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June 30, 2022

Ben Lomond Business Revels in History

According to a historical inventory application, the Hessey House, aka the “pink house” at the southern entrance to Ben Lomond, is the oldest business/residence in the village.

The story of the building, built by Thomas Hessey after he moved to town in the 1890s, tells a fascinating tale about technological change, the fashion industry and women thriving in the business world.

“I felt very welcomed by this building when I first moved in,” said Burgundi Rose Thure, 59, who runs her custom-fabricated soft goods workshop, Sew Rose, out of the Victorian with gables and fish-scale shingles. “The energy has always felt really good to me here.”

The first floor of the building—where Thure has her hammers, pliers, spools and swatches, and JUKI and PFAFF sewing machines arranged—was once a meat market and mercantile. Then in the 1920s, it became a telephone office. The operator was even in charge of ringing Ben Lomond’s first fire siren.

When the community introduced direct dialing, it rendered the older system obsolete. The building morphed into a photography operation, according to the paperwork, which sources its information from “A Field Guide to American Houses” by Virginia and Lee McAlester.

Thure takes particular comfort in the legacy of Fredda Carr and her camera shop. Across from a chair under reconstruction, she points to a yellowed newspaper clip of Carr in the space. Next to it hangs an old advertisement promoting her services.

“Here we are in this historic building, and this woman had this building for all these years,” she said, reflecting on the significance of the location—particularly during Women’s History Month. “It’s already happened here—a woman running her businesses and succeeding. I think she had a pretty good life. It’s nice to be part of a community.”

Thure grew up in Los Angeles, enamored with fashion. She was drawn to San Francisco and started a costume business in the 1980s.

“I’ve always said that I’m a soft sculpture artist,” she said. “I’m just using the medium of cloth and thread.”

Thure began creating garb for Renaissance Faire enthusiasts, then moved to Lompico in the late ’80s.

Working in set construction on the Matthew Broderick film “Out on a Limb,” filmed in Boulder Creek, opened a door to a world of possibility.

“It was a dumb movie, but it got me to make a slipcover for the set designer,” she said. “I went, ‘Wow, this is really cool.’”

Her mind was blown by the way one could transform a sad-looking chair into something much cheerier.

So, instead of diving headlong into the film industry trades, Thure established her business in 1993, and called it Sew Rose.

Thure recalls working out of her home, off Madrone Avenue, while raising her two children.

“It’s been a long, hard row to hoe,” she said. “There were so many times that I went, ‘I’m going to get out.’ I was working hard and not really making any money.”

But she’d do a job for one customer, and then they’d tell a couple of people. And they’d tell two more. Things started picking up around 2017, and she thought it might be time to find a new location.

Her friend and her husband had been living upstairs in the pink house with a tattoo parlor on the main floor.

But the ink artist had recently moved the shop to the Pleasure Point area of Santa Cruz, so Thure jumped at the chance to move her business into the structure she considers “iconic.”

It had been a Pepto-Bismol pink, but they’d updated it slightly for its tattooing incarnation.

“They had kind of painted it a dusty rose,” she remembers. “I said, ‘How ‘bout I rent your front shop.’”

A few years later, Thure purchased the building herself.

People like to share their Fredda Carr stories with her—about how the woman took their wedding pictures, family portraits or yearbook photos.

The location, situated at the corner of Mill Street and Highway 9, has her at the center of Ben Lomond—literally.

“You can’t go anywhere without running into somebody that you’ve done something for,” she said. “I like being in a small town. I came from Los Angeles. You don’t have that same feel.”

Thure says she’s empowered by the other female leaders within a stone’s throw.

She’s referring to people like Beth Zaleski-Robinson, the owner-dog groomer at Where The Fur Flys, Christy Clements of Ben Lomond Market, Susan Archibald of Santa Cruz Mountains Art Center, Lynn Robinson, the executive director of Valley Churches United, Stacie Brownlee, Ben Lomond Fire Protection District’s chief, and Shirli McLaughlin, the owner of the Third Hand Store.

“Every business on this street in this two-block area is either owned or run by women,” she said. “I’ve always felt supported by my community.”

Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]

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