Whatever Lola wants, Lola works hard to get. And her efforts often benefit a Central Coast chamber of commerce.
Most know Lola and John Balestra as the popcorn people at area farmers markets.
They pop kettle corn on Mondays in Baywood Park, Wednesdays in Pismo Beach, Saturdays in Morro Bay and beginning Memorial Day weekend, Friday mornings in Cayucos.
But here’s the rest of their story.
By profession, Lola is a court reporter. She worked in the courts in Fresno until the couple moved to Cayucos in 1999. She still contracts three days a week with San Luis Obispo County courts.
John retired early from the CHP because of a medical disability. He tried to keep busy building a classic car with his father and contracting with the Automobile Club of Southern California on auto fraud investigations, but something was missing.
“One day he came home and said he’d been looking for something fun and found a mobile popcorn business. It was so out of character, but we started doing the Fresno farmers market. We loved it,” Lola said. “When we did a Pismo car show one year, we discovered the Central Coast had better weather for cooking hot popcorn, so moving here became a goal.”
As business owners, they believe in joining each chamber of commerce where they do business. And at their home-base chamber in Cayucos, Lola is totally involved.
They helped produce the recent Sea Glass Festival and organize the Front Street vendors for the Cayucos Fourth of July festivities.
And since Kay Ashe retired and moved, Lola has assumed management of the Peddler’s Faire.
“It’s a big fundraiser for the chamber to support our Fourth of July,” Lola said. “Mr. Pollard donates his field for Memorial Day, July Fourth and Labor Day holidays. We can still accept vendors with collectibles, books, crafts, but no food vendors. The chamber tries not to duplicate products offered by merchants in town.”
Then there is the Cayucos farmers market. Lola started it in 2002, but when the county fees to use the Veterans Memorial Lions Hall parking lot and insurance costs skyrocketed, it expired.
“Shelley Graham was a stroller mom who missed the market,” Lola said. “She pushed and got the market going again. Supervisor (Bruce) Gibson lives in Cayucos and personally donated the parking lot fees. The vendors supported the other fees. Shelley ran it for three years but moved, so I’m running it again.”
Each Friday , 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day, the market has 14 vendors with local vegetables, stone fruits, tuber roses and cherries when in season.
Ask a busy lady. Lola can be reached at 995-1664 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thoughts? Reach Judy Salamacha at email@example.com or 801-1422.