Mountain, Brew & More

Marble Grounds in Fort Jones…

According to the small Business Administration, the United States has 30.7 million small businesses that employ 47.3 percent of the private workforce. They also play a significant role in supporting local charities, causes and taxes. As truly the backbone of our economy, there’s something to be said for a small business that not only opens its brick and mortar as a community gathering space, but also helps promote other local businesses in its retail space. “We do sell a lot of local craft items, homemade goods and some antiques from local vendors and community members. But being a part of the community and having that space for people to come in and connect with each other is probably my favorite part of it,” explains Kay Isbell, owner of Marble Grounds coffee shop in Fort Jones. Her joy stems from her passion for small business. “I think that community involvement is super important, and it keeps the wheels rolling on the city of Fort Jones. It’s an important part of what a small business can do for a community.”

Photos courtesy of Kay Isbell

With a background in the party rentals business and ranching, Isbell is no stranger to running operations, but when the opportunity to purchase the coffee shop came up in January 2022, she decided to take the plunge. “It’s a completely new undertaking for me. It was a coffee shop before called The Gifted Horse. But when she decided to sell, we thought it was a good idea to keep the business going for the community, so we said we’d take it on.” Now, Marble Grounds is the coffee shop in the front half of the building while Isbell’s mother and sister run their real estate office out of the back of the building. “The coffee shop is definitely a business with lots more face-to-face. In the summer, it’s a lot of people coming in from out of town. In the wintertime, it’s more just people meeting friends.”

Photos courtesy of Kay Isbell

She also gets to celebrate other local vendors by featuring their products, and she encourages new vendors to apply. “We have The Garden Crack who does soaps, lotions and local honey, and Farm Girl Provisions that does spices, pastas and granola. And then we have Hurlbut Crafts that does hand-knitted stuffed animals, which are super cute. Those are probably my top three sellers. Then, I have some antiques and other people who knit scarves, bags and that kind of stuff. We also sell our beef, where we have some packages that local customers can come in and pick up.”

The local vibe that Isbell fosters is reflected in the new name she chose for the business. “Marble is based off of the Marble Mountains outside of Fort Jones, and then Grounds is, obviously, for the coffee, but then it’s also just for the fact that it’s a local space,” explains Isbell. It’s also reflected in the local names she gives the sandwiches. “Our best sellers are probably the Taylor Lake or the Russian Wilderness, which are both turkey sandwiches. A lot of the drink specials we try to use local place names, as well.”

Photos courtesy of Kay Isbell

This local ethos is an important part of her world view. “I think when people talk to each other, they’re more sympathetic and more empathetic to their neighbors and community members. It just makes people nicer. So, if you get the same cup of coffee at the same time as somebody else and you start talking, then you see them down the street and you have a disagreement, maybe you’ll be like, well, at least we have something in common.”

Photos courtesy of Kay Isbell

Isbell’s community pride is evident, and she encourages anyone passing through town to take the time to stop. “A lot of people just pass through town on their way to Yreka or Etna because the highway goes straight through it. But they’re in more of a hurry than they should be. Our biggest draw is Five Marys and it’s got some good AirBnBs. But Fort Jones definitely also has some historic features worth seeing. There’s the museum with beautiful rock work and all the brick buildings. And personally, I think it has some of the nicest parks and Little League Parks in the [Scott Valley] community.” •

Marble Grounds
11806 Main St., Fort Jones (530) 468-2222
Find them on Facebook

Article Written by:

Megan Peterson has been a freelance storyteller for more than two decades, with writing credits ranging from National Geographic to the Sundance Channel. She also brings a background in marketing and audio tours, and has traveled and worked on six continents. Megan currently lives in Northern California with her family and a menagerie of pets.

About enjoymagazine

At Enjoy, the goal is to share all that is good about living in the North State. To see so many people truly enjoy the magazine is an incredible reward for the whole team. Having only exposed the tip of the iceberg when it comes to story ideas, there’s so much more to share with our community in the years to come.

Related Posts