Meet the Rainmakers: People who are bolstering our food, wine & art economy

Our small towns are thriving, thanks to some innovative entrepreneurs, chefs, winery owners, arts leaders and dealmakers.

JORDAN FIFE
The ebullient hotelier is helping to revitalize the National Hotel in Nevada City and The Holbrooke in Grass Valley — two of our region’s most historic hotels. “We are excited to be entrusted with the restoration of such an important part of California, and the nation’s history,” says Fife, referring to the newly named National Exchange Hotel. Fife is the son and grandson of former Nevada County residents and met his wife (a former resident as well) in the historic Gold Rush town. His hobbies include riding motorcycles and his 1965 Shelby Cobra. Jordan hopes to reopen the National Exchange Hotel before the holidays.

ZACH STERNER
Zach is the 33-year-old chef and culinary wunderkind at Twelve 28 Kitchen in Penn Valley. He epitomizes the new generation of chefs who are bringing renewed energy and sophistication to our region’s dining scene. Zach is a passion- ate and dedicated chef. He honed his chef skills at restaurants in Sonoma County, and he was the sous chef at Michelin-starred Solbar at Solage, Calistoga, for over six years. Twelve 28 Kitchen gets its name from Zach’s birthday (December 28), his mom Laurie’s idea.

AMBER JO MANUEL
Amber Jo is executive director of The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley and leading its $4.3 million renovation. Completion is set for summer 2019. “The revitalized Center will allow us to deepen our impact on our city and community through the transformative power of the arts,” says Amber Jo. The Nevada City native worked in marketing and development for nonprofit arts groups in New York City and the Bay Area before returning to her hometown. Her interest in the arts began on the stages of Nevada County, where she was an active dancer, actress and director.

SUSIE BAVO
Susie, a longtime local, is a majority owner of Nevada City Winery, nearing its 40th year. She has revitalize the winery, with help from veteran winemaker Mark Foster and dedicated staffers. The winemaking equipment has been upgraded, more premium wines are being introduced, and tasting room hours have been expanded. Susie is a dedicated volunteer and supporter of local nonprofits, such as the Center for Nonprofit Leadership, the Friendship Club and Sierra Harvest.

STEVE AND CINDY GIARDINA
The husband-and-wife team own the Golden Era lounge in Nevada City, a foothills’ destination for craft cocktails. The swank cocktail lounge is located in the old Cirino’s building on Broad Street, built in 1867. Steve and Cindy, who are longtime locals, have restored and refreshed the Gold Rush-era building, with help from their son Eric and daughter Jessica. “We enjoyed some great lounges in larger cities serving craft cocktails and wanted to bring the same experience to our community,” says Steve.

STEVEN AND MELISSA SIIG
Steven and Melissa are owners-operators of Truckee Art Haus & Cinema, part of Truckee’s multimillion-dollar Railyard project. The theater is expected to open in 2019. The Siigs epitomize mountaintown entrepreneurs. Steve has been an independent cinematographer, and he had a longtime dream of owning a cinema. Melissa is a contributor to Moonshine Ink newspaper in Truckee. In 2014, the Siigs opened the Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema in Tahoe City. It is a completely remodeled theater and bar, and it has helped revitalize the town.

ELIZA TUDOR
Eliza is the executive director of the Nevada County Arts Council. Her experience as an arts leader spans the visual, literary and performing arts across three continents — Australia, North America and Europe. Eliza’s past experience includes Senior Development Executive, Arts & Humanities, at the University of Oxford and director of Yuba Sutter Arts, among other jobs. She led the efforts of Grass Valley-Nevada City and Truckee to become California Cultural Districts, a major achievement.

LORE REYNOLDS-HAMILTON AND CRAIG HAMILTON
Longtime locals Lore and her husband Craig are transforming the iconic Nevada County Bank Building in downtown Grass Valley into a stunning-looking retail and office space. “We’re polishing it up and turning it into something cool,” says Craig. The husband-and-wife team have a knack for renovating buildings in our area, including one that features Thirsty Barrel Taphouse & Grille. The renovated bank building includes a French bakery called Cake, whose owner graduated from the Culinary Institute of America.

JON BLINDER AND TYSON TUCKER
Jon and Tyson are the commercial team of Coldwell Banker Grass Roots Realty. Jon has lived in Nevada County since 1988 and was a founding member of The Center for the Arts and the Nevada County Arts Council. Tyson is a Nevada County native who worked in commercial real estate in San Francisco before returning to the area. They have closed some of the most significant commercial real estate deals in our region, including the sale of The Holbrooke in Grass Valley, and the National Hotel and The Stone House in Nevada City to innovative new owners.

JONATHAN ROWE
The San Francisco entrepreneur has restored The Stone House in Nevada City as a destination for farm-to-table dining, craft cocktails, live music, and weddings that showcases our local culinary talent and locally grown food. “This has been a lifelong dream of mine,” says Jonathan. He has been a longtime visitor to Nevada City. Jonathan, known as “J. Rowe” to his friends and co-workers, has lovingly restored The Stone House, turning to local artists and crafts people and hiring talented staffers.

(Photo: National Exchange Hotel)

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