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In the News - Friday, May 17, 2013




Reimer's Candies expands to Oakhurst


By John Elliott


   When Lynn and Mary Anne Bretz completed the purchase of the landmark Reimer’s Candies in December 2004, it was like buying an undervalued stock option. The gourmet sweet treats outlet was known nearly everywhere on the planet but it was apparent that the Three Rivers store could only sell a small percentage of the chocolate and ice cream that it could produce.
    Enter the vision of the Bretzes, who realized that to reach the full potential of the Three Rivers chocolate factory, a business plan would be required that included some major expansion.
    “I knew when I analyzed the Reimer’s deal, the only way to make this business go would be to add more locations,” Lynn said recently from his Oakhurst office. “We started looking to expand from day one after we completed the purchase.”
    Lynn, who majored in business at Iowa State and has some impressive management credentials in agribusiness, rolled up his sleeves and applied some basic principles to his candy store. In eight years, Lynn and Mary Anne have remade the burgeoning business into what might become the next Fortune 500 success story.

    After fine-tuning the production at the Three Rivers store, Lynn identified the successful ingredients of the Reimer’s Candies’ recipe for success. Everybody loves chocolate and ice cream, but where is another location with lots of visitor traffic similar to the summer season in Three Rivers?
    What first came to mind was Oakhurst, but locating the ideal roadside property would take longer than Lynn planned. A backup plan was needed, and that turned out to be California’s Central Coast. This decision was made in part by Mary Anne’s fondness for the area and the fact that the location is not too far from the couple’s Visalia home.
    In 2008, just in time for the busy Memorial Day weekend, Reimer’s Candies, Gifts and Ice Cream officially went coastal and opened their second store at 324-A Front Street in Avila Beach. From the outset that location has been well received by locals and attracts lots of new customers and repeat patrons who have visited the Three Rivers store.
    “We don’t really have enough space at the Avila Beach store to do everything we want to do there but the location is great,” Lynn said. “Mary Anne spends time over there frequently just to make sure everything is running smoothly.”
    Next on the agenda was an upgrade to production at the Three Rivers store. In 2011, a panning process was added that coated nuts and other goodies and allowed Reimer’s to make more of its own product and to supply retailers like Harris Ranch Inn and Restaurant.
    “The installation of the pan at Three Rivers eliminated the middleman, made us more efficient, and that improved the bottom line,” Lynn said.

    Lynn again turned his attention to the next location in another gateway town to a national park. Now the timing was right for Oakhurst, outside the south entrance to Yosemite National Park.
    With four times the visitors of the Three Rivers-to-Sequoia route, Oakhurst-Yosemite was the obvious choice. Again, Lynn said, the proximity to Visalia and Three Rivers was a factor but those thousands of cars that roll by daily was the clincher.
    Locating the right real estate and dealing with all the paperwork of the Madera County Planning Department was an arduous process, Lynn said.
    “It took more than five years from start to finish but as it turned out the timing couldn’t have been better for our purchase of the Oakhurst property,” Lynn said. “This was the former site of the Madera County Social Services and Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau, so it’s familiar to locals and tourists who came here in the past.”
    Lynn gutted the structure and extensively remodeled the 10,000-square-foot L-shaped building. There is now plenty of space for candy counters, ice cream, gifts, and parking for the throngs of customers who are already stopping at the Oakhurst location.

    The new store opened in March and is located on Highway 41 on the east edge of town next to El Cid, a landmark Mexican restaurant.
     The Oakhurst store will soon feature a demonstration area where visitors can view via a large picture window the chocolates in production. Lynn also has installed a state-of-the-art computer system where he can monitor all three Reimer’s locations in real time.
    And something only Three Rivers residents and its visitors in need can appreciate are the inside restrooms at the Oakhurst shop with such luxuries as flush toilets, running water, and air-conditioning.
    There is also a nicely furnished apartment that has been added to the rear of the building for those times when Lynn finds himself in Oakhurst for an extended workday or two. Lynn admits he’s spending a lot of time these days commuting between Visalia, Three Rivers, and Oakhurst, but for this entrepreneur, it’s all part of the grand business plan.
    Perhaps the best part of the story is that throughout these tough economic times, Reimer’s has been a mini-job creation machine for these tourist towns.
    “We’ve been blessed because we have great staff at each location,” Lynn said. “Without the good people we’ve been able to hire, none of this business expansion or success would be possible.”

Kaweah River’s 2013 peak occurred April 30

   The peak mean inflow of 1,282 cubic feet per second occurred on the Kaweah Rivers at 2 a.m. on Tuesday, April 30.
    For the remainder of the season, or until a major weather event, the mighty Kaweah River will gradually decrease to a trickle. In fact this year’s flows in August, as measured at the Middle Fork gauging station behind the Chevron station, are expected to be some of the lowest flows ever recorded.
    That doesn’t bode well for surface water users, river swimmers, or keeping bacteria counts in check.
    Storage at Lake Kaweah was 95,872 cubic acre feet as of Thursday, May 16, at 7 a.m. Rainfall for the entire season in Three Rivers at the 1,000-foot elevation level is just over 12 inches, or approximately 60 percent of average; snowpack for the season is 30 percent.
  “We’re going to come very close to that projection of 100,000 acre feet by Memorial Day before we start to drop back down,” said Phil Deffenbaugh, Lake Kaweah manager. “The last year that we can find in our records that was similar to this one was 1990.”

Sentencing delayed for 3R woman

Several items recovered in South Fork burglary case

   Judy Dovel, 66, of Three Rivers, who was scheduled to be sentenced in an elder abuse case on Thursday, May 9, now will appear in court on Thursday, May 23, after withdrawing her plea of no contest.
    At the upcoming hearing, the judge will rule on Dovel’s motion asking for a new trial. Dovel, who remains free while awaiting the court appearance, is being represented by Anthony Delano of the Public Defender’s office.
    Dovel was arrested on November 18 and originally charged with assault and elder dependent abuse. The attorney for Dovel negotiated a plea bargain with the District Attorney’s office that reduced those original charges to a single felony: infliction of injury upon the elderly.
    If sentenced on the conviction, Dovel could receive up to four years in jail.
  “Dovel’s attorney must now convince the judge that there are grounds for a new trial or she could be sentenced on the previous conviction on May 23,” said a spokesperson for the Tulare County District Attorney.

    In another local investigation, there has been a break in the burglary case that occurred February 28 on Sequoia Oaks Drive. According to an investigator in the case, the truck and horse trailer were located and recovered in Rosarito Beach, B.C., Mexico.
    An unconfirmed source said the stolen motorcycle was also located in Rosarito. An insurance company investigator was en route to Mexico earlier this week to recover the vehicles.
    At least one Three Rivers resident has been implicated in the burglary and arrests are imminent. The case is currently being investigated by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office.
Anyone with information in the case or any criminal activity should call TCSO at 725-4194 or email: tcso@tipnow.com.

Annual music camp moves into Santa Teresita

   The ribbon will barely be cut on the new Santa Teresita Youth Conference Center when the popular Center Stage Strings music camp will move in for its 2013 season.
    The new facility is located at St. Anthony Retreat in Three Rivers. It consists of dormitory rooms, a cafeteria, a swimming pool, basketball court, hiking trails, and so much more.
    A community open house for the new youth center will be Sunday, June 2. Tours of the facility will be provided during the day-long celebration.
Center Stage Strings, a two-week music camp for young, gifted musicians, founded by   Danielle Belen, will begin its fourth year in Three Rivers next month. The camp formerly relied on host families throughout the community to house the students and a shuttle van to transport them to and from the Community Presbyterian Church, the former camp headquarters. Now the students will be able to share in an authentic “summer camp” experience as they reside, eat, and recreate together, as well as practice and play their instruments.
    Evening performances will still be held at the Presbyterian church, but some of the student concerts will be performed in the St. Anthony chapel. There will be a selection of free performances and those that require paid admission.
    “This year, the camp will remain two weeks long with approximately the same number of students, but the new dorm facilities will allow for us to investigate expansion in both directions in future years,” said Danielle Belen, Center Stage Strings founder and artistic director.
    Prize-winning violinist Nigel Armstrong, 23, will be the camp’s guest artist this year. Originally from Sonoma, Nigel is a graduate of the Colburn School Conservatory of Music (where Danielle Belen is on the faculty) and is currently in the diploma program at the Curtis Institute of Music (Philadelphia). He performs throughout the world as a soloist and chamber musician.
    The 2013 concert schedule for Center Stage Strings is online at www.centerstagestrings.com.

Photo caption: The other Three Rivers School
Van Bailey of Tree Rivers, while living in Mendocino County part-time to work on a highway project, came across this car wash in Fort Bragg on a cold, blustery day, sponsored by Three Rivers Charter School to earn funds for a class trip to, you guessed it, San Francisco. “Maybe TRUS and Three Rivers Charter should become sister schools and visit each other,” Van suggested.

Photo caption: Parade patrol
Tulare County Sheriff Bill Wittman and Mike Marquez, Woodlake chief of police, are chauffeured by Scott Doyle, the new resident deputy of Three Rivers, during the annual Woodlake Rodeo Parade.

Multifaceted instructor leads
fitness classes at Smith’s Gym

by Holly Gallo

   Smith’s Gym in Three Rivers is now offering the Combo Workout Class, held each Tuesday at 6 p.m. and taught by versatile fitness trainer Lilly Hart of Mehrten Valley.
    Lilly said that the class usually has three to seven people in it, mostly women, although men are welcome and encouraged to attend. The classes last for one hour, 15 minutes, to an hour-and-a-half, and no one class is the same.
    “What I’m trying to do is create a fine-tuned body that is able to do whatever it is you want it to do, from running to hiking, weightlifting, yoga, dancing, anything,” she said. “I’ve got over 50 years of experience in all of those fields, and I take a holistic approach to people.”
    Lilly has been a certified yoga, fitness, and dance instructor for over 25 years. Her roots reach all over Kaweah Country, with a lineage split between the Savage family of the Kaweah Colony in 1893 to citrus farmers in Exeter to her father, Alan “Boots” Savage, serving as the mayor of Woodlake.
    While in high school, she started her own dance studio in Exeter at the age of 16. Already performing in C-list musicals, the morning after she graduated from Exeter High, Lilly went straight to Los Angeles to begin her career.
    She landed a gig in Las Vegas, and after getting degrees in dance performance and dance education with a minor in social work from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, she spent 22 years teaching at the university, dancing in shows, running her own Pilates studio, and carrying flags for the National Finals Rodeo.
    “Dancing, training, and horses have always been a part of my life, and Vegas was a great town for that,” Lilly said. “Wherever I go, those are the three things I need, and I make it happen.”
    Having returned to her homeland, Lilly has integrated all of her experiences over the last 50 years into her class at Smith’s Gym.
    “We’re having a fun time here,” Lilly said. “With my classes, I’m right there beside you while you do it. You have to keep up with me. And people don’t want to miss my classes, because this is something they take with them for the rest of their life. Fitness comes in all different sizes. It’s mental, physical, and spiritual fitness.”
    In addition, Lilly is currently leading a variety of fitness and wellness classes at her Spring Hill Ranch studio, including yoga, dance, Pilates, swimming, aqua-cise, ballet, and other fitness regimes.
    She also leads a restoration yoga class at Ruby Slipper Performing Arts Academy in Visalia, and is the creator and instructor for BalletFit, a dance program that requires no prior experience and can improve strength, balance, posture, toning, stamina, and overall fitness.


James Atherton:

Three Rivers postmaster for 25 years
1930 ~ 2013

   James Ralph Atherton, 83, died Wednesday, April 17, 2013, after battling several physical ailments. He was surrounded by those he cherished and loved as he slipped from this world.
    A celebration of life will be held at Salser and Dillard Funeral Chapel, 127 E. Caldwell Ave., Visalia, on Saturday, May 25, at 11 a.m.
    James was born January 16, 1930, in Correna, Okla., to Nancy and Edgar Atherton. He was the seventh of 10 children.
    In the early 1940s, the Atherton clan packed up their Ford and moved to California, eventually settling in Woodlake. It was at Woodlake High School where James met the love of his life, Eunice.
    After graduating in 1950, James and Eunice married the following year. He left his young bride to proudly serve his country in the United States Navy.
    He was stationed in the Philippines for two years and upon returning home took his bride to his new assignment in Bremerton, Wash. The couple was blessed with their first child, Richard, while stationed there.
    In 1954, the family returned to Woodlake where they made their home. In 1958, son Randy was born.
    James worked as a foreman at Wheeling Pacific for 10 years. In 1965, he began work for the United States Postal Service, assigned to the Three Rivers Post Office.
    James loved working there and traveling Highway 198 in his 1968 yellow VW Beetle every day. When the family moved to Visalia in 1986, James continued to make that drive to Three Rivers in his trusty Bug.
    He continued to work at the Three Rivers Post Office until 1990. He also kept that Bug until 2010 when he reluctantly sold it after physical limitations left him unable to drive it.
    James was a huge lover of animals and a great “dad” to Kitty. He and Eunice were travelers extraordinaire, taking several cruises each year while visiting the Central Coast often and the Napa Valley wine country on special occasions.
    The couple was well-known at The Lifestyle Center in Visalia, where they worked out and socialized three to four times a week. They were members of Visalia Methodist Church, where Eunice still attends.
    In the final months of James’s full life, he was living under the care of Quail Park Retirement Village in Visalia with daily visits from Eunice and Richard. He was happy to receive the high quality of care from his caregivers there and didn’t pass up a moment to tease them and make them smile with his stories. When hospice staff added their services, James didn’t hesitate to tease them as well.
    Coming from a musical family, James played piano and guitar with great flair and style. He loved telling stories (whether true or not) about riding horses from Woodlake to Exeter. Coming from such a large family, he had many stories of adventures with his brothers and sisters.
    James was preceded in death by his mother and father and eight of his nine siblings.
    He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Eunice of Visalia; his two sons, Richard and wife Christine and goddaughter Katlynn Bailey of Visalia, and Randy and wife Laura and grandchildren Ashly and Trevor of San Carlos. James has one surviving sister, Patsy vanEttinger of Visalia.
    James was first a son and a brother. He was also a husband, a father, a grandfather, a proud veteran, a lover of animals and music, and a follower of Christ. He had a great sense of humor that he shared with all he met. His presence will be missed by those who loved him and those who cared for him.
    In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in James’s memory to Kaweah Delta Hospice, 900 W. Oak Ave., Visalia, CA 93291; or the James Atherton Memorial Fund at Redwood Veterinary Hospital, 1727 E. Mineral King Ave., Visalia, CA 93292.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
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