Two years after a fire gutted the historic Penngrove Market building, a group of local culinary-minded entrepreneurs are planning to breathe new life into the town’s only grocery store.
As soon as mid-July, a pair of local married couples will launch a bodega and restaurant in the 10070 Main St. building, retaining the Penngrove Market moniker. The group last month inked a lease for the entire 5,600-square-foot building, which will house a full-service grocery store, with fruit, produce and other products drawn from local farms and businesses, co-founder Rebecca McDowell said.
McDowell, a Petaluma High School graduate who lives in Penngrove with her husband Evan McDowell, said the couple frequented the former market.
“I had always been drawn to the building — it was charming to me,” she said. “When the fire happened and it closed down, gradually I came to imagine a proper market there. We love to buy produce from the farms around us here and we really enjoy shopping and buying locally made goods. … This idea started to form and we went from wanting something like that there to getting the feeling like we could actually do this.”
The McDowells last year partnered with Petaluma couple Shaina and Joe Ferraro to bring the idea to fruition, seeking investors, surveying residents about their desires for a market and building a business plan. The group shares a background of working in Petaluma grocery stores, and Joe Ferraro and Rebecca McDowell hold culinary certifications.
“The fit is perfect with the four of us working together in terms of ability to get along and skill sets,” Shaina Ferraro said.
The market will feature a wood fire oven, with a made-to-order menu featuring pizza and calzones, “grab and go” prepared foods and a coffee bar, with the hopes of creating a gathering space for locals, McDowell said.
Ingredients will be based on what’s seasonally available from local producers, as will the grocery offerings. Inventory will also feature sustainably-raised meats as well as the “basics,” ranging from Tylenol to toilet paper, McDowell said.
“You may never find a pineapple in Penngrove,” said McDowell, who works at a farm-to-table Napa restaurant. “We’ll have all the culinary basics and we’ll feature what’s coming out of the farms locally. It will vary from week to week or month to month and we’ll see how that goes.”
The team plans to hire as many as 12 employees at the store, which will likely be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, Ferraro said. The group plans to raise an additional $200,000 to cover startup costs with an upcoming crowdfunding campaign and events, McDowell said.
Construction that’s been ongoing for about a year wrapped up last week, according to property owner and Penngrove resident Martin Sessi. The building, which retains the historic facade, now has an additional entrance, increased parking and a space for outdoor farmers markets, he said.
Sessi said the market has long been the “heart and soul of Penngrove,” and expressed excitement about the new bodega and its role in bolstering the larger local business community.
“The community has been putting a lot of pressure on me to get this thing to happen,” Sessi said. “Everyone has to drive a minimum of four miles to get to the closest grocery store. They had a market here for so many years. I’m hoping everyone’s going to come back and love what Rebecca does.”