An artsy second-hand resource center known as the Village Exchange closed in Dunsmuir this month. It was located in the Annex Building at 5731 Dunsmuir Ave., two doors north of the California Theater.



The founders of the Village Exchange, who lived in the Annex Building, moved out a couple of weeks ago due to code violations and other issues.

An artsy second-hand resource center known as the Village Exchange closed in Dunsmuir this month. It was located in the Annex Building at 5731 Dunsmuir Ave., two doors north of the California Theater.

The founders of the Village Exchange, who lived in the Annex Building, moved out a couple of weeks ago due to code violations and other issues.

“When one door closes, another opens,” said co-founder Rebekka Bruhn. The group will continue providing environmental education through a new business in Mount Shasta.

The Village Exchange was where people could exchange goods and learn how to “upcycle,” or add value to old stuff through repurposing, Bruhn said.  

The group lived in the building for free after striking a deal with property owner Mark Juarez, who also owns the California Theater.

Bruhn said the group, mostly artists and musicians, helped repair the California Theater and the Annex Building in exchange for nearly two years of rent.

The group did extensive work in a movie screening room on the third floor of the theater building, she said.

“We took the chairs out. We took the rugs out. We hand took out thousands and thousands of staples on the ground. Underneath was an original, old-growth hardwood, dovetailed huge ballroom floor,” Bruhn said.

Juarez, the inventor of the Happy Massager and the owner of the Happy Company, said he loved the idea of the Village Exchange.

“My vision was that it would bring the community together, the sense of people coming together and sharing,” Juarez said.

But the vision hit a roadblock.

The building’s heater wasn’t up to code, said City Manager Jim Lindley.
City officials told residents in October the problem needed to be fixed by this winter, Bruhn said.

But Juarez said he couldn’t meet the deadline.

“I didn’t have the money to do it in the time they were requiring it,” he said. “The company that I have in the Bay area, most of our sales are in the fourth quarter, so I have virtually no money from September through January.”

Juarez said he not only felt pressure from the city. Banks and insurance companies were demanding that he do something more “productive” with the building.

“They define productive as a tenant who is paying rent,” Juarez said.
Bruhn said she recently volunteered to move out.

“Mark’s a friend of mine, when it comes down to it. I saw the pressure [he was under],” she said. “We’re all doing the best we can, and if we can’t make something happen, it’s not personal.”

Juarez said he will be looking for renters as soon as next month. He hired Rental Management Service, a property management service in Weed, to find local contractors to bring the properties up to code. The company, which has an A rating on the Better Business Bureau Web site, has also been hired to find tenants.

Juarez said he plans to first work on the Annex Building, then the California Theater, then an unoccupied building he owns on Sacramento Avenue, north of the former Brown Trout Gallery.

Juarez has dealt with heated controversy since he bought the properties. Some critics say his buildings have fallen into disrepair, pointing to the California Theater’s marquee as an example. A delivery truck damaged the marquee in 2007. The city has been pressuring Juarez to fix it ever since.

Juarez said he wants the city to extend the sidewalk in front of the theater before he replaces the marquee.

“The marquee can easily be damaged. They have to break up the cement, and there’s all this dust. It could potentially ruin the marquee,” he said. “There’s a possibility that a truck could hit the marquee again, which is how the marquee got damaged in the first place.

If the city builds the bulb-out, or curb extension, Juarez said he’s willing to replace the marquee this spring.

Some people question whether he’ll fulfill his promises. One former city council member called him “manipulative and irresponsible,” according to council minutes.

But Bruhn disagrees, saying he has good intentions.

 “Mark worked with us long enough to allow us to have something that can stand on its own two feet outside of those buildings,” she said.

She said the year in the Annex Building has allowed her to launch a community recycling program called S.C.R.A.P.S., along with the help of the Siskiyou Arts Council. She also kicked off Funktional Fabrikationz, a business that offers environmental education, mentoring and crafting lessons.

Shortly after deciding to move out of Dunsmuir, Bruhn said she was offered a space at a Mount Shasta arts and crafts center. Funktional Fabrikationz will now hold classes at A Melo Center, a spearmint-colored building at 412 S. Mount Shasta Blvd.

“I think we’ve all learned to gracefully surrender and constructively compromise. Because it’s not really about one person’s ego,” Bruhn said. “It’s about what’s best for the greater whole."