HISTORY: The incredible women of Truckee

March is Women’s History month. This celebration started in 1981 when Congress passed “Women’s History Week.” It evolved by 1995 to “Women’s History Month” to celebrate the contributions women have made to our country in a wide variety of fields.

What better time to celebrate the incredible women of Truckee. Truckee has had to evolve to survive and few people know that many times it was the women who held the community together.

Truckee has been known as a rough-and-tumble town. Being a women and earning a living has always been difficult. In the early days a single woman could be a teacher, nanny, seamstress, nurse, housecleaner or prostitute. All of these positions were poorly paid. What most people don’t know is that the wives of prominent business owners, when their husband died, would often take over the business … and manage it well.

A group of greater Truckee women entrepreneurs at the Veterans Hall.
Photo by Dave DePuy

The women of Truckee were not afraid of taking on tough jobs. When they were put down they would rise to the challenge. They could be seen managing a store, a logging company, a rooming/boarding house and providing necessary materials other women needed to run a home. They had business sense and earned the respect of the community. Truckee depended on these women.

Much has changed in perceptions and Truckee continues to support women who have made it to support the town and provide the skills and businesses needed for our community.

Why Truckee?

Twenty women-owned businesses shared why they opened their business here.

Many loved the environment and several grew up here. The main theme was that they wanted to give back to the community while going after their passion. Truckee offered a supportive and close-knit community to help fledgling companies.

“This community is resilient, unapologetic, and eager to share and support what we are passionate about. Rather than a bunch of locals living in the same place, our community brings a sense of belonging, that feeling of ‘we’re all in this together.’ Without the support of our fellow locals we simply would not exist,” said Em Deane Kelley of Locals Creative.

Attributing Success

Often the success story included role models and a community that embraced them.

Past experiences, discipline, determination and devotion helped many of these businesses. The combination of excellent mentors, adaptability, plus friends and family who believed in them, has also helped in their success.

Stefanie Olivieri has been instrumental in creating an environment that welcomes small businesses and woman owners. Since 1967, she has owned and managed the over 100-year old Cabona’s Truckee clothing store. Cabona’s is the oldest continuous business here in Truckee and she has managed to keep the business alive and thriving, even in the toughest of times. Her single driving focus is to make Truckee the best town it can possibly be. Stefanie helped form the Truckee Downtown Merchants Association in 1969 and the annual Truckee Follies to benefit downtown’s Commercial Row. She also formed the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation (MAP) initially focused on making sure ‘big box’ companies, like Kmart, stayed out of town so Truckee remained a historical mountain town that promotes small businesses. She credits her success to her mother who accepted everyone.

What Career Advice Would You Offer Others?

When interviewed the 20 leaders said “just start,” “know that your business will evolve and learn from your mistakes” and “it is important to be flexible and not to let fear hold you back.”

Many thought it was important to be open-minded and learn from others. Understanding that growth can happen over several years or overnight requires you to be mentally prepared for both. Don’t give up and be ready to work harder than everybody else.

Tanya Schultz of Intentional Finance Co./The Money Life Coach said it well: “Go all in on your dream. Set up your business with clear and specific quarterly goals and get the support through mentoring or coaching to get there. There are growing pains in any business, especially small business, and things can often feel overwhelming. Getting the support to scale and make money doing what you love is ultimately what it is all about.”

The Future

Truckee is unique in its environment and people. Women are an integral part of Truckee, always have been and always will be. The openness of Truckee to accept and embrace woman entrepreneurs helps make the community whole and vibrant, helping Truckee to keep evolving and be relevant.

Judy DePuy is a member of Truckee-Donner Historical Society and on the board for the Truckee Donner Railroad Society and Museum of Truckee History. She resides in Tahoe Donner with her husband, Dave, and their dog, Morticia

Contributors to this article

Stefanie Olivieri (Cabona’s)

Jillian Akers (The Board, Truckee)

Valerie Rodriguez (Valerie Style Art)

Ruthanne Zouboukos (Elopement Photographer and Planner)

Megan Bristol (Tahoe Modern)

Anna McGee (Truckee-Tahoe Real Estate)

Connie Starr (Love in Bloom Crafted)

Em Deane Kelley (Locals Creative)

Tarin O’Donnell (TKO Yoga & Fitness)

Megan Sahnow (Made Rowdy Events)

Colette Fonseca (Altitude Design Co.)

Tiffany Connolly (InBloom Marketing)

Nikki Price (Mountain Thyme Events)


Aubrey McCready (Aubrey McCready Photography)

Jessica Starr (Tahoe Injectables)

Larissa Martinez (Truckee Love)

Tawnya Schultz (Intentional Finance Co./The Money Life Coach)

Bridget Giroux (design studio in Incline Village)

Julia Arndt (Peak Performance Method)

Kellie London Vadasz (Ski Run Optometry, South Lake Tahoe)

More Like This, Tap A Topic

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User