I am happy to present to you our fourth local business spotlighted in the Pay it Forward feature – A + H General Store.
Tuesday afternoon in Kelseyville, August. Mike Guarniero and Danny Prather perch on barstools next to the front window, half-full beer glasses on the floor next to them. Danny’s taken the lead on a Neil Young tune he’s finishing, and odds are they’ll switch it around on the next song. Between the two of them, they could play all day and never repeat a tune. Danny gives a hearty strum on his guitar as the song ends, then grins as he leans over and takes a sip of his beer. Caroline Chavez, co-owner of Kelsey Creek, sees his glass empty and quickly brings over two full ones. “Now everybody,” she says, walking the smooth walk of a skilled bartender, “You all need to pitch in. I’m the only one buying them beer right now.” Mike and Danny happily grab their full brewskis, sip off the foam, and start a new song.
Make plans to come out and enjoy a fun afternoon at the June 3rd Jokers
Wild Poker Run sponsored by Rotary Club of Kelseyville. Ripe Choice Farm & Catering has been selected to provide the meals for this event. Guests will have a choice of three delicious options.
Just two years old, The Painted Bird has become a must-visit when you are exploring Lake County. It resides in a charming courtyard (feels like New Orleans) on Main Street, downtown Kelseyville which is quickly becoming a favorite northern CA destination.
Sebrina Andrus, owner of maker. in Kelseyville, reaches far above her head and pulls hard on the window shades, swinging the blinds high up the large windows of what at one time was Kelseyville’s Farmers’ Savings Bank. Winter light shines through them, illuminating the hand-crafted products of maker.
It’s a bright sunny morning at Suites on Main in Kelseyville, and the day is full of possibilities. And yes, our goal is still not to leave Main Street. So here’s how we do it. First, start the day with a great cup of coffee. There’s something to be said about consistency, especially when it comes to the morning’s consciousness.
It’s a short fifteen-minute drive from our home in Loch Lomond to the small town of Kelseyville. Tall oaks and pine trees stretch high into the sky on the meandering road showing off their bright green brilliant colors against the late afternoon blue sky. Settled at the edge of Mt. Konocti is the country town of Kelseyville. Our only plan once the car is parked at Suites On Main is to not leave town for the weekend.
It’s a hot August evening in Kelseyville. The lingering summer’s heat is settling in. Off in the distance, Mt. Konocti stands tall, long evening shadows reaching toward it. But this isn’t your typical Thursday night in this small town. A barricade crosses Main Street, temporarily closing through traffic between 2nd and 3rd Street. But this closed block is far from empty. At Main and 2nd, a large stage is set for tonight’s Kickin’ it in the Country, a monthly Kelseyville tradition from June to September every summer. Lawn chairs sit in the shady spots on the street where cars typically park. Kids run across the yellow painted lines, reveling in their freedom. Nearer to the stage, a growing crowd sways to Dave Broida and the Blues Farm, tonight’s opening act. But that isn’t for a while, so there’s still plenty of time to grab a bite to eat before the party gets started.
In the heart of Big Valley, nestled among vineyards and orchards, sits one of the largest retired pear processing plants in Lake County. While it no longer processes pears, the facility still serves as a cold storage and winery. A single car is parked on the massive concrete slab just in front of the large storage building that reads Mt. Konocti Growers, Inc. Off in the corner is a more modest building, parking area, and patio, home to Mt. Konocti Winery’s tasting room. This is a working winery, and the familiar aroma of wine fills the air. The left side of the building is filled with offices and cases of stacked wine. To the right lies the tasting room, a former office redecorated and transformed. A display rack holds a modest collection of hand-crafted wine bags, aprons, candles, and, of course, bottles of wine. Old photos and pear labels hang on the walls. A thoughtful wine bar made from two wine barrels and old pear packing boxes sits in the corner. It’s still possible to see the label on the boxes, another reminder of the history of the place. Originally started as the Lake County Fruit Exchange in 1926, there are plenty of stories here. Currently, much of their business is custom crush and wholesale, but they also create some uniquely Lake County wines, all grown from local grapes. Here are five great ones we recommend.
Just across the road and down the hill from our room at Laujor’s loft lies Boatique Winery. The sign on Red Hills Road’s hard to miss; it rests between two rock pillars and glimmers in the winter sun. Several strips of hardwood have been pressed together to create a laminated frame that holds the profile of a wooden boat. Below, a dark script reads, “Boatique Winery”. We turn off the road, wind our way down the ancient olive tree-lined driveway to the brick-lined parking lot, and enter the brightly-lit tasting room. A fire glows in the large fireplace, and Francesca, Director of Hospitality, finishes pouring the last taste for a couple, who excitedly pick up a few bottles of wine to take home.
In their expanded location at the old Wildhurst tasting room, Jamie still will greet you at the front door. Odds are she’s chatting with another of her many friends, but she’ll always take time for you. And, if you’ve booked an appointment, you’ll get a chance to experience Sophie’s beauty skills. She offers complete makeup services, facials, waxing, and many other treatments. But if you didn’t make an appointment, don’t worry. The store’s full of beautiful things and stuffed with a combination of locally-made and thoughtful gifts, beauty supplies, and unique items. Each time we visit, we end up picking up something. And, as a testament to Jamie and Sophie’s eye for lovely things, the decorations change regularly. Right now, the store’s a holiday extravaganza. In Spring, it’s bright and festive. And each decorative change creates a new experience; it’s like stepping into a new store each time we visit.
Bob Phillips stands in front of one of his photos, his feet spread slightly wider than shoulder-width, a facemask hiding his bearded face. Under his opened flannel shirt, a ‘D’Art Frog logo shows, half-hidden. “I consider myself a landscape photographer,” he says, thinking for a second. “I’m really an old school photographer.” On the walls around him hang his photographs. Sure, there’s a spectacular photo of Mt. Konocti shaded in the purples and blues of sunset on one wall, but near it, an image filled with holiday revelers hangs. Close-ups of radial airplane engines and painterly photographs of downtown Lakeport fill the walls next to them, showing that Bob’s more than just a landscape photographer. When I mention it, he smiles. “When the gallery was just my work,” he says, “I would have people come in, look at my photos, and ask, ‘How many photographers do you have?’” he laughs.
Entering the courtyard’s just the beginning of the journey when you head in to meet the Two Sisters. A couple Radio Flyer wagons and a bubbling fountain filled with fish first greet you, followed by metal buckets, washbasins, and statues, the appropriate overflow of any good antique store. Then you’ll make your way up the stairs and meet them. Tina and Robin Kingsley stand in the middle of their store, looking at all the things they have collected over the years. They’re surrounded by embroidery, ceramics, galvanized tubs, candles, figurines, games, and various other good finds.
We’ve got a little bit of everything,” Robin says, a smile in her words.
“A lot of everything!” Tina interjects.
Simon Avery of Peace and Plenty Farm turns his head sideways, looking at the saffron plants stretching down several rows. It’s a cold day, and clouds shroud the top of Mt. Konocti, scudding quickly across the sky. He shudders as a chill wind whips across the fields. “It’s a mile walk if you take all the rows,” he tells me, hunching his shoulders inward to keep warm. His cracked, farmer’s hands rub against his shirt. “And you’re bent over like this,” Melinda Price demonstrates, her tall form reaching down past her knees, her blonde hair pulled back into a bun. “All day. Picking the flowers.” “Sometimes I finish picking all the rows, only to see more flowers appear, and I have to do it all over.” Simon’s eyes glaze over, recalling the days and days of harvesting.
Save the date for a glorious Sunday drive visiting a group of small farms located close to each other in Lake County between Lakeport and Kelseyville, CA. Each farm is unique in presenting award-winning, nationally recognized certified organic produce, fruit, olive oils, event venues, and farm stays. On this day we will pull back the curtain and show you behind the scenes of what they offer. Meet and greet the owners of our farms. Leave as friends. Explore and experience the eat healthy social movement known as “farm to fork”.
Summer’s bright mid-day rays shine through the green rows of an expansive pear orchard, reaching towards Mt. Konocti. Directly behind, acres of grapevines stretch towards Kelseyville. Far above in the oak trees, two pairs of curious eyes peer out from their residential barn owl home as if curious to see who we are and what we’re doing far below.
“It was the trees. That’s what we first fell in love with when we saw the property.” Christie White, co-owner of Finca Castelero, motions upward with her arms, showing us the owl house they built, as we walk towards the barn. It’s obvious how one would fall in love with the oaks expanding far above the Airbnb cottages, not only bringing shade but that charm that comes with larger-than-life oak trees. Oh, the stories I could tell and the stories still to be shared, they seem to say.
Sabrina Andrus, owner of A+H General Store and maker. roams the side street, a big smile on her maskless face. “This is a new thing for me,” she says, referring to the novelty of being outdoors with other people and no masks. “It feels a bit weird.” She and her sister Caitlin are the co-visionaries behind the market and have created a place where people can enjoy high-quality, locally crafted goods. It’s not a farmers’ market, though there is produce, and it’s not a craft fair, though there are candles and soap. Instead, it’s a market for the many artisans that live in Lake County. The sisters are proud to note that everything sold at the market is grown, produced, or made here in Lake County.
High-Quality, From Scratch, and Homemade. What Else Could You Ask For? Try Live Oak Grill in Kelseyville
Since reopening October 15th, Live Oak Grill has quickly established a loyal customer base. Much of it has to do with owners Jennifer and Jamie’s friendly disposition. They’re relaxed, comfortable, and easy to talk to. And a lot has to do with the quality of the food. Everything’s handmade and done well, with plenty of attention to detail.
Oak Boutique in Kelseyville feels more like walking into a friend’s home that also happens to have clothes for sale. Just inside, owner Caitlin Andrus warmly invites you into her world. A welcoming sitting area in front of the store encourages you to slow down and stay awhile, another gentle reminder that this isn’t going to be an everyday shopping experience. It’s no wonder Oak is loved by locals and visitors alike.
“We try to make the best pizza that we can,” Pete Ogo, co-owner of Pogos Pizza, says. “Everything’s from scratch. We make our own sauce, and our sausage is locally made for us using a special recipe.” He pauses for a second, but that’s just to catch his breath. “We’re really picky. We only prep our vegetables for that day; they’re never old.” Pete’s getting excited. It’s undeniable that he loves what he does. “You know what? Our biggest goal is to have the best product in the community and be as involved as we can.”
It’s a warm summer afternoon, but under the covered work area behind the tasting room it’s shady, and the afternoon breeze pushes air through, cooling it further. Paul Manuel, owner of Chacewater, sits at a picnic table, face shield stretching around his head.
“I’m sorry about having to taste out here,” he says immediately. “Two weeks ago, we had to shift our tasting room outside. And this is our work area.” He pauses. “I don’t know how much longer we’re going to have to do this.”
It’s not so bad. The sitting area is casual, comfortable, and welcoming. In front of a stack of wine barrels stands a short tasting bar. Several picnic tables stretch across the patio, a couple sitting at one. The breeze is pleasant, and the shade feels cool. Classic rock plays in the background, and the couple sings along to the chorus. Just on the other side of the shaded area, olive trees stretch in rows, guiding the eyes further outward towards the mountainous horizon. Bright sun glints off the still-small olives, ripening in speckles of chartreuse and white. Come late fall, they will darken to shades of purples, vibrant greens, and chocolate browns.
The building first came to life in 1941, during the Second World War, when cars with rounded fenders and swooping hoods drove up and down Main Street, and people still came into town on their horses. The bottom floor houses a couple of shops that front the street, their full windows looking out on the tree-edged sidewalk. Pumpkin-orange in color and black-trimmed, the building’s rectangular form stands a full head above the market to its left and Smiling Dogs Winery to its right.
There, in the left-hand corner, a small, black door stands, unobtrusively and easily missed. On the eave above it, a section of an old pear box hangs, “Suite On Main” stenciled in its worn, weathered wood. Open the door, and a steep set of stairs immediately rises, forcing the head to look upwards. Then down the hall, and it’s the first door on the right. Welcome to The Loft at Suite on Main.
Dust billows from our feet as we step out of the car. Sun glimmers through…
Jason Chavez, owner of Kelsey Creek Brewing Company, stands behind the bar, pulls on a tap, and begins filling a two-liter growler with a Mixed Berry Sour. Behind him, a sign sits on a shelf. “Don’t cry over spilled milk,” it says. “It could have been beer.” Over the speakers, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and The Highwaymen sing, “The road goes on forever, and the party never ends.”
Jason chats about his beers as he pours, tilting the growler to the side as it fills. His long dark hair, pulled back in a ponytail, hides under a NY Mets hat backward on his head. A long, spiraling dragon tattoo winds down his arm. It’s been four years since Jason and his wife Caroline took over Kelsey Creek Brewing. Since then, Jason has used his creativity to craft unique, tasty beers that cover the spectrum of brewing tastes, from dark, malty stouts to ultra-light, crisp lagers.
Currently, the Saw Shop is offering meals for four people for $40. “We originally started the family dinners in February,” Weston said. “On Monday nights, we were doing a ‘dine and donate’ for local charities. Then, about three weeks ago we decided to do the family-style dinners daily. Now every night there’s a different family-style meal available. You get everything you need to take home and have a complete dinner.”