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Building a California dynasty, one family member at a time

SHINGLE SPRINGS, Calif. - Elaine Whitehurst, a member of the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, is a woman on a mission and demands a lot from herself and those around her.

Last March she became the proud owner and president of a 14-year-old family-owned business named Key Screen Printing and Embroidery.

Now, with her family around her, she is continuing in the same fashion as the shop;s original owners and is working to build a family dynasty with her children and grandchildren working at her side.

In the five months since she purchased the business, revenues have increased at such a pace that she is having a hard time keeping up with the demand. A well-known figure in her community, Whitehurst serves as a tribal council member and occasionally as a tribal liaison, has served on the tribe's health board, and is a former member of the tribe's gaming commission and a current member of the local Chamber of Commerce.

For 17 years, she worked for Optical Coating Laboratory Inc. in Santa Rosa. One day she received a phone call and had a decision to make.

''The tribal council called me to come and help with the project of the new casino and the interchange that was being constructed. I did that for nine years until last January. When I was at Optical Coating Laboratory, I was the process

controller for 2,009 people. I like people and things to move, and I like people to be happy when they are moving it.''

Keeping people happy is something Key Screen Printing and Embroidery provides, offering customers exactly what they want.

''Companies here want you to buy large quantities; I don't like that. If someone comes in and wants one T-shirt screen printed, that is fine,''

Whitehurst said.

The shop boasts a new 12-head embroidery machine purchased by Whitehurst that does beautiful work on a jacket. They can also airbrush a loved one or favorite pet onto a T-shirt from a photograph and offer screen printing services.

''I am a very persuasive person, but I am also family oriented. At lunchtime, I run down and buy lunch for everyone and bring it back and we sit down. I have a couch and TV and my husband, Charley, comes in and sits down with all the grandchildren around him and they all eat lunch. It is nice that even when we are working, it is all family. We laugh and joke, and if we sit there for two hours, no one cares,'' she said. ''No one I know has what I have here.''

Her daughter, Veronica Holmes, worked for 20 years in Sacramento in different capacities for three auto dealerships.

''I called her when I bought this place and the paperwork was drowning me and I said, 'I need you, can you came and help me?' She put in her three-week notice that day and came to work for me as my secretary and treasurer.''

Veronica is married to Scott Holmes, chairman of the Shingle Springs Rancheria's gaming authority.

Her son, Charley Whitehurst, is the vice president and her daughter, Genny, recently gave birth to the newest member of the family, Wyatt.

Whitehurst's grandchildren, Jonathan and Tyler Holmes and Kenneth Whitehurst, also work in the family business. Kenneth, 16, has a background in graphic design and currently takes care of the shop's graphic needs on a full-time basis.

With the new Red Hawk Casino opening a stone's throw away, Key Screen Printing and Embroidery is handling that account.

''We are doing all of the shirts the casino has asked for. Someday, I am going to get back into politics when the business is growing and my children are running it. That was my first love: tribal politics. I am known for taking something and going with it, and when it is running smoothly handing it off to someone.

''The business will go to the family and stay with the family. The kids have learned to run it smoothly and I have just kind of stepped back and let them do it. This has been a wonderful thing. It is different when you work with family - really different.''