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Creativity blossoms in Colusa store
Mitchell Nation was all smiles when he saw his piggy bank.
The 9-year-old Colusa boy had painted the ceramic bank, then it was fired in the kiln on site at the new gift store, Terra Bella, on Market Street.
He came to pick it up on Tuesday.
"I had fun making it. I made it for my dad," said Nation.
Nation said this was the first time he had worked with ceramics. Usually he paints on paper or canvass.
"It was a lot different," he said.
If Nation was smiling, store owner Bridget Ellis may have been smiling even more.
Ellis said Terra Bella is primarily a gift store specializing in home decor, but has a number of other items as well.
Still, from the beginning, she knew she would be teaching ceramics and other classes.
"I was teaching ceramics out of my house, and putting them on Facebook," Ellis said.
"So we teach classes to kids, and it has been going very well."
In a very real sense, the store is a creative escape for Ellis, who also operates her own home-care business and said finding a getaway is critical.
It also has proved to be a bit of an energy-charging respite for co-owner Maryanne Manjarrez.
She is a homemaker raising three sons, and said it is nice to get out of the house.
"It allows me to get out and be part of the community, and still raise my own kids," said Manjarrez.
But she never saw herself in business.
She said her husband is the risk-taker, and while he has always encouraged her as well, becoming part of Terra Bella feels more like fate than reason.
The two women met at Our Lady of Lourdes school. Their sons, Christian Ellis, 11, and Rafaei Manjarrez, 11, are friends.
Bridget Ellis said she was first pulled toward Manjarrez because of the creativity in her amazing baked goods.
"I really wanted to bring a partner in," Ellis said. "I needed help to continue my nursing and Terra Bella, and she was the one person I wanted to ask."
Manjarrez was no sure at first, but after visiting the store, she said she knew it was the right thing.
Manjarrez, who was born and raised in Colusa and is a 1997 Colusa High graduate, handles the books and other business aspects, but said she also enjoys contributing to the more creative elements of the shop.
"I am learning so much from (Ellis)," she said.
The name of the shop means 'Beautiful Earth' in Italian. Ellis lived a year in Italy, and has fond memories of the culture. But it is more of a philosophy for her — creating some kind of beauty out of life.
Ellis said when her father was diagnosed with cancer, she was so impressed with the hospice nurses that she decided then to go into nursing.
Already a single mother, she quit her job and applied for a spot in a nursing program. There were 400 applicants and 15 spots.
So Ellis threw herself into the process, volunteering and getting involved in other aspects of the Colusa One-Stop program.
When the spots were announced, she was sixth on the list.
Ellis, who has a daughter and two sons, came out of the accelerated 18-month program as an LVN. The program was offered through Sutter County One-Stop.
She then started the home health care business.
But out there was still the dream of owning a quaint little downtown store.
It opened on May 25.
"(Business) is going great, actually," said Manjarrez.