Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Trying to shop locally in a corporate-consumer landscape…

SHOP LOCAL. Shop the independent. In the ‘burbs surrounding the greater Sacramento area, this is not easily accomplished. Near my neighborhood lies the greatest money vortex anywhere in these western United States. At the corner of Galleria Boulevard and Roseville Parkway rest three shopping complexes, each home to several large and small corporate outlets. Penneys. Macys. Nordstrom. Williams Sonoma. Pottery Barn. REI. Another Macys. Staples. PetSmart . Or is it PetCo? Barnes and Noble. Simply driving through the area, one feels money being sucked not from their wallets, but from their very pores. At least I do. A look at just two of these majors, Lowes and Home Depot, reveals that neither offers anything that can’t be found at the other. So with all the choice comes no real choice.

The number of locally owned independent booksellers has crashed over the past decade or so. Brought about by growth in big-box bookers like Barnes and Noble and the late Borders; and by the upswing in on-line retailers like Amazon, finding a locally owned bookshop is becoming nigh on impossible. As a frequent visitor to the Grass Valley / Nevada City area, a stroll down both of their main streets reveals one in each town. A trip to the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association website: reveals exactly where to find these holdouts from a less corporate time. Nearby Sacramento and Davis have a couple. Roseville and Rocklin have none. (Friends Susan and John Russel own one of the go-to businesses in all of Tuolumne County – The Mountain Bookshop.)

I GIVE NEW COPIES OF BOOKS I’ve recently read as gifts for others. Whether the recipients read them or simply pass them on is of no matter. In my mind, I’m keeping a writer alive and helping an independent bookseller. Since my proclivity is to hop on the motorcycle and head for the hills, I find most of my trade occurs at the Book Seller in Grass Valley. Here, the old downtown building is stacked high with all manner of books from best sellers to obscure titles to more from that author you thought you’d read all of. Browsing provides a respite from the rapid fire pace and traffic of the 21st century and the rather dim lighting and the closeness of the shelves makes everything feel warm and intimate. The big-box bookers attempt this but rarely succeed.

WHILE RETURNING from making my annual Christmas gift order, I began to wonder about other local businesses I frequent. Sadly, I could think of few. The local hardware store in Loomis closed a couple of years back, not because they were pushed out but because, after 47 years, the family’d had enough. There’s a nice fruit stand at the old packing shed in Loomis that I frequent when I think about it – a place with great actually-ripe produce. My cigar guy is local, as is a great roadside hamburger stand – also in and about Loomis. And I’ve found a haberdashery in Roseville that sells 501s, Pendletons, and products from Woolrich and Arrow (Geo. Custer wore their shirts) and Red Wing. All of the motorcycle shops I frequent that sell both bikes and gear are independent. With each transaction, I know some of my cash is going to a local guy who will, in turn, spend it locally.

But it’s tough to find an independent grocer in my area or a non-Seven-Eleven. My gas comes from Chevron, my sundries from Longs (headquarters in Walnut Creek before they became CVS), my major food purchases: Raleys (West Sacramento), my car tires: Les Schwab (LaPine, OR) – although independents are available for tires, my hardware: one of the local Ace franchisees.

I THINK I’VE FOUND that in city neighborhoods like the College Avenue area of Berkeley, the Sunset in SF, the Fabulous 40s in Sacramento and a block or two off Broadway in New York City, there are hole-in-the-wall independents that the locals walk to and patronize. Similarly, in those towns you’d live in if you’d didn’t live in the town you have to live in: towns like Grass Valley, Fort Bragg, Sonora, Healdsburg – there are hundreds of them – the market share is too small to support a big box. Thus patronizing the small businessman is just part of what the citizenry does. That is, until the math finally somehow works out for the big box. Then it is up to the people to continue to support the local guy, the guy who takes your money and turns it over in the community, or the local guy is lost. And with him, so goes the community itself.

MY GOAL is to someday move from the ‘burbs and, in writing this, I think I now know why. In communities where independent retailers thrive, so thrive those communities.

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press



For Books:

The Book Seller (Grass Valley)

The Mountain Bookshop (Sonora)

For Eats:

Bankok City (Rocklin) - Great Thai with unique and special sauces.  Owner present at all times.  Sells only locally produced wines.

Blue Goose Produce (Loomis) - Locally grown fruits and vegetables in season; local jams and preserves; fresh bread from Auburn; sustainably raised beef and lamb; and pies!  In the packing sheds next to the tracks.  Very, very, very local.

La Fornaretta (Newcastle) - Fun Scilian cuisine.  Owner always present.  Ran into Paul Newman here a few years back.

Monte Vista Inn (Dutch Flat) - Located only a mile or so from where the Big Four signed Theodore Judah on to engineer the crossing of the Sierra by the Central Pacific.

Old Town Café (Grass Valley) on Mill Street - oldest continuously operating eatery in town.  Owner a wonderfully hard working guy who's always there.

Placer Grown (Placer County)

Taylors Drive-in (Loomis) on Taylor Road - No self-respecting hamburger joint would have a website.

For Goods:

Grace Jr. Gifts (Chico) on Fifth Street between Salem and Normal - unique to all the world.  Honest.

Richardson’s Men’s Wear (Roseville) at Roseville Square on Douglas Blvd. - Ask the owner what happened to the stuffed Golden Eagle that used to be in the window.

Tobacco Republic (Loomis)  Okay.  Maybe "goods" is the wrong word here.  Perhaps the best selection of cigars in all of the Sacramento area.

For Bikes and Gear:

A&S Powersports (Roseville)

Elk Grove Powersports (Elk Grove)

Good Times Motorcycles  (Sacramento area)

Ozzie’s BMW Center (Chico)

Roseville Yamaha (Roseville/Rocklin)


  1. Thanks Mr. B. Good reminder for holiday shoppers. Appreciate the listing of good favorites. I'll add McDaniel' Do-It Center for hardware in Snohomish, WA. The have continued to thrive in-spite of Home Depot coming to town. Good people who know hardware and have what you need.

  2. The Book Cellar here in Lincoln (on '65' as you come into town after the road narrows to one lane) is a good spot for used tomes of all sorts. I like 'Simple Pleasures' in the old part of Lincoln too, for a great breakfast sandwich and the best steak sandwich (at lunchtime) around. The Ugly Mug in Loomis does a good breakfast, too!

    I second 'La Fornaretta' in Newcastle as an essential stop when the urge for Italian fare hits. Great local wines, too.

    On '49' in Auburn is a Thai place..., 'Thai Garden' if memory serves. I'll have to try the one in Rocklin though and see if it compares favorably. The one in Auburn is family owned and excellent!

    I also second "The Blue Goose" in Loomis for produce as well as locally grown grass-fed meats, though the selection is usually pretty limited.

    Thanks for the thoughts and the suggestions!

  3. Some of my favorite local spots in Chico are

    For Coffee: The Naked Lounge. Consistently good coffees and specialty drinks and a great spot for people watching.

    For Groceries: Chico Meat Locker & Sausage Co. Try the Sante Fe Chicken Sausage.

    S&S Produce /Butcher Shop -Best fish counter in Chico.

    For Eats: There are so many, but my favorite right now is Farm Star Pizza on the Esplanade, where Gashouse used to be.

  4. oh the search for small, intimate bookstore with chairs and dim lighting and fantastic trips of the mind to places I've never been...thanks for posting this. I enjoyed!