A fond farewell to Grass Valley’s Cousin Jack’s | TheUnion.com

A fond farewell to Grass Valley’s Cousin Jack’s

Arlene Rice, co-owner of Cousin Jack's Pasties, sits in her corner shop that she has been selling pasties from for almost 30 years. The traditional Cornish pasty shop is closing, leaving only one other Grass Valley location to get the meal the miners made.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

After nearly 30 years in business, Cousin Jack’s Pasties in Grass Valley is getting ready to close its doors for good.

Owners Arlene and Richard Rice, aged 84 and 86 respectively, have built their business based on a pasty recipe passed down for five generations in Arlene’s family who settled in Nevada County in 1850.

After making their living cooking and selling traditional Cornish beef and special pasties — as well as other authentic British fare — Cousin Jack’s owners decided they are ready to retire after medical issues have made running a business more difficult.

Eight weeks ago, Richard suffered a near-fatal medical emergency. Wondering if her husband would live to see another day, Arlene vowed to herself that if he pulled through, she would call it quits on the business.

His recovery sealed their fate.


Sitting in their South Auburn Street location, Arlene said that saying goodbye to the community will be bittersweet.

“Grown ladies are coming in with tears in their eyes saying ‘I’ve been coming here since I was a little girl,’” she said. “Lots of nice people come in. We’ve made a lot of friends.”

Originally from Nevada County, the Rices lived for several decades in the San Jose suburb of Los Gatos, where Arlene enjoyed a career in nursing for almost 29 years. In the back of her mind, however, she knew she was ready to move on and pay homage to her heritage.

After a number of attempts, Arlene perfected the pasty recipe she had grown up eating and decided to take the plunge, opening a shop where she could share her family’s traditional fare.

They started Cousin Jack’s in Penn Valley, and for 10 years, the duo also operated a Cousin Jack’s location in Nevada City. Their Grass Valley location, however, has been their home base.


“I feel like my parents would have been happy,” Arlene said, “knowing that I did this and it lasted as long and we shared it with so many people. And that makes me feel good.”

She is unsure what will become of the location they have occupied since the late 1980s, a thought that Arlene admits makes her feel slightly pensive. She wonders what it will be like to drive and walk by the space where so many memories were made, and to witness someone else creating a life of their own. She knows, however, it is an inevitable result of the decision she and her husband made.

The Rices don’t have an exact closing date, but expect to be in business for about another three weeks, or until their pasties run out.

“We had quite a few pasties made and we said when they’re gone, that’s it,” said Arlene. “And we’re getting low.”

Without skipping a beat, Arlene said the secret to her success is simple: lots of hard work.

“When I look back on it, it was pretty awesome,” said Arlene. “Good days, bad days. Good weekends, bad weekends. It all went together.

“We enjoyed it. It’s a family recipe and I was really happy to think that we could share that. It came from the heart and heredity.”

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at jnobles@theunion.com or 530-477-4231.

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