Mother Truckers, Natural Selection & The Country Store: “Local food from local people”

“LOCAL FOOD FROM LOCAL PEOPLE, since 1881” is the motto of the iconic Oakville Grocery in Napa Valley, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the oldest continually operating grocery store in California.

The foothills has its own share of country grocery stores with a storied past—most notably Mother Truckers on the San Juan Ridge. In 1975, some enterprising locals began selling peaches from Marysville and apple juice from Paradise out of a pick-up truck, and it morphed into a country grocery store they named “Mother Truckers.”

“We were patronized by the hippie masses and more than the occasional red-neck, with visits by the likes of Governor Brown and celebrities such as Linda Ronstadt, Supertramp and folksinger Rosalie Sorrels, gurus, lunatics and poets such as Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg,” wrote Michael Baronowsky, one of the founders, in a newsletter published by the San Juan Ridge Family Resource Center.

“And so it was. A local store was born where food politics mattered. A casual but important meeting place for all.” (Snyder lives on the Ridge, Brown owned land there in the ’70s and Roger Hodgson of Supertramp was a longtime Nevada City resident).

In the ’70s, Lucy and Bruce Bottrell were among the eager young homesteaders who moved to the Ridge from the Bay Area for a more laid-back lifestyle. They bought a stake in Mother Truckers and became the sole proprietors in 1989. Seven years later the Bottrells opened a sister store—Natural Selection in Grass Valley. Like Mother Truckers, the focus was on local, organic and natural products at affordable prices.

Last fall, the Bottrells, along with their son Eli and his wife Sara, acquired a third store—The Country Store, also on the Ridge. “The Country Store long served as a neighborhood market where locals, as well as campers and visitors to Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park, could gather, as well as pick up a gallon of milk or loaf of bread,” according to the Ridge’s newsletter. “Plagued by fire and the recent death of its owner-operator, the deserted little store sat vacant for several years.”

Thanks to the Bottrells, The Country Store is back in business. Now semi-retired, Bruce and Lucy have placed management in the hands of Eli and Sara. They also lived in the Bay Area but decided they preferred the Nevada County lifestyle. “It was a viable business and I figured we’d reopen it and fill a need on the Ridge,” he says.

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