The Gillett Family

The Gillett Family 

Photo courtesy of Schoenwald Photography
Cressman’s General Store is an iconic landmark in Pine Ridge on the way up the mountain to Shaver Lake, built in 1904. For well over a century, it has provided food, fuel, and supplies to loggers, fishermen, campers, and locals coming up and down the mountain. It is a staple of the mountain community. That’s why we try to welcome everyone with a smile – not only because it’s a friendly greeting, but because it sets the tone for all that Cressman’s represents.  My wife, Tara, and I became the owners of Cressman’s in 2019, but we both grew up just minutes away. In fact, our families go back for generations here in the mountain communities. Tara’s great grandmother owned and operated Mountain Rest, not far from Cressman’s. And my grandparents moved their family to the Pine Ridge area to enjoy water skiing and snow skiing throughout the year.   

Cressman’s General Store is an iconic landmark in Pine Ridge on the way up the mountain to Shaver Lake, built in 1904. For well over a century, it has provided food, fuel, and supplies to loggers, fishermen, campers, and locals coming up and down the mountain. It is a staple of the mountain community. That’s why we try to welcome everyone with a smile – not only because it’s a friendly greeting, but because it sets the tone for all that Cressman’s represents. 

My wife, Tara, and I became the owners of Cressman’s in 2019, but we both grew up just minutes away. In fact, our families go back for generations here in the mountain communities. Tara’s great grandmother owned and operated Mountain Rest, not far from Cressman’s. And my grandparents moved their family to the Pine Ridge area to enjoy water skiing and snow skiing throughout the year. 

We grew up here, fell in love here, established our family here and built connections with people here – and Cressman’s played a role in all of it, helping us maintain our deep roots in this community.

We grew up here, fell in love here, established our family here and built connections with people here – and Cressman’s played a role in all of it, helping us maintain our deep roots in this community. While Tara’s calling has always been taking care of people, which led her to become a nurse practitioner at Valley Children’s Hospital, I have a passion for business. When opportunity to own Cressman’s came about, we knew it was a life changing opportunity and a perfect fit for our family. 

Taking ownership of a place with such historic significance was pretty daunting. But we had plenty of support and guidance from the previous owners, and we were able to introduce some of our own vision to the store as well. We worked with Kuppa Joy Coffee to bring great coffee to the area and were in the process of creating a coffee shop in one of the outbuildings. We also began working towards adding a brewery to the site someday in the future. 

Owning Cressman’s was an opportunity to become part of the fabric of our community. I met amazing people who also love the Central Sierras and it was better than I could have ever imagined. But in September of 2020, it all burned to the ground. Our store. Our home. Our community. 

We are committed to rebuilding Cressman’s General Store as soon as possible. We see it as a beacon of hope in the community, and want to inspire others to stay, rebuild, and create a better the future for the next generation to enjoy.

In the wake of generosity and support following the fire, we spoke with our crew and other local families and realized there would be many who didn’t have the means or ability to rebuild. These conversations galvanized into a group committed to reforest the mountains and rebuild the community. We identified key leaders in the area who supported these efforts, and the Central Sierra Resiliency Fund was born. 

The Fund provides long-term resiliency planning. The engagement of the Central Sierra Historical Society means that these monies can help the community now, but also focus on intermediate and long-term needs. Providing a tax-deductible way of contributing also allows for funding to come from a wider scope outside of the region. 

What can we do right now? We can plant the seeds of hope and resiliency. We can aid in restoring and safeguarding the mountain soil before the rain and snow begin to fall. We can help people navigate through the hardship of starting over. We can learn from the experiences of other fire-exposed communities how to keep people from leaving the area. And we can support the efforts of so many local people making a difference through charitable work. 

In the spring, we will plant trees and begin the process of making new memories in this area we call home. We will continue to set an example of how a community can come together in the face of adversity and succeed in creating something we are all proud to be a part of. 

The historic nature of Cressman’s General Store, Shaver Ranch and The Central Sierra Historical Society are a natural nexus because of their shared values. Together, we hope to inspire, support, and build on a common vision for the future of our region.