Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Anti-Black Friday Shopping Experience

Petaluma Hill Road may not traverse Petaluma, but it’s my favorite route into Santa Rosa, especially this time of year when the leaves are falling and the scent of winter is in the often mist-laden air. In case you didn’t know, Petaluma Hill Road begins with the intersection of Old Redwood Highway at the Penngrove Fire Department and The Grove and runs 9.9 miles to its termination at Santa Rosa Ave. just before Highway 12.

Besides the pastoral views, farm stands, and the Green Music Center, there’s some great shopping along Petaluma Hill Road. It’s shopping season, isn’t it?

I’m anxious to get my shopping out of the way and get on to the more important work of decking the halls and celebrating family, friends and the foodie paradise we live in.

Linda O and I will meet at JavAmoré Café in The Grove center for breakfast. Owner Kim Hanson, a Petaluman, has created a homey little café that makes the best breakfast around, and turned this corner into the hub of Penngrove. Just ask any resident—we all go there for Penngrove news served up with fresh coffee drinks. Kim carries local crafts and homemade foods to buy as well as displaying local art on the walls. If all you want is coffee or tea, you won’t be disappointed with your cuppa.

Fortified by a good breakfast, we’re on to our next stop across the parking lot: Full Circle Baking Co.—only the best organic artisan bread in the shadow of Sonoma Mountain. Kathy and Keith Giusto started the bakery the year I got married. They baked special wedding breads with our initials for the reception barbeque and hold a special place in my heart. Besides, Penngrove Multigrain is my favorite bread. I’ll take a loaf home for dinner, and pop another in the freezer for later.

Next stop, Passanisi Home and Garden. The downtown store opened its doors in the spring of 2007 but the Passanisi name has been in Penngrove since 1985 when Passanisi Nursery opened a few miles down the road. Unfortunately it’s closed now, but the downtown store is a wonderful eclectic mix of nursery, home decor and seasonal specialty items. I buy all my poinsettias there and may try one of their Christmas trees this year. I just finished buying out the store of the Halloween decorations—they carry the best selection around. I also buy my cymbidiums and metal-crafted flying pigs there. Everything is fairly priced and affordable. 

We’re jumping back in the car and heading north to 1400 Valley House Dr. in Rohnert Park, the former site of Agilent Technologies. Now the long under-utilized business park has been transformed into a shopping destination with tons of free parking. Welcome to Sonoma Mountain Marketplace, a Street Fair reminiscent of a 1900′s Main Street housed in an indoor shopping mall with  food, interactive kid’s activities, patio seating and picnic areas. It’s a great place to ride your bike, walk your dog, catch a live performance and enjoy the weekend. There’s plenty of shopping, too.

Brainchild of the Crossing the Jordan Foundation, Inc., a local non-profit founded in 2011, the marketplace was started as a way to raise funds and give employment to victims of human trafficking and domestic violence, homeless mothers and women addicted to drugs who are ready to transform their lives. Find out more about this local grown organization at Maybe a donation in Mom’s name would be the perfect Christmas gift?

I attended the opening on September 27th and was greeted inside the door with the enticing odor of tri-tip sandwiches calling my name. I ignored it, deciding to checkout the shopping.

Setting out along the northeast row of vendors past Kindred Free Trade, I made my way around the perimeter discovering antiques, collectibles, used jeans, second-hand clothes, barn wood art, handmade soaps, BPA free water bottles. Then I crisscrossed through the east-west rows and found DIY in a Box—a clever stall with the fixings to make your own terrarium, handmade quilts, Cookie Lee jewelry, Javita coffee co-diet products, cowboy boots, barrel stave furniture, whimsical handmade toddler jackets, Rodan and Fields skin care and much more.

Here are some of my favorites: first, Jane Irvine presided over a collection of crafty art for home and garden. I fell in love with a suspended silver teapot pouring silver saltshaker tops. It’s a chime and was offered for only $45, but alas, I hadn’t carried enough cash or a checkbook. Be aware that not all vendors accept credit cards. Don’t be like me and miss-out on a treasure for lack of a payment method.

Pinyon Pine Seed Opening -Chalk Pastel on 140# Water Color Paper © Dale Englehorn  

I next met Dale Englehorn, a local artist and North Bay Made (made local) member, and enjoyed a conversation about her work and her market stall. Besides her lovely natural themed note cards designed from her paintings, she’s selling Seed-‘O-Sphere Wild Flower Seed-Balls, a clay nugget containing 60+ seeds that will germinate in lightly scratched, weed-free open soil. The packaging is 100% green and the seeds are locally sourced non-GMO seeds embedded in the same Southwest terracotta clay used by Native Americans. If you have open sunny spots in the garden, wildflowers are colorful, drought-tolerant and self-sowing. Find Seed-‘O-Sphere on-line and see some of Dale’s artwork at Keep your eyes open for Dale’s open studios.

Did I mention there’s a farmers market too? I bought the most delicious Korean hot peppers, which I shared with the Korean women working at my cleaners. Sebastopol grown, organic and spicy, I got the thumbs up from Sony and Jung Soon. I gave the thumbs up to Tres Sorrelle, a local chocolatier, selling delicious chocolates in the farmer’s market. I sampled everything. I’m dragging Linda O to their booth first. 

When we get tired of shopping (hopefully not before we’ve covered everyone on our lists) we’ll join the throng of families picking up sandwiches, salads, flatbread pizza and Three Twins ice cream from Sonoma Eats, or fish and chips from the coffee cart outside. It might be too cold to dine alfresco by the kid’s play area, but inside we can catch a Barbershop Quartet performing while we eat. I’ve heard there might be Horse and Buggy rides, and be sure to plan ahead for the Dickens Christmas Fair Saturday and Sunday December 13 & 14 and 20 & 21 from 10 to 6.

And while we’re strolling along the penstemon-lined walkways back to the car, we’ll watch the afternoon shadows creep up Sonoma Mountain and bask in that glow of a successful shopping trip.