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It can be challenging running a business in Rancho Murieta, as it's challenging anywhere, especially in the current economy.  Despite that, some local businesses succeed and please their customers in large numbers.

Early this year, RM.com added five-star ratings to the Business Directory and encouraged you to rate area businesses.  Many of you did.

Now, as the year ends, let's give a round of applause for the businesses that got your highest marks.  Some are in competitive fields, and some are the only business of the type in the community.  Neither situation guarantees happy customers. 

Judging by your ratings, these businesses do a good job of making their customers happy.

To qualify for this list, a business needed to be rated at least 20 times and to have an average rating of 4 stars or better.

Here are your choices, 2009's all-star businesses:

Georgia Lile

Banking: El Dorado Savings Bank

Georgia Lile, vice president and branch manager
4.2 stars (27 votes)

El Dorado Savings Vice President Georgia Lile has been the branch manager at the bank in the Plaza since 1994 and she’s been with the company for 36 years. “El Dorado has a culture that’s a little bit different than your other banks, especially the big ones,” she said. “Our customers never become a number to us. We know them by name, we make it our business to try to understand their needs ... Without a customer, we wouldn’t be here. ... We never changed what we do. We accept savings and checking account money from the communities that we have branches in and in turn we put that money out in the form of home loans. Good home loans -- loans that are good for the people purchasing the home and good for El Dorado. We stayed with the tried and true and it has served us well.”


Anne Denker Bohanna

Child care and preschool: Anne Denker Bohanna

4.2 stars (20 votes)

When she opened a child care business at her home in 1994, “there was always a waiting list. It just seemed like there was such a need out here,” Anne Denker Bohanna recalled. “I had always wanted to do something for a career that I enjoyed, and I knew that I enjoyed children so it just sort of came together ... and I’ve loved it.

“In the last few years, I started realizing how long I’ve been in this business when I started receiving invitations to school graduations,” she said.  These days, she works with a small group of  children four days a week. “I feel it’s my responsibility to instill the love and trust and to give the kids a sense of confidence in themselves and others. Then, once these things are established, learning just comes naturally, and they know what I expect from them.” 


Shelley and Mike Jeffries

Child care and preschool: Rancho Murieta Learning Center

Mike and Shelley Jeffries
4.1 stars (34 votes)

Rancho Murieta Learning Center begins its sixth year in January. The center provides infant care, preschool instruction and day care for children from six weeks to six years old. “You really get to know the families over the years. In our business, you’re dealing with the same families each week,” said Mike Jeffries, who runs the center with his wife, Shelley. “We just listen to their needs. No two families have quite the same needs. ... It’s kind of helping out each family with what they need and trying to be the best solution because it is stressful for parents, especially the moms, to put their children in daycare and not be with them. So we just try to put them at ease and provide the best service we can for them.”


Ron Zakoor

Coffee shops: MarShaTes

Ron and Margaret Zakoor
4.6 stars (43 votes)

New Year’s is the 11th anniversary of MarShaTes, which has grown to include an inventory of wines and a wine bar as well as coffee drinks and pastries. 

“As far as the wine goes, it’s my passion. I grew up in wine country,” Margaret Zakoor said.   When asked to explain MarShaTes’ popularity, she said, “We just work with the community and we put our customers first.”   Her husband, Ron, said, “We treat them like guests in our home. We greet them by name and remember what they drink.”


Damon Mercado

Computer services: Damon’s Computer Services

Damon Mercado
4.7 stars (56 votes)

After providing computer services in the community for several years, Damon Mercado officially launched his home-based business more than a year ago and now has over 400 customers. “I didn’t know it was going to take off like it has,” he said. “Everybody’s doing everything online.”

As a computer doctor, he responds to emergency calls from clients whose businesses depend on computers as well as more casual users. He makes it a point to check back with customers after making a repair, telling them, “If you have a problem, I want to know. I want to make sure you’re happy. ... I do a lot of follow-up to make sure everything is going OK. ...  You won’t get that service at a Best Buy, that’s for sure. ... I always tell my clients it’s not always about the money.”


Toni Giggey

Gift and specialty shops: From My Heart Gifts and Cards

Toni and Bill Giggey
4.0 stars (25 votes)

Toni and Bill Giggey opened their shop four years ago. Toni Giggey believes the community’s loyalty to Plaza shops and the sense of fellowship here have contributed to its success. “I’ve tried to have a little bit of everything,” she said. “Greeting cards are our mainstay, and I handpick each card. If it’s going to come ‘From My Heart’ it has to be right. ... There’s a variety of gifts and different price ranges. I do complimentary gift wrapping.” Running the shop is “joyful,” she said. “We’ll stay here as long as can. We are blessed.” 


Julie and John Davis

Hardware: Ace Hardware

John and Julie Davis
4.5 stars (28 votes)

In March, it will be five years since John and Julie Davis began running the hardware store. Having the only hardware store in town is no guarantee of success, according to Julie Davis. “So many people still work and go down the hill every day, and they don’t have to shop here, and we know that. We make sure the employees know that, too. We don’t take anything for granted,” she said.

She believes it’s important to listen to customers and pay attention to their needs. “We go out of our way to try to get the item if we can. ... Our employees really make the difference. They’re just great with the customers. They’re very knowledgeable and very helpful. ... It’s also helpful that most of the guys live here. So not only do they know some of the homeowners already, but they have homes here so they know what we need to have on the shelf.”


Letitia Sexton

Supermarkets: Plaza Foods

Letitia Sexton
4.5 stars (43 votes)

Bob and Letitia Sexton started Plaza Foods over 20 years ago and two of their children, Michelle Hubbell and Darin Sexton, now run the business. “They’re doing a really good job. They’re carrying on in what was kind of our intent, to be an independent grocery in the community, but be part of the community,” Letitia Sexton said. “To listen to our customers and try to have the things that they want in the store, and, along with that, we give them good service because we think that’s something they may not be able to get elsewhere.”


Charrie Bastian

Tutoring: Charrie Bastian

4.9 stars (20 votes)

Charrie Bastion received her teaching credential in 1998, she’s the director of the community’s home school group, she teaches her three young daughters at home, and she provides tutoring services for grade school and high school students.

Teaching “is something I enjoyed doing since I was really young,” she said. “You start nurturing that when you’re young, when you’re babysitting, and when you have younger siblings. ... I think it’s something that’s just ingrained in me. My mom’s a teacher and my grandma’s a teacher. It’s just who I am. ... I’m very happy I get to do what I love to do.”

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