New life emerges at The Barlow shopping district in Sebastopol after February flood
A surprising silver lining has emerged as The Barlow approaches the five-month mark since winter floods deluged the Sebastopol shopping district and displaced dozens of tenants in the 12-acre marketplace.
Businesses are now clamoring to get in.
Several new tenants — including Red Bird Bakery, Golden State Cider and a new pizza restaurant from the owners of Petaluma-based Acre Coffee — all have made arrangements to lease spaces vacated after the flood.
In June, high-profile craft beer maker Seismic Brewing Co. opened at the outdoor marketplace, bringing the total number of breweries in the artisan complex to three.
“There was an urgency for us to get in before it was too late,” said Steve DeCosse, owner of Acre Coffee and the forthcoming Acre Pizza, which plans to co-occupy a 3,500-square-foot location formerly used by Village Bakery.
DeCosse said The Barlow had been “on his radar” for years but never quite panned out. After the floods, the founder of Acre Coffee, which operates five cafes throughout the county, planned to lease a smaller space for his pizza eatery but “couldn’t pass up” the opportunity to take on the larger space once occupied by Village Bakery.
Bakery owners Patrick Lum and Teresa Gentile recently gave up their Barlow kitchen to focus on a new Montgomery Village location opening in August.
“There’s a demand for a retail space with a sense of community,” said DeCosse of The Barlow’s mixed-use, indoor-outdoor marketplace feel, enhanced by its location near cinemas, a walking trail and downtown Sebastopol. “There isn’t a place in Sonoma County with this walkable energy.”
Acre Pizza plans to co-habit the building with Red Bird Bakery. The Cotati-based bakery will use the existing production kitchen for its growing wholesale business. Owners Linda and Isaac Cermak recently moved their operation from Santa Rosa, but said they have already outgrown it.
“As it turns out, our Cotati shop just isn’t enough space to comfortably produce what we need to,” said Linda Cermak.
Red Bird will produce pizza dough for Acre Pizza, and the pizzeria will sell Red Bird’s bread.
“The Barlow is a vital and vibrant part of our town,” said Linda Collins, executive director of the Sebastopol Chamber of Commerce.
“A lot of people got their feet wet, literally, to make sure it succeeded and made it to the next step. It really resonates with the community because you can walk from shop to shop,” said Collins.
The new leases come just months after 24 shops and restaurants were damaged in the floods and six, including high-profile Zazu Restaurant + Farm left the complex entirely. Nine businesses recently filed suit against Barlow owner Barney Aldridge for negligence and breach of contract, alleging lack of response during flooding that some businesses say took them by surprise.
Aldridge said he’s optimistic about the future of The Barlow as it moves forward.
“The existing tenants are being joined by others as passionate as they are,” he said, adding that new events and new tenants are bringing a new vigor to the 7-year-old development.
Barney said The Barlow currently has 36 occupants. Six businesses left after the flooding, he said.