GV’s Dorado Chocolates expands in Reno

Here’s a small-town scooplet: Dorado Chocolates of downtown Grass Valley has just opened a store in Reno.

How’s that for an economic bright spot? Expanding your business in a deepening recession.

It’s a credit to the fine chocolates, which are delicious. Billionaire Warren Buffet also is a chocolate fan: He own See’s Candies.

We like their dark chocolates. The Valentine’s ones are on sale for half off. I just snagged a box — same designer chocolates at half price. Just toss the heart-shaped box.

Also, did you know that dark chocolate is a “super food“?

It just goes to show you that in a recession, a world-class product sells. Reminds me of the ongoing success of New Moon in Nevada City.

New business opening in Pine Creek mall

Here’s an economic bright spot: A new spa and salon will open in Pine Creek Shopping Center next to Jamba Juice, according to my sources.

It fills a 3,300 square foot space being leased by Terranomics.

A salon and day spa is a good business for our demographics — and leases are dirt cheap.

For instance, the Bon Bon salon in Grass Valley is doing well despite the downturn. My wife enjoyed her gift certificate at Christmas and was back to finish off the remaining amount.

I ran into a Bon Bon masseuse at the swim club this week, and she confirmed that business was still robust.

Perhaps we can market our area as the “day spa capital” of the Sierra Foothills.

Speaking of Pine Creek, pork spareribs are on sale for $1.99 a pound at Raley’s. The butcher will cut them “St. Louis-style” too — without the fatty tips and flap meat. My son loves them, so we’ll smoke ’em up in the rain this weekend.

Aanesdad and Logue: still “pounding sand”

Golly jeepers: Our local boys, Aanestad and Logue, voted against the state budget and reiterated their “no new taxes” call.

Meanwhile, the rest of us would like to get on with analyzing the impact of the budget on our schools, child-development and mental health care programs.

Schools revised budgets are due March 15. See the impact on social services below. I hope Rick Haffey’s Friday memo will shed some more light on the issue.

Shows how out of touch our elected boys are — and our districts, really, for electing them. The train left the station on taxes long ago. I’m disappointed, too, but that debate is “yesterday’s lettuce.”

Let’s move on and focus on playing the cards we’ve been dealt with a “solution based” mindset. Same goes for Tom McClintock in Congress.

Here’s the original post on “pounding sand.”


Here’s what county executive officer Rick Haffey states in his Friday memo about the budget:

“We are still analyzing all the potential impacts of the budget. That being said, our main concern continues to be deferral of state payments for human services though it appears the deferrals will be 90 days, not 6 to 7 months; we can weather that. On the law enforcement front, Rural Sheriff’s grants and others appear to be funded. We are also awating the specifics of the governor’s blue pencil vetoes.”

Vote May 19 whether to whack social services

Rural counties such as ours will get socked in the new state budget, but voters will decide the fate of some programs on May 19.

The cuts target child-development programs and mental health services, among others — all dollars we depend on.

An example is First 5, a program to ensure health, safety and family security for children 5 and under. It is funded with tobacco tax money from Prop. 10. Counties receive funds to administer the program.

“The (budget) to dissolve the California First Five Commission and cut funds by half to umbrella county commissions will wipe out the First 5 program in Plumas County,” as Plumas Online reports.

“Rural counties rely on that money to provide health insurance for children and to fund multi-year services for at- risk families.”

Our First 5 program will suffer cutbacks as well.

Mental health programs also will get hit, because the budget seeks to redirect dollars from Prop. 63, the Mental Health Services Act.

The budget will “exacerbate the cash crunch counties are already experiencing in the current economic downturn by forcing them to direct sharply declining MHSA dollars into Medi-Cal services,” according to the California Mental Health Directors Association.

Again, we are more vulnerable because of our demographics — flat population growth and a population that keeps growing older.

I wonder whether a measure for a half-cent sales tax for Dorsey Drive will make the May 17 ballot too. I think it stands a better chance of passing in an election without the budget on the ballot, but the timing to jump on the Obama infrastructure bandwagon might be too good to pass up.


Here’s a good rundown of the state ballot measures we’ll be voting on related to budget cuts:


Hear that sucking sound? It’s North Auburn

The Home Depot in North Auburn has a “soft” opening tonight, with a full-fledged opening tomorrow, in the fastest-growing business corridor along SR 49.

The chain store, the latest sign of an economic boomlet in North Auburn, will create 160 jobs. It also will put our area’s local merchants (including Hills Flat and B&C) to the test.

That’s just the beginning of the test, too, because a Trader Joe’s is coming next.

About 40 cents of each dollar goes “down the hill,” so our area will be challenged. 

The car dealers also are there now. The ex-Grass Valley Ford dealership is open in a much bigger lot, though I notice more used cars than new ones. A brand spanking new dealership — Magnussen’s new Dodge, Chrysler Jeep outlet — is down the street, too.

A good barbeque joint, called Oakfire Grill, also is open and booming.

We ate there the other night, coming back from San Francisco. Its owners are a longtime Auburn couple who raised their children here. Oakfire’s owners get the Web too: check out their site, complete with sound.

There’s a new Mexican market, too, with authentic ingredients for gourmet cooking that aren’t found here. Oh, and of course, BevMo and Best Buy. For a lot of locals, North Auburn is becoming a “one stop shop.”

All this adds up to needed tax dollars but for Placer, not us. We’re still standing around scratching our behinds, wondering whether growth is a good idea.

I hope The Union’s ad staff can tap these new North Auburn merchants, doubling down on sales. It makes sense because our residents are shopping there. Still, that could upset some of our local merchants. That’s the downside of running a paper in an economic cul de sac.

Here’s a thought: What if the Auburn Journal and The Union were to merge? Keep separate editorial identities but tap both ad markets.

That’s the long-term solution to me — milk the 49 business corridor of both counties, not one or the other. There’s an upside for both papers and their customers. Businesses are forced to think “out of the box” in a deep recession and should. Cost cutting is “C+” management, as a Chevron CEO once told me.

Re-creating Nevada City, post Dos Banditos et al.

“We will miss you! Thank you for your support. Eric Engstrom and the Dos Banditos staff.”

So there’s your confirmation from the owner that Dos Banditos has closed; not rumor or gossip. All you need to do is go there and see the sign on the door — not a big effort.

Add that to the list of vacant spaces throughout town, including Stonehouse across the street. (Isn’t there a sign ordinance against such huge “for lease” signs?)

So what does Nevada City do: Hold its “same old” annual Mardi Gras celebration this weekend — a good excuse to fill the bars during the lull in the tourist season. Trouble is, without Dos Banditos and Stonehouse, there are a lot fewer bars to drink at.

Now’s the time to recreate Nevada City: Instead of catering to tourists, cater more to year-round locals.

Let’s hope the California Organics deal at the foot of Broad Street gets sealed, a story I first reported at The Union.

Let’s also hope the deal to open a year-round Farmer’s Market and fresh fish market on Spring St. across from Taylor-Drake furniture gets completed, as I blogged earlier.

I like the Beach Hut Deli sandwich shop (despite being a “franchise”) at the foot of Broad. Good soup, too.

As for the other vacant space downtown, a clay and art studio for children would be cool. It would draw families to the downtown and is a hit in quaint towns such as San Anselmo in Marin.

Also we need some more unique retail shops, not the same “trinket” stores people see in all the California tourist towns. I could name a few with “made in China” stuff.

Instead, what about an old-fashioned toy store or an exotic stationary store? Or what about a dance studio, bakery or cooking school?

In addition, “food and wine” would be a better draw to me than intoxicated people going to a Mardi Gras. (I heard a lot of  chamber talk about eliminating this, but I guess it was just that — talk).

Stonehouse would be a great destination restaurant (think Yountville)  if you could get a first-class restaurateur interested. Or turn it into a place you could rent and sell bikes, kayaks, skis and other outdoors equipment, with a cool cafe too (think Tahoe).

The chamber and its leaders should be making a bigger effort to “get out of the box” and re-create the town. It’s time to think big when it comes to town’s future, not just rehash the same old annual shindigs.

Otherwise, to coin a Western phrase, “It’s all hat and no cattle.”

Has cost cutting in newsrooms gone too far?

Has the cost cutting in newsrooms, including our local papers, gone too far?

Here’s an example of a lead news item this week from the Sierra Sun, The Union’s sister paper in Truckee. It came from “President’s Day weekend: A great success,” a premise that comments in the article didn’t support:

A sentence in the article reads like this: And though Dale reportedly served 160 dinners, and had to turn away another 50 people because of how crowded it was. The air of a troubled economy still lingered in the restaurant, he said.

Huh? As we used to shout in the newsrooms, “Rewrite!” But it was published like that.

In this morning’s The Union I read a front page article about a Grass Valley business leasing additional space at 333 Crown Point Circle. It was labeled “economic bright spot.”

But wait, I read the same news item in a column by the editor/publisher that ran a week ago Tuesday:  The company that manufactures precision potentiometers . . .  just signed a lease for approximately 2,300 square feet at 333 Crown Point Circle.

Isn’t that backwards? Shouldn’t the news go on the front page first, then in a column? This is a news judgment issue.

In both this article and the one in the Sierra Sun, I also worry about presenting an overly bullish view of the news. Some would call it “boosterism.”

In the outskirts of Grass Valley, for example, businesses such as Open Solar and Benchmark are cutting back, as I’ve written in my blog. In Tahoe, calling President’s Day a “great success” was an overstatement. You need to present a balanced view of the news to maintain credibility.

In this morning’s The Union, I also read a headline in sports that puzzled me. It said an NU football player (whom I know) was going to New York to play for Army.

But the headline read, “Go West, young man.” Huh? New York is east of here, not west. (If West was shorthand for West Point, I’ve not heard of that reference — as a lifelong college football fan and friend of West point graduates).

I also noticed this blog in The Union, “story gets the wrong picture on the Web site.” Yikes. The paper isn’t staffed much on Saturday anymore.

As an editor, I used to agonize about avoiding these kinds of mistakes and passed this concern onto the staff. (I also updated the Web site on Saturday from home). Most of the time, egregious errors were fixed before getting into print.

But at The Union, the publisher is now the editor too. How can you do both jobs? At the Sierra Sun, the paper is being cut back to three days a week from five. Both staffs are smaller than ever.

Both papers are owned by Reno-based Swift Communications, which has quietly cut jobs, reduced frequencies of some papers and closed some weeklies throughout its chain. Here’s some background. Most of the papers operate in monopoly markets.

It’s clear to me that the newsrooms are taxed from the cost cutting, at the expense of readers and subscribers. The focus now is on advertising and growing sales. It should be on both.

Otherwise, newspapers risk being caught in the “big oven.”

Let’s hope the economy rebounds soon.

Not enough jobs, except for docs!

The county’s unemployment rate is the highest in more than a decade — but doctors and other health-care workers are in higher demand than ever.

I previously reported on the latest wrinkle to the problem: the medical personnel shortage at the new Chapa De medical facility in Grass Valley.

Now Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital is posting openings for two doctors as well, including one with an exclamation mark!

“Family physician needed!” reads the Feb. 12 ad for Sierra Nevada Medical Group in Grass Valley.

Another ad lists “Cardiologist needed.” It adds, “This is an opportunity to develop a cardiology practice with a growing multi-specialty clinic.”

Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital had hired a physican recruiter to bring docs here some years ago with much fanfare, but they quietly eliminated the position earlier this year and have no plans to rehire.

The current physician recruiter listed for the jobs is down in Sacramento, with the CHW Medical Foundation. SNMH is affiliated with CHW.

Kind of a sad state we’re in: A flat population that’s one of the oldest in the state and getting older, without enough jobs, except the ones who can care for our aging population. And we can’t fill them. Yikes.

We need some leadership and a lot more visibility on the issue to crack this nut.

With nest eggs cracked, retirees look for work

Though not reported, I’ve been hearing many examples of retirees around here who are being forced to find jobs, because their nest eggs have cracked in the deepening recession.

Here’s one from last week: A well-off couple in their late 60s who live in a well-known gated community lost half their investments, so they had to hit the job market.

It wasn’t planned that way when they left the busy city to come up here for some R&R.

This is a double whammy to our economy, because we’re dependent on retirees and their disposable income. We don’t have many jobs to begin with, either.

This weekend, The Wall Street Journal write an article titled “There goes retirement.”

Nearly 5 percent of workers age 55 and older were unemployed in December, a 58 percent jump from a year earlier and the highest percentage since 1983, The Journal reported.

“Working in retirement” isn’t news, but “Today, though, with retirement savings in shambles and the economy in turmoil, job searches have taken on a new sense of urgency — and, in some cases, desperation,” the Journal said.

Jobs include golf course maintenance, movie extras and sales clerks.

It’s happening here, too.