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Three for the Road

A trio of modern mercantiles in tiny Northern California towns entice Bay Area tourists—en route for a weekend in Lake Tahoe or Mendocino—with high-design goods that authentically embody the area’s rich history.

SLIDESHOW

Martin Maddox, in Auburn, carries goods such as denim from in-house line Martin Mattox Mercantile.

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Handmade hats from Ryan Patrick Smith and shoes from Mohinders, both San Francisco-based.

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Soap rocks and Gem & Honey infused bath salts at Kitkitdizzi in Nevada City.

Photo: Ingrid Nelson/Myrtle & Marjoram

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Seasonal products from the Apple Farm, as well as honey from Lovers Lane Farm in the Ukiah Valley at Farmhouse Mercantile in Boonville.

Photo: Katie Wentworth

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Gravel & Gold bags, Julia Canright totes, Zoe Dering Ceramics, and Alchemilla and Blank Verse jewelry at Kitkitdizzi.

Photo: Ingrid Nelson/Myrtle & Marjoram

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Pottery from Clayton-based MAEK at Farmhouse Mercantile.

Photo: Torrey of Lemonfreshdesign

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Martin Mattox Recently, a window-shopper on Auburn’s main drag peered into Tim and Linda Arbogast’s new store and said to her friend, “It’s definitely a Western place.” Her assessment wasn’t far off the mark—after all, this gateway to Lake Tahoe enjoyed a Gold Rush-era heyday, fabled in Western history. The Arbogasts prefer the term “Old California” to describe the ambiance in their shop, housed in an 1850s structure with brick walls and pine floors still intact from its days as a drugstore for the original forty-niners. At Martin Mattox—named after the couple’s maternal grandfathers—a frontier-chic ensemble comes together via a robust collection of vintage denim and Stetson hats. Ornately etched scrimshaw cuffs by Auburn studio 2ETN and Golden Pony Workshop horsehair bolos are nestled among animal bones, scattered about to underscore the shop’s rural surroundings. Local provisions include beans from Clementine Coffee Roasters, Blue Sage Honey Co. from nearby Nevada City and a woodsy line of Martin Mattox candles. While the inventory is a far cry from what gold miners might have shopped for in this very space 170 years ago, Tim, a third-generation Auburn native, argues that a sturdy pair of jeans, a good hat, some long-burning candles and a full-bodied java were, in fact, in-demand supplies of yore. “Old California hasn’t been forgotten in the California of today—not in our shop,” he says. 823 Lincoln Way

Kitkitdizzi Spelled out in the original 1800s mosaic tile, the word “Drugs” entices customers at the entrance to this mercantile, a former pharmacy. While the photo-op long predates Instagram, it subtly references the modern shop’s mystical, consciousness-expanding vibe. “Nevada City attracts a lot of people who are on a spiritual and creative path,” says town native Carrie Hawthorne, who took ownership of Kitkitdizzi almost eight years ago with her best friend, Kira Westly. “It was a refuge for hippies trying to escape the Bay Area. That’s how my parents landed here in the 1970s.” The shop’s dreamy mural by local painter Sarah Coleman swirls mystical elements into a vortex of groovy, counterculture energy, and the Sierra Foothills are potently represented in the shop’s locally crafted plant-savvy collections: Of Earth & Salt is a label of comfy women’s knits hand-dyed with natural pigments. Fat and the Moon, a botanical bodycare line by herbalist Rachel Budde, features a salty hair spritz infused with the musky scent of the store’s namesake, a fernlike plant endemic to the western side of the Sierra Nevada. Local songstress Jessica Agnew’s beaded jewelry, featuring intricate patterns and rich colors that evoke the land, are christened with such suitably poetic names as Winter Rainbow, Gold Dust and Midnight. Bohemians, thy mecca is Kitkitdizzi. “Being a hippie has always been a state of mind,” says Hawthorne. “That’s not just the spirit of our town, but also our store.” 219 Broad St.

Farmhouse Mercantile On the way to Mendocino, Boonville is a charming stop for homemade provisions and handcrafted goods, from speckled ceramic bowls handthrown by Fort Bragg’s Colleen Hennessey to the cutest walnut-shaped erasers, part of a litany that comes straight from the original late 19th-century shelves at Farmhouse Mercantile in the town’s historic Farrer Building. Co-owner Karen Bates, whose parents founded a pre-Thomas Keller French Laundry in Yountville in 1978, draws on her rich lineage of discerning tastes and inherited eye for heartfelt artisanship to stock the store. She is also guided by her own definition of the word “mercantile,” unpacked in plain English, and emblazoned on the shop windows: “A resource for mostly useful things… a gathering place for the product of local talent… in appreciation of the history, craftsmanship and labor of many hands.” Arguably, much larger townships have yet to encounter a fraction of the thoughtful, worldly offerings that Boonville—population 1,035—enjoys through the Farmhouse Mercantile. “We’re elevating the community’s awareness of what good design is,” says Bates. “And setting an example of how to bring it into their lives.” 14111 Highway 128

 

Originally published in the April issue of San Francisco 

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