Steve Moulton at the Cave. Photo by Marshall Smith
Steve Moulton at the Cave.
Photo by Marshall Smith

Steve Moulton, longtime Hill resident, likes the lack of anonymity of small-town life. “I like knowing people,” he said as he sat at his latest retail outlet, the Cave in Fern Valley Corners. “I’m not a private person. I like the association with others you get up here. You can get a whole lot closer to people, get to know them, and they find they can trust you and can talk with you.”

And like many on the Hill, Moulton came from a larger community down from the mountain — in his case, Long Beach where his dad had several gas stations. “I’ve always loved retail, maybe getting that from my father,” he said. He said he first came to appreciate the virtues of small-town living when his parents bought a resort in Clear Lake, California. “I went to high school there,” he said. “Knowing everybody, that appealed to me.” He was introduced to Idyllwild in 1971 when his sister and brother-in-law held a family reunion here.

Moulton, like Eiler Larsen, Laguna Beach greeter, famous to tourists and locals for many years, is an available friend to all, happy and willing to listen to the stories of those who stop by his shop. Moulton recounts how so many are in the habit of coming to purchase, from Bubba’s Books or his collectibles at the Cave, but stay to talk and share their stories, concerns and celebrations. “People in Idyllwild are different,” he said, “not so much stuck in the stress-filled 8 to 5 routine of people down below. They’re more laid back with more time to visit. I don’t ever want to leave. You develop so many friendships with people.” Moulton, a front porch philosopher, said he thinks it’s our circumstances — circumstances of living close to each other where everybody knows everybody. “You go to the post office in the middle of the day and all your neighbors are there.”

He noted that he has come to know so many in town through the varied businesses he has had here. First he had a trading card and collectibles shop he said introduced him to so many of the kids in the community and their parents. He also had a paper route for the Press-Enterprise, delivering locally for “1,400 days.”

He bought his first cabin, in Pine Cove, 37 years ago and has been a full-time resident of the Hill for more than 22 years. Being available to sit, visit and talk, Moulton probably knows more people on the Hill than most. It’s because of that familiarity with the resident population that Moulton worked to vet candidates for the Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce, helping the Chamber run its board of director elections.

Wandering through Bubba’s Books, one is struck by the variety of titles, neatly organized according to author and by the bargain basement prices. “I’ve always preferred to sell more at less of a price,” he said. Moulton said he keeps close track of what his customers like to read and stocks accordingly. At the Cave, collectibles are marked both with price and some appropriate saying. “I like to share my ‘writing’ and thoughts,” he said.

When asked what to him is most special about Idyllwild, he said, “Doug Austin. He is my hero, the most humble and the most caring person I know. He always greets you and makes you smile. He gives so much to the community and yet doesn’t want people to know how much he has given.”

Like Austin, Moulton gives — both in presence and in presents to the community. Moulton funded the “Girl Reading” metal sculpture, crafted by Dore Capitani that is installed in front of the new Idyllwild Library. The sculpture, initially drawn with help from local artist Jan Jaspers-Fayer, is a tribute to the late Mary Austin, Doug Austin’s wife, a lifelong proponent of literacy for children.

Moulton, like Austin, does not trumpet his accomplishments. He is a business administration graduate of Cal State Fullerton, an Army veteran, and a man with a significant corporate career. He has worked in stock brokerage houses, and has held corporate regional management positions in the auto industry for American Motors and Subaru.

Of his peripatetic career that has honed his people skills, Moulton said, “I’ve fallen into stuff my whole life. I don’t think it was my ability, just a little star [as a guide].”