“Faces of Bishop” is a documentation of the residents of Bishop. 

Many people have heard of Bishop for its world-class rock climbing and recreation, and visitation has increased drastically for that reason. In recent years, the local and traveling climbing community has more than doubled in this sleepy, little town. Bishop is more than just climbing- there is a strong, local community made up of people with diverse backgrounds who share a love for this place. Bishop Climbing Ranger, Kara Flowers, felt inspired to document some of these stories.
Holly and Larry Mullanix – owners of Bishop Twin Theater

Excerpted from a conversation with Larry Mullanix

“…we did what we could, but if it wasn’t for Bishop- this town, this community- we would be done for.”

Now there’s a back story with Holly and the theater. This place is Holly’s whole life. I don’t even wanna say life…it is her right arm. If you took the theater away from her, I don’t want to know what would happen. Holly has worked at the theater since she was 15, starting here in high school. The owners back then were a husband and wife- Sheryl and Blair Hilborn- who bought the place in 1977. Well, the husband was buddies with another theater owner from Ridgecrest, and they both jumped in a small airplane to fly back east, but the plane went down and they lost two theater owners right there. Sheryl had two daughters, who were both off at college at the time. Now, Holly kept working here all through high school and then she went off to college. When Holly returned from school, Sheryl was struggling to do it all on her own- an independent woman owning a theater that was never her passion to begin with (always her husband’s). So Holly stepped in to help.  Sheryl was around the same age as Holly’s mother, and they just bonded, they got so close. Between those two ladies, they ran this place together for 20 years.

I came to Bishop in 2006 and my niece and I would come and watch movies at the theater all the time.  The woman behind the glass really caught my eye. I finally got the nerve to talk to her and we started dating. I worked as a handyman, so I would fix things up around there. I helped to usher or sell tickets or whatever was needed, but it was really just so I could see Holly, you know. She worked two jobs, and I think, “man, The only way I’m never gonna see this lady is if I work at the theater too.” 

About 10 years went by or a little less, and the owner went up to Holly and said, hey, I’m thinking about getting rid of this place. Would you be interested if I held the papers and helped you out…so Holly comes to me, and remember now, this is her world, so I couldn’t say no. I’m like, sure, you know, let’s do it together, but I knew this place was gonna kick our butts. We pulled the money together and bought the place in 2015. We wanted to improve the place, but we had to get a loan for everything we had. We got the loan and fully remodeled.

Three months later COVID hit, and they shut us down on March 20, 2020, for 430 days. Man that was something! It was tight, but we stuck together, me and Holly are a good team. We just tried to think outside of the box. We’re not scared to try different things and break the mold to try to make it work. We rented the marquee out there and you’d pay to put on there “I love Sally” or “Happy Birthday Tom” or whatever, and that raised some money, and then we sold popcorn. We threw together a drive-in movie night and made a screen at the fairgrounds. But yeah, It was crazy, and we did what we could, but if it wasn’t for Bishop, this town, this community we would be done for. They really saved our butts…don’t get me wrong, we worked our tails off, but if it wasn’t for them showing up for us, we couldn’t have done it…We made over $1400 in just one day selling popcorn and drinks out of the front of the theater. It was crazy, we had lines of cars out here on Main Street, and I was handing out popcorn through the front door. They really stepped up to support us, and we get that.  There was a man who would come up and give Holly a $100 bill and walk away with no popcorn, he wouldn’t say anything, he would just hand her the money and walk away.

I used to work two jobs, but now this is all I do, well I shouldn’t say all, because it keeps me super busy…but Holly keeps working her other jobs to help. And yeah, we just try to keep this place going. I mean the theater has been here since 1924, it’s a part of the history of this town. Hopefully, we’ll get to be around here for a lot longer. The son of the original owner, Howard Holland wrote me.  He said that The Great Depression, World War II and Television did not close the theater, and even though Covid closed our doors, they would not be closed forever.  He was right, and I thank God and our community for saving us.

Peter Schultz – owner of Black Sheep Coffee Shop, climber

“I feel like black sheep is really functioning as a liaison and a hub between climbers coming to Bishop and the arts, the outdoors, and music—so that’s our goal ….”   

I came to Bishop in 2000 with my girlfriend, now my wife, and we had been climbing guides at UC Davis. We had been out here in the late 90’s climbing in the Sierra and at Owens Gorge.  We came out to guide, to climb, get a job, live a life. It was so different because this is pre-internet, pre-guide book, the buttermilks weren’t crowded, nothing was crowded, it was all empty. It had a very different feel to it. Lots of adventure and unknown. 

The interesting thing about the climbers that came to Bishop in this era, I mean they’re all legit lifers, that’s one thing that definitely marks a true Bishop person.  It’s actually a lifestyle, you know how you want to live. You believe in low impact, because climbing and being outside if you do it right, should be low impact. You believe in efficiency, you believe in interacting with nature in that way…I mean it’s so cool that a core climbing group that initiated this whole insane wave of climbing and established all these routes and problems, like so many of them are here still.  

I started black sheep in 2004 behind Spellbinder Books.  Before that I was teaching. I was looking for an alternate career path. I didn’t necessarily want to be a teacher, and I thought I would eventually have to become a teacher again, but black sheep was successful enough that I never had to go back, which is crazy. I wasn’t specifically searching out a climbing community when I was young, but it certainly evolved around us that way, and that’s cool.  

The vision to start black sheep was strictly coffee, I had a strong interest in roasting coffee, direct trade with coffee farmers, espresso culture, and to a certain extent the European lifestyle that goes along with it because back then good coffee was super uncommon…And now, I feel like black sheep is really functioning as a liaison and a hub between climbers coming to Bishop and the arts, the outdoors, and music—so that’s our goal to bring people in with coffee, and do coffee in a sustainable way and show them what this community and area have to offer.  

The culture of Bishop has evolved ... I think the people here are kind of the same as they ever were, but many of the locals have seen or realized that we all have a lot more similarity than they first assumed we did. And I see that in black sheep because we get the crossover crowd… I think most everybody whether they are old school locals, anglers, climbers or whatever they’re still people that want efficiency, and independence and they want good things for the area…they want to see the land taken care of and remain pristine, that’s the biggest thing, right I mean, everyone’s here because of the beautiful and open space, no matter who they are…