Jimtown Store customers enjoy last days before the iconic Sonoma County business closes

Jimtown Store customers enjoy last days before the iconic Sonoma County business closes

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Jimtown Store

The Jimtown Store outside Healdsburg is closing on Dec. 30. In this November photo, a sign thanking firefighters is displayed on the historic truck outside the business.

The driving piano and brushes of Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy,” a Christmas staple, played in the background, occasionally punctuated by the hissing sound of Jimtown Store’s espresso steamer.

Visitors sat eating breakfast or an early lunch late Saturday morning — many of them longtime customers eager to see Jimtown Store owner Carrie Brown’s warm smile behind the counter for the last time.

“Her energy is everywhere in this place, even when she’s not here,” said Jody Grovier of Forestville, who’s been going to Jimtown Store since it opened 28 years ago. “I don’t know what we’re going to do without our little Jimtown Store.”

Grovier, who for years often visited with her husband while cycling, said the eatery is a favorite of cyclists who tour Alexander Valley and Pine Flat Road through the Mayacamas Mountains. The loss will be felt deeply by the cycling community, she said.

Longtime customers like Grovier have been “flooding” the store since Jimtown announced on its website its doors would be closing on Dec. 30, Brown said. In a heartfelt letter, Brown, who launched the business 20 miles north of Santa Rosa with her late husband John Werner in 1991, laid out her reasons for closing the store, including the financial impact of three years of fires and a high cost of living that’s making it difficult to hire and retain employees.

“We’re also a catering company, so that’s three years in a row of lost revenue from parties and events,” Brown said Saturday, sitting at a table in the rear dining room of her store. “Think about tourism — that’s three years in a row of devastating fires, again, during a time when the world visits Wine Country because it’s so beautiful and amazing.”

She said that even as fires become a perennial blow to the local economy, the continued lack of affordable housing and the high cost of living are pushing working-class families out of the region, making it difficult to find enough employees to fill empty positions.

Brown said last fall she was unable to fill even one of the positions left vacant after five college students went back to school. She’s also been unable to find a qualified kitchen manager to fill another vacant position.

“There’s a hollowing out of the middle class. Think about all the small units that would previously be available to rent to people that worked in the (wine) industry ... and those are gone,” Brown said, adding that such units are being turned into vacation rentals or second homes, reducing the number of families that live in the area.

Then there’s the power shut-offs that will cut into revenues during Jimtown’s busiest time of the year.

“If PG&E tells us the next 10 years are going to bring frequent power outages during this busiest time, even if it doesn’t bring a fire, how can you have a business when you’re in the country?” she said, adding that the entire 1-acre property would have to “go off the grid” before it’s revived.

Brown said she has lots of ideas about how to revive and restore Jimtown. She prefers to lease the property to someone who would want to continue its tradition. Another option would be to sell the property to a buyer who understands the important role that Jimtown plays in the community, maintaining its food offerings and wine.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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