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Notes from Glen Ellen: Meet 7 of the good folks from Glen Ellen Market

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It’s about time we got acquainted with the good folks at the Glen Ellen Village Market. We see and greet them every day over the asparagus or in the wine aisle, so just who are these friendly people?

Gary Goodwin

Gary is the happiest check-out clerk the world has ever known. He was raised in the icy northern temperatures of Maine, but came to warmer surroundings 30 years ago, never returning to the rocky shores of the northeast. He transferred to the West Coast on business, fell in love with the expansive possibilities of the West and has lived here ever since.

Living for years in San Francisco, Gary moved up to Glen Ellen from the city when he retired. His current role at the market is “more like a hobby” to him, and, noticeably a social soul, he adores it. Gary’s sunny, cheery greetings can lift you out of the shopping doldrums in a flash. When not uplifting us from his perch behind the check-out counter, he concedes that he loves gardening and landscaping. Oh, and his dogs.

Bianca Blair Ruffin

Bee is a force of nature from behind the check-out stand. With her background in marketing, she has worked at Massage Envy in Sonoma for several years, and also worked promoting North Shore resorts.

From Berkeley originally, Bee is now living on Warm Springs Road. When asked about her interests, she laughs and bursts out with “Fingernails!” and indeed her glowing pink nails are on prominent display. “I take pleasure in being girlie,” she exclaims and, strangely, she loves cleaning the house.

Bee lost her auto in the flames of 2017 and is hoping that in 2020 a good car will come her way. Then, she says, “I can hustle and bustle.”

Joe Pedro

Joe is the 39-year-old full-time manager of the market. Joe is always running, sorting out problems, gently nudging shoplifters, restocking shelves, but always open to banter with locals.

Part Samoan, Joe sports a traditional Samoan tattoo on his arm. A graduate of St. Helena High School in Napa Valley, he is raising his three kids, Keoni, Makai and Kulani, in Napa.

At a loss for words when asked about his outside interests, he finally exclaims, “My chickens! We have seven chickens in our yard that we love.”

Joe’s vision for the market is to engage more local vendors. Local farmers and producers should contact Joe, and he’ll promote your harvest on the market shelves.

Mitch Castleberry

Mitch is the meat-manager guy in the white smock behind the crabs and sirloins. “I’m a 40-year meat guy,” he said last month while taking a break from ordering Christmas hams, salmon and goose.

Mitch has spent most of his life in the Valley, now living in Bennett Valley near the golf course. When not organizing the meat counter, Mitch is a big runner and cycler, loving nothing more than running the wet and muddy trails of Trione-Annadel State Park this time of year. An all-around sports guy, he’s completed triathlons and other endurance races, adores snowboarding, and putters around the golf course, preferring the Oakmont course. But, above all, he loves the trails of Sugarloaf, Trione-Annadel and Sonoma Mountain.

He loves to “nourish” Glen Ellen with his meats, and feels “it’s an honor and pleasure to serve the people of Glen Ellen.”

John Allen Burtner

If you haven’t yet met John Allen in the booze aisle, you’ve got a treat coming. Standing 6 feet 3 inches, his origins are apparent in his accent. After managing a night club in Austin, Texas called the Armadillo World Headquarters, a massive music and drinking establishment, he left Texas in 1986 to attend the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, and did a stint in the kitchen at Ernie’s, until, he says, “I realized that the last thing I wanted to do in the world was to work in a kitchen.”

Ask to see the callouses on the tips of his fingers and he’ll tell you all about his favorite activity – playing music. He owns five guitars and loves blues, alternative country and rock – on occasion writing his own songs. He loves the Starling Bar where they serve the best farm-to-market drinks in Sonoma – “a bar for adults,” he says.

Adds John Allen: “At 66, I’m just proud to be here.”

Cheryl Jenkins

Cheryl is jack-of-all trades at the market. Originally from the Woodland area, she resides now in Santa Rosa, and has been three years at the Glen Ellen Village market in produce, floral and check-out roles.

While school teacher for 13 years in Woodland, a mountain biking accident broke her leg, requiring a dramatic helicopter airlift to safety. The long convalescence from this accident gave her the chance to rethink priorities, and she said bye-bye to teaching.

Cheryl’s claims to fame are her 28-year-old triplets – Annie, Emily and Willy, now scattered in Chico, Woodland and Massachusetts.

Cheryl is very proud that the market stayed open during the recent power outages. “It’s so important for a community,” she feels. She loves the people she works with at the market, and is always smiling and enthusiastic.

Aidan Sutherlin

You can tell from Aidan’s elegant bearing and distinctive voice that she has a background in theater. She spent years acting in the Southern California film business and is now living in Kenwood. Aidan’s 20-year-old son Elija came home from school in Florida for the holidays and Aidan is thrilled.

Aidan’s personal history is oh-so-interesting. Her mother was Semantha Langevin, a Boomer youth from Yorkville, New York, who came west, gypsy-like, in a caravan in the mid-1960s. Somewhere along the way, though she’s not sure in which small town, maybe Rockland, Illinois, the caravan stopped long enough for baby Aidan to be born in a hospital.

Landing in Laurel Canyon, Semantha became besties with Cass Elliot, Martin Sheen and the rock crowd. In this colorful environment of music and theater, young Aidan got an early start. Later, Semantha and daughter Aidan moved to Toronto, where Aidan was raised.

***

Next month, let’s meet Sonya from the grocery, the McCormicks, Pascale and Pascal Merle, the Schermeisters, Cliff Casolla at Marshall’s Body Shop, and several more of the business people who lend charm and strength to our town.

Without exception, all of these Village Market folks identified “the people” and “the community” as what they love most about Glen Ellen. It’s all about the people, people!

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