Entrepreneurial spirit hit Jay Ross early: at age 8

Community Portrait
By: Michael Kirby
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Even as a child Jay Ross was an entrepreneur. Ross remembers as an 8- or 9-year-old setting up chairs in his family garage and charging neighbor kids a few cents to watch cartoons. “I remember having a little snow cone machine, a cotton candy machine and popcorn machine from the Sears catalog, and my brother and I made money showing cartoons,” Ross said, “Five cents a head.” At 15 Ross was a fixture at swap meets selling stereos, tapes, ladies shoes and T-shirts. “I would sell anything that could make money, and that’s what got me into sales at a young age,” Ross said. At 20, Ross obtained his real estate brokers license and had his own real estate firm selling homes and also buying a few along the way for investments. Tired of the fast pace of Southern California, Ross fell in love with the foothills while on vacation in Northern California. With his wife Judy’s blessing, the young couple sold all the properties and moved to Auburn. That was in 1982 and after laying low a year or two and exploring the area, Ross went back to work. Ross was again very successful at selling real estate and enjoyed the Auburn community, easily getting to know everyone. In 1992 Ross grew restless with the local real estate market and saw a need for children’s activities. Ross started investigating and kicking around ideas with good friend and karate instructor Andre Simms. Along with numerous community members that the two enlisted to help, Ross, Simms and Bonnie McAdams got very serious about nurturing constructive activities for area youth. “The downside of the area at the time was there was not a lot of things for the kids to do,” he said. The idea began with the Auburn Youth Project and later in 1994 became the Auburn Boys & Girls Club. “In the early days of having 20 or 30 kids, the club has evolved to now having nearly 1,000,” Ross said. “It’s nice to see that the work of so many good people really paid off.” Ross currently is an honorary board member, recognized for his community work with setting up the club. Ross’ current venture, The Barter Club, came out of a need to help many of Auburn’s small businesses increase their sales. Trading nights at his Tahoe cabin for local services Ross soon began to see the need for and possibility of getting a local barter club up and running promoting its members’ services and merchandise. His good friend Sims, his brother, sister and mother were the first members in the club that started in 1994. “The Barter Club is a great club for area small businesses, keeping the business local within our town,” said Ross. “Our barter credit is only good within our system, our club.” Today The Barter Club now has close to 250 members offering services to each other. Dovetailing with his duties at The Barter Club, Ross got into limo service in 2002 when a club member wanted to sell his limo. He now has two limos and enjoys driving interested parties to events or a special night out. Along with his entrepreneurial skills Ross has been deeply moved by the Auburn community and over the years has given back to his adopted home. Besides his work with the Boys & Girls Club, Ross has played Santa Claus for years locally, has been the master of ceremonies at St. Joseph’s Church events, and a celebrity chef, believing that helping his community is a responsibility and a good example for his five children, all raised in Auburn. Ross also credits his wife Judy for her assistance on their journey, “Having a good wife has made all the difference in the world. We succeed together, said Ross.