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Business is crystal clear with Downs
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Insurance Agency owner Crystal Downs mulls over the rich experiences of her career. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin
Crystal Downs has a passion for people, a woman who meets her challenges daily, with a zest to make a difference.  She has her own ideas about downtown redevelopment, too, manifest in her own recently restored business front.

As owner of the State Farm Insurance Agency in the 200 block of North Main Street, she feels it is most important to methodically explain her policy offerings to her customers so they aren’t confused by any fine print gobbledygook. “If you confuse people with this they will never sign – and it’s easy to confuse people,” she said.

A native of Kentucky where she spent early years working at a horse race track, Downs has been drawn to dogs that have been abandoned that she searches out in dog pounds and animal rescue centers.  

“I want to take all the dogs home – not bad experiences,” she said.

She has adopted nearly a dozen pooches recently, eventually finding homes for most of them in the community – family pets that might easily have otherwise been destroyed.   Of the 10 dogs she has picked up recently, she said it’s easy to find homes for the good dog – bad dogs are hard.

It all started with an “A-hah moment” realizing that these dogs need people the most – otherwise they have very short life spans, she said. “I’ve never had three or more at a time with people liking the little ones best.  She now has two at home “Jack” and “Cricket.”  Cricket likes to play with marbles and golf balls – suffice to say Crystal has taken up golf rather than marbles.

With tongue in cheek and a little smirk, she remembers her first grade childhood experience including reading primary books such as “See Dick Run.”  She said her teacher would divide the class into reading groups using masking tape to cover children’s mouths to keep the chatty ones quiet.

In the fourth grade young Crystal faced learning fractions – in math solutions – where she excelled and a knowledge that eventually led her toward her degree in mechanical engineering.  “It was a math thing – mechanical engineering – if you don’t catch fractions you miss math.  You can’t do algebra, you can’t do anything without fractions,” she said.

A high school counselor was one educator she credited for her focus in life at a time when the aptitude for a girl, more often than not, led to becoming a librarian and for a boy to be an engineer.  He encouraged her toward becoming an engineer and she persevered into graduating in the top five per cent of her class.

Downs worked for IBM as an engineer for 10 years with “math” later being the common denominator that was a match into the insurance field – a field that has added more of the human element into her routine that she enjoys with her customers today in Manteca.  For IBM she was continually on assignments that had her traveling all around the country.

She said the insurance agency in Manteca has been “a really good fit for my personality.”  Speaking to her personality and her character, she has earned a black belt in Judo.  Downs gave up her Judo training after being beat around in national competitions.

As a college student she had worked with IBM engineering department for two summers in Kentucky also working at a horse race track in the city of Lexington.  She said she dipped goulash and poured beer at the track – the beer was great for tips, she chuckled. Downs added that in mixing with people at the track she found they think they know how to bet on horses like they think they know how to play cards.

The Mantecan also played flag football all four years in school – known as “a fast little girl.” Having grown up in Kentucky, where bourbon is a chief product, she recalls that her grandfather was a bootlegger in the ‘20s and ‘30s making his share of “moon shine” and being the father of 13 kids he wasn’t home a lot.

Crystal talks of her dad freely, noting that she returns to Kentucky every year to visit family.  Her father was from a large family; however she is an only child.

“Manteca has a more wholesome environment than the Bay Area,” she said, having also worked for IBM in San Jose for a number of years.

“This is one of our best years ever at this location.  Our pricing is good.  In the past we could ask for business – today we need to know if people are spending their money wisely,” Downs said.

The entire insurance office is excited about a mural that will be painted on the north side of their building during the upcoming two-day October Pumpkin Fair celebration.    

Artist Art Mortimer – painter of the “Bountiful Harvest” – is in charge of the new production.  “I am really proud to be picked for this and for something I feel is so meaningful,” she said of the new art work that will be a blend ethnic cultures with the American flag. Downs is planning an open house at her business during the mural painting event.