Jeff and Cherie Stephens have made quite the name for themselves as the owners of Stephens Farmhouse in Yuba City. For the past 21 years, this quaint little shop has offered passersby the opportunity to snag some home baked goods and locally sourced treats.
But now, the seasoned owners are ready to pass on their business to the next individual, or individuals, willing to take a risk and make it their own.
The groundwork for Stephens Farmhouse was laid out by the family's melon stand, Stephens Melons, at the corner of Garden Highway and Highway 99 before changes had been made to straighten out the highway's path.
“We knew what was going to happen to the road and that our little corner would soon be out of the loop of life,” said Cherie Stephens. “It just so happened that the Johnsons were wanting to sell their shop and so we decided it was the right time to make a move.”
The Stephens’ soon migrated to Johnson’s Farm, owned then by Dave and Lee Johnson. After 15 years spent baking and 25 years selling produce, the Johnsons were ready to retire and pass on the torch.
The Stephens’ trained with the Johnsons for nearly five months throughout their busiest holiday season before taking over and rebranding the store in February 2002. From there, Cherie Stephens slowly expanded the business to include wholesale jams, catering, and various fundraiser opportunities. Meanwhile, her husband, Jeff Stephens, tended to most of the family farming duties on various plots of land throughout the south Sutter County region. These plots supplied the farmhouse with much of its produce and the needed ingredients for its classic pies, desserts, and pastries.
But in 2021, Jeff Stephens decided to retire, sell the ranch, and lease out the remaining portions of the family’s land. The farmhouse, however, still sources its ingredients from a network of local growers.
“Jeff was born into a multi-generational farm family,” said Cherie Stephens in a social media announcement posted on Jan. 26. “It’s almost unheard of for a farmer to sell rather than pass down to the next generation. In our case, none of our three children wanted to continue the farming operation, with the conditions that face today's California agriculture. We raised our children to follow their dreams, goals and aspirations, not ours.”
Their three children are now working locally as an insurance agent, speech pathologist, and mobile welder and fabricator while Jeff Stephens fills his time operating a passion project known as SAYLove, a community organization dedicated to local beautification projects.
Cherie Stephens is now ready to join her husband in retirement and, just like the Johnsons before her, she is looking to hand over the business to another passionate entrepreneur.
“I honestly thought I’d be doing this until the day I die,” said Stephens. “I just didn't foresee our lives becoming so different because Jeff was retired and I wasn't. It’s time now for me to have some more flexibility in my life and I’m excited to see what this next chapter will hold. But it's important to note that we’re selling, not closing. There’s a lot of opportunity that's grown into this business over the last 20 years and even more room for the next owners to expand.”
Since announcing their wish to sell, the Stephens’ said they’ve already received calls from several prospective buyers. The owners believe that a three- to six-month training period would be ideal to ensure a transfer goes smoothly.
“This isn't a thing you can buy and then have someone else run it,” said Stephens. “The new owners will need to know the business inside and out like I do.”
While the Stephens’ wait out for a buyer, patrons can still visit the farmhouse from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Stephens Farmhouse is located at 6219 Sawtelle Ave. in Yuba City.