If you have pedaled through Davis and down that wind tunnel known as Putah Creek Road, then your reward will likely be a stop at Steady Eddy's in Winters. Say hello to new owners Jamell and Carla Wroten.
The Wrotens acquired Steady Eddy’s in December, and they say sales continue to grow. People often ask the couple where their traffic comes from, and their answer surprises many who view this rural coffeehouse as too remote for a bike ride.
“We get a lot of bicyclists, a lot of bicyclists,” Mel Wroten said. “They’ve made this one of their pit stops, and we’re really grateful for that.”
Both of the Wrotens have plenty of experience in the restaurant industry. Mel Wroten, who runs the day-to-day operations of Steady Eddy’s, was a bar manager for many years at Mary’s Pizza Shack in Dixon. He also was a certified trainer at Chevy’s in Dixon. Carla Wroten worked at Starbucks and an independent coffeehouse. They were thinking of buying a house back in July 2012, when they learned that the owner of Steady Eddy’s would entertain an offer.
They jumped on it, getting a loan from First Northern Bank and a guarantee from California Capital.
“Being in a small town, we are still figuring out how to make the finances work,” Carla Wroten said. “Should we have everything delivered, or should we have Mel go shopping? We’ve realized that in order for us to be really profitable on a consistent basis, he has to go shopping.”
He’s resistant to rust
The indefatigable Pete Rogers will start his campaign against coffee rust by planting 1 million disease-resistant coffee trees this year on 600 farms in Mexico. The inadequacy of this first salvo is not lost on him.
Rogers is the executive who travels the globe on behalf of Lincoln’s Rogers Family Coffee Co., finding subsistence coffee farmers and buying the green beans that the company roasts and sells under brand names such as San Francisco Bay, Fairwinds, Organic Coffee Co. and Jerusalem Kosher. Rogers’ job isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. He frequently sleeps rough on foreign soil and eats plenty of meals most Americans wouldn’t consider touching.
His work has paid off, however, for Rogers and for subsistence farmers. In Mexico, for instance, he and the company’s agronomy team have coached thousands of farmers on how to increase their yield of coffee beans by as much as 10 times. Coffee rust, however, laid waste to every gain that Rogers made. The disease gets its name from the powdery, orange-red pustules that first form on the underside of tree leaves. Eventually, all the leaves fall off, and the denuded tree dies within a few years.
The trees must be replaced with more resistant varieties, Rogers said, but small farmers don’t have the money to do it. Rogers approached foundations around the world to try to raise $7.7 million to seed 20 million trees. He got zero response. The board of the family’s Rogers Charitable Fund agreed to divert roughly $500,000 they would have spent to build schools, clinics or housing projects to plant 1 million trees.
“When we build a school, when we build a clinic or when we do housing projects or bathrooms,” Rogers said, “you can see the structure, you can feel the structure, you can knock your hands on the concrete, you can see the tile work, you can see the kids in the classroom, you can get up, touch the books and feel them. When we do agronomy work – research, development, trees – it takes three to five years to get a crop back. It’s non-glamorous. It’s tough for people to get excited about that.”
Because it takes so long to see production, Rogers predicts that wives and children will leave the farms to go and beg in the nearest Mexican cities. He is encouraging farmers to plant other crops – chia, quinoa, tomatoes and the like – to diversify, but it will take a while before those crops pay off. Rogers buys coffee from roughly 9,000 farmers in Mexico, and there are thousands of others in Panama and other Latin American countries also feeling the devastating impact of coffee rust.
She’s got new purpose
Nevada City artist Corisa Cobden gives old car jacks and other cast-offs new life as light fixtures at Green Light, 257 Colfax Ave. in Grass Valley, and she sells work from other artists who create upcycled items from discarded objects.
“I did a lot of art in junkyards, took a lot of photographs and made a lot of large-scale paintings,” Cobden said. “I’ve been in junkyards a lot. ... Then I became a homeowner, and that art turned into making functional pieces.”
Roughly 80 percent of Cobden’s suppliers are other local artists who repurpose old objects into new uses. One local furniture maker, Monica Hughes, turned wood from an old water tank into a coffee table. Kathleen Woolsey makes book shelves out of old books, and she takes old entertainment centers and turns them into kid-sized kitchen play sets.
The 40-year-old Cobden opened her business last summer, but a fire forced its closure for two months. She worked a year in the art history program at Christie’s in London. In addition to English, she speaks Japanese and Spanish.