Shop, Eat, Drink, and Play at Sebastopol’s Eclectic Aubergine
It’s tempting to dwell on the exotic, exciting words in a store name like “Aubergine Vintage Emporium.”
The long E and the soft G in the French word for “eggplant;” the wardrobe treasure hunt promised by the term “vintage.” But I’m here to propose that it’s the “Emporium” part that’s most important.
See, that one word has a lot to convey. Without it, the name of this Sebastopol community hub would have to be something more like “Aubergine Vintage Department Store, Bar, Café, Live Music Venue, and Local Artist Hang Out.” Which would be tough to fit on the sign out front. The word “emporium” may not tell you much by way of specifics, but it’s a nice little reminder that this spot happily defies easy categorization.
So let’s break Aubergine down into its elements: There’s a massive second-hand store for everyone from design-savvy fashionistas to the jeans-and-T-shirts crowd. There’s a café serving up creative flatbread pizzas, sweet and savory crepes, salads, sandwiches, and Sunday brunch.
There’s a bar that looks part old-timey saloon, part classic roadhouse, part hip gastro-pub, and sounds like the best spot in town for live music every night. It’s all “one big entity,” says Manager Morgan Graves, and the only way to describe the overall feel is “eclectic.”
“We cater to everybody, from hippies to hipsters, to working people, to bankers,” said Graves, who, along with her dad Randy, has run Aubergine in its current Petaluma Avenue location for the last five years. “We literally have something for everyone.”
She’s not exaggerating. Aubergine’s retail section alone is so extensive it might be overwhelming with anyone else at the helm. But the organization here is astonishing. There are dedicated sections just for kimonos, overcoats, pairs of cowboy boots, leather travel bags – you name it.
Instead of a generic “Men’s Shirts” rack, there are individual sections labeled “short-sleeved Cuban,” “vintage hippie,” “ethnic prints,” “’70s polyester,” and “western pearl-button.”
There are second-hand overalls and vintage Yves Saint Laurent blouses. And the brilliance of it is you don’t have to spend your day flipping endlessly through racks of one to get to the other. Anything you could possibly want – no matter who you are – is already pre-sorted, checked for quality, and made easy to find.
Where does it all come from? All over, really, but what you’ll find is largely hand-picked from wholesale vintage shipments out of Texas and Western Europe. But don’t let that fool you into thinking Aubergine’s anything less than local. The ingredients for the café menu are sourced locally as often as possible, the beers on tap at the bar are brewed right here in California, and even the artwork hasn’t traveled far. The giant Eiffel tower out front, the “European Vintage” sign dancing on a pair of mannequin legs by the entrance, and even the gossamer-and-steel beehive of a fitting room in the middle of the store are by local artist Patrick Amiot (whose quirky front-lawn sculptures have made nearby Florence Avenue the coolest street in town).
Before visiting Aubergine, be sure to check out the website for a calendar of upcoming events at the bar. The offerings are (you guessed it) eclectic, from live blues, to open-mic nights, to “Artists and Models Mondays,” when anyone with a knack for art can drop in to sketch, paint, or sculpt a live model.
Aubergine Vintage Emporium, 755 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol
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