Nevada County natives return home to start new businesses

THE LURE OF THE BIG CITY IS costly to communities in the foothills. The talented young people often move away. “Bring them home” campaigns seek to persuade natives to come home for local careers—no easy task given the lack of jobs, relatively low pay and high cost of living (also known as the foothills’ “pine cone tax.”)

But the challenges are not insurmountable if you work hard, work together and have a supportive family. Our magazine loves a good “bring them home” story, and we point to them whenever we can to provide inspiration to others.

The story of James Arbaugh of Grass Valley and his brother, John, is a case in point.

James and John each went away for their education, married talented young women and came home to raise a family and launch successful small businesses.

Their businesses are expanding, and they encompass weddings and families— a needed engine of economic growth in rural communities.

James and his wife, Nicole, own Stucki Jewelers in downtown Grass Valley, while John and his wife, Emily, run Emily’s Catering & Cakes in Grass Valley’s bustling Colfax Avenue neighborhood. “You often need to create your own job if you’re going to live here,” says James. It’s a statement we hear frequently.

James, who earned a business degree at Chico State, began working at Stucki Jewelers in 1997. He also became a Graduate Gemologist from the prestigious Gemological Institute of America. In 2005, he and his high-school sweetheart Nicole, a Chico State marketing graduate, bought Stucki. Since then, they have started Stucki Engravers & Distinctive Gifts.

John and his wife, Emily, started Emily’s Catering & Cakes in Nevada City in 2007. Emily attended culinary school before traveling and cooking in Europe. John and Emily recently moved their culinary business to Grass Valley to a larger space. For the first time they have a retail store to display their cakes and desserts and serve lunch.

James and John credit their parents, Karen and Troy Arbaugh, for being role models. Karen has a longtime bookkeeping business, and Troy is a retired Nevada County Sheriff. “They showed us how hard work pays off,” says James.

The brothers also point to their own collaboration. “We’ll send brides to my brother’s engraving store for bridesmaid and groomsman gifts,” says John.

(Photo: David Wong)

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