Gallery: Josie Rietkert [3 Images] Click any image to expand.
by Donia Moore
Josie Rietkert should be in a hurry. It’s Monday morning and her day is filled with appointments, board meetings and client conferences. But instead, she has made the time to chat about her favorite topic – work.
Josie is deceptively laid back. Calm and clear about what is important in her life - family first, then work, whether it’s in the community or one of the stores and businesses she has brought to life - a self proclaimed workaholic she never once makes you feel that she’s rushed for time. In fact, she talks enthusiastically of the accomplishments of her three sons, Tim, Peter and Jeffrey, and daughter Catarina. She glows with excitement discussing the trip she’s looking forward to taking to Italy with three of her seven grandchildren and their mom to visit cousins on the Italian side of the family. That’s before she even begins to discuss her latest sortie into producing one of the most successful DBA Car Shows San Clemente has seen to date. Taking over the reigns for this labor of love didn’t faze Josie at all.
“With 60,000 people and 300 cars, it’s a little like starting up a new business from scratch. Dave Anderson (her predecessor) did a marvelous job for 18 years and there are some big shoes to fill, but we’re getting there.”
She and her committee have already started working on next year’s show and she welcomes any help volunteers would like to give.
“I love the downtown areas of our small town. People don’t realize how important downtowns are to a community. Downtowns are the heart of any community and I will do everything in my power to support ours. The DBA sponsored Puttin’ On the Glitz, the Car Show, shopping and other events to get people downtown are very special to San Clemente.”
Sweet Start-up Success
Starting up new businesses is Josie’s joy. As the conversation shifts to her own accomplishments, it’s astounding to realize the amount of time and effort she has put into the San Clemente community. She and her family relocated to our beachside community from a long stint in Colorado in 1985 and opened her first California store here. It wasn’t just luck that helped her make a continued success of each of her ensuing stores. Josie grew up in the retail industry in Pomona.
“My parents were in retail their whole lives. My first job was at the age of 12 in their store in Pomona.”
The popular Frasier’s in downtown Pomona was a forerunner of the department store era and the California native learned everything about running a successful retail business from her dedicated parents.
“When my children entered high school and middle school, my goal was to work close to home to keep an eye on them,” she reminisces.
This was not an idle wish. By this time Josie - also highly respected in the nursing field and a former psychiatric nurse staffer in Juvenile Hall’s Seaview school - knew the importance of providing emotional and psychological support for adolescents.
She started Catarina’s on Pico, which quickly became a favorite haunt of anyone with a sweet tooth, including many of the area’s school children. Delectable candies and chocolates joined creamy yogurt concoctions on the store’s menu. Although she sold and closed that original Catarina’s, two other enhanced versions have survived at John Wayne and Ontario Airports.
“Opening up a store at LAX was a nightmare. There are so many permits and constant changes in government regulations and restrictions - but I loved the challenge!” That store closed in 2009 after 15 years.
Josie branched out from that first store in San Clemente to open another one in Huntington Beach a few years later; one in the Reno/Tahoe area, and a series of children’s clothing and toy stores in the airports – all of which were later sold with Josie’s perfect sense of timing.
She still maintains the confectionaries at the airports. They have grown into high-end retail stores featuring not only the original dipped chocolates and self-serve yogurt, but also fresh bakery items and bulk candy for the snack hungry traveler. Unfortunately for us, you have to be traveling and have a boarding pass to get to the airport stores, but don’t forget them the next time you take a long weekend or vacation flight. That spoonful of sugar might be just what you need to help those airplane meals go down.
Nursing Interest in Gluten-free Products
An especially interesting note about Josie’s venture into the retail arena is that she is also a knowledgeable, highly respected health professional with a Masters degree in Administrative Nursing. Much of her professional life was spent in psychiatric nursing. She opened psychiatric units at Mercy Hospital, and managed psychiatric wards at hospitals in La Jolla. She also worked on the nursing staff in Juvenile Hall, assessing the psychiatric conditions of young offenders and advocating for their needs for counseling or treatment instead of ineffective jail time.
In pursuit of providing healthful alternatives, Josie opened her favorite store, StellaLucy, on El Camino Real in town. Named for two of her granddaughters, the store became popular at a time when the public was just beginning to understand the concept of wheat, rye and barley gluten allergies. With her dedication to healthful eating, she set out to help educate the public about the difficulties gluten could cause within the digestive system. She carried only gluten free products, long before local markets added them to their daily offerings. She believes that anyone suffering from a gluten allergy can effectively enjoy improved health within three to four weeks by going on a gluten-free diet.
“That’s how long it takes for your cells to completely regenerate,” she remarked.
Although she recently sold stellaLucy, she remains dedicated to helping people understand the connection between a host of diseases and gluten consumption.
GMOs, genetically modified foods, also cause Josie to make an extra effort to educate people about the dangers of eating non-organic food.
“Certified Organic foods cannot be tampered with, genetically speaking. It’s more than just the non-use of pesticides that is at stake, here. Many foods we buy today are not the same as those we grew up with because their genetic make-up has been so modified.”
AMO Construction is another family start-up company. Josie and son Tim set up the company in 1996. It specializes in new construction and the remodeling of commercial and residential buildings. Tim Rietkerk has extensive knowledge in tenant improvements, food service construction, design and new home construction. He lives in San Clemente.
One of AMO’s recent projects is the building near the corner of El Camino Real and Granada, where the old barbershop used to be. AMO Construction is a Professional California Licensed General B Contractor with extensive experience in commercial tenant improvement projects and custom home building.
“We provide superior service, honest value and quality construction. We are proud of our work, we love the work we do, and we are committed to our client’s satisfaction,” says Josie.
Sons Peter, an engineer with Hewlitt Packard, and Jeffrey, a chemical engineer with Dartmouth, are also successes in their fields. The original Catarina, Josie’s daughter, helps out with the family business that bears her name. Husband Peter is a retired aerospace engineer.
One day, San Clemente Journal publisher and photographer Don Kindred popped into Josie’s office and told her she needed to join the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce. The next day, in typical no-nonsense Josie fashion, she did. Her obvious dedication and love for the community led to a seat on the Board of Directors which she maintained for several years. She is still an ardent supporter. She also sat on the board of the Boys and Girls Club for a couple of years.
Her introduction to the Downtown Business Association came via Tony Carbonara and Bob Novella, about 20-years-ago. Although she was busy trying to open her airport locations, she still devoted whatever time she could to the DBA events.
Back to the Future
What does the crystal ball see for Josie’s future? “I don’t really have any specific goals, as such. I enjoy traveling with my family when time permits, and I enjoy my time with my beautiful grandchildren. I’m truly passionate about opening and running retail stores. I just love to work and I love the challenge of starting up new businesses. It’s what I do best! I’m definitely a work-aholic - it’s my life, my hobby and my goal.”
If you love what you’re doing, is it really work?