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Community Profile: Auburn’s appeal includes restaurants, retail, recreation

By Tinka Davi

The Claude Chana Statue is a larger-than-life tribute to the man responsible for Auburn’s beginnings. Located on Washington Street, the 45-ton statue stands near a spot where Chana may have once panned for gold. It is decorated for the holiday season.
The Claude Chana Statue is a larger-than-life tribute to the man responsible for Auburn’s beginnings. Located on Washington Street, the 45-ton statue stands near a spot where Chana may have once panned for gold. It is decorated for the holiday season.

Explore Auburn this month and you just might happen upon the Eisley Nursery on Nevada Street. There you’ll see hundreds of poinsettias in colors from classic red to orange to gold to white.

The owners, the Eisley family, moved to Auburn around 1910, said Earlene Eisley-Freeman.

“Grandpa decided to move from Selma, near Fresno. He liked the climate and the location in the foothills. It’s one hour from skiing and two hours from the ocean. We’re in the middle of fun things.”

Many family members work or have worked in the nursery over the years, and they, like other Auburn business owners and long-time residents, have seen Auburn grow.

Jordan and Melinda Minyard just opened Pour Choice, a coffee bar and tap room, in Old Town Auburn. Their idea started when they peered through the windows of the abandoned Auburn Drug Co. and imagined the hustle and bustle of the place which served the community for over 118 years.

“That’s where we got the whole concept for our business and in a minute we decided that this would be a cool business,” Jordan said. “We have a craft coffee bar, beer and wine.”

The Minyards, who live in Old Town, were born and raised in the area, he in Auburn and she in Grass Valley.

Another historic spot is The Park Victorian, an inn in Old Town. Last November, Kelly Cunningham and Sam Hales purchased the inn, which has six suites, remodeled it and plan to add cottages on the 6.5-acre prop erty.

The original owner was Edmund Snowden of England, who built the home in 1867, Hales said. Snowden was a pharmacist and involved in real estate development. He owned a building that housed the Empire Hotel, Opera House, Civic Center and Armory that were destroyed by fire in 1905. The Park Victorian survived.

Hales and his wife moved to Auburn from the Bay Area 13 years ago. Kelly Cunningham, who grew up in Grass Valley, and her husband now live in Auburn.

“Exciting things are happening in Auburn with the demand for overnight stays and with people wanting to relocate to the community,” Hales said.

Mora Rowe, Auburn’s economic development director, said people come for the food, breweries, recreation and more.

“We have some incredible industrial businesses and incredible breweries, which are known world-wide. We have a thriving craft brewery scene here as well as a winery and many new businesses.”

She listed Pour Choice and other breweries: Moonraker Brewing Co., Knee Deep Brewing Co., the Auburn Alehouse and Crooked Lane Brewing Co..

“With a bevy of local farms, farmers markets and farm stands, wineries, craft breweries and top chefs, our charming locale is also a favored destination for food lovers.”

The downtown community has new retail and the boutique shopping experience is great, she said.

Newer businesses include Stella + Park Revival with clothing and housewares; Tucked In, mattresses and bedding; Clementine Coffee Roasters, Milk and Honey Cottage, an Airbnb, and The Park Victorian.

“The city has emerged as a community of strong historic character, cultural enrichment, economic diversity and a destination point for year-round outdoor recreation. Memories of early history are being sustained by way of its museums and the preservation and renovation of its historic architecture,” Rowe said.

“Auburn has gone from a quaint outpost for antiques to a vibrant town bubbling with creative types. A new generation has moved in, and now the antiques stores mix with modern boutiques and award-winning breweries, wineries and restaurants.”

That’s attracting young people and many are investing in the downtown and the airport community. There are several high-tech businesses at the Auburn Municipal Airport and Business Park.

Other people bought historic legacy farms which have been around a long time and are bringing new techniques to Auburn’s farming industry. The community has a year-round farmers market that is one of the oldest in California, Rowe said.

People move to Auburn for jobs, but Rowe thinks many relocate for the quality of life and the recreation.

“The Auburn State Recreation Area offers pristine rivers and lakes for whitewater rafting and kayaking, boating and recreational fishing. The American River Canyon boasts miles of scenic trails, including equestrian and bike trails (6 of California’s top 100 single-track bike trails), running and hiking trails and areas to simply enjoy the beauty and serenity of the great outdoors. Auburn is home to two of the oldest endurance races —The Western States 100 Mile Run and the Tevis Cup, held each year.”

Auburn is known as the endurance capital of the world.

It’s a walkable community and, when young people see the opportunities for nightlife, food and shopping, they want to come downtown. Because of that there’s more downtown development. That’s exciting, she said.

In real estate development, Rowe said there are proposals for walkable and multi-use projects but it’s too early to name them.

Around 137 homes are on the resale market and range in price from $190,000 to $2.5 million.

“From Auburn’s origins as a mining camp in the 1850s, when trains brought adventure seekers from around the world, Auburn continues to provide year-round adventures,” Rowe said.

“From the adventure seeker in search of world-class outdoor recreation to the individual pursuing nature, arts/culture, shopping, fine food, craft beer, wine and spirits, Auburn offers an authentic experience that can’t easily be had elsewhere.”

Tinka Davi is a freelance writer and editor based in Folsom.


Location: 32 miles northeast of Sacramento

Size: 7.5 square miles

Population: 13,804

Government: City Council

Incorporated: 1861 and 1888

County: Placer County seat