Meet the Faces of Sonoma County Tourism
More than 19,000 people work in the tourism industry in Sonoma County. They come from all walks of life and do all kinds of jobs. Some were set on the hospitality business from a young age, others took different paths that led to tourism careers.
The one thing all of our neighbors in the industry have in common is that they represent Sonoma County to the millions of visitors who come here each year. They are the ones who know the best picnic spots, a good trail to discover or a great art gallery with Sonoma County artists. They also volunteer for local non-profits, show up for the PTA and cheer kids on from the sidelines of the soccer field.
Snapshot of tourism businesses in Sonoma County:
76 percent of Sonoma County tourism businesses are small (fewer than 25 employees)
91 percent of tourism businesses are locally owned, only eight percent of these are franchises
40 percent have been in business for more than 20 years, 26 percent have been in business for ten or fewer years
- Tourism brings in more than $143 million in state and local taxes. That money is used locally for regional parks, public safety, economic development and arts and cultural festivals. (For more details on tourism, see the statistics page.)
- More than 3/4 ouf tourism businesses actively support local charities through direct donations, in-kind donations and volunteering. Local charities supported include groups like Boys & Girls Club, Face 2 Face, Redwood Empire Food Bank, Sebastopol Education Foundation, Russian Riverkeeper and Boy and Girl Scouts.
Here you’ll meet some of your neighbors who work in tourism. These are the Faces of Sonoma County Tourism.
Check back regularly, as throughout the year we will add new profiles.
Carol and Tony Anello, Spud Point Crab Company, Bodega Bay
Carrie Brown, Jimtown Store, Alexander Valley
Ana Keller, Keller Estate Winery, Petaluma
Transcendence Theatre Company, Glen Ellen, Sonoma Valley
Miguel Lujan,Samagse Massage, Santa Rosa
Amy Levin, St. Florian's Brewery, Windsor
Carol and Tony Anello thought they were slowing down when they built a chowder shack next to their Bodega Bay house.
“We opened our little Spud Point Crab Company when he retired from the fire department,” Carol says. “The shop was going to be a little mom and pop operation run with our daughters. Well it became more than what we ever dreamed it would – we now need to have eight employees plus ourselves to keep it going.”
“We love our business and meeting people from all over the world and telling them about the history of Bodega Bay and the fishing industry. People are really interested in the process of how the product goes from the ocean to their tables,” relates Carol.
And if they weren’t making world-famous chowder? “If we didn't have Spud Pt. Crab Co. the only other thing I would do is maybe turn our shop into a very small gift shop with homemade things from the local people in the area. We have so many crafty and talented people here in our town, it would be a one of a kind shop with a little bit of everything.”
The artist in the vineyards.
Carrie Brown owns the Jimtown Store, a restaurant and community gathering spot in northern Sonoma County. There are about 20 employees there, depending on the season. She opened her business in 1991.
“My late husband John Werner and I were living in New York and happened upon the closed Jimtown Store with a ‘For Sale’ sign on it in 1988. It took us several years to make a deal with the previous owners to acquire the landmark store and then it took us several years to do major reconstruction and to reopen.
“We immediately found ourselves in the business of taking care of locals and travelers from all over the country and the world. I soon figured out that my job is to be the ‘concierge’ to the Valley, offering advice on where to picnic, taste wine, eat, walk, stay, shop and find the hidden, offbeat places that make our county so special!”
“This is a hands-on job and while it is rewarding it also takes an incredible amount of dedication and time.”
And if she didn’t work in tourism, what would she be doing?
“Work on art projects like the design book I'm managing to sneak into my daily life for a publisher in New York. Travel more; in fact all my trips are inspirational, I always return home with new ideas for Jimtown.”
A dozen chickens, three sons, two dogs, a husband and a winery.
For the past 17 years, Ana Keller has been at Keller Estate Winery, situated on the hills outside Petaluma.
“I live in Petaluma with my husband, three boys, two dogs, maybe one cat - we're on our way to the shelter- 12 chickens and family that visits all the time! (Who doesn't want to have family to visit in Sonoma?)”
Ana got into the tourism business by accident. “It turns out if you make wine, you have to sell it, and well, you want people to come to your tasting room and see how awesome your region is!”
Prior to her wine-making career, Ana was a biochemist. Unlike the exactitudes of a laboratory, wine making has more variables over which she has little control. Planning for the future is always a challenge: “We only get to harvest fruit once a year and we have to be reading our sales numbers, the economy and our growth plan and then try to get Mother Nature to oblige.”
Ana is active with trade organizations and the community. She is often on the road promoting Sonoma County. A native of Mexico, she helped Visit California promote California wine during the Mexican Media and Trade Mission in 2014. And of course she talked about Sonoma County, too.
The actors at the writer's house – Transcendence Theater
(L to R: Stephan Stubbins, Amy Miller and Brad Surosky)
Amy Miller is the artistic director of Transcendence Theatre Company, which puts on the popular “Broadway Under the Stars” during the summer months at Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen. The company has eight employees and brings in 120 artists and contractors throughout the year.
“We toured the US in RVs for two-and-a-half months looking for a location to permanently settle our company. After that trip we chose Sonoma County as our home, and we moved in late 2011 when we discovered we could help save Jack London State Historic Park and we planted our roots in Sonoma.”
“We've had great success already: attracting more than 36,000 attendees to our events, raising more than $117,000 for Jack London State Historic Park, being named Theater Of The Year by Broadway World San Francisco… as well as being written up in the NY Times, the Huffington Post and more.”
“Our biggest challenge is managing our growth with the staff and funding to make our future sustainable.”
Santa Rosa resident Miguel Lujan’s life changed dramatically when he was hit by a car in 2004.
“After the accident I had to go through a lot of rehab. In the process I had to finish college, study in Thailand with monks, learn how to walk and drive again. I went to massage school and started by setting up a chair in the lobby of the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country.”
Lujan now has seven therapists on call for Samagse Massage and can employ up to 30 for large events like the Gran Fondo bicycle ride.
“I was in the funeral business for over 15 years before getting into massage. Now I don’t have just a job but an amazing career. I love that my work has allowed me to be the man I am and create enough work for others to join me.”
Lujan is committed to Sonoma County. He buys his massage equipment from a Sebastopol manufacturer, and uses Sonoma County products when making spa treatments.
“I volunteer with Sutter VNA hospice doing palliative massage, and I’m the coordinator with Out and About Sonoma County as well as doing chair massages at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country to raise money for Roseland Elementary School. I have a full life and love everything Sonoma County has blessed me with.”
Windsor businesswoman Amy Levin wears many hats: she runs a successful and growing brewery along with her husband (and brewmaster) Aron, she is a mother raising two small kids (hence the small play are in the brewery tasting room and office) and she is active with local business marketing.
St. Florian’s Brewery & Tap Station is tucked away in an industrial park south of the Windsor Town Green, establishing a beachhead for other businesses like a winery, a distillery and a cide-maker. The company currently employs 7 people.
Before she got involved in the brewery, Levin was a stay-at-home mom and before that, she was in sales and marketing for the tech industry.
How did she get involved in the tourism and brewing industry? Maybe it’s her humanitarian instinct.: she wants to share great beer and support worthy non-profits.
“There's a LONG story to that; however, the nutshell answer is that I thought my husband made incredibly tasty beer that I felt guilty keeping under our own roof... I wanted to share it with others while using it as means to raise funds for fire-related and community-based organizations.”
Levin’s husband Aron is a fire fighter with Windsor Fire Department, and one of the missions of St. Florian’s Brewery is to raise funds for fire-related organizations, helping victims of fire and supporting fire fighters. St. Florian was a Roman soldier who organized early fire brigades and is the patron saint of firefighters.
If she wasn’t running one of the larger craft breweries in Sonoma County, Levin says she would either be a stay at home mom or “do something of a philanthropic nature.”