The building at 520 Pleasant Valley Road in Diamond Springs has been many things: a bakery, Maude Ward’s grocery, Stubby’s Cardroom, a possible brothel and the Diamond Queen Deli and Bar. Starting life as a single-story brick building, one of the few buildings left standing after the disastrous fire of 1857, it grew an upstairs in the 1930s and two additions to the east over the years. Former owner Mercedes Krusich lovingly called the building her “Tara.” But with new owner, Sheri Miller, and a group of young artists to fill the old spaces with new ideas, “Tara” is opening up a new chapter.
The 1850s brick has been painted over, but the trapdoor in the original building is still visible on the wooden floor in Suite C. The oldest part of the building has become the quiet working studio of silversmith and jeweler Leah Delmer and wood artist Michael Beckerat. Filled with tools, slabs of wood, displays of semi-precious gemstones and amazing jewelry, it’s not a showroom — it’s a peaceful, well-lighted place where two artist handcraft works of fine art.
Delmer, 34, of Vessel Arts, transforms semi-precious stones, fossils and recycled silver into custom designed rings, bracelets, pendants, earrings, lighters and belt buckles. “Each piece carries a story,” said Delmer. “I never know what I’m going to make until I start with a stone.”
Taking inspiration from nature, each piece of Delmer’s wearable art has energy — from the stones themselves and from the artist who created them: a labradorite pendant that captures the sea, a magnesite/hematite bolo tie with silver snake and feather accents, a silver cuff with turquoise and hand-fabricated bird and leaf motives, all are filled with vibrant life.
Delmer has her own history with Diamond Springs, having grown up in the Placerville/Diamond Springs area. After exploring other places, she returned in 2014 and began working fulltime as a silversmith. Her work is often displayed in Blue Skies Clothing on Main Street in Placerville and she is one of the featured artists in the Sacramento Arts Festival, Oct. 25-27.
Intricate designs of stone inlaid into slabs of walnut and big leaf maple and bowls of mango wood, Michael Beckerat’s creations are like no other. The pieces are large, culled from the environment and Beckerat’s experience with the world — layers of color from lapis, jasper, turquoise, tourmaline with Southwestern-type folk art motifs — it’s a pulsating blend of the real and the surreal. Beckerat, 32, has been an artist for years, but fell in love with combing quality woods and stones only recently. His art can be found at Sacred Skulls in Nevada City and on his website, michaelbeckerart.com.
Dark Lantern Tattoo, with ink artist Josh Akers, occupies Suite B. Added in the 1930s, the space was once Stubby’s Cardroom. There’s still a stencil on the door reading “No food, no drinks. No one under 18 years old.” Akers, 37, moved to Suite B in January, handcrafting a high wooden counter to provide clients with privacy while getting inked and creating a minimalist space that is both calming and a showcase for colorful designs. Except for Facebook and Instagram, he doesn’t advertise. “I want it to be a little like a speakeasy — people who know about me through word of mouth.”
Akers is another local who grew up in the Placerville area. As an apprentice to Dave Cameron of Hangtown Tattoo and an ink artist with Royal Six Tattoo, he developed a wide variety of skills and styles and an appreciation for the history of tattooing. He’s tattooed a host of loyal clients since 2004, including his grandmother. “She’s addicted to tattoos, now,” said Akers.
He also loves a challenge which he gets in producing new designs, creating custom tattoos and especially, in being a single father to three daughters. “I’m always into new stuff,” said Akers. “I encourage them to draw what they want to draw. Tattooing has a way of showing you not to judge a book by its cover.”
“All we do is hair,” said Jessica Melancon, the co-owner of the American Beauty Salon in Suite A with her sister, Elana Leyba. The sisters grew up in Diamond Springs in a family of cattle ranchers and homesteaders more than five generations in the area. “My grandmother lived in the apartment upstairs here when she was 3,” said Melancon. “I found out when she came to get her hair done and she remembered it. “
Melancon, 28, has been a hair stylist for eight years and specializes in color. Leyba, 37, learned the art of hair styling through an apprenticeship with her younger sister. “We always wanted a sister business,” said Leyba, “and when we found this place, we thought, ‘Why not?’”
Hair artistes Nicole Elsa, 29, and Alina Zade, 37, from the Bay Area and Los Angeles respectively, round out the bevy of stylists in the sunny salon which opened in July. Although the stylists are the newest inhabitants of the newest part of the building, they say their clientele love the vintage charm of the building and they love working together in the space.
With all the history at 520 Pleasant Valley, you might also expect a little … atmosphere. The stylists at American Beauty noted that the front door kept opening on its own when they moved in. They dealt with their ghost, if ghost it was, by welcoming it and cautioning it not to cause problems. The door problem stopped.
“It was a sad building,” said Alina Zade, “but we brought happiness in. I think it just wanted to feel loved.”
Akers, the first artist to move in, noticed nothing out of the way until a couple of months ago. Not a believer in the supernatural, Akers now feels he might have a ghost in the bathroom. “I make it a point to turn off all the lights before I close up,” he said. “But, time and again during the past month, I’ve come in the next day and the bathroom light is on.”
Delmer and Beckerat, in the original building where one might expect some paranormal activity, have had no manifestations, no doors opening and closing by themselves and no supernatural light tricks. Just “peace and bliss” according to Beckerat.
“I did some smudging when we moved in, in February,” said Delmer, “but this is a good space.”
In the apartment upstairs, realtor and building owner, Sheri Miller, has her home office where Glenn and Mercedes Krusich once lived in the 1970s and a brothel may or may not have been located in the ‘30s. “Mercedes loved her building,” said Miller. “And I think she’s still keeping tabs on it.”
For all the new inhabitants of “Tara,” the charm, the history and the quiet surroundings seem to be working well. As for any ghosts, they seem to be satisfied too.
Call or text American Beauty at (530) 206-6250. Akers, Delmer and Beckerat use social media to set appointments and to profile their art. Check them out at michaelbeckeratart.com, shopvesselarts.com, IG:@vesselarts, IG: tattoos_by_josh and on Facebook.