Real estate agent Sandy Tucker has big plans for the downtown building at 1437 Lincoln Ave., perhaps best known as the former Alex’s Restaurant, and after that Miguel’s, a Mexican restaurant.
After sitting largely vacant for a number of years, the 4,000-square feet, space is about to enter another phase.
In August, Tucker moved her real estate office into a space at the front of the building, which also has an industrial kitchen, what used to be a banquet room, a bar, and storage areas.
Tucker’s preliminary plans for the building include a community kitchen, retail and office space. A community kitchen could be used by local catering chefs, food preparation for the farmer’s market, and educational purposes. One retailer has already expressed interest in the space between the real estate office and Rabbit Rabbit, which is leaving in February.
Tucker said she would love to have everything in place by summer.
First, however, the huge building is in need of some tender loving care. Not long ago pipe broke out front and Tucker is working on getting the sidewalk fixed and ADA compliant; then she’ll put up an awning, fix the roof, and work on improvements to the rest of the building.
One thing Tucker plans on preserving are historic murals that run the length of several interior walls. They were commissioned in 1976, to commemorate the country’s bicentennial, and are charming depictions of buildings and wineries in and around Calistoga.
Tucker’s partner, who went to school in Calistoga and now lives in Japan, owns the building. Tucker also went to high school in Calistoga and now lives in Hidden Valley Lake. Her brother, Kris Breiner, is a Calistoga firefighter.
Tucker worked for Next Home as a real estate agent for six years in Hidden Valley Lake, but decided she wanted to open her own office in Calistoga.
Next Home is a national franchise whose offices are independently owned and operated.
Tucker was at first prohibited to open a Calistoga office affiliated with the real estate company, due to the town’s “no franchise” ordinance. But after several planning and city council meetings, it was agreed Tucker would not hang a Next Home sign or logo on the office, and she was allowed to open in August.
Business has been a little slow, but “we’re really hoping to hit the ground running in 2019, which includes working on the building,” Tucker said.
She also has help from Buster, a French bulldog and official mascot who sits on his couch in the window, and attracts people some who come in just to say hello.
“People stop and play with him, we meet all kinds of people that way,” Tucker said. “He’s known around as ‘the realty dog.’”
Tucker was inspired by a resident cat who used to lie on the counter at Calistoga Bookstore, on Lincoln Avenue, across from where Copperfield’s is now.
Dogs that come to visit Buster also get homemade peanut butter and pumpkin treats.
Ilona OBrien is a new real estate agent, who just joined Next Home with Tucker. Maggie Nicholson and Chris Curtin are referral agents for the office as well.
OBrien lived in Hawaii for 16 years before moving to Calistoga, and was the owner of Stompy, a retail store, just a couple doors down, where Sophie Gallery is now. OBrien closed the store in March 2016, citing reasons including low foot traffic.
“It’s a hard balance to carry items that appeal to tourists and locals alike,” she said.
OBrien kept her real estate license from Hawaii, read about Tucker’s struggle to get the office, and was inspired to get her license here.
“She was very receptive and welcoming,” OBrien said. “I like the culture here. It doesn’t have the corporate feel of a big franchise.”
OBrien is also a personal chef and teaches cooking classes at Santa Rosa Junior College, on the art of making sushi.