Winemaker purchases former Healdsburg post office site

A vacant downtown lot once occupied by the Healdsburg post office is being eyed for a new culinary venue featuring cured meats and sausage made on the spot.

Local winemaker Pete Seghesio, who bought the parcel, confirmed Monday that he plans to build a showcase building with an Italian style "salumeria" and perhaps other retail shops.

"I'd like to provide a forum so local chefs that are friends of mine can make their &‘salume' in a USDA certified kitchen," he said.

Seghesio said he was "in the investigation phases" to see what is feasible on the property. His dream is an artisanal meat shop that uses sustainably or organically raised hogs.

But he said meeting all the requirements for a meat processing facility "is incredibly complex and expensive — a big undertaking."

Seghesio bought the nearly half-acre property late last year for $675,000, less than the $795,000 listing price, according to county and state records.

The lot at 440 Center St., just a block north of Healdsburg Plaza, has been vacant since a fire gutted the post office on Aug. 14, 2010.

According to real estate records, the property sold on Nov. 18.

The seller was a trust belonging to three sisters whose family owned the property for decades.

The buyer, PCS Family, is a limited liability corporation headed by Seghesio and his wife Cathy.

The family last year sold Seghesio Family Vineyards to a Napa-based company, Crimson Wine Group, owned by a New York investment company. The winery was started by Seghesio's grandfather in 1902.

The price was not disclosed, but one industry source estimated it to be in the neighborhood of $90 million to $120 million.

Mayor Gary Plass welcomed the possibility of a new use on the vacant post office site.

"I can imagine something very nice on that corner," he said.

Seghesio said he wants to create a building that makes a statement, resembling a turn-of the-century, 1900 structure, but with a modern edge.

He is working with local architect Alan Cohen. Bruce Aidells, founder of a national sausage brand, is acting as a consultant.

Seghesio said he was reconsidering whether to put in a half-dozen condominiums or vacation rentals on the second floor, something he previously discussed with city planners. But he said he's not sure he wants to take on a mixed-use development at this point.

Seghesio would like to pass on his sausage-making skills to his two boys, aged 9 and 12.

"Growing up I learned how to grow grapes and make wine and learned how to make sausage from my Dad," he said.

"I've done very well in the wine business," he said, but the new venture is a challenge.

"It's exciting and scary at the same time," he said, adding that he likely will submit the project application in three or four months.

After the fire of undetermined origin destroyed the post office, city officials failed to convince Postal Service officials to relocate there.

The post office was on the Center Street parcel for more than 40 years and was considered a convenient community gathering spot that also benefitted downtown businesses.

The owners of the parcel had said shortly after the fire that they would be willing to rebuild and would welcome leasing the property to the post office again. But postal officials declined, citing the need to cut costs. Instead they made the Foss Creek Circle carrier annex a half-mile away the permanent Healdsburg Post Office.