After passing through a heavy glass door in the Old Petaluma Opera House building on Kentucky Street, and climbing a steep flight of stairs, you arrive in the bright, high-ceilinged loft that is the home of Cameron + Company publishing. On your right, Children’s Publisher Nina Greuner’s workspace is situated under a sign featuring the Cameron Kids imprint.
“I wrote our first children’s books,” Nina says, “and since Chris and I have kids ages 11, 9 and 4, we have a ready-made focus group for the six children’s books we publish each year — books we all love, books that matter, books that need to be books.”
Nina’s late grandfather, Robert Cameron, was well known as the aerial photographer who published his first large-format coffee table book “Above San Francisco” in 1969, eventually adding an additional 16 books to the “Above” series. The Grueners purchased the publishing house in 2009 and relocated it to Petaluma so they can walk to work.
“We continue to publish distinguished titles with an emphasis on art and photography,” Chris explains in his Publisher’s Office, where the antique door needs to be wedged with a folded envelope to keep it closed. “But we diversified to include children’s books, books of regional interest and local fare.”
The most recent example is the newly released “Mary’s Italian Family Cookbook,” which interweaves 90 flavorful recipes with the inspiring story of how, at the age of 46, Mary Fazio used her $700 life savings to open Mary’s Pizza Shack in Boyes Hot Springs — and how this family business has grown to 17 restaurants in six Northern California counties.
“The Mary’s book has a good handle to it,” says creative director and company partner, Iain Morris. “A perfect match with a brand that is slightly provincial,” Morris explains in his British accent, “with its own homely vibe.” (The word “homely,” we should point out, is a Britishism for being as cozy and comfortable as one’s own home).
Morris was working for London’s famed Dorling Kindersly (DK) publishing when he was headhunted in 1998 by Marin’s Lucasfilm to become marketing art director for the multitude of “Star Wars” books, magazines and comics, tied into the “Star Wars” prequels. This was followed by becoming art director for global licensing at Charles Schulz Creative Studios in Santa Rosa. He joined Cameron + Company in 2012.
“I arrived in ’98 to find a very sleepy Petaluma,” Morris says, “and I’m surprised how it has blossomed since then — yet managed to keep its charm.”
“In addition,” Nina adds, “our hometown is a place where the creative juices flow … bursting with interesting and creative artists, musicians, photographers. For example, three Petalumans collaborated on our children’s travel book “Kiki and Coco in Paris.” I wrote the story, Jess Brown created the Coco rag doll and Stephanie Rausser took the photographs.”
Those photos included a select few which used Petaluma locations as “stand-ins” for Paris.
On a long worktable that runs down the center of the room Morris proudly shows off his mock-ups for a new book, a celebration of seven-time Oscar-winning movie makeup-master and creature-creator Rick Baker.
“We’re planning two versions for the book,” he says. “Both will be filled with surprises … but the super limited collector’s edition will come in a package designed like Rick Baker’s own makeup case. It’s going to be amazing.”