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Forever Abby Blackstone
Jarah Euston's plans for Fresno didn't quite pan out.
During the wildest days, when the dream was so close it was touchable, the 28-year-old Bullard High graduate (OK, she was a valedictorian) saw herself recruiting friends, buying up a block of Chinatown and rebuilding Fresno into a bustling hipster utopia.
But, best laid plans and all that.
Still, Fresno is Fresno — full of great, untapped resources, brimming with potential. It is California's new frontier after all (at least according to the mugs at Starbucks), and Euston took full advantage.
"In Fresno, it's so easy to get involved. It's so easy to have an impact," she says.
Since she moved back from New York in 2003, she's:
B.) started (and later sold) a certain community Web site that served as a voice of those who believe vibrant, cultural life can exist south of Herndon Avenue, and in fact, already does (the early motto for the site was "Life Below Belmont")
C.) sat on the Mayor's Creative Economy Council, which developed a set of recommendations to bring and keep creatives in town
D.) spurred on other budding entrepreneurs as a teacher at the Central Valley Business Incubator
And now, she's leaving.
On Monday, Euston hops a plane for Philadelphia, where she will attend the Wharton School (yes, Donald Trump is an alumni, but only as an undergrad, Euston says) to earn an MBA.
Never one to pull punches Euston says she's leaving, in part, because Fresno hasn't become the place she wants it to be. The momentum she saw, back when the dream was so close it was touchable, when two or three new ArtHop stops opened every month, and new bands played every weekend, didn't pan out.
"Progress didn't happen as quickly as I wanted."
And she knows many Fresnans won't care. They are happy with their suburban lifestyles.
That's fine, she says.
"Not everyone wants to live in a hip, urban, bustling place."
But she leaves a group of people who do — a community of creatives she helped gather.
"She's got really good ideas about community building," says Suzi Arnold, a Web programmer who helped launch Fresno Famous' version two in 2006.
She knows what she expects from a community and works hard to make it happen, says Craig Scharton, Euston's boss at the Incubator. She's also whip-smart brilliant, something people might not know just from reading her blog. She could read a business plan faster and ask tougher questions than seasoned ventured capitalists, Scharton says.
That kind of brilliance can be intimidating, says Suzanne Bertz-Rosa, who created the Web forum Mindhub and is a boomerang herself. She was intimidated first meeting Euston. But she came to appreciate Euston's cynicism and her fearlessness — her willingness to call out the city or the mayor or the mainstream media.
"She's not afraid to say or do anything that needs to be said or done."
Other things you might not know about Euston:
A.) She's a total fashionista, Arnold says, the kind of gal who knows when to mix her Jimmy Choos with thrift store clothes.
B.) In high school, she worked at Kenny Roger's Roasters.
C.) She was voted junior class homecoming princess, but missed the event — she was home preparing for a debate tournament.
D.) She already has a business degree from NYU and worked as a corporate bond analyst (we're not going to pretend we know what that means) on Wall Street.
And she never thought she'd end up anywhere near Fresno. Her college applications didn't include any schools west of the Mississippi. When she came back, it was only for a year. The plan was to live on the cheap until she could figure out what she really wanted to do, where she really wanted to be.
Yet here she is.
For a few more days, at least.
And then ... who knows?
But we will be watching. "I can't wait to see what happens next," Arnold says.
Having Euston move is sad, like a father watching his teenager leave home, Scharton says. "This is what I raised you for. Call me if you need me."
But believe it or not, this is good for the city, Scharton says.
"When we are successful, it won't mean anything."
Someday having our most successful leave won't be sad, it will be celebrated. We're talking parades in the streets.
How's that for a plan?