This week’s issue kicks off a whole month of holiday shopping. We here at the Bohemian aim to inspire your shopping to happen locally, for a variety of reasons. One, it helps the local economy. Two, it sends a message to big-box CEOs who think they can get away with paying employees terribly. Three, chain stores are totally boring, and shopping online is lonely.
All through the month leading up to Dec. 25, we’ll be posting testimonials online at bohemian.com to North Bay businesses we love in Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties. Just as we did last year with our 25 Days of Shopping Local project, we’ll feature a different business on our homepage every day. These are absolutely not paid advertisements; they’re simply the types of places that come immediately to our writers’ minds when someone says “Name a local business you can’t live without.”
Shopping locally is paramount, and once one realizes just how enjoyable and satisfying it can be, it’s hard to go back to faceless corporate warehouses and online checkout. To help spread the fever, and to give readers an idea of what we’ll be posting online this December, what follows below are capsule versions of a selection of our picks from the inaugural 25 Days of Shopping Local. With your support, we’ll continue this tradition year after year.—Gabe Meline
As used clothing stores go, Pine Grove General Store is delightfully nontrendy. They don’t employ 19-year-olds who wear belt buckles wider than their collective waistline, and they would never sell some God-awful creation made of pleather and fuzz. At Pine Grove, I bought my first pair of nondenim slacks, and my favorite boots. I’ve worn them to interviews and first days of new work and the weddings of longtime friends, who are slipping out of their 20s, just like me. 149 N. Main St., Sebastopol, 707.829.1138.—Rachel Dovey
Once, I stood in the aisles of some huge impersonal store full of baby stuff, unable to find anything I needed, unable to find any help, and walked out and drove straight to Wee Three Children’s Store. Finally, a simple, manageable shop with plenty of kids’ clothes and shoes and toys, with a hand-selected inventory. There’s even a used section, which, if I were president, every children’s store would be required to have. In short, a good little place that I wound up telling all my fellow parents about—and they, with bleary eyes and slurred speech, thanked me. 1007 West College Ave., Santa Rosa, 707.525.9333.—Gabe Meline
Pearl Wonderful Clothing in the Napa Valley is an award-winning boutique that’s been discovered by the likes of Kevin Bacon, Sandra Bullock and Reese Witherspoon. Owned by fellow interior decorator Linda Allen, Pearl delivers a fusion of vintage and new style with custom handcrafted furniture, home accessories, gifts and, of course, wonderful clothing. 1219 Main St. #C, St. Helena. 707.963.3236.—Elise Guillot
My go-to hardware store is the family-owned Mission Ace on Highway 12 in Santa Rosa. I don’t know how many curveballs I’ve thrown them over the years, but they always find what I need—after all, the family has been in the hardware business since 1960. Tools, paint, electrical, plumbing, lumber—you name it, they know it, and they’ve even got an expansive garden loft for perusing on weekends, when there are free coffee and doughnuts at the front door. Before you ask, yes, the beautiful old green 1947 Ford truck is still used for deliveries, but no, you can’t drive it. I’ve been asking for 12 years! 4310 Hwy. 12, Santa Rosa, 707.539.7070.—Gabe Meline
The one constant in Novato’s Pacheco Plaza has been the service of Clothes Fit Alterations & Amani Men’s Clothing. On a given visit, you might see a bride getting fitted for the big day next to a teenager trying on his first tux behind a dude like me who tore his sweater again. Amani has risen to every random occasion of mine, like shortening jeans or having a tie loop sewn back. My favorite time is when Amani needs to make room for new inventory. The last time, I picked up two pairs of gorgeous dress shoes for under $50. Come to think of it, how does he make any money? 416 Ignacio Blvd., Novato, 415.883.1850.—David Sason
Downtown Santa Rosa has a lot of restaurants, boutiques and luxury stores, but sadly no grocery stores, hardware stores or other necessities that once made up the town core. This new landscape makes the old-school Asef’s Appliance important enough, but the breadth of know-how and experience in the long, cluttered space is irreplaceable. If it has moving parts, Asef’s can probably fix it. I can’t remember how many things I’ve had repaired, how many keys I’ve had made or how many vacuum bags or belts I’ve found there, but I do know that when the back of my watch fell off, I knew just where to go.
709 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707.575.3737.—Gabe Meline
It was 1999, and I was single again, driving to my new one-bedroom apartment. Might as well learn to cook, I thought, as I pulled into G&G Supermarket. Starting with something easy, I asked an employee for tips about kimchi. Quickly, I learned that everyone working at the store had ideas on cooking, and was happy to help craft my clueless ambition into edible dinners for one on a nightly basis. Those dinners for one are now dinners for three, but they’re still bought at G&G. They’ve got a huge selection, great prices and scads of lesser common items that continue to pique my imagination after 14 years. 1211 W. College Ave., Santa Rosa, 707.546.6877;
701 Sonoma Mountain Pkwy., Petaluma, 707.765.1198.
For the longest time, I wondered where to get my lawnmower blade sharpened. Everyone I asked said Gardener’s Aid in Roseland. They were friendly. They were funny. They had a showroom full of mowers and weed whackers and trimmers, along with some newspaper clippings about their family in the window and some old stuff tacked to the wall behind the counter. I asked about the blade sharpening. “Seven bucks if you bring it in off the mower,” they said, “$12.50 if you need us to pull it off.” Not only am I headed there as soon as spring is back with a haggard, blunt blade, I’ll be checking out the rest of their inventory, too. 1050 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa, 707.545.7620.
Since it was founded back in 1988, Bedrock Music has been an oasis for central Marin music lovers caught in the bustle of the Miracle Mile. The greatest contrast with corporate culture was undoubtedly its shift to Bedrock Music and Video a few years ago. Unlike the big, red-slot-machine-looking thingy at every supermarket in the world, Bedrock has hard-to-find movies. They’ll even give you an extra day or two if you need it, free of charge. Who can watch a whole season of Boardwalk Empire in a weekend, anyway? 2226 Fourth St., San Rafael. 415.258.9745.—David Sason
For over 25 years, the friendly staff at California Luggage Co. have been sending people to the airport, boarding pass in one hand and quality luggage in the other. Walk in just about any hour of the day and there’s a “personal shopper” experience going on, with a customer’s personal packing and travel habits considered for the ideal luggage option. Local politicos, downtown merchants and journalists know owner Bernie Schwartz as the “silent mayor” of Santa Rosa—he knows everybody and everything—but two generations of customers know him as the best thing that ever happened to their vacation since even before the vacation began. 609 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707.528.5799. —Gabe Meline
I’d already picked up a small chocolate cake and candles, but I knew that I needed something more. Something special. It was, after all, my daughter’s first birthday. As a new dad, I was clueless as to what to get, but knew just where to go: the Toyworks. “Does she have a doll?” the woman asked, plain as day, after I presented my dilemma. Why hadn’t I thought of that? Under $20 later, the Toyworks had me on my way home with an attractive, free wrapping job and a big red ribbon to boot. 531 College Ave., Santa Rosa, 707.526.2099; 6940 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol, 707.829.2003. —Gabe Meline
When you get down to it, Fatty’s Threads is probably the best store in all of Sonoma County. Fatty’s carries clothes, books, stereo equipment, tools, appliances, DVDs, bicycles, sporting equipment, art supplies, records, patio furniture, toys and more, but calling it a “junk shop” doesn’t to it justice. Truly a neighborhood hub, it’s also a meet-up place, a treasure hunt and a museum of oddities. Dave Puccetti, the truly friendly ringleader of Fatty’s, acts more like a really great bartender than a store owner—doling out advice, giving opinions when asked and quoting you prices way below what you expected to pay. A full Atari 2600 system, from 1983, with joysticks, adapters and 30 game cartridges for just $25? Yes, it’s that kind of shop. 1290 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa, 707.578.6916.—Gabe Meline
When my husband wanted to buy my two-year old, board-obsessed nephew his first skateboard, he headed over to Brotherhood Board Shop in Santa Rosa, where he bought a sweet deck for under $100. Owned by Jon Lohne, a longtime Santa Rosa, Brotherhood is everything that a skateboard shop should be. Stop in to pick up pretty much anything the skateboarder or snowboarder in your life wants and needs. In the summer, the shop brims with kids, young and old, busting out tricks in the parking lot at regularly hosted skate contests. And what’s better than awesome service from people who leave, breathe and eat skateboarding? 1240 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa. 707.546.0660.
Dear Lord, please do not ever let Corrick’s close. My house is packed with its inventory: Pilot G2 pens, envelopes, Sharpies, legal forms, a stuffed Snuffleupagus puppet . . . I still remember the first thing I ever bought there—a ribbon for my Olympia typewriter—and I will never forget the saleslady’s sympathetic look one Christmas when she told me they were sold out of sweater lint shavers. I love that no one ever quits, that owner Keven Brown is always helpful, and that their back room has one those great old bank safe doors, and that they’re coming up on their 100th anniversary. And like a lot of other Santa Rosans, I always walk in and think to myself, “Maybe someday I’ll buy something from the front half of the store.” 637 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707.546.2424.
In an age of Netflix and Redbox and Hulu, how does an old-fashioned video rental store like Video Droid survive? Easy: knowing their shit. Often I’ll be looking for something from some forgotten director made in some forgotten year with some forgotten actress, and lo, it shall be waiting for me on the shelf. Or on several occasions, it’ll be ordered for me. “But I’m only going to rent it once,” I protest. “That’s OK. We’ll put it in stock. Someone else will want to watch it, too.” You can’t beat service like that. Video Droid gets two thumbs up. 1462 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa. 707.526.3313.