The paper caught up with inventor, entrepreneur, and property owner Mark Juarez  in Dunsmuir on Sunday afternoon. In town visiting his properties, as well as friends, the founder of The Happy Company and inventor of the Happy Massager spoke with the paper about how his plans have changed since he first bought properties, including the California Theatre in Dunsmuir five years ago. At that time, Juarez had gone before the Dunsmuir City Council and spoke of bringing arts and economic rehabilitation to the town. Seen by some as an economic ‘savior’ at that time, local sentiment has since soured in some quarters as rehabilitation has not happened. Juarez also owns properties in Weed’s downtown.
Q:  The marquee of the California Theatre was damaged last October when it was struck by a delivery truck. According to sources, you have received an insurance settlement. When will the marquee be repaired?
MJ: No, there has not been a settlement. It is difficult to find people who could actually fix [the marquee]. There is nobody really here who could really do it. [Experts] are hesitant to come here and do the repair... [The marquee] is so specialized, I’m not sure [an insurance adjuster] would be able to do a proper evaluation. The only people we could find who could repair it wanted travel fees to come here. Insurance companies are notorious for undervaluing damages. It’s not like it’s a simple repair.
Q: The damaged marquee hangs over the sidewalk. Some in the community are concerned that the marquee is unsafe. Is the marquee unsafe?
MJ: I was assured that it was made safe. I had a person who worked for me, not his expertise, but he assured me that it was safe.
Q: You first bought your properties here about five years ago. What brought you to Dunsmuir and inspired you to buy property?
MJ: I thought it was an amazing town, I loved the history, thought it had a lot of potential. I was awed by its beauty. I came here because I had a friend who lived here.
Q: Attempts were made in the past five years to rehabilitate the California Theatre, but those attempts were unsuccessful. What happened, and what is the status of your plans for the theater now?
MJ: I would love to do something with the theater. I’ve talked to people about doing something with the theater a lot. I’d be happy to talk with anyone who has ideas.
A lot of people in Dunsmuir felt uncomfortable with any change. I felt discouraged. For as many people who were in favor of change, there were as many people who were not in favor of it. We made several attempts [to restore] the theater. In the process, we ran into many roadblocks. It was very discouraging. It was a project that was larger than me personally.
I think we all have the same goal of doing what’s best for Dunsmuir. We want to do it right. But we don’t have any real specific plans.
Q: When you first came to town and spoke before the city council, you were seen by some as a hero riding in on a white horse to save the town. But just five year later, you are regarded by some of those same people as a villain. What caused this change in perception?
MJ: It was very short and very fast. This was not my business. I came to town with some ideas and philosophies. I love the arts and had the idea that if I could bring arts to the town – arts are the heart and soul – I was somewhat naive. I was warned by people in the town. There was a lot of money that was put into these buildings. Some people were dishonest with me.
Q: What unexpected problems did you face in your projects?
MJ: Roadblocks – I think a lot of people really appreciate the serenity of the town and were threatened and concerned that I would change that. I wanted to do it in a way to benefit the largest number of people. I envisioned a town that has arts, that attracts tourists, that people will patronize the arts and the artists. A community without art is a community without soul. But I also have to look out for my own survival. I have spent so much already that I have to be very cautious.
Q: In hindsight, do you wish you hadn’t gone before the city council with your plans before knowing all the issues you would face?
MJ: Yes, probably in hindsight I wish I didn’t – I came in with such an idea that I could do something. Possibly I didn’t understand the costs. I saw a lot of people out of work who I thought would cherish the work.
Q: There is a perception in Dunsmuir that you will not rent your properties. Why won’t you rent your properties?
MJ: People say this, but the reality is the properties are for rent. I call my property manager and ask what the status is. Of course we are looking for qualified renters. It’s a disservice to put people in there where they fail immediately. They need an understanding of business to run a successful business.
Q: How would you respond to those who say your properties are now adding to blight?
MJ: I feel like in some respects – I feel like I’ve tried so, so hard. People can point fingers at things I’m not doing, say ‘This is not working.’ At the same time, when people approach [with ideas], let me know, I’d like to talk to them. We’ll try to find good quality solutions... If I was doing this for speculation, I would have been very successful buying properties in San Francisco. I did this in the hopes of following a dream.
Q: What is the status of your properties currently?
A: They are very challenged, as you know the economy is poor, it’s very challenging. I think it’s very hard for any one person to come here and open a business. The only way for people to be successful here is to work collectively with other people to open a number of businesses. We’re talking about such a depressed economy, it’s very difficult for one good coffee shop, one business to be successful alone. People have to work collectively, it draws when there are several successful businesses open.
Q: Are you willing to sell the theater or your properties?
A: If people make an offer that is realistic, that [what they envision] is of some positive use for the town. It would be very discouraging if [a buyer] turned the theater into storage units.
Q: Do you still enjoy coming to Dunsmuir?
MJ: I do, to meet people like Vern [Sneed, owner and restorer of Dunsmuir’s 1896 Rostel Building], and his friends.