After nine years spent in one of Petaluma’s most notable historic buildings, The Seed Bank is set to relocate in the coming months.
The west coast flagship business of the Missouri-based Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds plans to downsize, leaving the sprawling 10,000-square-foot 1920’s-era bank building for a nearby downtown space that’s about a fifth of the size.
“This is an incredible building, but it’s really big and we just don’t need that much space at this point,” manager Ellyn Mavalwalla said.
The moving process will likely begin this month, at the onset of the high season for seeds sales, Mavalwalla said. The Seed Bank will stay open through the move, and she’s hopeful that the new store at 110 Petaluma Blvd. North will be operational by mid-March.
The Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds company was founded in 1998 by then 17-year-old Jere Gettle, a longtime seed enthusiast. That year, Gettle started sending out a few hundred catalogs with about a 100 varieties of seeds, Mavalwalla said. Two decades later, the company has more than 1,800 varieties of seeds and distributes 700,000 catalogs nationally.
Many of the company’s customers are from the Bay Area, so expanding to Petaluma in 2009 after Gettle fell in love with the city made sense, Mavalwalla said. The business has thrived in Sonoma County, and Gettle and his wife, Emilee, also founded the Santa Rosa-based National Heirloom Exposition.
The store attracts customers from around the world because of its unique offerings, which include 280 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, the so-called Gete Okosomin Squash that likely came from the Guatemala area more than 1,000 years ago and seeds hand-selected from India, Sri Lanka and Japan, Mavalwalla said.
Moving a half-block down the street will bring a change of scenery, but also a reduction in inventory for the business, which intends to get back to its roots. In past years, it has expanded to sell farm tools and other various goods, but Mavalwalla said the focus in the new space will be seeds, products for sustainable living and locally-made wares, such as kombucha and local photography.
“It’s a triangle – seeds, sustainability and supporting local businesses,” Mavalwalla said.
They’ve also invited the benevolent ghosts that Mavalwalla said haunt the building, which formerly housed the Sonoma County Bank at 199 Petaluma Blvd. North. The stately structure still has many other historic elements, such as the ornately carved downstairs vault, elaborate decorative ceiling tiles and marble flooring.
The store will retain all four of its employees, but will no longer host gardening-related classes, Mavalwalla said.
Staying in Petaluma was important to the Gettle family, Mavalwalla said.
“Jere loves Petaluma,” she said. “He loves the historic downtown and we do the National Heirloom Expo here so it makes sense to be in the same area. He loves the historic feel.”
The fate of the storied building remains unclear, Mavalwalla said. The building’s owner could not be reached for comment, and there didn’t appear to be any active real estate listings for the property last week.
(Contact Hannah Beausang at firstname.lastname@example.org.)