The Black Bear Story

In 1861 a gold prospector by the name of Sisson fell in love with Strawberry Valley – a quaint mountain meadow at the foot of Mt. Shasta in far northern California. He opened an inn near the town now called Mt. Shasta City. This inn overlooked the wild berry patches nearby that were frequented by both black bears and people alike. Tired travelers soon became aware of Sisson’s fabulous hospitality and the inn became a well-known stopover. Large portions of quality food in an interesting and friendly atmosphere became the standard that people expected on their visits.

In 1995, Bob and Laurie Manley, along with their partner Bruce Dean, opened the first Black Bear Diner on the site of the old strawberry patches near Mt. Shasta. They were determined to rekindle the level of hospitality that was lavished upon early guests to Strawberry Valley. The menu, service and decor were designed to remind the guest of a time when life was a little more simple, and service and quality were the cornerstones of business. The owners feel great satisfaction that after one hundred years, the black bears again look over Strawberry Valley.

Although the family of restaurants called Black Bear Diner has grown from the single location at Mt. Shasta, to over 60 restaurants in the Western United States, each restaurant is still dedicated to the same simple concepts that made the original inn at Strawberry Valley famous.


At Black Bear Diner, our mission is to be the pre-eminent family dining concept, providing excellent food and value, served in a fun, uniquely bear themed atmosphere, by friendly, committed and knowledgeable employees.

Our values are as follows:

  • To be a company of integrity that believes in a win/win outlook in all that we do.
  • To be a company that values the contributions and hard work of all of our employees.
  • To be a company that truly values each and every customer.
  • To be a company of passion and energy, which creates a fun but professional atmosphere.
  • To be a company that stands for excellence in all we do, down to the last detail.
  • To be a company that celebrates the best in being human.

Old fashion values, sense of humor. Being the best that we can be.


In 1995, founders Bob & Laurie Manley, along with founding partner Bruce Dean, created the first Black Bear Diner in Mt. Shasta, California. In choosing a name and a theme for their restaurant, Bob, Laurie, and Bruce, immediately decided upon the black bear. It was a natural. The legendary black bear is native to the Mt. Shasta area, which was once known as Berryvale, due to the vast strawberry fields once enjoyed by bears and townspeople alike. The first Black Bear Diner sits on the site of these fields.

The Black Bear Diner reflects our founders’ upbringing in small-town America. Their restaurant concept sprang from a desire to bring home-style cooking and personal service back to the dining experience. While the Black Bear Diner reflects their creativity and concern for quality, service and value, our concept is built upon many years of practical experience in a variety of business endeavors.


Everyone enjoys our signature bear carvings, done for us by Ray Schulz of Deer Park, Washington. Ray has been making our bears since 1999 and has carved more than 200 bears for Black Bear Diner so far.

Carved out of cedar logs that Ray purchases from private loggers in Washington, the bears are styled to reflect unique aspects of the area in which each Diner is located. Ray has created such diverse bears as skiing bears to farmer bears, hunters to cowboys! Of course, most impressive of all is our 12-foot giant Black Bear – a common scene at each of our restaurants.

Ray is a second-generation artist having followed in the footsteps of his father, a chisel carver. Pictured here with the next generation of Schulz carvers (Nick, age 5, and Katy, age 2), Ray started painting in oils at the age of 8 and moved to various forms of art until he found his passion, chainsaw carving, in 1992. A graduate of Eastern Washington University art school in 1994, Ray says he’s living the American dream – doing what he loves!

If you would like your very own carved Black Bear, or anything else for that matter, please give Ray a call at 509.276.9504 and be sure to say “hello” from the Three Bears of Black Bear Diner.


Black Bear Diner has used Mural artwork from the very beginnings of our chain. At the original store in Mt. Shasta, California, Bob Manley, an artist himself, was looking for a way to set the exterior of the restaurant apart from other buildings in the area. In addition, he wanted to show off the beautiful image of Mt. Shasta, which is featured in our logo. Thus began a tradition that has been duplicated throughout the chain. Almost all Black Bear Diners feature original mural artwork both in the interior and exterior. Most also feature local elements of the stores location as well as Bears (of course!).

Some of the original artwork featured in stores were designed and painted by Steve and Gary Fitzgerald from 3 Friends Designs in Igo, California. Steve has a BA from Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. He traveled the world for many years and moved to Redding, California in 1975. Gary was raised in the Chicago area and has a BFA degree from Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design. He worked as an illustrator for an advertising agency in Denver before moving to Redding in 1973.

Together they have created 110 murals throughout northern California. Most of the subject matter relates to nature scenes from the north state consisting of simple shapes and contrasting, dynamic colors.

Another talented Black Bear mural artist is Colleen Mitchell-Veyna. Colleen is equally comfortable painting a watercolor on her kitchen table in Visalia, California, or a public art mural 40 feet in the air. Colleen began painting as a young child, and has completed over 65 public art and private murals in the past 10 years along with numerous series of fine art watercolor and acrylic paintings. She has won many local, state and national competitions and commissions including the California Mural Society – Best Artist Competition.

Colleen’s talents first came to the attention of Black Bear Diner when she was referred and selected to paint 3 murals for the diner in Tulare, California. The landscape and scenery Colleen created inspired patrons and owners alike. As is often said when discovering a fresh talent “The rest is history!”. Currently, Colleen’s murals are featured in over 20 Black Bear Diners throughout the chain including locations from Federal Way, Washington to Monterey, California and as far east as Colorado Springs, Colorado.