A relative newcomer to Angels Camp, Tey Cross hasn’t been shy about stepping up to become a community leader and successful businessman.
Cross, 40, moved to the city in May 2009 from Vallejo after purchasing the Cooper House Bed and Breakfast Inn.
He joined the Angels Camp Business Association and became its president for a two-year term that began late last year. More recently, he took the lead on the enormous task of what is shaping up to be the city’s biggest celebration in decades.
Cross is the chairman of the Angels Camp Commemorative Committee, which is preparing to host a street festival Sept. 28 and 29 that will shut down Main Street downtown all day for the first time in about half a century. Organizers hope it will draw about 5,000 attendees.
Cross had co-led the committee’s effort with then-Angels Camp Museum Director Craig Hadley. Hadley stepped away from his committee position a few months ago due to the time commitment required as he commuted to Angels Camp from his home in Lake Tahoe.
Cross has relished the opportunity to be a part of something big for little old Angels Camp.
“I’m really proud to be a part of it,” he said. “I’ve never done a public event as big as this as an event coordinator, (but) I jumped into it head first.”
Cross said the success of a smaller but well-liked gathering for an “old-fashioned” Fourth of July at Utica Park which the committee put on gives him confidence that the centennial event will bigger and better yet.
“I love Angels Camp. I love the small community feel. I know a lot of people,” he said. “The people I don’t know, if they’ve been here for any amount of time, are smiling. I’ve got just such a great group of friends here.”
Cross said it seems as if everything has fallen into place perfectly for the centennial, giving particularly women reason to celebrate. For example, a plaque will be laid on the “Hop of Fame” during the festival to honor Laura Kitchell, he said, who became the first woman in about 30 years to win the International Frog Jump at the county fair. Her timely win comes 100 years after the first election in which Calaveras County women were able to vote, the one that gave an overwhelming “Yes” to the question of Angels’ incorporation.
“He’s done a great job. He’s been real proactive,” said Elaine Morris, now serving as only the city’s third woman mayor. “I think we’re going to have a great event and I think he’s been a big part of that.”
Though Cross has often been the face of the centennial celebration, he is humble about his role.
“It’s been a real community effort,” he said. “You just need somebody dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.”
ACBA Past President Anne Forrest said Cross’ networking abilities have been key to making the festival a better event and rejuvenating the business association.
“He brings so much enthusiasm and organizational skills and good ideas to everything that we’re doing,” Forrest said. “He’s a very busy business person and then he’s taking on an enormous amount of time — farmers’ markets, Taste of Calaveras, the centennial … he’s made a tremendous contribution.”
Ohio-born and Kentucky-raised, Cross had an early fascination with the California of Mark Twain’s “Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” which he read in fifth grade.
“California seemed such a far off land,” he said.
Cross lived for a decade in Florida before reaching California in 1999. He spent time as an administrator for Gump’s San Francisco. He met partner Rob Carpenter in 2000 and the couple came to Angels after tiring of Vallejo crime.
“My truck was broken into for the fifth and final time,” Cross said. “I was over it.”
From a young age, he said he collected tea sets, pitchers and other pieces he thought “would be great for a bed and breakfast someday.”
“Four or five storage units later, I’d be ready to go,” Cross said.
When the time came, he and Carpenter saw Cooper House as their best opportunity. They gave the inn an extensive makeover and expanded the business to become C House Lodging, also taking on vacation rentals including the Murphys House on Main. They gave that creekside house a recent facelift that included a much-needed fresh coat of paint, Cross said.
“I’m hoping people will stop dubbing it the mortuary now,” he laughed. “We put some lipstick on it.”
Cross said he is no remodel guru but he learned a few things about design and appearances at Gump’s.
“I call myself a kind of jack-of-all-trades and not a master of any one,” he quipped. “It’s not brain surgery. I won’t give that (brain surgery) a shot but pretty much anything else, I’ll try.”
Cross is also involved in a more family-wide business. He opened the Chocolate Lady shop last year in Angels Camp with confections made by Carpenter’s mother, confectioner Edna Patitucci. He owns the Angels Camp retail shop and Patitucci makes the chocolates and owns stores in Amador City and Sutter Creek. Patitucci will retire next year and Cross will then own all three shops, he said. Son Kyle Carpenter, 24, of Angels Camp, moved from the Bay Area to become store manager of the Angels location.
Kyle is also studying to become an EMT at Columbia College. Daughter Shelby Carpenter, 21, followed her veteran father Rob into the armed services in November 2011. The family recently saw her off to a deployment in South Korea where she works as an interrogator for the U.S. Army.
Cross’ talents for making a business work and willingness to look and move forward have been a boon for both him and ACBA.
“He’s got lots of entrepreneurial ideas,” Forrest said. “He’s not accepting the status quo, the way we’ve always done things.”