The newly completed renovation of the 29,000-square-foot vacant Albertsons store as a second Whole Foods Market grocery store in Mill Valley represents a testing ground for new concepts for the Texas-based chain, according to regional spokesman Danny Olivas. The company now has four Marin County stores and 25 in the Bay Area.

[caption id="attachment_21796" align="alignright" width="288" caption="Whole Foods Market is taking a local-goods approach to its newly opened second Mill Valley store."][/caption]

Rather than a repeat of the existing Whole Foods store in Mill Valley, the grocer is taking a local-products approach to the store at 731 E. Blithedale Ave. The store has more than 1,000 fruits, vegetables and packaged goods items from Northern California companies, including several hundred from Marin County. Store design was tailored to fit a farmers market-like look with exposed wall and ceiling framing, roll-up glass doors and perimeter produce bins.

Whole Foods also is starting to make note of locally sourced ingredients used in prepared foods at other stores, Mr. Olivas said.

The Blithedale project team included Studio Gee Architects of Austin, Texas, for design; Harriman Architects and Engineers of Auburn, Maine, for construction; structural engineer KPW of Oakland; civil engineer DK Consulting of Walnut Creek; general contractor CM&B of Lynnfield, Maine; and Bay Area specialty contractors Karuza Plumbing, Cupertino Electric, Daley’s Drywall and Taping, George Young and Sons for site work and All Air Mechanical Contractors.


Boisset Family Estates, a French wine company that produces brands such as DeLoach from Russian River Valley and Raymond from St. Helena, plans to relocate 30 to 40 employees from its U.S. headquarters in Sausalito to Napa Valley by the end of June, according to President Jean-Charles Boisset.

Not having room at the DeLoach property, the company followed its environmentally sensitive philosophy by reusing a temperature-controlled building at Raymond. Mezzanine offices recently were finished in the facility, he said.

Having offices in Wine Country is important when receiving trade representatives from Asia and Europe and for communication within the company on common vision for the brands.

“There is too much disconnect between office and production people,” he said.

It’s the latest in a flurry of personnel and vineyard upgrades at Raymond since acquired in August. The 100-acre property was converted to organic production in February, and 10 new key people have come on board, including Stephanie Putnam as winemaking director, Eric Pooler as winegrower, Philippe Melka as consulting winemaker and Jim Nagel as director of operations.


The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously voted to approve the $20 million-plus Forestville Square mixed-use project in the west county community of Forestville. Chairwoman Valerie Brown was absent.

"Our project is going to help a dying town," said Orrin Thiessen, one of the developers of Town Green Village in Windsor and managing partner of the Forestville project, referring to declining student and resident populations and sales-tax for more than a decade.

The eight-building project includes an 18-room hotel, 49 residential condominiums, six for-sale condos for income-challenged residents and 19 commercial condos on nearly nine acres at the intersection of Front Street and Mirabel Road.

The project has a ways to go, according to Mr. Thiessen. Home prices in the county would have to rise significantly to justify the cost of construction. So Mr. Thiessen and project partner, the Crinella family, are looking for partners or investors.


The Sonoma County town of Windsor is set to get 90 to 100 more jobs in June with the opening of a Denny's restaurant in a 3,700-square-foot "end cap" space at the entrance of the Safeway-anchored Lakewood Village Shopping Center. More than half the employees for the round-the-clock restaurant live in the town, according to proprietor Jack Kiengsiri of Windsor.

Mr. Kiengsiri sold off Subway sandwich shops in Windsor and downtown Santa Rosa in November after operating them for five years. He said he considered franchise eateries Burger King, Arby's and IHOP. He settled on Denny's because of available franchising opportunities.

Kimco Realty Corp., which owns the center and one across the street, had been negotiating in late 2008 with regional and national upscale tenants to go into the space, left vacant by a shuttered Blockbuster video store and relocated ice cream, pet supply and dry cleaning shops.

The restaurant project, in progress for a year, is expected to cost $1.5 million. Mr. Kiengsiri partly financed the project via a loan from an owner of project general contractor Retail Construction Services of Santa Maria.

The restaurant is set to open June 13, with a grand opening set for July 10.

Tom Laugero and Rhonda Deringer of Keegan & Coppin brokered the March 31 lease deal.


Submit items for this column to Jeff Quackenbush at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4256 or fax 707-521-5292.