Store stays open 'til 7 p.m.;  'already sense of community'

[caption id="attachment_17632" align="alignright" width="314" caption="George, left, and Mike Traverso outside Fountaingrove store (Jenna V. Loceff photo)"][/caption]

SANTA ROSA -- For close to 80 years, Traverso’s Gourmet Foods & Liquors was an institution in downtown Santa Rosa. It has found a second life at Fountaingrove Village.

“There is already a real sense of community here between the businesses and with our customers,” said Mike Traverso after just six months in the new location.

"There is a yoga studio, some offices, a cafe and a dry cleaner." And restaurant "Santi is moving over from Geyserville,” he said.

The store has extended its hours and is staying open until 7 p.m. on week days versus the 5 p.m. closing time when it was at its downtown location.

Owner George Traverso said the store's proximity to the transit mall and the lack of parking were the main reasons for the store's relocation.

The store saw a lot of people come in for sodas and chips, and became something of a convenience store. And the availability of parking was a problem, he said, particularly for the store’s older customers who had trouble walking the distance from the parking structures around the corner.

While there are still businesses that have employees that frequent the new store for lunch, such as Medtronic CardioVascular, Agilent Technologies and Kaiser Permanente, the store is seeing more wine buyers and dinner shoppers.

Also new for the store is the take-home dinner menu. Being open later has helped that business grow.

In one corner of the store, chickens rotate on a rotisserie. Nearby, there is a case with tri-tip and meatloaf and other delicacies.

“We are seeing a flux of people coming in to buy hot dinner meals and only hope that that customer base grows,” said Mike Traverso.

The store is smaller than its original location on B Street, but with the added accessibility, Mike Traverso said there is the possibility of more in-store events.

Meanwhile, Taverna Santi, formerly in Geyserville, is joining Traverso’s in its new location.

The customer base is similar, and both businesses are anxious to see how they cross over.

Santi's 3,800-square-foot location, which shares a wall with Traverso’s, will open late March or early April, said owner Doug Swett.

“The decision to move for me was pretty simple,” he said. “We have a 10-year restaurant that has had a good reputation, but we were just too far remote to run a high-end style restaurant.”

“Geyserville is seven miles from Healdsburg but sometimes feels like 7,000 miles.”

“I wanted to get into a place that had growth potential that had a built-in clientele with a certain amount of affluence. We will be first in that niche area, and we like the idea of being the community restaurant,” he said.

In Geyserville, the restaurant was open only on the weekends and catered to the tourist crowd.

“Coming from a town with 16,000 to a city of 160,000 will hopefully be that growth potential we need.”

The new shopping center on top of the Fountaingrove area is beginning to attract the clientele that the stores are hoping for.