Many out-of-town visitors to Sonoma County are unaware that there is an entire village of shops located within the city limits of Santa Rosa — the Montgomery Village Shopping Center, with beautiful landscaping, innovative “Town and Country” architecture, and one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants.
Billing itself as a “premier open-air lifestyle shopping center” doesn’t begin to cover what you’ll discover while strolling sidewalks lined with local, regional, and national businesses with everything from gourmet cooking to one-of-a-kind fashions. Add to that restaurants that offer outdoor dining and ongoing events: recently I happened on a cadre of North Bay artists showing their works under the canopies of brightly colored market umbrellas in the plaza.
You’ll find some universally loved shopping destinations that offer everything from button-down classic looks to more active wear, including J. Jill and Chico’s to Lululemon for women, and Patrick James to Sonoma Outfitters for men.
But what I was most interested in were the local, family-owned shops that can hold their own against national retailers with their personality and uniquely artistic perspectives.
Serendipitous is a little gem of a store featuring products made by local small businesses, woman-owned companies in Northern California, or community-building organizations around the world that offer fair-trade products. Every item has been carefully chosen not only to inspire smiles but also to help bring about a positive impact on our county and the world.
A few to check out specifically: Ineke is a classically trained San Francisco perfumer who creates modern artisanal fragrances. HHP (Helping Hands Partners) creates lightweight, fair-trade market bags in clear, crayon box colors, each designed in Italy and crafted in Cambodia entirely out of recycled netting.
The key to understanding the nature of the Serendipitous collections is in the name. You may happen to discover the velvety richness of locally made Charles Chocolates on one visit, or pick up a one-of-a-kind, laptop-friendly Flipped Bird fabric tote on another. That’s how it works. Just show up and prepare to be delighted. Who knows? You may find yourself with a flock of butterflies on your arm, courtesy of Tattly Designy Temporary Tattoos.
For those who can’t get enough of alfresco living this summer, check out Urban Garden. I love the Japanese lanterns, in radiant tropical hues, that need only the energy of the sun to light up at night. Or a “forever” oil candle, elegantly bottled with paraffin and preserved manzanita or fern fronds and a fiberglass wick that burns brightly but never needs to be replaced.
You’ll also want to look for locally made crafts such as cutting boards, and trays made out of recycled French oak wine barrels, salvaged from local wineries by artist Jonathan Black. Or any of the fragrant products by Matanzas Creek, a Santa Rosa winery that grows fields of lavender to make their own unique bath and body products.
Do ask for the background on whatever strikes your fancy, because there is probably a good story behind the product — such as the beautifully sculpted wood bowls by Doug Smith. He was seriously injured on the job while working in Windsor, and while dealing with the downtime of a slow recuperation, began turning reclaimed local woods, such as redwood and bay, into art. A life and an art reclaimed.
Looking to up the chic factor and inject a little artistry into your wardrobe? Check out Buddies! The owner is an artist himself, and he’s passionate about putting together really stunning combinations of clothes, accessories and jewelry. You’ll find yourself becoming totally inspired again by the lure of color, texture and materials that create wearable art.
And what at first glance might look like high style/high maintenance wardrobe addition will probably turn out to be a no less gorgeous but totally comfortable, casual, and easy to clean ensemble. And, might I add, each is chosen for their packability so they are ideal for traveling.
Buddies! also specializes in making sure you have the right fit. Not many boutique shops offer sizing in S-XL plus 0X-3X, all in one location. So … say you find the perfect outfit. But something isn’t exactly right. The owner or the sales help are adamant about making sure that you love everything about your purchase. So to that end, if a pair of pants need to be taken in, or a blouse let out, or a sleeve altered, they will tailor it to fit you exactly — all at no extra charge. Now, how many nationally recognized clothing stores do that?
And don’t forget to stop by the Classic Duck, another inspiring destination for those who consider living well to be an art. You’ll find wonderfully curated and creatively showcased things you may not knew you needed until you were properly introduced.
For example, have you heard of Think Outside, a company dedicated to innovative design using naturally sustainable and recycled materials? They have workshops around the globe utilizing the talent and workmanship of artists from Zimbabwe to Vietnam to, of course, the USA. Check out the incredibly cool ice chest/coolers fashioned out of repurposed 44-gallon oil drums — including a whimsical vintage hippie van design.
And then of course there’s the Sonoma County company, Catstudio, offering pillows and dish towels featuring vintage travel maps of all the places you love, from Sonoma County to your favorite states. And finally, take a look at Uno de 50 handcrafted silver jewelry from Spain, perfectly styled to take you from the beach to boardroom without blinking an eye.
Details: Montgomery Village Shopping Center is located just off Montgomery Drive and Farmer’s Lane at 911 Village Court in Santa Rosa.
Written by Sonoma Insider Vicky Ness