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Wine Country In Recovery: Popping Into Petaluma

The historic McNear Building in downtown Petaluma, California
A mini-tour of the Bay Area has become a bit of a tradition during our holiday-time family visits  has become something of a tradition for us. Initially, we had been aiming for more southern portions of the region, an area we had not visited in earnest since late 2015. However, when the news of the tragic fires that struck the wine country areas of Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma Counties ran through our news feeds in October, we figured we needed to lend the region a helping hand with our tourist dollars this holiday season and altered our plans.

We've always kept an eye out for this kind of assistance since my spouse and I have been traveling together as a couple: my travels to move to the Buckeye State included a trip into Joplin, Missouri, about a half-year after a devastating EF5 tornado tore through the town's center. And from all we've read, the biggest issue in this highly tourism-centric region of the country is simply letting know that the area is open for business.

Sounds good enough for us. Our little mini-journey to get that word out started in Sonoma County in Petaluma, a town of 60,000 known historically for its egg industry and long-time former home of the World's Wristwrestling Championships.

It's probably time to acknowledge yarn has joined antiques and craft beer as a consistent pursuit. For this non-knitter, yarn shops feel a little like craft beer bottle shops - preference will depend on the available inventory, the number of local brands for sale (something my spouse was intent on finding) and a combination of vibe/customer service. To that end, Petaluma's Knitterly is as good as any of the three yarn shops we visited on our journey, with a fairly large selection of product and bonus points residing in its venue (the McNear Building, whose founders were prominent entrepreneurs in the town's early boom days) as well a little bit of humor (a sign in the front window stated "Your husband just called. He said to buy anything you want.")

Our second destination was an accidental one, but one we were more than eager to dive into once we realized the scope of what we had found.  Walking to get some lunch, we walked past what looked to be a grandiose financial institution building that, upon closer inspection, appeared to be housing an antique store. Of course, this was a finding that definitely bore investigating.

Built in 1926, the former home of America Trust Company now houses Vintage Bank Antiques. Per the blog section of the Petaluma Argus-Courier, the corner in which this building resides was once the most prestigious one in town, housing two substantial financial institutions at its peak..

The store's owners were more than gracious hosts on this day, delving into the history of both the building and Petaluma itself, and encouraged us to seek out every little corner of the space, especially the top floor where we could fully appreciate the expanse of this mainly granite/terra-cotta temple.

Vintage Bank Antiques is a bit unique in that the collection seemed to lean more to paintings and other works of art than the typical antique store we've visited in the past, with an additional leaning to antiques from the 1970s and prior. Still, Vintage Bank's collection, spread out through three levels, is vast enough that even the casual seeker can find something of interest if they look hard enough.

By the time we got out of Vintage Bank, we were pretty hungry, so we proceeded post haste to Petaluma Pie, which has been serving up sweet and savory pies to the locals since December 2010.

Located just off the city's Putnam Plaza pocket park, Petaluma Pie combines a pie-centric menu with a compact space (for Columbus residents, Worthington's Sassafras Bakery would be a good size comparison.) The ceilings are tall enough, however, to accommodate some aluminum pie tin animal sculptures without bonking your head on said artworks.

Petaluma Pie menu offers savory and sweet pies that source both organic and locally-based products for all meals of the day. The savory pies (in both vegetarian and meat-based options) touch upon a variety of cuisines, including BBQ Pulled Pork and a Chicken Empanada selections. We went with a Indian-inspired Saag Aloo hand pie (a relatively mild affair) and an even better vegetarian Japanese Curry, which sported a touch more savory spice and a nice variety of textures in each bite.

Of course, we couldn't not go without a sweet pie as well, so we went with a seasonal ginger cardamom pear pie and were not disappointed. Sporting the nicely al dente pears inside, prominent but not overbearing spices, and a good crust, this mini-pie was gobbled down happily by us both and was a sweet little topper on our Petaluma visit.

1 4th St (Google Maps)
Petaluma, CA 94952
(707) 762-9276
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Vintage Bank Antiques
101 Petaluma Blvd N. (Google Maps)
Petaluma, CA 94952
(707) 769-3097
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Petaluma Pie
125 Petaluma Blvd N. (Google Maps)
Petaluma, CA 94952
(707) 766-6743
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