hearth and sage general store

A Little Shop in the Mountains

Michelle Hake (MAT ’11) and her husband Daley moved up to the small community of Crestline, California, for the same reasons others relocate from Los Angeles to the nearby San Bernardino Mountains: the search for a slower pace of life, away from the chaos of a crowded city criss-crossed by freeways, not to mention a lower cost of living.

“We felt like we had done LA,” says Michelle, who lived in Texas and Arizona before coming to Pasadena to attend Fuller. After crunching the numbers on buying a house in Pasadena, where the Hakes were renting, they started exploring other options. Their production business kept them tied to Southern California, but required so much travel that they could be flexible in their choice of a home base. They were tired of the traffic and the effort it required to meet up with a friend on the other side of the city. “You don’t just run into people in LA,” Michelle says. It was Daley’s idea to look at Crestline, where he’d attended camps in his youth. Online, the couple found a modern A-frame house they loved, and they took the leap.

“We didn’t have any friends up here,” says Michelle, so making some was their first order of business after moving to the mountains. They noticed an antique store in town and, based on the modern aesthetic of its logo, guessed they might have something in common with the owner. The Hakes popped into the shop every Saturday, and soon the shop owner invited them to a meeting of the Crestline Chamber of Commerce. At that first meeting, the couple found themselves in what felt to Michelle “like an episode of Parks and Rec,” the sitcom following the local government proceedings of a small midwestern town and the antics of its quirky characters. “Crestline is such a small town, and we realized people wear all these different hats,” says Michelle. For example, the man who had recently installed their driveway happened to be president of the chamber. Because Crestline isn’t technically a town, but an unincorporated area of San Bernardino County, Michelle explains, the Chamber of Commerce acts as a sort of city council for the community, leading initiatives and organizing events.

To Michelle and Daley’s surprise, the longtime chamber members welcomed them with open arms, enthusiastic about the possibility of newcomers invigorating a community that had been hard on its luck since the Great Recession. Within a couple of weeks of attending meetings, the Hakes were asked to become board members. “Being up here, there have been a lot of serendipitous, there-at-the-right-time moments and surprises,” says Michelle. “Being invited to serve as active members of the chamber was one of those moments.” The Hakes dove in, with Michelle offering her skills as a designer to refresh the chamber’s website.

Joy Thompson

Joy Netanya Thompson (MAT ’12) is communications senior editor at Fuller. She is a writer focusing on the intersections of theology, motherhood, and pop culture, and has published her work in Sojourners, RELEVANT, Motherwell, and Outreach magazine, among others. Find her at joynetanyathompson.com.

Nate Harrison of FULLER studio and magazine

Nate Harrison is a video storyteller for FULLER Studio and Senior Photographer for FULLER Magazine. His award-winning photography and filmmaking include showcased work for indiewireThe New York Times, UCDA Design Competition, and include clients such as Time Warner, Sundance Institute, and Nettwerk Music Group. His personal work can be found at NateCHarrison.com.

Michelle Hake (MAT ’11) and her husband Daley moved up to the small community of Crestline, California, for the same reasons others relocate from Los Angeles to the nearby San Bernardino Mountains: the search for a slower pace of life, away from the chaos of a crowded city criss-crossed by freeways, not to mention a lower cost of living.

“We felt like we had done LA,” says Michelle, who lived in Texas and Arizona before coming to Pasadena to attend Fuller. After crunching the numbers on buying a house in Pasadena, where the Hakes were renting, they started exploring other options. Their production business kept them tied to Southern California, but required so much travel that they could be flexible in their choice of a home base. They were tired of the traffic and the effort it required to meet up with a friend on the other side of the city. “You don’t just run into people in LA,” Michelle says. It was Daley’s idea to look at Crestline, where he’d attended camps in his youth. Online, the couple found a modern A-frame house they loved, and they took the leap.

“We didn’t have any friends up here,” says Michelle, so making some was their first order of business after moving to the mountains. They noticed an antique store in town and, based on the modern aesthetic of its logo, guessed they might have something in common with the owner. The Hakes popped into the shop every Saturday, and soon the shop owner invited them to a meeting of the Crestline Chamber of Commerce. At that first meeting, the couple found themselves in what felt to Michelle “like an episode of Parks and Rec,” the sitcom following the local government proceedings of a small midwestern town and the antics of its quirky characters. “Crestline is such a small town, and we realized people wear all these different hats,” says Michelle. For example, the man who had recently installed their driveway happened to be president of the chamber. Because Crestline isn’t technically a town, but an unincorporated area of San Bernardino County, Michelle explains, the Chamber of Commerce acts as a sort of city council for the community, leading initiatives and organizing events.

To Michelle and Daley’s surprise, the longtime chamber members welcomed them with open arms, enthusiastic about the possibility of newcomers invigorating a community that had been hard on its luck since the Great Recession. Within a couple of weeks of attending meetings, the Hakes were asked to become board members. “Being up here, there have been a lot of serendipitous, there-at-the-right-time moments and surprises,” says Michelle. “Being invited to serve as active members of the chamber was one of those moments.” The Hakes dove in, with Michelle offering her skills as a designer to refresh the chamber’s website.

Written By

Joy Netanya Thompson (MAT ’12) is communications senior editor at Fuller. She is a writer focusing on the intersections of theology, motherhood, and pop culture, and has published her work in Sojourners, RELEVANT, Motherwell, and Outreach magazine, among others. Find her at joynetanyathompson.com.

Nate Harrison is a video storyteller for FULLER Studio and Senior Photographer for FULLER Magazine. His award-winning photography and filmmaking include showcased work for indiewireThe New York Times, UCDA Design Competition, and include clients such as Time Warner, Sundance Institute, and Nettwerk Music Group. His personal work can be found at NateCHarrison.com.

Michelle Hake
Michelle Hake

As they became more involved, Michelle and Daley found themselves wanting a physical presence as business owners in Crestline. When retail space opened up next to their friend’s antique store, they had “this crazy brainstorming session over one weekend,” says Michelle, and came up with the idea for a modern general store filled with handmade, thoughtfully sourced goods from all over the country. When Michelle was studying theology and the arts at Fuller’s Brehm Center she had been part of the LA maker community, creating handbags to sell at pop-up events all over the region. “I was really energized by that movement of small, made goods,” she says, and she loved the idea of creating a brick and mortar space where artists could sell their wares. “But doing that in LA was not remotely possible.” In Crestline, that old dream was suddenly within reach.

They moved quickly. “It was a crazy time,” remembers Michelle. They secured the space in January of 2017 and only had a few months to get the store set up, including major renovations. “We’d never done anything like it before,” she says. “It was this constant feeling of being scared and not confident at all.” As Michelle started renovating the space, sourcing products from makers she found online, filling out LLC paperwork, and completing the other steps toward opening the shop, her mantra in the face of her fear and insecurity became: “Do it anyway.”

Each step got her closer to the space she’d dreamed about, which eventually became Hearth and Sage, a cozy two-room shop in Crestline’s historic Top Town, where she expertly curates an eclectic display of handcrafted goods, all of which have “a sense of story, that human-made element to them.” It was important to Michelle and Daley to know the makers whose goods they sold, supporting their small businesses through the Hakes’ own small business. “I love that sense of collaboration,” says Michelle, “and being able to provide shelf space to things that I think are well made or cool or just taste really good.”

For example, the shop carries soap and other products from an LA-based, family-owned company called Further, which sources used vegetable oil from local restaurants and then refines the oil to derive biofuel and glycerin. They use the biofuel for their cars and the glycerin to make their soaps, lotions, and soy candles. The partnering restaurants who provide the vegetable oil then use Further’s soap. “We discovered Further when we were still living in Pasadena—at one of our favorite dining spots, Union—and became loyal users of their products,” says Michelle. “When we decided to open the shop, it was one of the first things we knew we had to carry.”

Another part of the Hakes’ dream for Hearth and Sage was for it to serve as a gathering place in Crestline, where newcomers might pop in and make friends, just like they did at the antique shop when they first moved from LA. “There was a certain feeling we wanted people to have when they came into the shop, that it would feel warm, that it would feel grown,” says Michelle. The “hearth” in the shop’s name conveys that. “What’s better than sitting by the fire? That’s the feeling we wanted people to have,” she says. By the time they celebrated the shop’s two-year anniversary in the spring of 2019, the Hakes were able to throw a party for all their new and old friends to meet each other, allowing more longtime residents, newcomers, and business owners to connect. “Almost everyone we’ve become friends with here started out as people coming into the store,” she says.

As Michelle and Daley settled into the rhythms of Crestline as residents and shop owners, they began to help reimagine some of the community’s annual events that had the potential of bringing an influx of more visitors to their town. One was a summertime beer and wine walk that only drew an average of 60 people. Michelle helped to rebrand the event, now called “Corks and Hops,” giving it a modern, clean look. “There was this total openness of the old guard to the new guard to be able to do that,” she says. The event began attracting crowds of 500 people. “It’s such an injection into the town—people are out, enjoying themselves, spending money at local businesses.” There have even been instances of people who found out about Crestline because of Corks and Hops and decided to buy a house up there. “Crestline is on people’s radar now,” she says.

the Hake family
the Hake family

“There’s this sense that Crestline had its glory days,” says Michelle, referring to when it was a popular spot for vacation homes in the sixties and seventies. “We all want Crestline to be known as the gem of a place we believe it is.”

The Hakes continue to find gratification in their ability to be a part of change in their town, especially after their years living in a large city. “I don’t even know how you get a seat at the table in Pasadena,” says Michelle. “But what was so cool for us as newcomers to this community was how easy it was to have a seat at the table, to be part of making decisions that would have a real impact quickly in the town.”

When she was studying at Fuller, Michelle discovered the works of author Wendell Berry. “He revisits themes of simplicity, living in harmony with the rhythms of nature, and planting deep roots in the place you call home and knowing it intimately,” she says. “I had lived my life in cities and suburbs, but I found myself resonating with the simple, rural life depicted in his books.” Living such a life today in a small community like Crestline, Michelle notes, “We’ve made it our intention to be vitally connected to this town. Outside of the practical things like buying a house and starting a business, planting roots has meant learning the town’s history, getting involved in the community, and investing the resources we have to see Crestline thrive in the future.”

“We’ve formed so many unlikely friendships here,” says Michelle. She brings up Mick, the older man who’d paved their driveway when they first moved in. “He can come off a bit gruff, but he has a true heart for our community,” she says. In many conversations in the Hakes’ living room, on their porch, or sitting in the chairs outside the shop, Mick has shared stories about the magic of growing up in Crestline. “The first day we opened our shop he walked through the entire store, picked out the most expensive thing we had—a handcrafted, leather backpack—and bought it,” remembers Michelle. “I’m pretty sure he had no need for a backpack, but he wanted to make sure we knew we had his support. We’re honored to call him a friend.”

Looking back, Michelle can see how, from their leap of faith moving up to the mountains, to opening Hearth and Sage, to becoming actively involved in the community, “it’s all from the place of searching for a sense of meaning, for my contribution toward making a positive difference.” Michelle and Daley became parents in Crestline, welcoming their son Asher into the world a couple of years after moving there. They’re putting down roots for their family in a community they’ve come to love, building on the history of a place in all its particular triumphs and traditions and hardships, tending a hearth for friends to gather around.

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