It’s true that after nearly 60 years, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds still holds cinematic sway over the towns of Bodega and Bodega Bay, where it was filmed. Yet, longtime locals and new transplants are remaking the town in their own images by sharing art and supporting the community through their work.
Ren Brown, owner of the Ren Brown Collection Gallery located at 1781 Highway One, came to Bodega Bay in 1989 with his husband Robert DeVee and opened for business in February of 1990.
Since then, Brown has redefined the notion of what a seaside art gallery can display by showing and selling modern prints by artists living in Japan as well as regionally.
“All of our friends thought we were crazy to open a gallery selling Japanese prints in Bodega Bay,” Brown says. “But, somehow it worked.”
He credits the gallery’s success to its eclectic offerings, which also include antique furniture, jewelry, sculpture, ceramics and other work coming from both sides of the Pacific Ocean.
Sadly, DeVee died four years ago, and Brown now runs the gallery with the able assistance of gallery manager Yvonne Pegoraro.
While the gallery was closed for several months in 2020 due to the pandemic, it recently resumed regular hours—10am to 5pm, Wednesdays through Sundays—and Brown says business has been surprisingly good.
“Perhaps because people are home, they look around and want to improve their surroundings,” he says. “Or, maybe they don’t want to have a Zoom meeting with an ugly piece of art behind them.”
Brown feels great pain for the local businesses and restaurants, like his beloved Terrapin Creek Café, that have had to remain closed or adjust to social distancing. He also notes that with weekend visitors to the coast at an all-time high, he and many locals are holding mixed feelings about the crowds.
“The community has had a huge surge of visitors,” he says. “And I think that comes from the fact that people are getting cabin fever and they also feel it’s safe to come out to the ocean. As a business owner, I like having more people coming to town; as a resident I’d rather they didn’t—so I’m of two minds about that. But, we also love the ocean and being here, and understand other people needing that love.”
In the town of Bodega, the Bodega Country Store has stood as a landmark business since the 1850s, when it was the McCaughey Brothers Mercantile Store. Though the store was shuttered for a time, current proprietor Ariel Coddington leased the building in 2018 and refashioned the then-convenience store into the locally-sourced grocer and deli it is today.
Located at 17190 Bodega Highway, just down the road from the schoolhouse that Hitchcock made famous in 1963, the Bodega Country Store has remained open throughout the pandemic as an essential business, and has grown into a community hub and resource for those living in West Sonoma County.
“It’s a local, specialty food and healthy grocery store,” Coddington says. “We really focus on working with people in town.”
Born in Israel, Coddington has lived in the North Bay for years, and says her roots are now firmly planted in Bodega.
“I love the community,” she says. “It’s beautiful, it’s quiet, and it seems like it froze in time.”
Recently, the store opened its deli and is now serving more freshly prepared food and hot food to customers, and the store now even has its own private label coffee blend on hand.
“We are going to have the staples you have in every deli, but everything is going to be homemade, everything’s going to be made fresh and we’re going to use our local cheese and our local meat,” Coddington says. “I also want to bring in more Israeli food and Mediterranean food.”
Coddington says that throughout the pandemic, the local community has been largely respectful and cautious when it comes to social distancing and shopping.
“People don’t want to shop in the big stores, so a lot of the locals come and shop here,” she says. “It’s also nice to be an essential business and serve our community however we can.”