We’ll Miss Jimtown

The Jimtown Store is closed. Not to reopen. On Highway 128, nestled amongst the vineyards of Alexander Valley, Jimtown has for nearly three decades been a stop for wine-country tourists as well as Sonoma-County locals.

James Patrick opened the store in 1893. He called it the Patrick Store, but locals referred to it as Jimtown. (Not “Jamestown;” Californians were less formal than their eastern counterparts.) The store was the beginning of a small community, soon with a post office, a blacksmith and wagon shop, a church, hop yards, orchards, vineyards, wineries and a half-dozen homes. By 1913, Patrick put in a gas pump to service the occasional automobile that traveled the rough, unpaved road.

Carrie Brown and her late husband came across the then-shuttered store in 1989 on a visit to Sonoma County. They bought it, moved from New York City and, after extensive renovation, opened in 1991.

The shaded patio behind the store was a pleasant place to enjoy a Jimtown sandwich, made to order, finished off with their homemade cookies. The catered special events in the adjacent barn. They produced condiments and spreads that were sold in stores along the west coast. (Jimtown Fig & Olive spread, has been described by discerning erpicures as “yummy.”)

While the Trader Joe’s store in nearby Santa Rosa was closed for a year and a half from damage by the devastating fires in 2017, Jimtown was unscathed. It also escaped fires in 2018 and 2019. What it didn’t escape was the loss of business from people avoiding the area during what was now seen as fire season. Their catered-events business suffered greatly.

Power outages finally did them in. Pacific Gas & Electric, liable for billions of dollars damages from fires sparked by their inadequate equipment maintenance, has recently been shutting off power when fire danger is high. (Yes, the same PG&E of Erin Brockovich and San Bruno-pipeline-explosion fame.) No power means no cooking. And no water. The store’s water requires pumping from its well.

Carrie Brown decided that after twenty-eight years, it was time to give in. Jimtown Store’s last day of business was December 30.