Working, parenting, and thriving in Sisters
Last updated 9/6/2022 at Noon
When they were children, Emily Rickards’ and Jon Luz’s families moved to Sisters for the same reason: a better place to raise their kids. Emily (now Luz) graduated from Sisters High School in 2010. Jon graduated in 2015. They left town to pursue their dreams, but both knew eventually they’d settle in Sisters. Now they’re raising their own children and loving life near family and friends old and new.
When Jon started working at Emily’s family-owned restaurant, The Open Door, he was smitten with her right from the start. It took her a bit longer to realize her coworker was her future husband.
“We had so many beautiful, amazing women working for us. I never thought Jon would be interested in me,” said Emily with a chuckle.
After graduation, Emily and Jon left for college. Emily graduated from Seattle Pacific University, where she studied international business and French; she also received a Bachelor of Arts in business administration. Jon had high hopes for a baseball scholarship, which didn’t happen, but he did study kinesiology at Oregon State University. After two years in Corvallis, Jon felt a strong pull back to Central Oregon, so he transferred to OSU-Cascades.
“I prefer living in a place with 300 days of sun to 300 days of rain,” he said, holding their 9-month-old daughter, Luella, while their son, Matteo, slept. “I started at The Open Door as a summer job after I moved back. Eventually, I went full-time at the restaurant.”
When Emily headed off to college, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to pursue.
“I went into writing because I love doing it. I had a poem published in a contest. I tried fashion for a while but really found my niche in international business,” she said.
In high school, Emily took French from instructor and cherished mentor Susanna Harrison.
“I took French because I was planning to go to Madagascar during my senior year. I took two months off and went spring term after a non-profit hired me as a writer. Then I went to France for six months during college and stayed with a family while I studied international business,” she said.
Jon and Emily have always laughed at the fact that she never even applied to an Oregon school.
“I think it’s because I knew I was going back.
But I needed to get out for a certain time, or I’d never do it,” she said.
“I always knew I wanted to work in a place that I loved.
I was confident I could do any kind of work as long as I enjoyed it.
I wasn’t ever motivated to get a top position somewhere, and go into business for marketing or strategy.
I just wanted to do something I loved, surrounded by people I loved.
Then I started working at our family restaurant and started managing a year after that.
My job is evolving into more of an ownership type of position.
It’s been really rewarding, challenging in the best ways, and it keeps me learning and growing.
It’s a vocation, and I love that Jon and I get to do it together.
We get to see each other in a workday — but not all the time.
Sometimes we’re just tagging each other out, more like a baton in track-and-field.
We love working in a family environment.”
Along with many blessings in their lives, Jon and Emily have had their share of trials, shaping them into the people they are today. For Jon, one huge challenge has been navigating the loss of friends who died young.
“I had four friends in four years take their own lives. That was hard; the second person was one of my best friends. I had no clue how to deal with it. I had two roommates at the time, all four of us were good friends, but we didn’t know how to talk about it. Being a man, sometimes it feels like you’re supposed to just suck it up; keep it light and put on a good face,” he said.
Thankfully, when Jon was learning how to integrate grief into his life, it was also the beginning of the couple’s relationship.
“Emily was really the one who taught me how to have a conversation — something as simple as that. Reading and writing were always a challenge, so speaking wasn’t something I felt good about,” he said.
As he became a better conversationalist, Jon gained a lot of confidence.
“The fact that I wasn’t hiding behind silence helped me open up and just feel. That’s been huge,” he said.
Looking back, Emily says that, although she was surrounded by amazing teachers and friends, she wasn’t her best self in high school.
“There were challenges like break-ups or not getting invited to lunch with everyone else, but the biggest thing was not knowing right away what I was going to do in college. It felt like I was letting people down,” she said.
One of the hardest things Emily went through in high school was not being able to be an IEE intern. (The Interdisciplinary Environmental Expedition is a physically challenging course for juniors that covers English, environmental science and outdoor recreation). Former IEE students can become interns their senior year.
“I remember Rand Runco saying he was so sorry, but it just wasn’t something he thought I could physically do. Because of that, I went to Madagascar and pursued other things and branched out. He was totally right; it wasn’t something I really wanted to do, but it was the thing that you did in high school — a cool thing to do. Not doing it was experiencing rejection in a different way. It was a very real, honest life lesson that opened other doors,” she said.
In college Emily learned how to be responsible for herself. She could no longer rely on people knowing her since she was little.
“If I was late, they locked the door. It didn’t matter if I was a good person; it was their rule and I had to follow it,” she said.
Coming from a small town, certain things were let slide, and teachers would let her turn in things late.
“I learned how to stand up for what I wanted and look for solutions instead of problems. Ultimately that was what college taught me,” she said. “It was an investment made by challenging myself to be uncomfortable at times, to not always be good at everything, to fail and be in situations where my emotional stamina and ability were tested. The beautiful thing that I took away from college was that I was around people who didn’t know me my entire life. They were addressing or recognizing the skills and talents that I brought to the world.”
It means a lot to Jon and Emily when people come into the restaurant and compliment them on their skills and professionalism.
“Whether it’s mixology for Jon or organizing a wedding event or wine tastings, they’re skills we’ve grown into. It’s affirming to hear people who recognize that we’re good at our jobs. They see us as experts — it makes me think maybe I am an expert at this. Figuring out my identity was a challenge that didn’t happen until I was in my mid-20s,” Emily said.
Jon is grateful for people like Kent and Cara Boles, who have been in his life for so long and pushed him to be better. The Boleses were instrumental in the growth of Jon’s faith.
“Emily and I talk to Matteo about faith, and pray over our kids. It’s brought empathy and kindness to his heart and teaches me to be more kind to them too,” Jon said.
“It’s been a huge part of our marriage,” said Emily. “To know when to release the things we can’t control, when we feel like we’re hitting a wall. It’s hard to think or imagine there are people who feel they have to feel the weight all on their shoulders. I don’t want to carry it all or be the judge of what others are doing. I want to be proud of the lives we live and remain humble when we do it wrong. It’s about saying sorry, and doing it better the next time.”