definition. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Signs were posted near all the geothermal activity stating to stay on the trail because the ground can give way. In fact, in some locations it was posted that it was illegal to leave the trail because of the potential of severe injury.
According to the park’s website, “A number of steam vents are located under Boiling Springs Lake, keeping the temperature of the lake around 125 degrees. The mudpots on the southeast shore are among the best in the park.”
Snow-capped Mount Lassen is distinct from the east end of the lake.
Pine trees surround the lake; and they were overhead much of the route, providing plenty of shade. Only a few spots were wide-open. But at this elevation and on this day heat was not a factor. The trail is mostly single track, compact dirt. Two splotches of snow decorated the trail we were on; both easy to avoid walking on. Much of the day we were walking along a section of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Mount Lassen in the distance beyond Boiling Springs Lake. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
A few wildflowers were in bloom—but you had to be paying attention to see them. At a couple spots were fields of corn lily, also known as false hellebore and skunk cabbage. The more accurate name is veratrum californicum.
Before the descent to the geyser Lake Almanor was visible from a plateau.
Terminal Geyser is described as a steam vent by the Park Service, with the website saying, “Although not a true geyser, this spurting steam located in the middle of a creek, provides a spectacular show.”