Small Shops of Sonoma County Shopping Tour 2010
8th Annual Shopping Tour
By Vesta Copestakes
Welcome to my annual mission to inspire holiday shoppers to hit the roads in Sonoma County and explore small cities and small towns - out-of-the-way stores and businesses owned by local entrepreneurs.
I know - plenty of our local people work for large corporate stores. But the percentage of their hard-earned dollars that stays in our home is small. Our money needs to stay here to repair roads, pay for childrens' education, purchase support services like fire fighters, police and the small army of individuals it takes to maintain this place we call HOME!
So along with my mission to inspire shopping HERE, rather then the internet or a Big Box stores, I also like to give you my annual plea to pay by cash, check or debit card rather then credit card.
There are two very important reasons why cash rules. One is that you can only spend what is in your pocket so you tend to spend more wisely and that helps YOUR life...and the other is that every time you use a credit card a percentage of your purchase leaves the merchant you are supporting and goes to another state where it takes care of their fire fighters, road crews, etc. Checks work just as well as cash - so do debit cards, because most banks don’t charge a fee for using them. Just keep that in mind.
Now...on to the fun! This year, instead of taking you town-by-town, I’m taking you subject by subject. Our home is best cared for when we share our bounty. We have so much to appreciate in Sonoma County. Holiday gifts are our chance to give to each other and our home at the same time.
I live in Forestville so the two main places I purchase groceries are Speer’s Market on Mirabel Road and Andy’s Produce on Gravenstein Hwy/116. Speer’s is literally a walk from my house and I just like knowing they are close at hand when I need them. That’s part of the deal. If you want someone there for you - this is personal as well as business - you need to be there for them in return.
I also go to Fred’s Liquors in downtown Forestville for ice cream, freshly made sandwiches, and Lottery tickets because if I get lucky - Bobby, his family & employees get lucky along with me. EVERY purchase you make helps someone and helps you in return when you support local merchants.
It’s one of the reasons I like Oliver’s Market, Community Market, Pacific Market and Petaluma Market. I love Diekmann’s and Pelican Market in Bodega Bay, Bohemian and Gonnella’s in Occidental, Big Johns, Shelton’s and Love Farms in Healdsburg. These are all local markets owned by local individuals who turn around and support their community, not only financially, but in others ways as well. Whatever community you live in you’ll find a small grocer on the corner who stocks fresh vegetables, etc., for your convenience. As long as you shop there, that convenience will be there when you want it.
Baked GoodsHere’s one of the ways in which Sonoma County reigns supreme. For some reason we have the best bakers on this side of paradise. In my town it’s Beth Thorp’s Nightingale Breads. I have favorites but like to explore her special options and holiday favorites. Her Pumpkin Bread is dessert! Wednesday Rye Day is my fave. Village Bakery in Sebastopol - exceptional baked goods all the way from pastries through daily bread.
These are people I buy from because they are in my home turf. Who are your favorites? Raymond’s in Cazadero - oh my goodness they make good bread, pizza, cookies and more, Tomales Bakery on weekends for lemon bars when you are out for a Sunday ride. Della Fattoria in Petaluma who has a whole farm story that goes with their breads - and a restaurant right downtown.
When you purchase from these people, you get their personal passion baked right into what they make. This is your chance to share that wholesome goodness over the holidays.
Personally, I like dark chocolate in my stocking - chocolate covered nuts from Sonoma Chocolatier are a favorite. Have you tasted David Gambill’s creations? I ran a story on his candy-making business last February. He makes his own dark chocolate then does magic things with it. No one does dark chocolate quite like David...sorry everyone else! You can get it at his shop in Sebastopol or at Oliver’s Andy’s, Speer’s and a whole bunch of other places.
Another total winner in the chocolate category is Lynne at Viva Cocolat in Petaluma. Lynne makes much of her own chocolates and supplements the case with exquisite chocolates from premier candy makers. She’s a delightful woman and you can tell she loves what she does. It’s fun to pick out pieces and sit with a plate and cup of her own hot cocoa on a cold day. She also makes up her own decorative boxes so you can buy something to slip under the tree even if you are in a rush.
And I like going to Katia’s store, beekind, in Sebastopol. Her specialty is all things that bees create with their honey and wax - amazing - and very golden in there! I like to purchase her little tiny jars of honey in lots of “flavors” for stocking stuffers. Each one comes from a different place or a different flower. You can taste them at her honey bar, which is a pleasant experience - and gives you an idea of how many ways honey can taste.
And while you are down in South Sebastopol, may I turn you on to Traci’s brand new bakery - Snapdragon Bakery in the building with the Antique Society (oooh-aaaahhh!). This is a dream come true for Traci. She makes those little Mexican wedding cookies that melt in your mouth - and of course - LOTS of other treats. Her baked goods are as sweet as she is - and she’s an accomplished artist!
Wine & Beer
Imbibing these beverages with a holiday meal is as traditional as turkey and ham. There are two approaches to this....go to the store and buy things people recommend, and you like...or go out to a tasting room to sample as a delightful way to make your decision!
In the beer category, the best supermarket shelves are Oliver’s, Pacific, Big John’s, Petaluma Markets, but Sophie’s Cellars in Monte Rio also stocks boutique beers you can’t get other places - those little breweries. People love getting something they don’t normally drink. Another suggestion - if you have time - is to go to a beer bar like Bear Republic Brewing Company in Healdsburg, Ruth McGowan’s in Cloverdale, McNear’s in Petaluma, or Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa...and do a little taste-testing in advance of your shopping - or in combination with your shopping! After all - you’re downtown where I want you to be - maybe even hungry - go do some research!
In the wine category we have individual winery tasting rooms where you can taste what you are about to buy - just to make sure it’s good of course - and tasting rooms that have a broad range of products and tend to get quite jovial with the process!
In my travels delivering papers, I have become quite fond of Jason at Vine & Barrel in Petaluma. As the day wears on people gather at the far end of his shop and relax into conversation and laughter. He also writes about wine so his expertise is extensive and he’s an all-around good guy.
I don’t do a lot of this, but I run into shops on my delivery route. Gazette columnist for Occidental is Benjamyn Gabriel who owns Sonoma Fine Wine, right downtown in the same block as Bohemian Market.
And my personal favorites for an education on wine, food pairing and cheese - oh the cheeses! - is John Haggard at Sophie’s Cellars in Monte Rio. John writes the Gazette’s Wine Banter column and he really knows his wines and he’s perfectly willing to turn you on to an incredibly good, cheap wine when your holiday shopping budget squeaks out of your wallet. Sophie’s is also a great place to have wine shipped to friends back east, etc. Their web site has capabilities the shop can’t cover.
And for people who love wine grape juice but can’t tolerate the alcohol, John has an excellent selection of alcohol-free beverages that go well with savory meals...whites and reds.
There’s one more I have to turn you on to for the location as much as the pleasure of product and people. Gourmet au Bay is right on Bodega Bay where Susie and Bob have their gift shop and wine tasting bar & deck above their home. This is a wonderful place to sip wine while looking across the water as the sun sets.
Dining OutThis comes under time together - whether you get to be part of it or not. You can purchase Gift Certificates from all kinds of restaurants throughout Sonoma County and if they don’t have one - maybe you can make one up on your computer and simply pre-pay for a meal with your credit card. Get imaginative. Of course - the BEST thing is to TAKE someone out to eat. You get the experience right along with the recipient and for extra bonus - you spend TIME with him/her!
For an evening out and meal together - you might want to find a place that has music and dining...like Highland Dell in Monte Rio where they bring in top-notch musicians on weekends (Volker Strifler will be there soon!), or Main Street Station in Guerneville and Trio’s where a wide variety of musicians share the dining room stage while you have dinner. Pizza and music - it’s a great combination. One of the places I enjoy running into when delivering papers is Rocker Oysterfeller’s in Valley Ford. They carve out a niche for acoustic musicians Thursday and Friday nights. People enjoy music in the bar and others relax in the dining room. The food is exceptional - always - so take a ride to the country for this one.
I also just had a most amazing dining experience at Farmhouse Inn in Forestville. Catherine Bartlomei invited me and Gazette restaurant review columnist Carolyn Horan to their Monday night Prix Fixe dinner and we were thoroughly impressed with our meal as well as service. This is a high-end Michelin Starred restaurant but does not have its proverbial nose in the air. Carolyn will be writing about them in our January Gazette...a real local family treasure.
Time AwayThis is one of those gifts you can give to anyone. Time. Reality has a way of pressing in pretty hard. Some times the only way to get a grip on your life is to step back from it long enough to breathe and see it differently.
The classic time away is a gift certificate to a local B & B or inn. We have so many to choose from in so many settings, you could spend a fair amount of time just browsing the internet or driving around until you find the perfect one. Many B & Bs are owned by husband and wife teams who turned their lovely house into an inn. That’s a pretty sweet gift. Find one just far enough away from your giftee’s home that they feel like they have gone to heaven - but close enough that they actually do it! And as Lynn at Creekside Inn offers, bring your relatives there while they visit for the holidays. It’s a heck of a lot easier on you than finding a spare bed!
Home Decor Gifts
Candles are always a good gift because they melt away with use. There are so many decorative candles that you can make an aesthetic statement right along with a practical gift. And when the power goes out, you get both light and heat. Pig Alley in Duncans Mills has some of the most artistic candles I’ve seen. Katia at beekind in Sebastopol has colorful beeswax candles and Lisa at West County Herb in Occidental carries a lovely selection of locally made beeswax candles as well. While you are there - taste some of her teas because that’s another food item that makes a great stocking stuffer. Little bags of unique teas. Sweet herbs for flavor, health and scent. Use your imagination.
My favorite cooking tool store is Cultivate in Sebastopol. Mariah has a stunning store and I’ve bought numerous gifts from cloth napkins to coasters - and cookbooks - they have a wonderful selection. In fact, if you need to outfit a kitchen you could do it all right here.
I’m almost forgetting! While I was doing research for the Thrifty Shopping Guide in the November edition, I ran across some antique and consignment shops that have plenty of items to dress up home! For the longest time I passed a place called The Find as you head west from Petaluma. I stopped to satisfy my curiosity and met Janet Highfield who takes old furniture and dresses them up in color. She also carries consignment antiques, art and gifts so there’s plenty to explore when you stop by. She’s a delightful person to chat with, so take your time.
As I introduce the next category of shopping, I want you to appreciate the cleverness of these retailers. We’re about to enter the world of fashion and accessories, but some of these stores combine dressing up home with dressing up people. Thea Doty at Enduring Comforts in Freestone is a master of this combination. Her store is filled with high quality antiques as well as jewelry, hats, scarves and clothing along with music CDs. You’ll find something here for gifts!
Dressing People!While exploring Thrift Shops last month I came across Red Umbrella Consignment in Petaluma. This is a very well done store. Many of the pieces of furniture are artistically restored, not just cleaned up. The clothes are high quality, well-organized and very affordable.
Likewise is Kimble in Cotati. Amanda Messbarger carefully chooses from items people bring her, from jewelry and shoes to jeans and dresses. She also carries Fair Trade and locally made items as well. Again, these are merchants who offer variety, which is a very wise way to stay in business!
This combination of beauty and quality is also what I appreciate about Silk Moon on the same block as Dressers. Janet Rodina travels to bring home stunningly beautiful clothing and accessories that support artisans in countries that specialize in the fine art of weaving fabrics and crafting jewelry.
It’s one of the aspects of Maureen’s business, Wild Things in Sebastopol, that she is most proud of...the majority of items in her store were made right here in the U.S. by individuals who run their own business. Like Silk Moon, One Planet, Kindred in Santa Rosa and Baksheesh in Healdsburg, there are cards with stories on them that let you know who made the item you are purchasing, but in Maureen’s case, she’ll tell you the tale herself.
Fine Art GiftsI’ll move this right into purchasing art that not only adorns bodies, but also decorates walls and windows, etc.
My two favorite gallery groups in Healdsburg are the Healdsburg Center for the Arts and Upstairs Gallery in Levin & Company's bookstore on the east side of downtown’s plaza. They each have many artists from jewelry designers to painters and sculptors, so there’s not only plenty to look at, but also plenty to buy.
What’s important to both art lovers who are economically challenged and artists in the same boat, is that there are reproductions: prints, posters, greeting cards, etc. so that even broke people can have fine art in their lives.
Santa Rosa has actually created an Arts District...not that it was created by the City…it was formed by people who gravitated toward each other, as creative people tend to do. South A Street near Julliard Park has become a creative neighborhood.
Petaluma’s art galleries are scattered about, with numerous gallery groups on both sides of Petaluma Blvd. where Dimensions Galleria evolved into a collective over time, to Riverfront Gallery across the street. And of course Sebastopol is one of those vortex sites for artists with gatherings at Sebastopol Center for the Arts and Sebastopol Gallery, both downtown.
I guess you could say that for all the gallery groups, really. The shared efforts, money and responsibilities maintain a place where their creations can be on display and sold. Without that they have to wait their turn at traditional galleries and that’s probably one of the reasons these groups formed. They have a perpetual gallery show.
Some of my favorite people/artists gather at Graton Gallery. As in all these groups, each member sits the reception desk as part of their contribution to the whole. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet each artist over time depending upon when you visit. You get to put a face to a name and artistic style.
I don’t want to leave out traditional art galleries here. People like Khysie Horn of Quicksilver Mine Company in Forestville is very much this venue. She carefully chooses artists, and because her taste is clearly defined, people have come to respect her work giving artists a stunning gallery and presentation to the world. The openings are a gathering place for art lovers from near and far.
The Sonoma County Art Gallery Group is an excellent source of information on who does what and where. The power of group energy finds a good home in this field of fiercely independent individuals.
Another venue for art are retailers like wine and gift shops. By putting art on the walls and among their displays, they have reasons to bring people in for an art opening. Wine Emporium in downtown Sebastopol is an excellent example of this. Friday nights can get downright jovial!
|Bernard Zakheim @ David Allen Designs, Sebastopol|
Far West Trading Company in Graton expanded beyond teas and Chinese home decor to being an art gallery. David Allen Designs in Sebastopol has expanded beyond his fine art jewelry design to hanging early California paintings on his walls. These are all good ways for retailers to inspire people to walk through their door to see what’s new.
Feeding CreativityOne of the most fun aspects of parenting is watching your children identify who they are. Do they like sports, the great outdoors, wrapping themselves around a book, drawing with paints and crayons, singing and pounding on surfaces? And I’d like to suggest that it’s not just children we could stand to inspire. So many adults forget who they started out to be. We get hung up working and surviving and leave all those creative endeavors to children and other people lucky enough to have the ability to prioritize being creative. For “real” artists, it’s not an option...they MUST create art. For the rest of us, it’s a pleasure we set aside when life demands attention.
My all out favorite art store (Art & Soul) is right down the block from my favorite music store (People’s Music). It’s not just that they are great, well-stocked stores…they also have delightful people who own the stores and who the owners choose to sit behind the counter.
The bottom line is that you might need to bring your aspiring creative person into these stores to see what they gravitate toward. Creativity is wide open. There are mediums within each medium. Look at art supply stores. How many ways can you see to be visually creative in two and three dimensions! My neighbor Jenn owns Glassfusion in Sebastopol. She’s a delightful woman who gets inspired inspiring others to create with glass. She brings in famous teacher/artists, holds classes, and spreads the wonder of this very elastic & colorful medium.
For the writer, the best place is a book store! We learn to write by reading well-written words on a page. Copperfield’s Books always comes to mind - my favorite are the used book annexes, but other wonderful books stores are North Light Books in Cotati next to Oliver’s Market (with their own café), Treehorn Books on 4th Street, downtown Santa Rosa, and Cover to Cover Books in Cloverdale. To your left is Susan Ryan’s River Reader where loyal customers gather for readings and time to share their common passion...reading. This is a minimal list there’s more...explore!
Like gallery groups, Independent Booksellers formed an association so they could make group purchases to stay competitive with large corporate book stores. Every little book store has the same capability as the big book stores. If you want a title, they can order it for you and it will show up in about three days. It’s worth the wait to support the book store on your corner, so it will be there when you want it.
Retail ShopsThis is a HUGE category and like all previous ones, there’s no way I can cover everyone, so I’ll point out a few that stand out to me as good people being creative with their space. For many, this is the category where gifts reign supreme. But with economic changes, people are shifting what they think is a good gift.
I’ve always loved Heidi who owns Hand Goods in Occidental. Her venue is both retail gift & home store, as well as gallery for artists, so this is a line we cross that has one foot on either side. You’ll find a bunch of these artists turned retail, or retailers who sell art in Sonoma County. And the word art is loosely defined here as objects of beauty, whether hand crafted or manufactured.
Pretty things are a lot of what retail is about. So when we buy things for people we try to find gifts that we know the recipient will enjoy. That takes a fair amount of knowing that person well. Often, when we learn that a person loves fish or cats, dogs or birds, we immediately have a clue. My Dad got so many Cardinals from me, and Janet got cats, that when I cleaned out their house several of those objects came home with me as reminders of who they were. There’s sentiment in objects. When we see these things, our hearts swell with love for the person who owned them.
Each purchase helps this organization’s effort on behalf of people who need help meeting life’s challenges. You walk out with an object that moves you, and they take your money to do good work.
As Bert Kaplan (Sebastopol artist) and I discussed recently, what makes us want to live with something is visceral. This happy woman kicking up her heels makes my heart light, and I have to believe that’s because the person who painted it did so with a light heart.
That’s part of what I try to impress upon shoppers when they go out to find gifts. Presents aren’t an obligation that needs to be met. They are a GIFT from one heart to another. Even if the gift is for someone at the office as opposed to family or friends, it’s still an object that expresses who YOU are, and who you believe the recipient to be. The gift is the connecting object.
And speaking of retail chops, please check out Bug’s “Showroom” where he turns one thing into another with remarkable aesthetic function, And he sells games that change the way you think. Pretty fine. Amazing store!
I have a few more retail philosophies I’d like to suggest you support. The retailer to our right has that re-purposing philosophy that I find so endearing. renga arts in Occidental has been around a long time and was one of the first retailers to pick up on the concept of selling re-purposed objects....paper turned into bowls, bottle caps turned into purses, socks turned into stuffed animals. That’s what re-purposing is. Taking an object and giving it new life as something different from it’s original intention.
As I exit this subject, I want to suggest just a few more things. When you have a long list of people to give to, you can easily get overwhelmed with both the task as well as the money it all costs. When you start to feel heavy, visit a light store and get your shopping done while having fun.
A number of years ago I fell in love with Carole of Rose and Thorn on Bodega Hwy. west of Sebastopol. She absolutely adores holidays, so if you start feeling glum and Scrooge-like, it’s time to visit her store. It’s one of those places that is chock full and has solutions for many people on your list. One of my favorite gifts is Holiday ornaments. Carole decorates the entire store with color and sparkle.
And for pure joy, I’m very fond of Karen Cox’s Guerneville 5 & 10. I’m old enough to remember the real deal.There are toys and paper dolls and candy and cards and games and pet food and fabric with sewing needles. The place is every color in the rainbow and one of those rainbows is Karen. I’ve never seen her sour, even when children are sitting on the floor crying that they won’t leave without what you do not want to buy!
Children & Santa
What’s left on my holiday gift list are ways to touch the planet on a very personal level. You will never see me go into a big box toy store to buy my grand daughter Destiny a plastic toy. I will head off to Sprout in Healdbsurg, the place my daughter Aleta found last year, that sells gently used clothing, books and toys. This is a Mama-run store with little kids behind the counter and people shopping in a very relaxed environment. The quality is high for every object in the store, new or used.
The part about fostering love of nature in children is part of my father’s gift to me. He whistled like a bird, he had bird feeders outside his windows, so when I spent time there this summer saying goodbye to my parents and their home, I made sure the bird feeders kept their time-honored places in the garden.
Well-BeingYou might think of this as an adult gift almost exclusively, but it applies to children as well. It’s an every person’s gift. Just like we started out with food, which has everything to do with health and well-being from choices to experiences, fostering a love of outdoors and exercise also promotes well-being.
I picked up that summer journey and started taking my daughter camping before she was a year old. Every summer, until she was more interested in boys than time with Mom, was spent on a road trip to unknown campgrounds. These experiences run deeper in our memories than any object we can put under a holiday tree.
I’d like to suggest a visit to a sporting goods store specifically to nurture this love of outdoors for people in your life. It’s not just that the advertiser to our right specializes in outdoor adventures. It’s because I believe with all my heart that part of how we nurture ourselves is by spending time in quiet places where the primary color is green. It fills our hearts and minds as well as it fills our lungs.
Last SuggestionMy Dad gave me a profound love of hardware stores. When I first came to Forestville, I knew I was home because Ideal Hardware has a wooden floor. My Alan is totally into Sebastopol Hardware as his source of everything that has to do with home. It’s now also my resource for pet food for my cats and fish. Wherever you live, you have a hardware store that I can guarantee is more personal than a big box home improvement store. Rex’s in Petaluma is amazing! So is Garrett’s in Healdbsurg. Buy your kids tools and show them how to use them. That’s a gift that keeps on giving!
This is where I go to look across vast distances, breathe deep and bring calm to my heart and body. We are blessed to live at the edge of the West Coast within an easy drive to the sea’s edge. Perhaps a card stuffed into a stocking that offers a “walk on the beach” with someone you love would be the perfect gift.
Happy Holidays everyone.
May joy fill your hearts.
© 2010 VESTA Publishing LLC 707-887-0253
6490 Front St. #300, Forestville, CA 95436
Please support our local merchants and communities!
Below is a list of ADVERTISERS who made this Small Shops Guide possible. Please support their businesses the way they support our mission to Shop Sonoma County.
Below is a list of ADVERTISERS who made this Small Shops Guide possible. Please support their businesses the way they support our mission to Shop Sonoma County.
Small Shops of Sonoma County Advertisers 12-2010
Abigail Killey Organic Fabrics - bodeganet.com/organiccotton
Almost Home Doggie Daycare - almosthomedoggiedaycare.com
Antiques & Florabunda - duncansmills.net
Applewood Inn & Restaurant - applewoodinn.com
Art & Soul of Sebastopol - artandsouldofsebastopol.com
Artisan’s Co-op Bodega - bodeganet.com
Beekind Honey & Gift Store - beekind.com
Carruthers Violins - carruthersviolins.com
Community Market - srcommunitymarket.com
Cottage Massage & Washi Egg Classes - barbrafriedman.com
Creekside Inn - creeksideinn.com
Cultivate - cultivatehome.com
David Allen Designs - davidallendesigns.com
Dressmaker Yeunny Mears
Four Paws Pet Ranch - fourpawspetranch.com
Glass Fusion Studio - glassfusionstudio.com
Glass Images - myglassimages.com
Global Village Imports - globalvillageimports.com
Graton Gallery - gratongallery.com
Guerneville 5 & 10
Heritage Salvage - heritagesalvage.com
Kings Sport & Tackle - guernevillesport.com
Kristin Thurman’s Zafu Pillows - pillowish.com
Launch Clothing - golaunchgo.com
Mr. Ryder & Co. Antiques - mrryderantiques.com
Mr. Trombly’s Tea - mrtromblystea.com
Northwood Golf Course
One Planet Fair Trade - oneplanet-fairtrade.com
Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary - osmosis.com
People’s Music - peoplesmusicontheweb.com
Pig Alley - duncansmills.net
Renga Arts - rengarts.com
Rose & Thorn - roseandthornca.com
Russian River Art Gallery
Sebastopol Hardware - sebastopolhardware.com
Sebastopol Senior Ctr – The Legacy - sebastoposeniorcenter.org
Shear Pleasure Salon
Silk Moon - silkmoon.org
Sophies Cellars - sophiscellars.com
West County Herb Co - westcountyherb.com
Wild Birds Unlimited - wbu.com
Wthywindle Gallery - withywindlegallery.com